This post includes a link to an article I wrote for Rhea Lana. Have you been to one of her children’s clothing and toys consignment events? Talk about a great way to reuse materials. šŸ™‚


I was a child of the ’70s and ’80s. Mostly the ’80s. Back then, we recycled. But it wasn’t the haul-stuff-to-the-center-set-the-bin-out-at-the-curb event. It was reusing. It was not tossing that cardboard roll in the trashcan before it had been adorned with yarn and made into a telescope or set of binoculars or used as a spy tool and then dropped in the mud on a rainy day kids shouldn’t have even been outside. Because I am the child of Baby Boomers who had far less than I ever did. And made do. And lived to tell. And lived to parent and make toys out of random household materials.

My boys are the children of a Gen X mom. Little Millennials, I like to call them. They are riding the wave from how I was brought up by their grandparents. Because I can. And because there have to be at least a few, “back in my day” phrases to use. (I really did walk to school, but it was all flat and less than three blocks.)


Play time with recycled, reused materials

Playing with a board while on a dirt pile. We’re nothing if not old school around here.

Before Hauling Materials to the Curb, Make Toys


The Middle Child and Third Kid are moving out of the “young children” stage. The Firstborn is a tween. Still, they haven’t yet grown out of using household materials for creative play. The playthings put together from household stuff in their childhood are similar to to the reused playthings throughout mine. Because adventure is found in cardboard and cans and muffin tins like nobody’s business. Because my mom kept a drawer full of cut cereal boxes as paint canvases and put together Halloween costumes from stuff lying around the house, and melded it all together with a foam brush and Mod Podge.

repurposing materials into toys

Spontaneous play with a simple trash can: “Mom, I’m a robot.”

Because not wasting, even when you have plenty, is a good lesson for us all. Making new things from older thingsĀ stirs creativity, exercises imagination, and strengthens the problem-solving muscles of the brainā€”and it really produces the most genuine, organic type of play that is seemingly starting to fade away.

reuse paper grocery bag for crafts and play

You see a paper bag. I see a paint canvas.



17 Materials to Repurpose for Child’s Play



I wrote a list for Rhea Lana with materials that can made into toys and repurposed for play. A few additions:

  • Yogurt and single serving plastic applesauce containers as targets for Nerf guns.
  • Paper grocery bags as painting canvases
  • Funnels and bottles as tools for water play, measurement fun, and science experiments in the kitchen sink
  • Boards for balancing experiments on dirt piles (adult supervision might be required)
  • Little Boxes for Valentines. Big boxes for playhouses. (The Tween just asked for a big, sturdy box to make a house. He’s creative, but this is probably so he can practice his knife-cutting skills. I sent him to the garage and left.)
  • Buttons. A jar stays on the bookshelf, still fun for kids to dump out on a cookie sheet and sort and feel and get all down and sensory with.

Go on now, see the rest of the list: 11 more materials to repurpose with your children at Rhea Lana.

And while we’re on the subject of reusing and recycling: