Eco-friendly crafts are a fantastic way to recycle and reuse items that may otherwise end up in a landfill; they also are less expensive and can be so much fun. The cost of craft supplies can add up quickly, so I’m excited whenever I can find ways to repurpose odds and ends around our home.
My boys also love collecting little bits and pieces on our outings for “crafts and activities.” We rarely return home from a hike without leaves, twigs, and rocks, and it is considered a crime in our home to throw out a toilet paper or paper towel roll without first making it into something else. In fact, we have an entire drawer in our arts and crafts area devoted to these bits and pieces.
Here are four simple, fun, and inexpensive eco-friendly crafts and activities that use items you probably already have scattered around your home.
What you’ll need: tape (preferably masking or packing)
This is one of our favorite eco-friendly crafts, and it’s something my oldest asks to do again and again. It’s also the easiest activity. All you need is tape! Simply wrap a strip of tape (packing or masking tape works best) loosely around your child’s wrist. Then set them loose in the wild. Whether they are in your backyard or on a hike at Fontenelle Forest, they will have so much fun filling their bracelet with leaves, twigs, flowers, dirt, and maybe even some bugs. The bracelets can be carefully slipped or snipped off of their wrist and brought home or simply discarded.
Plantable seed paper hearts
What you’ll need: old scrap paper, blender, seeds
This eco-friendly craft is so fun, and it makes a fantastic gift! We often have leftover scraps of construction paper or even bits of paper from our shred bin. Make sure not to use glossy paper as it tends not to adhere together very well. Rip your paper into small pieces (around 1×1 inch) and place the pieces into a blender. Including your kids in the ripping process is fun and a great way to encourage fine motor skill development. Pour warm water into the blender, just enough to allow the paper to purée into a pulp. The finer the pulp, the smoother the paper. Stir in the seeds of your choice; we like to use wildflower mixes because the different seed types are so interesting and add fun textures to the finished product. Spread the pulp out onto an old piece of screen or onto a smooth, fine cloth. Flatten, press out as much water as you can, and allow to dry. Once dry, you can cut out your seed paper into whatever shapes you desire. Add a string to make a cute hanging card. Our boys will be gifting them to grandparents this year so they can look forward to watching their flowers grow at their grandparents’ homes as well!
Painted leaf bugs
What you’ll need: leaves (new leaves are less fragile, but dry leaves will work too), tempera or acrylic paint, paintbrushes
We collect A LOT of random leaves in our home. I find them under the stroller, in pockets, car seat cup holders, etc. This eco-friendly craft is a great way to use some of our infinite supply. First, each child may choose their favorite leaf. I always have either a picture or an example of the craft we are making, so the boys can loosely model their project off of them. The paint is set out on a plate, with a few paintbrushes and a small pot of water for rinsing. Then I just turn them loose.
Pantyhose grass pets
What you’ll need: old pantyhose or tights, soil, grass seed (make sure it’s the plain seed, without fertilizer or other additives), markers, googly eyes (optional), hot glue (if using googly eyes), string
This is like a DIY chia pet! Fill the end of your stocking with a mix of soil and/or peat moss. I like to use peat moss because it tends to hold moisture well, and it doesn’t get muddy. As you’re filling your creature, mix seeds in either throughout the entire let or only in the areas you want the “fur” or “hair” to be concentrated in. We chose to make a hedgehog, so our little dude requires his “prickles” to be concentrated around his back. We also added a nose by gathering the fabric and tying it off with a piece of string, and then drew on his mouth and eyes. Carefully water your pet while he’s sitting in a bowl or a pan. Then wait for the seeds to sprout. When the sprouts begin to get long, have fun “styling” them with a pair of kid-safe scissors.
The most important thing to remember with eco-friendly crafts is to have fun. Use whatever supplies you have at your disposal, and don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out like you expect it to. Especially important to remember when crafting with your children, is it’s more about the experience. The process of these crafts and hands-on activities are working to foster fine motor development, imagination, creativity, sensory development, and many other vital skills. These ecofriendly crafts are also a great way to introduce our children to recycling and repurposing items.
Embrace the mess!
Remember, if all you end up with is a good mess, you were probably doing something right.
Happy eco-friendly crafting!