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Green crafts for kids - recycling everyday household items

A recycled water bottle is repurposed as a beautiful tissue paper vase.
A recycled water bottle is repurposed as a beautiful tissue paper vase.
(Photo by Ruby Johnson)

The leaves have all fallen and Halloween is over. That can only mean one thing - settling in for a long winter with cooped up kids! In our house, crafts are a big hit with all ages. But especially in this economy, it's not always possible to go to the store and shell out $30 (or more) for loads of craft supplies. Here are some ideas for "green crafts," which may just turn your trash into treasures.

Don't throw away those empty coffee cans or formula canisters. Peel off the labels and wash them out. Gather up all your old construction paper or scrapbook paper bits. If you don't have that, colorful tissue paper or comics will work. Coat the can with Mod Podge using a foam brush and cover with scraps of paper. There is no right way with this craft, overlap the papers, cover up imperfections as you go. After every bit is covered, you can apply a top coat of Mod Podge and let dry. You can then add stick-on gems, buttons, sequins, stickers or anything you have lying around. Voila - a perfect home for crayons, markers, Bakugans, or loose change. You can even cut a slit in the lid to make it an "official" bank. Another version of this craft is to make a vase by covering an empty plastic water bottle with Mod Podge and tissue paper. This makes a great gift for a special mom, aunt or grandma, especially when filled with flowers.

If the amount of broken crayons in your house could circle the globe when lined up end to end, this is the craft for you. Have your little helpers peel the wrappers off the broken crayon pieces. All you'll need is a few small paper bathroom cups, a muffin tin and an oven. If your crayon pieces are too big, simply put them in a zipper bag, close tightly and hit them a few times with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer to break them into smaller pieces. Preheat your oven to 250, place paper cups in muffin tin and fill with crayon pieces. Get creative - mix blue and white for a "cloud" crayon, red and green for a Christmas crayon, or green and blue for an Earth crayon. Put in preheated oven until crayons melt, checking every few minutes. Remove from oven and let cool (preferably over night.) Peel off the paper cup and let your budding artists go to town!

Save that toilet paper roll next time you find it empty. You'll need two to make this cute craft. These homemade binoculars are perfect for your little Dora or Diego fan! Additional things you'll need:  lightweight piece of cardboard or cardstock cut to 2x6, glue and paint. Paint both the tubes and the cardboard, let dry. Run a line of glue down both long edges of cardboard and place tubes on top. Let dry. You can embellish as you wish, and even tie a piece of yarn to them (if your child is old enough to wear them around his/her neck.) 

Finally, cereal boxes offer a ton of crafting opportunities. One of my favorites is a "school paper holder." When each one your kids bring home dozens of papers each day, it doesn't take long for them to get out of control. All you'll need is a large cereal box, some glue, paper and a pair of scissors for this craft. You can cut off the top of the cereal box at an angle, making a magazine file box of sorts. Let your child cover the box by gluing on paper of his choice. The sky's the limit here, let him/her decorate with crayons, markers, stickers or glitter. School papers are much more likely to find their way into the box when your child has made it themself!