Gardening With Recycled Materials

There are quite few containers that can be used as inexpensive gardening tools such as seedling starters, planters, and tools.
Here are a few of the things you can save:

Food grade plastic containers in all sizes: Yogurt and sour cream containers, soda/water bottles, fruit cups, milk/water/juice/vinegar jugs, salad, cake/cupcake, and plastic take-out containers, 5 gallon water jugs, buckets, nut/candy containers, parmesan cheese containers, juice bottles, litter and other large food grade containers, coffee containers (K-cups and large containers), vitamin bottles, and others.

Other Things To SaveStyrofoam: Cups, take-out containers, and egg cartons – cans – glass jars – cardboard egg cartons – milk/juice cartons, newspaper, cardboard tubes, and whatever else you find useful!

Ideas For Use

Plastic cups can be used to plant seedlings. Larger ones can hold a flowering plant and most herbs to full growth. They can be decorated with paint and stickers and given as gifts too. Pop holes in the bottom with a drill or use a candle, nail, and pliers to make holes. (Adult supervision suggested.)

Plastic containers with lids, water bottles, and vitamin bottles are great for storing seeds. Soda bottles can be turned into self-watering planters, or used as a planter.

Milk cartons can be turned into planters that can easily grow a basil/herb plant, a flower, or lettuce. Paint the carton with acrylic paint and decorate with foam stickers or paint a picture. Milk cartons can be cut down and used as temporary plant markers for seedlings.

5 Gallon containers can be turned into a self-watering container garden.

Egg cartons can be used to sort seeds before planting or to start seedlings. 

Milk/water jugs make great watering containers. Simply pop a few holes in the lid with a nail or drill. Use plastic jugs to make plant markers too.

Salad containers can be used to store harvested veggies in the fridge.

Cardboard Tubes can be cut down and used to start seedlings.

Take out containers are great for watering seedlings and to put under plants.

Plasticware – Save your better quality plastic-ware to spoon soil to containers, rake soil to add flower seeds, or to smooth soil over seeds with a knife.

More Information

Inspiration Laboratories: Recycled Container Gardening With Kids – Upcycle various containers and household items to use in the garden.

iCreativeIdeas: 40+ Creative DIY Garden Containers and Planters from Recycled Materials – Almost anything can be used as a gardening container! Check out the suggestions on this site!

Note: Make sure all containers are clean before use and are food grade. Containers that are not food grade, or once used for chemicals, should never be reused.


Please visit my Gardening With Recycled Items playlist located on YouTube. 

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Earth Day Activities!

The following activities will take you to another post located on Funschooling, unless otherwise noted.

Save your take out containers, cereal boxes, small containers, old shirts, milk/water jugs and cartons, straws, soda/water bottles, bottle caps and lids, wire hangers, and egg shells for the following fun and Earth friendly activities!

Make Your Own Nature Backpack – Before you go out to explore the world, build a nature backpack to take along with you!

Net Bag – Use an old wire hanger to make a net bag that closes.

Crafts From Repurposed Items – Used a variety of recycled items to make useful things.

Make Your Own Bubble Solution – Make homemade bubble solution than bubble making objects from recycled items. Make scented bubbles too!

Solar Cooking – Make a solar cooker from a take out container then cook your lunch outside!

Bird Watching Activities – Bird watching activities from repurposed items, bird treat ideas, and links to bird-related activities and information.

Bottle Toss Game – Make a simple game with hula hoops and soda bottles.

Mini Marble Run – Instructions to make a mini marble run with straws, a cereal box, and a marble.

Make Your Own Bottle Cap Stamps– Make your own stamps from recycled caps and lids, then create a fun game to play with them.

Rock & Mineral Resources – Rock & Mineral Resources include: Types of rocks and minerals, rock symbols and mythology, experiments and more.

Geodes – Learn about geodes, how they are formed, how they form, interesting facts and do a crystal making activity with recycled egg shells.

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Bottle Roll Bullseye

This open-ended game can be played indoors or out and encourages players to make up their own rules and scoring system.

You will need: An old sheet or an inexpensive white tablecloth (any shape), acrylic paint and a paint brush, recycled water bottles, water, and food coloring or paint
Optional: Chalk or sidewalk paint, paint markers, paper, pencil and a clipboard

Set-Up: Fill recycled water bottles halfway with water and food dye and decorate the outside with paint markers if you like.
Turn the old sheet or white tablecloth into a unique target by painting on it with acrylic paint and allow it to dry. The sheet can be cut into a circle, square or another shape.
Alternately, a target can be drawn on the sidewalk with chalk or sidewalk paint.

Make up a point system.

