Help Your Patrons and Your Library Go Green with Make-and-Take Recycled Crafts

Inspire patrons to reuse things they’d ordinarily throw away. Not only does this help the planet, it also fosters creativity, a quality many children don’t cultivate because they spend so much time with technology.

This activity can take place on one day, or you can provide a regular table for make-and-take crafts, varying the project regularly.

Display books featuring crafts made from recycled materials (along with examples of the more complicated projects, if you want to make some).

Set up an area in the library where interested patrons can make some of the simpler crafts to take home. Post directions with the materials, or have someone available to help people. If you lack staff for this activity, try recruiting volunteers. Some high schools have environmental action clubs, whose members might make sample crafts ahead of time and/or work at your event.

Use these super simple ideas, or consult books from the list below. Each issue of Highlights Magazine for Children also offers crafts made from household objects.

If the library doesn’t have enough materials, solicit donations through newsletters and posters.

BOOKMARKS

Children cut off the corners of reply envelopes from junk mail and decorate them with stamps or crayons.

CALENDAR PUZZLES

Children cut old calendar pictures into four to twelve pieces, depending on the picture’s size and the degree of difficulty they want their puzzles to have. Provide reply envelopes from junk mail for storing each puzzle’s pieces.

CALENDAR BINGO (A GAME FOR TWO PLAYERS)

Play Bingo with an old calendar.

Tear off the pages for three months. Make sure at least two start on different days of the week. Cut apart the squares for one month. Mix them up. Spread them out facedown in the middle of the playing area.

Each player puts one of the other months in front of him/her.
Take turns picking up a square and putting it in the corresponding section of your month. Keep playing until someone gets four in a row, vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. That player wins. (The squares need not be consecutive, just in the same row. For example, you could win with 5, 7, 9, and 11 in one week, even though those four numbers aren’t consecutive.)

Store the pages and squares in reused mailing envelopes.

BOOKS WITH CRAFTS FROM RECYCLED MATERIALS (745.5)

Anton, Carrie. Earth Smart Crafts.
Bone, Emily. Recycling Things to Make and Do.
Burke, Judy. Look What You Can Make with Paper Bags.
Chapman, Gillian. Making Art with Packaging.
Friday, Megan. Green Crafts.
Jones, Jen. Cool Crafts with Newspapers, Magazines, and Junk Mail.
Kohl, MaryAnn F. Art with Anything.
Nguyen, Duy. Junk Mail Origami.
Ochester, Betsy. Look What You Can Make with Egg Cartons.
Redleaf, Rhoda. Learn and Play the Green Way: Fun Activities with Reusable Materials*.
Richmond, Margie Hayes. Look What You Can Make with Paper Plates.
_____. Look What You Can Make with Tubes.
Ross, Kathy. Earth-Friendly Crafts
_____. Every Day is Earth Day.
_____. Look What You Can Make with Dozens of Household Items!
_____. Look What You Can Make with Newspapers, Magazines, and Greeting Cards.
_____. Look What You Can Make with Plastic Bottles and Tubs.
Siomades, Lorianne. Look What You Can Make with Boxes.
Sirrine, Carol. Cool Crafts with Old CDs.
_____. Cool Crafts with Old Jeans.
_____. Cool Crafts with Old T-Shirts.
_____. Cool Crafts with Old Wrappers, Cans, and Bottles.
Sullivan, Susan White.The Big Green Book of Recycled Crafts.
Warwick, Ellen. 50 Ways to Get Your Carton.
Young, Karen Romano. Science Fair Winners: Junkyard Science.

*written for adults who work with children

Dee Anderson is the author of Reading Is Funny!: Motivating Kids to Read with Riddles (ALA Editions, 2009)