Found art is art made with ordinary objects, and recycled art is art made out of discarded materials and trash. Found art challenges the concept of what constitutes art; recycled art is about repurposing and reusing materials.
Below are some ideas for super-fun sensory art activities you can do inside with your child, using components you find in your recycling bin and around the house. Your child will be building her fine motor, coordination and concentration skills, stretching her creative ‘muscles,’ and even absorbing some elementary physics, all while relaxing and having a good time.
These are good starting points for what you and your child can make using recycled and found items; your imagination is the best source.
An assemblage is a work of art made by grouping found or unrelated objects, usually incorporating elements that project out of a two-dimensional medium — like a collage, but three-dimensional.
So grab your child and raid the recycling receptacle, cannibalize the crafts cache, and hunt through the house for bits and pieces she can glue together into wacky sculptures. He can glam them up with paint and craftsy decorations if he likes. Finally, a use for that lonely single earring…
– Tin cans
– Cut-up cardboard
– Lightweight wood
– Egg cartons
– Bottle caps
– Old toys or parts of toys
– Wine corks
– Twist ties
– Old keys
– Broken or unwanted costume jewelry
– Cardboard cylinders from wrapping paper, aluminum foil, toilet paper and paper towels
– Boxes and cartons
– Old tupperware or take-out containers
– Rinsed out yogurt containers
– Dish detergent containers
– Any interestingly-shaped containers
– Sewing supplies
– Crafts supplies
– Magazines and catalogs
– Any ordinary household items and small objects which capture your child’s interest and you no longer need
– A mini hot glue gun (for older kids)
– Drawing supplies such as paints and markers
– Arts and crafts materials to decorate the sculptures:
– Glue the objects together in a pleasing configuration (encourage your child to move items around and experiment with different placements)
– Paint and/or decorate the resulting sculpture, if desired
Here’s a link to more ideas on Pinterest to get you started if you like, but first let your child’s imagination wild and see what it produces:
Let your child be like Christo — have her wrap existing household objects or structures she builds herself. You can look at photos of Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s projects with your child and discuss them, then encourage him to try something similar (on a smaller scale!).
Here’s a link to some of Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s finished works:
You’ll probably want to look especially at the wrapped trees, Reichstag, Roman wall, etc., not for scope, of course, but for ideas about the logistics of wrapping objects that have irregular shapes and surfaces.
Suggest that your child try different wrapping materials, and it becomes an opportunity to talk about how different materials feel and act differently.
Your child can wrap objects you find around the house — that’s an activity too: go through the house together with a fresh eye and open mind, collecting different-shaped objects and toys to wrap — or he can wrap a sculpture he built.
– Canvas or other heavy fabric
– Thin fabric
– Catalog pages
– Wrapping paper (from the dollar store)
– Garbage bags (white)
– Recycling bags (blue)
– Recycling bags (clear),
– Contractor’s trash bags (black)
– Aluminum foil
– Wax paper
– Anything you can shape or mold to an object and attach
Use glue, tape, twine, clothespins, safety pins, etc., to attach the wrapping material to the objects
– Encourage your child to experiment with tight and loose wrapping, and how tying material in different spots creates different shapes than gluing material down
– Take photos of the finished piece(s) so your child has a record of her creation even after the toy has returned to the play bin and the blender to the kitchen counter
If you like, this can be an expansion of two ideas above (building a structure, and wrapping it).
Suggest to your child that he construct a city with buildings and other structures of different shapes, levels, sizes, etc., then either wrap everything in a unifying material, or paint it all a uniform color.
If she uses aluminum foil to wrap, the construction becomes an alien city from another planet, or a magical world, or whatever is decided by her imagination.
Alternatively, he can paint it all one color, for the same unifying effect, or paint it different colors, depending on his preferences and vision.
Once it’s complete, the finished piece can decorate your child’s room and/or be a play space populated with small cars, dolls, plastic animals, and other little toys.
Ideas for building materials:
– Cartons, large and small
– Small boxes
– Gift boxes of varying sizes
– Tissue boxes
– Cylinders (washed out) from oatmeal, chips, etc.
– Old tupperware containers, or any containers
– Egg cartons
– Anything from the recycling bin that inspires your child
– Use different size boxes for the framework of the city’s structures
– Make use of cardboard cylinders of different lengths and strengths (from toilet paper, paper towels, wrapping paper, heavier ones from inside aluminum foil, etc.)
– Build ramps, bridges, and other interesting constructions
– Cut out shapes from cardboard to add turrets, towers, and other decorative structural trim
– Have your child move the components around to find a pleasing structure — and to let her figure out the relationship between heavy and light objects, what works and what doesn’t — before you glue them down
– The most important tip of all is to let your child’s imagination run wild
– Take a photo of the finished city because it may be too fragile to last long
You know that menagerie of miniature plastic animals that have colonized your home? Turn them into fabulous goodies — see this link for ideas:
Don’t recycle that old egg carton (cardboard only) just yet … use a paper straw, acrylic paint, pom poms, scissors, glue and a paint brush to turn it into flowers.
See this link for how to:
Just as a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, your child can turn an egg carton into a caterpillar. You might have done this as a kid yourself, but it never gets old.
If your child is young enough, you can read ”The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle to him for inspiration.
– A cardboard egg carton (make sure it’s clean)
– A pipe cleaner
– Paint and brushes
– Sharp scissors
– Paint half the egg carton with a base color (leave it whole for now; it’s easier to paint it that way).
– Let it dry (at least a bit)
– Add more colors of paint
– Let it dry completely
– Cut it in half lengthwise
– Poke two holes in the top of the first section and thread the pipe cleaner through to be the antenna (your child can curl or twist the ends if he likes)
– Have your child draw eyes and a mouth with markers, or glue on googly eyes
– Play with your new pet!
Have your child turn cardboard cylinders of different lengths into a group of people.
– Rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, wrapping paper, etc., cut to desired lengths
– Googly eyes
– Fabric scraps
– Pipe cleaners
– Construction paper, scrapbook accents, old small doll accessories etc.
– Poke pipe cleaners through the roll to make arms (and legs if you want), with their outer ends bent into hands (and feet)
– Glue on fabric scraps for clothes
– Attach yarn for hair
– Draw a face or glue on features made of construction paper, yarn, googly eyes
– Attach scrapbooking accents, construction paper shapes, and/or old toys for accessories such as hats, bags, tools, pets, etc.
– Have fun with your freshly-made friends!
(Note: Of course, you can use any shape pasta your child prefers)
In the next post, we will discuss other sensory activities your child can enjoy indoors — and they use water so clean-up is practically built in.
Do you repurpose any of the above or other household items for projects with your kids? What turned out especially well (or the opposite!)? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, let me know there or via email what topics you would like to discuss or hear more about.
Feel free to share or quote from this blog (with attribution, please, and if possible, a link), and to repost on social media.
I look forward to hearing from you!
All the best,