How to Play: Roll bottles onto the target, one at a time, and keep track of your points on paper.

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An Eggcellent Game

Plastic Egg Game

Before you throw away that egg carton or your plastic eggs from an egg hunt, grab a timer so you can play the following fun game.

There are a few ways to play but you will only need the following items:

Recycled egg carton that carried 12 or 18 eggs
12-18 Plastic eggs that fit in the egg carton – both halves
A timer
Pencil and paper


Open the egg carton and take your plastic eggs apart. 


The object of this game is to put all the plastic eggs together and then back in the carton as quickly as possible.

How to play

  • Set the timer to zero.
  • When the player is ready, start the time.
  • Once the timer starts, the player will put the halves of the plastic eggs together in any order, as quickly as possible, and put them in the carton.
  • Once the carton is full, stop the timer and record the time.
Tip:  Having another player work the timer is a big help.


Once players get good at the game, it’s time to add some challenges to keep it interesting.
  • Players can match the colors instead of mixing them up before putting them in the carton.
  • Players can beat their best recorded time.
  • Put a time on the clock and get all the eggs in the carton before the time runs out. Try it by matching colors too.
  • Put all the halves together in the carton, then take them apart as quickly as possible while the timer is running. Record the time.
  • If you are using a carton with 12 openings, use one with 18 or more.
Have fun!
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If you are looking for something fun and educational to do during Springtime, try a few of the following activities…

Bubble Solution – Experiment to find out what ingredients make the biggest and best bubbles.

Bird Eggs – Links to science projects with eggs, make egg salad with a twist, and learn about the anatomy of bird eggs.

Bird Watching Activities – Bring the birds to you by making a bird feeder and bird food and learning how to identify them by shape, sound and color.

Spring/Easter Egg Craft – Make a hinged egg with a surprise inside. Full instructions and printable pattern available for this activity. This creative project is a great storytelling activity for any age.

An Eggcellent Game – Use a recycled egg carton and some plastic eggs to play this fun game.

Nature Backpack – Before your next outing, pack up a few items that will help make exploring nature a little more fun and informative. 

Chocolate – Learn about the history of chocolate, make an old fashioned chocolate egg cream, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate bath soap, and chocolate lip balm.

Strawberry Craze – This mini strawberry research project is filled with questions to explore, experiments such as extracting DNA from a strawberry, a recipe for a strawberry breakfast sundae, plus links and videos.

Hula Hoop – Activities that can be done with a hula hoop, a link to the history of hoops, and videos about how to hula hoop and some of the amazing things people can do with them.

Geodes – Learn how to make geodes from alum, sugar, salt, or Borax, and learn how they are formed in nature.

Outdoor Charades – Make being outside a little more fun with a game of outdoor charades.

Bottle Toss – Make a bottle toss game from recycled items.

Bottle Cap Stamps – Make stamps from recycled caps and lids. Suggestions for use and instructions for the game, Code-Breaker included.

Tic-Tac-Toe Game – Make a tic-tac-toe game from recycled items and learn about the history of the game.

Crafts from Recycled Items – Turn egg shells into art, plastic milk jugs into a luminaries, grocery bags into a decorative bags and a shirt into a shoulder bag.

Outside links…

Still Learning Something New puts out a monthly calendar with monthly food themes, birthdays, events, holidays and much more. Check out the April, May, and June calendars for more info.

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Bird Watching Activities

We love to watch the birds and hear their cheerful songs throughout the day, so we do our best to make them feel as welcome as possible to keep them coming back.
Having them visit each day gives us the opportunity to get to know them better. We learn what they look like up close, what they like to eat, what they sound like, what time of the year they come around, their eating patterns, who gets along with whom, and, in some cases, who likes to eat them or invade their space.
In order to give them a reason to come around, we make bird feeders from recycled items and offer them a variety of tasty foods and building materials to encourage them to build a nest in our trees.

