Having a few recycle activities up your sleeve is great as a busy OT, teacher, or parent…The thing is you can always find a way to use recycled items in crafts or play that supports the development of fine motor skills! Using recycled materials in occupational therapy crafts is a great way to create while using items that are in the home.
Some of the therapy ideas here include projects made from recycled materials, and others are activities that use recycled items in actual therapy tools. Still others are recycling activities for kids.
These recycle activities for kids are crafts that can be used in occupational therapy sessions to work on fine motor skills, direction following, motor planning, eye-hand coordination, and other OT goal areas. Many of the ideas below are activities using recycled materials you probably have in your recycling bin right now. Start saving those egg cartons, plastic containers, used water bottles, newspapers, and paper, because these crafts and activity ideas build skills!
These are great to add to your Spring occupational therapy activities: Think Earth Day fun!
Recycle Activities In Occupational Therapy
Be sure to check out the list of recycled materials for art projects and fine motor activities, too. You can pass this list on to parents so they hold onto items like paper towel tubes to be used in OT home programs or teletherapy sessions.
For more ideas, check out this ultimate occupational therapy teletherapy resource. We’ve shared a bunch of ways to play and build skills by using recycled items in therapy activities, like this gross motor grasp activity with plastic containers.
There are so many ways to use recycled materials in occupational therapy activities. When you think about the task of recycling, this is a very occupation-centered daily task.
activities using recycled materials
In OT, we address the functional tasks that one participates in throughout the day. Cooking, hygiene, and home management are those types of tasks. And, when participating in those daily tasks as an independent and functional being, there is trash that results as a result. That’s where activities using recycled materials comes into play.
When part of that task completion is the clean-up, or home management portion, you can insert activities using recycled materials, while recycling. So, managing recyclable refuse is part of that task completion. You can get your therapy clients involved in these recycling activities for kids while coaching towards goal areas.
In occupational therapy, we can cover the management of recycling.
There are many OT areas that can be addressed in therapy sessions (for all ages):
- Sorting recycling
- Identifying recyclable items
- Cleaning out recyclable materials
- Creating a recycle center in the home
- Taking out recyclables along with the trash
- Hand washing
And, part of that task process can be using recycled materials in therapy activities to address other goal areas, such as fine motor skills, strength, coordination, and balance.
Consider the possibilities of using recycle items in crafting and play!
Save this page, because you have a collection of activities in your toolbox using everyday items that are heading to the trash!
Check out the past posts listed below to find tons of creative and fun ways to learn and play with recycled materials and a few projects made from recycled materials:
projects made from recycled materials
In therapy or in learning activities, crafts are a great way to build specific skills like scissor skills, crossing midline, eye-hand coordination, motor planning, executive functioning, bilateral coordination, and other skills. Here is our giant collection of craft ideas for kids that can be used in OT sessions.
Below, you will find craft ideas using recycled items. Below, I’ve broken down OT activities by the recycled materials.
Use the ideas listed here as recycling activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and older ages, too.
Some of these ideas are great for a physical education lesson using recyclable materials, and even balance, coordination and motor planning skills needed in physical therapy sessions.
One way that I love to use these activities is to create a handwriting portion. You can ask the clients to list out materials used and then add a piece on “how did i use recycled materials in this activity?” It’s a great way to include functional handwriting.
You’ll find a section for OT activities using egg cartons, ideas using recycled containers, OT ideas with paper towel tubes, etc. Each material has so many ways to build common goal areas. Let’s get started…
Egg carton crafts and activities for kids:
Save those egg cartons! Whether you are building hand strength, working on eye-hand coordination, or building motor planning skills, recycled egg cartons can be a powerful tool to add to your therapy toolbox. Try some of these ideas in OT sessions or in the classroom or home to build skills.
Work on intrinsic hand strength with an egg carton– We used pieces of straws to build hand strength, but you can use other small items like toothpicks, beads, small toys, or even rolled pieces of paper.
Speaking of hand strength, this robin craft and fine motor activity uses an egg carton and pipe cleaners to build strength and endurance in the hand with a focus on precision and an extended wrist.
Work on buttoning with kids? Teach buttoning with an out-of-the-box activity using a recycled egg carton.
Take shoe tying to another level by teaching kids to tie shoes with an egg carton. Tying shoes can sometimes be difficult when switching to different shoes. Try practicing shoe tying on a different medium for something fun, while still working on skills such as bilateral coordination, motor planning, pinch, and sustained grasp.
Egg carton fine motor color sorting– We painted the egg carton and used colored jingle bells to work on in-hand manipulation, grasp, precision, and eye-hand coordination, but you could use any small item, and painting is totally optional.
More egg carton activities include:
- Cut the sections and stack them in a tower
- Clip clothes pins to the edges
- Write a number or letter inside the carton. Place the correct number of small items in each section.
- Sort letters written on pieces of paper
- Cut the egg tray so it contains 2 rows of 5 sections. Use it as a hands-on 10 frame for teaching kindergarten math skills.
Egg Carton Crafts
Use an empty egg carton to build skills with a craft material that you might already have in your home right now. From egg carton flowers to fine motor power tools, these are recycled egg carton crafts that are therapist-approved.
Flower feather craft~ fine motor skills, direction following, multi-step feather art
Egg carton caterpillar craft- This classic recycled egg carton craft is a fun one for kids. We used it to build math skills, too.
Spring tulip craft with recycled egg cartons~ tripod grasp, multi-step direction following
Snowman math activity~ fine motor pincer/tripod grasp while working on math skills
Painted rainbow recycled egg cartons– Paint egg cartons and then use them in other crafts or sorting activities. Painting the sections of the egg carton tray requires precision and coordination.
