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Using Recycled Materials in Games

written by: heatherschulte•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 7/12/2010

Making games from recycled materials presents a endless number of possibilities to recycle and provides entertainment at the same time. It is a perfect solution for beating boredom on a budget. A few ideas, such as how to recycle a soup can, a milk jug, or a box will keep kids busy for hours.

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    Making Games from Recycled Cardboard

    Here we examine various ways of making games from recycled materials like aluminum cans or milk cartons. Children learn valuable lessons from seeing parents recycle and reuse materials, rather than discarding them.

    Large flat pieces of cardboard are ideal backing for board games. Personalize your own homemade board games using ideas from your favorites. For example, if monopoly is a favorite, use the general idea for a monopoly board to create your own game on a large piece of recycled cardboard. Create your own street names that have a special meaning to you. Another idea for a board game is to paste small squares to the cardboard in a checkerboard pattern. Bottle caps from soda, juice, or water bottles can be recycled and used in the place of checkers.

    Another way to use flat pieces of cardboard is to make homemade puzzles. Paste a favorite picture onto a thin piece of cardboard, or draw your own picture. Photos that you do not mind having cut up, or magazine pictures work wonderfully for this recycled game project. Once the glue has dried, cut into puzzle pieces. This can be done freehand, or you can opt to trace a design onto the puzzle before cutting it out.

    Cardboard milk cartons can be made into garages for toy cars. Cut off the top of the milk carton and wash it well. It can be covered in construction paper, or contact paper, to decorate it. Place several milk cartons together and draw a small village on the carton making windows, fuel pumps, car washes and other things that may spark creative young minds as they play with toys cars.

    Cardboard toilet paper rolls can be saved and used like wooden logs. Glue them together to make a log cabin! Toilet paper rolls can also be decorated and attached to make a large catapillar or snake.

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    Making Games from Recycled Plastic Milk Jugs

    Begin with the handle of the milk jug facing up. Cut the bottom off the jug, angling the cut slightly with the plastic on the bottom of the jug extending out slightly farther than the side with the handle. This makes catching the ball easier. Cover the newly cut edge with masking tape to prevent it from causing scrapes or cuts. Decorate the jug with stickers, markers, or paint. Cut a piece of string approximately 3 feet long. It can be shortened depending on the height of the person playing catch with the jug. Tie one end of the string through the top of the jug and around the outside of the opening. Tie the other end of the string to a whiffle ball.

    Recycled plastic milk jugs make a fantastic pretend play igloo. Cut off the bottoms of the jugs and glue them to cardboard to form a large igloo. Hot glue works best for this project, but requires adult supervision.

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    Recycling Soup Cans to Make Matching and Sorting Games for Preschoolers

    Soup cans are wonderful for making matching and sorting games for preschool age children. These games are educational and fun at the same time. Here are a few ideas:

    1. Cover the outside of 5 soup cans with construction paper. The children can help. Write the numbers 1-5 to the outside of each can. Gather 15 small items that can be reused, such as sticks, straws, or marbles. Have the child identify the number on the outside of the can and place that many items inside the can to practice counting.

    2. Cover the outside of a soup can with construction paper and write letters to practice on the outside of the can. For example, if the child is learning A, B, and C, write those letters. Cut strips of paper and write words beginning with A, B and C on those strips of paper. Have the child sort the strips and place them in the can that begins with the same letter as their word.

    3. Cover the outside of the soup can with different colors of construction paper. Give the children objects of various colors. Have the children practice matching colors, by putting the object in the soup can of the corresponding color.

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    Before you throw something away, ask yourself, "How could I recycle this to make a game or toy?" It's amazing how many ideas you can come up with after a little practice. If you like the idea of making games from recycled materials, but don't have time to make your own, consider, and They sell games and toys made from recycled materials.