mother painting with daughter

Crafting with kids is a great way to get creative on lazy afternoons at home. By using upcycled materials, you’ll not only spend less money but also teach kids the value of reuse and recycling.

So, the next time the family is feeling crafty, try one of these awesome projects made from upcycled food packaging and show the kids that reuse can be fun!

Classic Tin Can Telephone

Most of us have at least one cherished childhood memory involving a summer afternoon, a sibling, and a tin can telephone.

If you want to pass those nostalgic, feel-good moments on to your little ones but can’t quite remember how to put the makeshift phones together, Joel Henriques of Made by Joel has you covered.

The designer, artist, and father of two created this handy tutorial, complete with tips, photos, and everything else you need to keep the tin can tradition alive.

Note: Do yourself a favor and make an extra telephone. You’ll probably want to play with this yourself!

girl talking into can phone
Photo: Joel Henriques/Made by Joel

Plastic Bottle Bowling Game

For hours of fun with recycled materials, why not create a playable game from your household throw-aways?

These bowling pins made from upcycled plastic bottles require minimal effort to assemble. And you kids will enjoy bowling them down for many lazy afternoons to come.

Head to the creative mom’s tutorial at Ucreate to see how to make them.

Plastic bottle bowling pins
Image: Jill Dubien/Ucreate

Egg Carton Boat

This adorable egg carton boat tutorial from Life at the Zoo is perfect for young children and guaranteed to inspire hours of imaginative play.

All your little one will need is a few simple materials and a dash of creativity. It’s a fun project that shows the kids that sometimes it’s okay to play with your trash.

egg carton boat
Photo: Life at the Zoo

Tin Can Stilts

For more nostalgic family fun, it’s tough to beat a pair of tin can stilts.

These time-honored classics are a cinch to put together and will keep the little ones smiling for hours.

For a refresher course in stilt-making, check out this step-by-step tutorial from mom, furniture designer, and crafting whiz Ana Dziengel of the blog Babble Dabble Do.

tin can stilts
Photo: Ana Dziengel/Babble Dabble Do

Bottle Cap Memory Game

This fun matching game from East Coast Mommy blogger Gina Bell helps kids learn their numbers and hone critical thinking skills.

As an added bonus, this project is made exclusively with upcycled bottle caps — meaning it won’t cost you a dime.

For tips and instructions, head to Bell’s tutorial at East Coast Mommy.

bottle cap memory game
Photo: Gina Bell/East Coast Mommy

Cereal Box Piñata

Whether it’s for an upcoming birthday party or just a sunny afternoon outside, this cereal box piñata is sure to be a hit with the whole family.

This colorful piñata may look like it cost big bucks, but blogger Chelsea Costa made it almost entirely from recycled materials. She used an empty cereal box, other scraps of cardboard packaging, and leftover tissue paper.

For loads of reused fun in the sun, check out Costa’s guest-post tutorial at The Sweetest Occasion for tips, step-by-step instructions, and photos.

cereal box pinata
Photo: Chelsea Costa/Lovely Indeed

Tin Can Bongo Drums

Transform a few cans from your recycling bin into an afternoon of musical fun with this creative project from Kate Petty of

By adding a few more reused materials, like stale rice and old balloons, your discarded cans become instruments to inspire creative play.

Check out this simple tutorial for instructions, and start making music with your throw-aways!

tin can bongo
Photo: Kate Petty/

Cereal Box Sketchbooks

If your kids enjoy a bowl of cereal with their Saturday cartoons, you probably already have the packaging to upcycle for this simple craft project from Grow Creative blogger Elise Engh.

In a few simple steps, your empty boxes go from trash to brand new sketchbooks for your kids’ doodling pleasure.

View the full how-to at Grow Creative, and stretch those creative legs the eco-friendly way.

making a cereal box sketch book
Photo: Elise Engh/Grow Creative

Feature image by Gustavo Fring from Pexels. Originally published on April 2, 2013, this article was updated in March 2021.

By Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.