Anyone who has ever played with children knows that they can turn almost any household item into a do-it-yourself art project. But, those afternoon craft sessions do not have to just be about creating a good time.
bottle cap recycled crafts
Leftover plastic bottle caps can be creatively reinvented as colorful creepy-crawly bugs.
It is also easy (and fun!) to turn recycled art into a chance to learn about the environment. The two simple craft projects below are a great way to use household materials both to entertain kids and to engage them with the world outside their window.

Spiders and insects

These creepy-crawly bottle-cap bugs are a blast for kids to make and offer a chance to introduce younger children to the variety of insects and spiders out there. Supplies
  • plastic bottle caps of various shapes and sizes
  • glue
  • art supplies (markers, paint, stickers, glitter, etc.)
  • cardboard from cereal or other boxes, cut into various sizes
What to do
  1. Glue bottle caps side to side to make the critter bodies (the tops of the caps will be the segments of the bugs). Use two for insects and three for spiders, or glue together four or more caps to make centipedes and millipedes.
  2. Decorate the bodies with markers, paints, glitter or any other art supplies available.
  3. Once the bug bodies are done, glue them onto the cardboard, then draw legs for the bugs directly onto the cardboard (six for insects, eight for spiders, one per body segment for centipedes and two per body segment for millipedes).
  4. Once the bugs are done, kids can color in leaves, flowers and other homes for their little critters on the cardboard.
Get outside To get kids’ imaginations flowing, try taking them outside to look for spiders and insects before they start making their own. They can investigate what types of homes the bugs live in and recreate in their drawings the variety of creatures and habitats they found outside. If there is no access to an outdoor area, have kids look over pictures of insects from different parts of the world so they can see the wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes found in the insect world.

Homemade rain gauge

recycle plastic bottles
Empty soda bottles can easily become homemade rain gauges.
Making a homemade rain gauge is a fun and easy activity for early elementary kids and the perfect activity to occupy a rainy afternoon. Supplies
  • plastic bottle (either a 2-liter soda bottle or a smaller water bottle will work)
  • sharp scissors
  • permanent marker
  • art supplies (paints, stickers, etc.)
  • ruler
  • gravel or colorful stones
  • approximately half a cup of water
  • waterproof tape
What to do
  1. Cut the top off of the plastic bottle just below where the bottleneck reaches the widest point. Set the top aside for later.
  2. Decorate the bottle with markers, stickers, paints or whatever other art supplies are around (keep in mind, though, that the bottle will be getting wet).
  3. Fill the bottom of the bottle 2 to 3 inches high with gravel that has been collected outside (another fun activity for kids) or with colorful stones.
  4. Add water until the stones are covered. Mark the top of the water line as “0.”
  5. Using a ruler, place marks on the side of the bottle every half-inch starting at the water line.
  6. The last step is to insert the bottle-top back into the bottle with the narrow side down so that it looks like a funnel. Secure with waterproof tape.
Get outside Once the rain gauges are complete, all that is left to do is set them outside and wait. Kids can watch as the water level rises and make predictions about how much rain they think will fall. It is also a great opportunity to talk about why rain is important and how outdoor plants and animals rely on rainfall for water for survival. Older children can record how much rain falls over the course of a week, a month or longer to search for patterns.