May 22, 2013

Liz Swafford: Easy recycling crafts for summer break

— Just a few weeks ago local elementary schools were having career days and science nights. Now it’s time to wrap it all up and head home for summer break. And, of course, with summer break comes the challenge of keeping kids busy and entertained. Here are a few easy crafts to help the kiddos fend off boredom. Most of the supplies are already in your home’s recycling bin.

• Music shaker: You’ll need a small plastic water or soda bottle with a lid, beans, rice, or small pebbles, and glue. Optional, stickers, glitter, ribbon or paint. Rinse out and dry the plastic water bottle, and remove the label. Fill the bottle with a handful of beans, rice or small pebbles. Optional, add glitter, ribbons or confetti to the inside of the bottle for added color.  

Glue the lid on to the opening of the bottle to keep the contents from accidentally spilling out. Put glue on the inside edge of the bottle cap and screw tightly on to the neck. Decorate the outside of the plastic bottle with stickers, ribbon or paint. Finally, have a great time shaking the bottle, singing songs and choreographing your own musical performance.

• Discover bottle: This activity is for toddlers to discover items in a shaker. Depending on what you add to the bottle it can also double as a music shaker. You’ll need a small plastic water or soda bottle with a lid, rice and glue. Also needed are a variety of small items in several colors that will fit into the bottle, for example, buttons, foam cutouts, ribbons, beads and small plastic blocks.  

Fill the bottle three quarters of the way up with rice. Add the small items you’ve chosen, then seal the bottle by gluing the lid on. As you shake the bottle the buttons and toys you’ve added mix with the rice. Have your toddler shake the bottle to make music and discover colors and shapes along the way. For older kids, make finding the items into a game. Time them and count how many different things they were able to discover.

• Discover bottle with water: Instead of rice, use water and fill up your plastic bottle with sequins, buttons, ribbon, yarn and other small items. And, instead of glue, seal the bottle cap with hot glue. The water-filled bottle will not be noisy like a music shaker, but still very pretty to look at as the items float, sink and swirl.

• Cereal box tote bag: An empty cereal box can serve as a handy carry all or even gift bag with a few alterations. You’ll need a rectangular paperboard box like a cereal box, scissors, decorative scrap papers, paintbrush, glue or Mod Podge matte sealer. To begin, cut off the box’s top flaps. Draw a 4-by-1-inch oval or rectangle centered on the front and back of the box, about 1 inch from the top open end. Cut out the ovals to create the handles.  

Tear the scrap papers into various shapes. Using a paint brush, apply Mod Podge to the back of a piece of paper, then smooth the paper onto the box. Repeat the process until the box is covered. Spread a final layer of Mod Podge to seal the paper in place. Let dry about 20 minutes. To help the new tote close easily, fold the side panel of the box in half, holding the edges together and pushing the middle of the panel in. Fill the new sturdy custom tote with gifts or toys.

• Pine cone owl: This little guy is a really cute nature craft that can be easily made with items found outside. You’ll need a small to medium size pine cone, feathers from a boa or those found outside, construction paper or fun foam, glue or hot glue gun, a marker and, if available, a pair of small wiggle eyes. To get started, sit the pine cone upright on the large edge. If the pine cone doesn’t sit evenly break a few of the bottom scales off. Dip the ends of a couple of feathers into glue and insert between the scales of the pine cone to become the owl’s wings.   

Glue the wiggle eyes on the front of the cone, just slightly above the level of the wings. If you don’t have wiggle eyes, simply cut circles out of the construction paper and draw in the pupil with a marker. Cut out a small beak and draw the nostrils on it, glue on the front, in between the eyes. Cut out a pair of feet and draw the nails, glue on to the bottom of the cone. Let the items dry before playing with the owl or using it as a decorative piece.   

Liz Swafford is the recycling and education program coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Have questions about recycling in Whitfield County? Call (706) 278-5001 or email