Upcycling activities for kids by Tiffany Threadgould

upcycling activities

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tiffany Threadgould recently, the creative juice behind TerraCycle. As Chief Design Junkie, Tiffany is responsible for producing the products made from waste collected by TerraCycle brigades, and was in Australia running upcycling DIY sessions for media and some lucky Victorian primary schools. I wasn’t able to make the media event so no-one got to see just how cack-handed I am with scissors and glue, but Tiffany – who has been described as “the Martha Stewart of trash” — has kindly shared some of her most kid-friendly upcycling craft ideas, which you’ll find below.

In just a couple of years TerraCycle has collected more than 5 million items of “unrecyclable” garbage in Australia. These pumps, triggers, toothpaste tubes, coffee pods and even cigarette butts are collected to be either upcycled or ground down to a raw material, ready to be used again and again.

While Tiffany admitted her mind occasionally boggles at the thought of a new waste stream (such as disposable nappies) the options are endless. I was curious about the fag butts because they don’t exactly yield a lot of plastic material but Tiffany explained that it’s all about chipping away at the trillions of cigarette butts in the waste stream and turning them into something useful like plant pots or long-lasting garden pavers.

You can find out more about collecting waste for TerraCycle (and earning cash for your school or preferred charity) here. In the meantime, rifle through your recycling and garbage bins and get your craft on with these fun upcycling activities for kids.

Upcycled Gift bow

First up, we have this gift bow, made from the plastic wrap around a bottle of Natures Organics shampoo. This is really easy and quite a therapeutic way to spend a rainy afternoon… Download your DIY sheet here: Upcycled Beauty Bow instructions.

The CD suncatcher (pictured above, left) is another simple way to reuse something that would normally go into landfill. We have 50 squillion beads from broken necklaces to adorn our suncatchers and they look great hanging from the deck or in the garden where they can also keep the birds outta my veggie patch! Instructions for the CD Suncatcher here.

Got any old vinyl hanging around? If you’ve vowed never to listen to that Bros EP again, turn it into a clock (above, middle)! The numbers are made from scrap paper, and you can find a clock mechanism at your craft store. If you don’t have any vinyl handy, there are always plenty of Nana Mouskouri records kicking around in charity shops too. Find out how to make your vinyl record clock here.

And for an activity that leads to outdoor play, use 2L milk bottles and toilet rolls to make catchers (above, right). You could paint the toilet rolls or use up those odd scraps of wrapping paper, and scrunched up (used and washed) foil makes a great ball. Instructions for the Carton Catcher are here.

For eco-friendly glue, paint and other craft supplies, I recommend you check out Buy Eco Green.

Link up your absolute fave upcycling activity in the comments!

Craft images: Tiffany Threadgould; gift bow image: Eliza Muldoon



  1. Edith W. says

    Great ideas! My recently made a small school recycling project and now she thinks for recycling, talks for recycling… and needs a new project. Thank you for sharing these ideas. Greets!

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