Kids Play with Anything #21: Child’s Play with Recycled Materials

How can stuff in the recycling basket or box be more appealing than toys? Somehow, kids will play with anything including play with recycled materials.

Boxes, plastic containers, paper, cardboard rolls, cotton stuffing, coffee cups, foil pie tins, empty cartons, styrofoam trays, corks, and many other things are all treasures for kids and play. The ways kids play with recycled materials are as varied as all the stuff.

play with recycled materialsOne of the ways young toddlers play is by putting things inside each other. This might be a small plastic bottle in an empty cereal box which the toddler then dumps out. To a child, this is a game to do over and over. Kids might like to just line up items or to stack them. Egg cartons are useful for sorting.

play with recycled itemsA few jar lids make an intriguing sound for some sensory play when they are jiggled inside a coffee tin. Other objects may also be used to make shakers. Stuff in the recycling bin can be used to represent other items. For instance, assorted items might be money or food or candles. This is part of symbolic play.

recycled-learning-toolsPretend and imaginative play make good use of recycled materials. Little Sister set up a restaurant with plastic containers. Another day, she used similar items to create a grocery store.

play with recycled materialsIn addition to sensory and imaginary play, these materials are useful for crafts and art play. The sides of cereal boxes are usually blank and because they are stiffer, are great for painting. They don’t fall apart as easily as paper does when it gets wet. Cotton balls from bottles are fun to glue as snow or clouds, or pussy willows on a tree.

During play with recycled materials, kids are developing their creativity and imaginations. They are planning, problem-solving, exploring cause and effect, and strengthening brain muscles and body ones. Their play will be open-ended and self-directed because the materials do not limit and define how kids use them. These unlimited possibilities are an advantage over what we usually think of as toys. Do you have a bin of potential play for your child?