Go Green for Preschool: Using Recyclables to Teach Your Child

Wed, Mar 25, 2009

Under your supervision, your child's booster seat at the kitchen table can be transformed temporarily into a "school desk", on which fun, homemade manipulatives can be sorted and formed into letters and numbers. If you cringe at the mentioned of the word "homemade" and think only the "Martha Stewarts" of the world can handle that-be assured-my suggestions are easy with a capital "E".

"Recycling" Creativity

Recyclable items are everywhere in your home, look around at what you routinely recycle or throw out. Toilet paper rolls can be collected and turned into puppets. If you are not the artistic type, don't fret-a quick marker-drawn face on one end of a toilet paper roll and instantly you have a Superhero! Kids love to pretend, so with just some encouragement from you, and that "artistic handicap" of yours will help them exercise their imaginations. Have your little ones insert their fingers in the center-and your puppet comes alive for the cost of the ink! Gather your recyclables and do a little brainstorming!

Gather Up Collections of "Stuff"

I collected lids from milk and juice bottles, disinfected them, and tossed them aside in a plastic container on my counter. Within a few weeks, I had an interesting collection that were great for learning patterns, an important pre-reading and pre-math skill. Look for plain-colored plastic lids vs. the ones with writing on them. Collect ones that match in size and color, and also collect a variety of sizes for sorting. Add a few plastic bowls and you can play endless sorting games! "Going Green" never was such fun!

Look At "Junk" Differently

Ideas will abound when you check-out your recycling bins. Margarine tubs with lids can be slit at the top, and "Presto" you have a cash register for playing money games. Egg cartons can be transformed into boxes for you child's collections. Newspaper taped together can be morphed into large sheets of drawing paper. Kids love to color to "themselves" after having their whole bodies outlined with fat markers on a large sheet of paper.


Old magazines can be treasure troves for photographs to decorate your creations. We glued magazine, cut-out photos to paper plates, tied them together on one side with yarn and made instant "books". This is a fun way to allow your child to practice her "writing" skills. I still have a motorcycle-themed book in my son's keepsake box! Include your child in this discovery process. You can ask him, "How can we use these plastic lids for school?" You will be amazed at the suggestions you will get!

Explore New Ideas For Old Items

Once you start on the adventure of making your own preschool supplies you will never look at a box the same way again! Shoeboxes can be transformed into panoramas with glued-in miniature toys and crayon-colored backgrounds. Appliance boxes decorated by your preschool artist and with windows cut-out (by an adult); can become a cozy "Reading Room". Just add a light source through the "ceiling" and throw some pillows inside.

Cereal boxes can yield a harvest of colorful, cut-out letters. Cover them with clear contact paper and they last forever! Busy, little fingers love to sort them. Empty shoe boxes decorated with construction paper, convert into light-weight building blocks. Your child's architectural designs with be limitless and environmental -friendly!

Brainstorm Around The House

Look around your home for inexpensive items that you normally stock. Dried beans and spray-painted pasta make excellent finger-friendly counters. I found numerous uses for bulk-bought plastic straws and coffee stirrers. We bound them together to show One-Tens-and-Hundreds. We formed letters with them on the floor. We used them as puppet arms.

Multi-shaped pasta and Fruit Loops can be used to make patterned necklaces. Tape one end of a length of yarn to a table top and let little fingers do the threading. Remove and tie in a bow and let the Artist wear her masterpiece. Paper plates can be transformed magically into masks. Coffee filters are great for mini-drawing paper, puppet hair, and mini-Art frames. Your house is full of preschool curriculum!

Keep you eyes open and let your imagination run wild! Cookie sheets can double as a surface for magnetic letters or a base for messy projects. Bowls, pans, and lids can be musical instruments, just add a plastic serving spoon and a child's energy! It might be noisy, but it is unbeatable (excuse the pun) as an introduction to rhythm for little ones. Drums made from round oatmeal boxes decorated with construction paper are easy to make. Paper towel rolls, with wax paper and a rubber band on one end, can be turned instantly into a kazoo! You and your child can make music with things that you already have in your house.

Handmade vs. Manufactured

Contrary to what you think "expensive and factory-made", does not equal "educationally-successful", or for that matter, "memorable". My oldest daughter, who recently graduated with honors from a local public high school, still talks with fondness of the homemade school supplies we used in her preschool years. She recently paid me the greatest compliment by saying she wanted to teach her kids in the exact same way that I taught her.

I'm not saying throw out every whirling, buzzing, manufactured gizmo that overflows from you child's bedroom, but I am encouraging you to move toward the fun and simplicity of homemade toys and games. You will never regret it! It's Green and it's cheap--good for the environment and your bank account!



Author : Pamela Palmer
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