The old adage that children often like the box a toy comes in better than the toy itself is certainly true at my house. Although he has plenty of conventional toys–when given his druthers–my toddler’s favorite activity is building with, banging on, and carefully examining items pulled out of our recycling bin. Watching him play one evening, I decided we should dress up some of his “trash” and formally move it to the toy shelf. Here are three trash-to-toy transformations that have been huge hits!
Plunk ’em Canister Toy
Peel the label off an old oatmeal container or other canister without sharp edges. Be sure and pick something that has a lid.
Cut a piece of decorative paper to fit, and glue it to the outside of the container. I used a book jacket that had been torn.
Using a craft knife or scissors, cut a round hole in the lid, 2-3 inches wide. Use a bit of sandpaper to remove any rough edges.
Gather together old-fashioned clothes pins, large spools—basically anything that will fit through the hole. Be sure whatever you use is large enough not to be a choking hazard. Then show your toddler how to drop the items through the hole. They make a very satisfying “plunk” when they hit bottom, hence the name.
Magical Hankie Pull
For this project, I used a container that used to hold rice puffs, but you could also use a disposable wipes container.
To decorate the container, I used washi tape. You could also use duct tape, or whatever else your imagination can come up with. I would not recommend painting it, however. I experimented with that, and it flaked off.
Next tie together five or six old handkerchiefs. You may also use fabric scraps or playsilks if you have a nice stash. I would recommend either hemming the edges or using fabric that doesn’t fray. If the edges are raw, it gets a bit messy as the fabric is pulled in and out of the container.
Once the handkerchiefs are tied together, stuff them into the container. Again, show your toddler how to pull the handkerchiefs out and then stuff them back in.
Squeeze Bottle Squirter
Rinse out a dish soap bottle really well. Alternatively, an old shampoo bottle will work.
Cut a piece of scrap paper to fit over the label. Here, I used a bit of art my son brought home from his school.
Using Mod Podge and a paint brush, glue the scrap paper over the label. (I used Mod Podge in particular here, because I knew it would act as a sealant as well. You can experiment with other glues, of course, but keep in mind that this is going to end up getting wet.) Use the corner of a damp cloth to wipe off any excess glue.
Once the glue dries, fill the bottle up with water and screw the cap on tightly. Now you have a squirt gun or the perfect plant waterer for little hands.
Meryl Carver-Allmond writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, photography, food, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day at My Bit of Earth.
Rhythm of the Home is an online magazine for families that focuses on creating with children, nature explorations, seasonal celebrations, conscious parenting, and mindfulness in all that we do.