We used to purchase feeders, but a few of our local squirrels would break into them and throw them to the ground, ruining them! By making our own feeders, we don’t worry about the squirrels any more, we simply make another one!
We’ve made a lot of bird feeders over the years and have repurposed many different types of items. The birds are our biggest critics on what we make, so we take notes on who and what likes and dislikes the feeders we make and the items we offer.
Homemade bird feeders…
We’ve been known to use some unusual items to make our feeders such as:
Milk and juice cartons, plastic water/juice jugs, soda and water bottles, mesh fruit/veggie bags, coconut shell halves, orange and grapefruit halves, coffee cans, pine cones, stale bagels and bread, cans, cardboard tubes, sticks, soup containers, aluminum pie pans, old cups and bowls, etc.
Note: Make sure everything is clean before using it.
We’ll also use sticks, pencils, dowels, craft sticks, duct tape, yarn, wire hangers, recycled fishing line, a hole punch, scissors and anything else we can think of to make and hang our feeders.
Creating one of a kind feeders is something we enjoy doing. I’ll put some items on a table set-up outside, along with some paper and pencils for planning, and we’ll get busy making our feeders.
Tasty treats to offer…
Items to offer the birds: Cereal, nuts, seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, apple peels, birdseed, peanuts, songbird food, popcorn, and peanut butter and bird seed covered items.
During the colder seasons, we’ll make our own suet from leftover bacon grease or lard, corn meal, flour, seeds, nuts, and dried apples. We’ll make a lot and store it in the freezer.
Tip: Fill clean, recycled plastic juice and water bottles with bird seed to make refilling the feeders easier.
Inviting them to stay…

If you would like your birds to live close by, consider offering them bird-nest-making materials such as: Hair, bits of fabric, yarn, twin, shredded paper, laundry lint, pine needles, etc.
These items can be hung from a tree in a mesh bag (such as an orange or onion bag) or a fruit container with openings (such as a berry container).
Once we have the birds at our feeders, we get the chance to watch their habits, draw them, observe them and identify them by shape, color and sound. 
Here are some resources to help you get started.

Bird Identification Sites
Bird guide, cam, basics, an much more.
Search for 800 birds of North America.
Offers the following info: About this guide, how to Bird, how to identify birds, plumage and molt, parts of a bird, classification of birds, bird families, natural history of birds, endangered and threatened birds and bir
d conservation
Identify birds from all over the world.

eNature: Bird Sounds
Learn to identify certain birds by the sounds they make.
Look for free bird watching apps too.

Bird Activities
View an amazing picture journey of a chick that grows into a full grown bird in 36 days.
Instructions for an easy to make bird feeder made from a recycled milk/juice carton.
Suet Recipe – Recipe instructions for making your own suet.
Bird Word Puzzles – Scroll through to find printable word finds and other bird related word activities, coloring pages, and games.
Enchanted Learning: Birds
In addition to finding information about birds on this site, you will find:
Bird Word Find – Printable
Bird Activities – This site offers bird related: rhymes, crafts, and songs. Other activities require a membership to access.
Choose a bird-related jigsaw puzzle to do on line.
Purple Kitty Yarns:Birdhouse Shaped Cross-word Puzzle
Printable birdhouse puzzle with bird-related clues.

Related Activities on Fran’s World of Discovery…
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Solar Cooking

Easy Solar Cooker by Fran W

Did you know…

You can use the sun’s rays to bake, boil, and steam a variety of foods such as breads, rice, meat, and eggs!

Today’s activity:  Make an easy solar oven

This solar oven is very simple to make and use. If you would like to make one that is more sophisticated, there are instructions in the links below under “Learn More”.

To make a simple solar oven you will need:

  • A black recycled plastic container with a lid from a fast food restaurant or a black recycled soup container 
  • Aluminum foil or a small metal bowl
  • Clear wrap if your container doesn’t have its own lid
  • A rubber band
  • A towel, flat pan, or a plastic tub
  • Pot holder
  • Something to cook from the list below

What to do:

Cover the inside of your container with aluminum foil, place your food inside, put a lid on it, or cover it with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band, and put the container in direct sunlight for a period of time. If your contents contain liquid, put a towel or a flat pan underneath it in case of leaks.

Here are some of the things you can make with this small solar cooker… 

Please note that times may vary depending on the time of year, the heat of the sun and your location on the planet…

S’mores – 30 minutes 

I have a post that shows you how to put a twist on this old favorite here. After putting our ingredients together, we checked on our s’mores every 10 minutes until they were the way we liked them. The marshmallows will not toast, but they do melt very nicely, or get fluffy and soft.

Noodle Soup – 30 minutes 
Using its own container, we broke up the noodles and added the flavor packets, added hot water instead of boiling water, mixed it up, covered the whole container with plastic wrap to keep the heat in, and put it on a cookie sheet in case of leaks. We placed the container in direct sunlight, checked on it in 15 minutes, mixed the noodles with a fork, covered it back up, and checked it again in 15 minutes. We thought it worked really well. 

Here are some of the other things you can try…

Oatmeal, canned or frozen veggies, quick rice, potatoes, beans, lentils, instant soups, apple slices with raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar and butter, etc.

Experiment to find out what else you can make! You should not put raw meat in this type of solar cooker because it won’t generate the kind of heat needed to safely cook it, but you can use meat flavored bouillon cubes and hot dogs because they are precooked.

