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Your recycling bin can be one of the best places to find materials to combat toddler and preschooler boredom. It’s full of flexible materials, that can be cut, used in a sensory bin (check out Busy Toddler’s Recycle Bin), painted (check out Busy Toddler’s Paint the Trash) and even glued.

Combined recycled materials with glue and you have the recipe for an super fun and relatively easy activity that has endless possibilities.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started.




Set Up

Collecting Recycling


Setting up activities using recycled materials is made a bit easier when you have then already set aside in preparation for future activities. I have a big plastic bag that I set aside in our activity supply closet where I store materials that I want to use. Not all recycled materials are created equal. I usually only reuse paper recycling. It’s easier to manipulate and doesn’t usually have any sharp edges. It’s easier to cut, paint etc. but that doesn’t mean some plastic items aren’t useful.


For this activity especially I used more plastic recycled materials than I normally do simply because they worked so well with glue! For this activity I used the following materials:

  • Egg cartons,
  • Toilet paper rolls,
  • Junk mail,
  • Snack boxes,
  • Snack wrappers,
  • Food squeeze pouch lids
  • Bottle caps

Glue Set Up

For most gluing activity I like to use Elmer’s Washable School Glue that I squeeze out into one of our Ikea Bowls and have my 3 year old apply it using a paint brush. This method gives her lots of control over where she is applying the glue and its lots of fun.


I also like her to glue the surface that she is gluing the item to rather than the item (note: she doesn’t always listen!)

Recycling Set Up

I placed all the recycled materials in a small sensory bin and a plastic appetizer tray (purchased at the dollar store) close by so that Miss 3 could reach them easily but so that they didn’t fall off the table.

I also placed a piece craft paper on the table to protect it from drops of glue!

Create Freely


Then she was off. I wanted her to create freely without any influence from me. This was part was hard cause I have a tendency to want to lead her in the creative process rather than have her take the lead.


If you too have this problem, a good way to stop yourself is to ask your little one questions. So instead of starting off by telling her to glue one item to another, I said what do you want to start with. Then I asked what should we glue it to.


We continued talking like this during the activity until she was able to come up with ways of gluing the materials together on her own.

Total Hit

My 3 year old loved this activity! Largely because she was able to use as much glue as she pleased without me saying anything. If your toddler is still engaged you could then pull out some paint and have them paint their recycled structures once they are dry!

Clean Up

Be sure to wash Ikea Bowl and Jumbo Paint Brushes right after your little one is finished gluing so that your brush doesn’t get stiff with glue.




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