Rethinking Recycling

[ 0 ] June 26, 2012 |

Recycling in Rhode Island has recently changed to encourage more people to recycle, and so that we’ll recycle more than ever before.  We can now recycle additional plastics — jars, tubs, yogurt and take-out containers, egg cartons and those ubiquitous plastic cups.  All plastic containers up to two gallons can be recycled, regardless of the number in the recycling symbol, and we no longer need to separate our recyclables.  (See for complete details on recycling changes.)

But before you and your kids toss those items in the recycling bin, give them a second life by reusing them in creative new ways.  Playing with simple everyday objects encourages kids to be inventive, resourceful and to look at problems in new ways.  That’s why we use them all the time in Providence Children’s Museum’s hands-on programs.

Take a fresh look at the wealth of interesting materials around you — there’s so much you can do by reusing what you already have!

Cardboard tubes

Design a roller coaster for marbles or small balls from toilet paper and paper towel tubes.  Cut the tubes in half lengthwise and use tape and props — like furniture, boxes and blocks — to engineer the track.

Egg cartons

Use a cardboard or plastic egg carton as a mancala board, with stones, beans or coins as playing pieces.  Place small cups on either end to hold the pieces.

Glass jars

  • Make a snow globe with a baby food jar.  Glue a small toy to the inside of the jar lid.  Nearly fill the jar with water and add some glitter, then glue the lid onto the jar.  Let the glue dry and turn the jar over.
  • Create a glass xylophone from eight identical jars.  Fill the jars with different levels of water and tap them with a spoon — each one will sound different.  Make up your own tune!

Juice boxes

Turn a juice box into a coin bank.  Cut a slit on the top big enough to fit coins through.  When the box is full, cut off the top to retrieve the change.


  • Drape or tape open newspaper sheets over boxes and furniture to form paper tents or fold, tear and tape the paper to fashion crazy costumes.
  • Build tall structures using rods made from tightly rolled sheets of newspaper, securing the ends with tape.

Plastic containers

  • Use plastic bottles as bowling pins and a tennis ball or other small ball to knock them down.  For an extra challenge, try larger bottles (one or two liters) or fill them partway with water or sand to make them heavier.
  • Make musical shakers from plastic cups and containers with lids.  Fill them with beans, pebbles or sand.  Make each one sound different to create a shaker band.  Add some rhythm by using a coffee can or oatmeal canister as a drum.

Coffee cans and plastic containers like yogurt tubs also make great storage vessels for art supplies — crayons, markers, popsicle sticks — and for small toys.

Find more everyday treasures at the Resources for Rhode Island Education  center in Providence — manufacturing leftovers and other interesting reusable materials — plus playful project and activity ideas.  And, of course, recycle your materials when you’re done with your creations!

Explore the wonders of reusable materials at Providence Children’s Museum with different hands-on activities every day.  Also catch “No Time to Waste,” an interactive family comedy about trash and recycling, on Mondays in July and August.  Check the Museum’s website  for details.

Category: crafts, high school age, kids, play, preschool, Providence Children's Museum, teens (13 +), tweens

Children's Museum

about the author ()

The mission of Providence Children's Museum is to inspire and celebrate learning through active play and exploration. The Museum creates and presents interactive play and learning environments and hands-on programs for children ages 1 - 11 and their families. Located in Providence's Jewelry District. Museum educators and other staff contribute monthly articles about topics related to children's play and learning. Articles advocate for the importance of play to children's healthy development and are full of great ideas and resources, activities to try at home, and much more. For additional ideas and resources, visit the Museum's website and blog. Also join the conversation about the need for play on the Museum-hosted PlayWatch listserv (

Leave a Reply

Kidoinfo Kidoinfo