If you use a glass jar with at lid, you can make sun tea too!

Note: We did a little experiment when we did this by placing one solar cooker in the car and one outside. Both were in direct sunlight and both cooked the food at the same time! We thought about putting our solar ovens in our outdoor grill, but it was no longer in the sun! 

Question of the day…

How have other countries benefited from solar cooking?

Learn more…

Solar Cookers International
Learn how cooking with solar energy has helped people around the world!

Make a solar cooker from a pizza box

Instructions for making a solar oven out of a recycled pizza box. (Site currently under construction.)

ackwoods Home

This site offers instructions for a homemade solar oven.

Solar Oven Chef

This site offers a selection of recipes you can make with a solar cooker.

Sun Oven: Daily Solar Recipe
This site offers many different recipes that are made using solar energy!

Solar Chocolate Chip Cookies
These cookies can be made in a car on a very hot day!

If you give any of these methods or recipes a try, leave me a comment telling me about your experience!

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Glowing Lantern

These versatile lanterns are fun to make and display!

To make one you will need…

Lanterns by Fran W

A clean milk carton, construction paper, craft knife, scissor, tissue paper, black construction paper, glue, chenille stem, hole punch, pencil, ruler, glow stick

Optional: Serrated knife, craft foam, any kind of stickers, push pin, craft supplies, battery-powered candle

What to do…

Cut the carton down to desired size, glue construction paper to it, plot and cut out 1 circle or square on two sides of the carton, then pop two holes on either side and add the chenille stem handle.
For the middle of each opening, make a silhouette out of construction paper and glue it to the tissue paper. Glue the tissue paper to the inside of the carton so that your silhouette comes through when a glow stick or battery-powered candle is placed inside. Decorate the lantern with stickers, foam or construction paper cut outs and other craft supplies.

Tips and suggestions…

  • Cutting the milk carton down to size with a serrated knife can help to make a cleaner and more even cut. (Adult supervision suggested.)
  • To make a round opening in the side of the carton, trace around a lid or cup that fits in the middle. We used a frozen juice can lid.
  • Measure the circle or square from the bottom to make sure the openings are the same height and measure around the sides to make sure they’re equal.
  • Avoid cutting the edges when making your opening.
  • After tracing out your opening for the silhouette, a push pin can be used to make tiny, close holes around the trace mark for easier cutting with a craft knife. 
  • To neaten up cut marks, consider making a border, as shown in the lantern with the flag.
  • This lantern can be made for any holiday or occasion or just because!

    Lanterns with glow stick inside by Fran W
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Hula Hoop

Hula hoop structure by Fran W

Ancient Egyptian children rolled hoops with a stick and twirled them around their hips!

What can you do with a hula hoop?

With a little creativity and imagination, there are many things you can do with a hoop!

Here are a few you can try…

  • Twist it on your hips, arms, legs, chest, neck, wrists, and foot. Try this with more than one at a time too!
  • Twist a hoop or two to your favorite song. Try one fast and one slow!
  • Use it like you would a jump rope.
  • Add it to a dance routine that you create!
  • Play catch with it by rolling it to another person or play by yourself by rolling it so it comes back to you when you spin it just right.
  • Push a hoop along with a stick.
  • Use it to play a game of Bottle Toss or toss a hoop or two around a bottle filled with water, sand or dirt.
  • When you’re in the pool, take turns with a friend going through one or a few hoops underwater or let it float on top of the water and dive through it.
  • If you have multiple hoops, you can use them to go through or create an obstacle course with them.
  • If you have multiple hoops, put them together to form some kind of interesting structure such as the one depicted at the top of this post.

What do you like to do with a hula hoop? 

Share your suggestions with others by leaving a comment!

Research question…

What were early hoops made from?

When was the modern day hula hoop invented and who invented it?

Research Resources…

Inventors: Hula Hoop

Learn the history of the hula hoop including what early hoops where made of, when and who invented the hula hoop of today, and the origins of the name.

Learn How to Hula Hoop: Hula Hoop Basics 1:25 video

Watch hula hoop act performed at, Cirque du Soleil.

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Make Your Own: Crafts from Repurposed Items

Before throwing something into the recycle bin or trash, think of crafty ways items can be creatively repurposed! 

Luminaries are a fun craft project to make from clear plastic milk/juice/tea containers.

Save your egg shells, paint them with water color paints and make egg shell art out of them.

If your store still offers paper bags, bring your groceries home in a few and make a sturdy bag out of them by adding a handle. Paint the bag to match the season, holiday or whatever! It’s great for gift giving too!

Your old T-shirts can be transformed into a bag by cutting off the sleeve and neck at the seam and stitching the bottom up.