Not only does cleaning up and organizing a space by ridding it of clutter and trash create room for the imagination to grow wild, but looking at something like a shoebox as a hat to turn into a monster mask is exactly the type of activity that will inspire and engage your child in hours of imaginative fun! The more opportunities your child has to see the world this way, the more likely they will think creatively and resourcefully in other contexts.
From shoeboxes to mismatched socks, the goal is to find ways to inspire creativity all while cleaning up and putting many of the items that fill our home spaces (and recycle bins) to use. In other words, you’re sure to find a project on this list that requires little more than some scissors, paint and glue.
Here’s a list of resources that will make your imagination run wild with ideas for these everyday household items that we so often throw away.
Between back to school time and the rapid pace kids out-grow shoes, it shouldn’t be hard to come by a shoebox or two this time of year. Rather than send it to the recycling bin, consider repurposing it for one of the many projects here. From creating a puppet theater to a bug hotel, this list is sure to include something that will not only spark your child’s interest, but engage them with an opportunity to showcase their imagination.
Work with them on the construction, then let them do the rest as they tell you the story of the characters they create to showcase behind the red curtain, or share their observations with you of the bugs checking in and out of their hotel. With Halloween just around the corner, a shoebox “monster mask” could be the inspiration behind a great costume, too. Perhaps you have an organizer on your hands, and this is about the time of year when a desk organizer could be the art project that inspires many more. Helping your child maintain a clean, clear space is sometimes the best way to make room for the next creative project!
Plastic Bottle Projects
Despite the push for refillable personal water bottles, plastic bottles are still common and easy to find. You may not be purchasing flats of bottled water anymore, but milk, juice and other drinks are common family purchases that often leave us with empty containers in the recycle bin. Instead, reuse those bottles and ignite your child’s imagination with these ideas.
Candy monsters and princess crown ideas are perfect if you’re getting in the spirit of the Halloween holiday, along with many other cute household decorations that require nothing more than a little bit of paint and glue (safety note: Take care of sharp edges by covering/softening them with glue or tape, and assist children when cutting these hard plastics).
There are also some great ideas that don’t require cutting at all—from creating painted, playful lawn “bottle bowling” pins to filling and sealing the bottle to make wonder-sparking nighttime star bottles, larger-than-life glowing “fireflies” and realistic-looking jellyfish.
No matter what, socks always seem to disappear and reappear in the laundry. This leaves us with so many unpaired socks that you may even have a mismatched sock pile.
While some of these ideas require a bit of skill and resources for sewing (like the mismatched sock snake), others require none at all! The sock snail, for example, requires nothing more than a bit of hot glue to hold it all together, but it still looks like a well-put-together creation. Finally, the classic sock puppet is always an option, there are so many great creations that can be made with a little imagination, a hot glue gun and a little help from your kids.
Buttons, tissue paper, noodles, sticks, candy, leaves–you likely have all these items and more strewn around your house during the fall. Gathering them up to arrange, glue and stick together in a number of ways is sure to amount to an afternoon of fun for you and your child.
These ideas can be used to decorate your front door (or even your child’s own bedroom door), and the wreath can also be sized down to create center pieces for your table top. Some of the suggested ideas include more labor-intensive steps like painting the noodles before gluing them to look like “spooky” bones in a Halloween inspired wreath, but other ideas include nothing more than gathering sticks, leaves and pinecones in the yard to arrange in any fashion for a wreath that will look nice all season long.
Seed Mosaic Projects
Here’s a list of project ideas (popcorn kernels, birdseed, beans of all sorts) that have the potential to keep you and your child busy for a few hours of fun. While a mosaic is a big picture made up of many small details, this list of projects includes variations on the mosaic that are good for any age, creative eye, skill or interest.
From pressing the beans into playdough or sprinkling them on top of the glue-painted surface of a paper plate (a great option for any age or interest) to arranging and gluing the beans and seeds neatly and tightly into a popsicle stick frame or CD case (if you can still find one!), there are a number of ways for you and your child to create mosaic art with these natural seasonal resources.
As soon as your child learns about mosaic-style art, they’ll likely start noticing it all around them. Spend the afternoon creating your mosaics together, then spend some time on a mosaic hunt–looking for “big pictures” made up of smaller, tiny pieces and details. And don’t forget to showcase these great art pieces—they’re sure to make great fall décor!
READ THIS NEXT: 9 Anytime Crafts for Kids That They'll Love