In this article, Scott Hawthorne from shares some of his favourite craft ideas for young children that will make use of things around your home you’d normally throw away.

If you’re a parent that wants to help make a difference in how we treat the environment, you’re definitely not alone. More and more people are realising that action is needed sooner, rather than later, if we’re going to leave something worth loving for future generations.

To begin making a difference, there’s nothing wrong with starting small with changes at home. Finding ways to repurpose items you’d usually throw away is a good place to begin, and it also presents the opportunity to entertain the kids while educating them about being eco-friendly. If you need help in getting started, here are five of my favourite zero waste craft ideas for young children.

Turning a toilet roll into a bird feeder

Let’s start with a really easy one. Turning a used toilet roll into a bird feeder is a great way to give a new purpose to a throwaway item, and it’ll also attract some wonderful wildlife to your garden that is sure to delight the kids in the autumn and winter. 

You’ll need a couple of loo rolls and some string for the feeder section, as well as some bird seed and peanut butter for the coating (use sunflower, almond, or soy butter if there’s any allergies). Get your little one to spread some butter on all over the cardboard and then roll it in the bird seed so it all sticks together. Then, all you need to do is pass the string through the middle, tie it in a loop, then find a nice spot to hang it up in your garden.

Using jar lids for a memory game

This is another project that has a double educational purpose. The idea is to use some old jar lids as markers for a memory game that will delight your kids, and you can even get them to help make it. You’ll need to save up an even amount of jar lids for this game to work.

Depending on what you want them to learn, you can get them to paint letters, numbers, or pictures on the bottom of the lids two at a time to create sets that match. For instance, you might end up with two lids with dogs on them or two with the letter E. Then, once the paint is dry, you can mix up the lids and lay them out turned over for a fun game of matching pairs. 

Printing wrapping paper with old vegetables

If you’ve got a special gifting occasion coming up or you just want to build up a stock of adorable wrapping paper made by little hands, this printing project is ideal — and it couldn’t be simpler! All you will need is some vegetable scraps, paint, and a roll of recycled brown parcel paper.

So, the next time you’re cooking, be sure to save your vegetable scraps (potatoes, onions, peppers, and carrots work really well) to turn into stamps. Bear in mind that they need enough bulk to act as a handle, and if you want some fancy patterns, you’ll need to carve these yourself. Next, get the kids around a table with the roll of parcel paper spread over it and get them dipping and stamping. Once your roll is covered, leave it to dry, and you’ll be left with some lovely zero waste wrapping paper.

Growing cress in an old tub, pot, or egg carton

For many people, growing cress as a small child is their first introduction to gardening and witnessing something that they’ve planted grow. And, you can share this magic with your little one while giving a new purpose to old tubs, pots, or egg cartons you’d usually throw away. You can even get your kids to draw a face on the side to make it look like it’s growing hair when the cress emerges.

All you’ll need is an old container, some kitchen roll and cotton wool, and some cress seeds. Wet a couple of sheets of kitchen roll and stuff them in the bottom of the container, then dampen some cotton wool and create a layer above the tissue. Then, get your kids to sprinkle in some cress seeds and press them into the wool. Leave the container on a windowsill and in a week your children will be able to marvel as the cress begins to emerge.

Saving tin cans for money boxes

It’s important to teach your kids early about the importance of saving money, and what better way to get the ball rolling than to help them create their own money boxes? I recommend saving a few tin cans for this project — they’re easy to decorate, hardwearing, and will make a satisfying clunk whenever your little one adds some pennies!

Start by removing the label from an empty can. You can then choose to cover the sides yourself with paper so the kids have a blank slate to doodle on with pencils or crayons, or you can let them paint onto the can itself if you’re okay with things getting messier. Once they’re done, you can cut a slot in some material and secure it in place with an elastic band for a lid.

I hope these five ideas have inspired you to get creative with your kids while finding ways to cut down on your household waste. All that’s left to say is get crafting!