The Top 14 Recyclable Items to Collect for Crafts and Activities

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy. Adult supervision is required for all activities found on


Check out these 14 amazing and easy recyclable items to save for crafts and activities with your toddler or preschooler.

A follower on Instagram recently asked me the greatest question ever!

What are the top 5 things that I continually collect for crafts and activities?

It got me thinking about what’s in my craft closet that I didn’t buy but saved. And I realized a lot of the stuff in there is stuff that would normally go into the recycling bin. But they have now become staples in our activities and crafts. Without them I would be limited and constantly having to shell out money at the dollar store or craft supply store, which can get expensive.

Although there are some items that you have to buy, there are a ton of items that you should never purchase and that you should always have on hand if you are a toddler or preschool parent.

So here is my list of my top 9 (I realized that there are a few more than five!) items that I continually collect:

1. Squeeze Pouch Caps

If you are familiar with my activities you probably already guessed this one!


But these are hands down the one thing that I save everyday. I even tell my husband if he takes my daughter out and packs a squeeze pouch to bring me back the cap! I get excited every time I open one for her.

I have a small ziplock bag in the stroller and car that I can stash the caps in until I get home. Once I have collected a bunch, I wash them throughly and then add then to our stash.

Here is a list of the activities that we use squeeze pouch caps with:

 2. Toilet Paper and Paper Towel Rolls


Cardboard tubes are the second thing that I save all the time. I feel like almost every other day I’m adding a roll to my collection. There are so many ways to use cardboard tubes (like seriously so many) – in crafts or activities.

I store my cardboard tubes in a large plastic bag inside our craft closet.

Here is a list of the activities that we use cardboard tubes with:

3. Junk Mail


This one may surprise you since I don’t actually have any activities on my blog using junk mail. But it is a life saver when I need a really quick activity to keep my 3 year old busy while I cook.

Junk mail is great for a cutting tray. It’s paper that you will most likely recycle anyways so why not let your little one cut it up first.

I save the junk mail on our cutting tray (I use a wooden large serving tray). And whenever I need to occupy my daughter I’ll pull it out and set it on the floor and she’ll happily cut for a long time.

The best part of having such a large tray is that all the cut pieces fall into it and thus leave little for me to clean up.

Every once and a while I will empty out the tray but that’s the extent of my clean up! So start saving that junk mail!

Here is a list of the activities that we use junk mail with:

4. Cardboard Boxes


Cardboard is your best friend if you have a toddler or preschooler at home. There are so many ways that you can use it and so many things that you can do with it.

Save boxes, tissue boxes and more. Check out this amazing post of 97 creative ways to use cardboard.

The easiest activity is simply putting your toddler or preschooler inside the box and handing them some markers and letting them just create.

Cardboard boxes can also be used for their parts. Using cardboard to create activities that can be reused is an wonderful idea. It’s cheap and easy and so versatile.

Now if your house is anything like mine your don’t have a crazy amount of space to store cardboard boxes so what I usually do is to make sure that I always have at least one on hand. Whether you are using the entire box it self or cutting it up. (Note: If you have more than one child I would say one box per child.)

I keep ours in the basement storage room and pull it out as I need it.

Here are some activity ideas using cardboard:

5. Squeeze Pouch Twist On/Off Spouts

Lightroom Mothers Day 2-04

These are a little harder to save and I this I don’t save every single one. But whenever my daughter has a pouch when we are home I will do the following to save the spout:

  • Rinse out the pouch throughly with warm water
  • Take a pair of kitchen scissors (a strong pair) and cut the spout off the pouch
  • Add it to my caps collection

Here is a list of the activities that we use squeeze pouch twist off spouts with:

 6. Egg Cartons


Egg cartons are another versatile material that is fairly easy to save but has so many uses. You can use them to hold paint, or as the main material in crafts. They are also great containers for sorting, pattern making and other math activities

Here I also tried to use them to make egg carton blocks.


These did not turn out to be as stable as I had hoped but The Pinterested Parent was able to make building blocks with only using half the egg carton (see link below).

Here are some activities you can do using egg cartons:

7. Wine Corks


Wine corks are something I wish I had started saving before I had children! As much as I would love to have a glass every night I just don’t have the energy so my wine cork collection is harder to maintain!

But don’t throw away those corks even if they are few and far between. They can be used in painting activities or manipulatives in early math activities. I store my wine corks in a small shoebox and pull them out as necessary.

Here are some ways you can use wine corks:

8. Paper Packaging

This paper packaging is from Ikea.

Paper packaging or crinkly or shredded paper is another one I try and save especially if it’s a fun colour. It makes great filler for sensory bins. It can be painted. Or it can be used in crafts. I store this also in a shoe box in our craft closet.

I have found that Ikea items come with the best paper packaging. So remember to save those unique paper packaging after building your newest Ikea furniture.

If I get a large paper packaging little the one in the above picture, I will use it fairly soon

Here are some other ways you can use paper packaging:

9. Wrapping Paper


The final item on my list is scraps of wrapping paper. Whether is birthday or Christmas wrapping paper never toss it. Instead toss it into a ziplock bag and save it for days when you need a quick activity to occupy your toddler or preschooler. You can use it to wrap puzzle pieces. This is a great way to breath new life into puzzles that haven’t been played with in a while.

Or you can use it in a cutting tray or ripping bin.

Here are some other ways to use wrapping paper:

10. Yogurt Containers

Or any plastic container with a lid. Do you have a food delivery service? Save the plastic containers the sauces etc. come it. Save playdough containers as well for color matching and other fine motor activities.

11. Plastic Bottles

The best type of plastic bottles to save are the VOSS bottles. They are great to use for sensory bottles.

12. Ziploc Bags

Reuse Ziploc to make sensory bag for babies and toddlers.

13. Wipes Containers

Wipes containers are great for stuffing scarves or bottle caps or post it notes or whatever else you have handy!

14. Spray Bottles

Save those spray bottles that many different cleaners come in. Be sure to rinse it out throughly before letting your little one play with it. Check out these amazing Spray Bottle Activities for ways to play with them.



Filed Under:

Review and rate this post!

I love hearing from you! Submit your question or review here. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

5 comments on “The Top 14 Recyclable Items to Collect for Crafts and Activities”

  1. Pingback: How to Start Doing Activities with Your Kids! – HAPPY TODDLER PLAYTIME