Work your creative muscles by choosing to reuse!

Our Creative Education Team meets a lot of people (especially adults!) who claim they aren’t creative. We respectfully but emphatically disagree! We believe that everyone has the capacity to be creative, they simply need to exercise their creative muscles. Play is a wonderful way to do this. Using reclaimed materials to enhance play can take this “creative workout” even further.

Most of our Creative Education activities are, in one way or another, a form of Loose Parts Play. Loose parts are wonderful for so many reasons: they are open-ended, they are movable, they are captivating, and they can be revisited again and again with different results. They provoke exploration and risk-taking. They are approachable and inclusive across age, cultural background, class, ability, and gender (Daly & Belgovsky 2015, p.13).

What kinds of materials make the best loose parts? A variety of them! Materials that vary in shape, size, color, and texture. Materials that can be touched, counted, stacked, used as viewfinders, danced with, used to make interesting sounds, or that can be turned into tunnels/bridges/ramps. Materials that interact with one another in compelling ways!

Reclaimed materials can be used for creative play in open-ended ways, but also can be more directed or guided. They can be used to create marble runs, mini-golf/obstacle courses, or ball catchers! They can be used as props or costumes for dramatic play! They can be used to create playful spaces like forts or dollhouses!  

We have an acronym that helps us select the materials to use in our creative projects: SCRAP. It stands for Safe, Clean, Reclaimed, Age-Appropriate, and Playful. Below are some household examples of SCRAP materials that could be really fun to repurpose!

  • Plastics: plastic utensils, straws, bottle caps, cups, CD/DVD cases, plastic packaging (lids, bottles, pouches, clamshells, inserts, bubble wrap)

  • Paper: Gift Wrap and gift bags, office scrap paper, file folders, greeting cards, old calendars, cardboard/paperboard boxes, magazines, newspapers, paint color samples

  • Wood: dowels, paint stirs, chopsticks, popsicle sticks, corks, sewing spools

  • Fabric: Yarn, string, ribbon, neckties, scarves, old t-shirts/other clothing, old curtains/sheets

  • Foam: packing peanuts/styrofoam (preferably ones that won’t disintegrate easily!), sponges, fruit nets, craft foam scraps

  • Metal: cookie tins, coffee cans, keys, broken jewelry, pop tabs, bike parts, silverware, bottle caps

Here are some other ideas for playful projects with specific reclaimed material suggestions!

  • Use old binders to create dollhouses or birdhouses

  • Make windchimes from old keys or bottlecaps, string, and a piece of wood/metal/whatever as the hanger (you could also just use an old hanger!)

  • Rubber bands and boxes/tins can transform very easily  into string instruments

  • Tin can + broken balloon +  rubber band = a drum! Chopstick + wine cork = drum stick!

  • Make little cars using plastic containers, straws/sticks for axles, bottle caps for wheels!

  • Take your old dried out markers, pop them open, pull out the core and put it in some water or rubbing alcohol to create watercolors and inks.

Have lots of fun and come visit us at Creative Reuse for materials and inspiration! Don’t forget to choose to reuse!