Egg carton pumpkins– This is an OLD post here on the website, but one that is such fun. Kids can use golf tees to hammer into the sections of the egg carton, making pumpkin stems while building coordination and motor skills.
Fine motor egg carton Christmas tree~ Work on building tripod grasp to thread a Christmas tree from egg cartons. You could also just stack the recycled egg carton sections into a tower if you want to build this activity year-round.
Toilet Paper tube crafts and activities for kids:
Cardboard tube crafts using recycled paper towel tubes or toilet paper rolls are a great way to use what you’ve got while building fine motor skills. These toilet paper tube crafts have got you covered. You can also use paper towel tubes for many of these recycled materials activities and crafts. The paper tube provides a great material for young children to practice cutting, while positioning their scissors correctly and promoting bilateral coordination. When cutting a cardboard tube, kids have to start at their midline and work away from their body while holding onto the tube. It’s a great starter project for children.
- Clip paper clips to the edges
- Stack them up and knock them over by rolling a ball to work on coordination
- Drop small items through the tubes into a target bin or basket
- Use a hole punch to punch holes in the sides. Thread pipe cleaners through the holes
- Slit the edges and create a building toy
- Practice scissor skills by cutting down the edge
- Clip clothes pins to the edges
Toilet paper rolls and paper towel tubes make a great item to use in OT sessions. Here are ways to use paper tubes visual tracking exercises with kids.
Build gross grasp and coordination with paper tubes and small balls or toys. Kids can balance the items on the cardboard rolls while building skills.
Toilet Paper Tube Crafts
Olympic rings craft with paper tubes– Kids can cut toilet paper rolls into small circles and create an Olympic ring craft.
Spring chick juice box cover~ tip to tip grasp, multi-textural craft for Spring
Rainbow recycled cardboard tube craft~ Color the sides of the toilet paper tube with crayons, paints, or markers and build fine motor skills, imagination, pretend play, language skills
Cardboard tube zebra craft– Cut a toilet paper tube into an animal shape and turn it into a zebra craft.
Cardboard tube turkey napkin ring~ fine motor work with a napkin ring craft. we made a turkey, but you could make any animal.
Recycled cardboard tube turkey juice box cover~ Use a paper towel tube to make a juice box cover. we made ours into a turkey, but you could create any animal. This craft builds tripod grasp, multi-step craft
Cardboard tube stamp painting~ Work on gross grasp, fine motor skills, and coordination.
Recycled cardboard tube pumpkin stamps~ Use a paper towel tube or a toilet paper tube to paint pumpkins in this fine motor craft.
Cardboard tube apple stamps~ Use a toilet paper tube to paint apples in a coordination craft. What other round objects could you paint by using a paper roll?
Recycled Plastic container activities for kids:
Use recycled bottles in fine motor activities– Plastic bottles like shampoo bottles, soap bottles, and other squeezable bottles are great for building gross hand grasp.
Fine motor color sorting activity with recycled grated cheese container~ tripod grasp, color, pattern, and sorting learning skills. This is a great early math activity!
In-hand manipulation activities ~uses a grated cheese container and a recycled two liter drink container to develop in-hand manipulation and translation skills.
Play dough cupcakes ~using a recycled cupcake container with strengthening and fine motor development.
Outdoor snow restaurant activity with recycled containers~ imagination, pretend play, language skill development. Don’t have snow? Use play dough, slime, or even homemade kinetic sand.
Fine motor play with plastic bottle and crafting poms~ tripod grasp, color, sorting, and pattern learning
Recycled milk container ghost catch game~ gross motor, eye-hand coordination, and visual motor catch game
Plastic bottle and tissue paper fine motor play~ tripod grasp, auditory processing activity with colors
Fine motor sensory water play with recycled water bottles~ color learning in a multi-sensory activity with fine motor (tripod grasp) components
Spy sight word sensory bottle~ visual scanning activity to work on language. This is a great eye-hand and visual-motor activity!
Fine motor tripod grasp activity~ Tripod grasp and in-hand manipulation skills with a grated cheese container
Recycled plastic water bottle pipe cleaner fine motor activity~ Tripod grasp, fine motor skill development with an auditory component…all while working on colors.
Styrofoam activities for kids:
- DIY shape stamps with recycled Styrofoam~ shapes, counting, gross grasp, multi-sensory art creation
- Penguin math activity~ Math activity while working on visual scanning, tracking, and eye-hand coordination skills.
- Fine motor tripod grasp activity with Styrofoam~ tripod grasp with colors for learning, patterns, and sorting
- DIY lacing cards from recycled carry out containers~ tripod grasp, eye-hand coordination, bilateral hand coordination, crossing mid-line, visual motor skills
Recycled Bubble wrap activities for kids:
Finger dexterity game with recycled bubble wrap~ fine motor skills to strengthen thenar muscles of the thumb with visual scanning, tracking, crossing midline.
Sensory paint play with recycled bubble wrap~ Challenge the tactile sense with creative play while working on language development, color learning, and fine motor skill play
Mess-free bubble wrap painting~ Build fine motor skills such as tripod grasp, tip-to-tip grasp, and index finger isolation work while engaging in creative painting.
Recycled Shredded paper crafts and activities for kids:
Sight word sensory bin with shredded paper~ Use recycled paper from the paper shredder in tactile sensory play while learning and identifying sight words, visual scanning activity
Shredded paper snowy farm sensory bin~ Build language, creative expression, and imagination through pretend play with a sensory bin using recycled paper as a sensory bin base.
Valentine’s Day shredded paper sensory bin~ This sensory play activity uses colors, fine motor work with tools, imagination, and pretend play.
Cardboard crafts and activities for kids:
Small world activity with a cardboard box~ imagination, pretend play, language development
Valentine’s day door banner craft~ Multi-step direction following with fine motor work
Fine motor with pipe cleaners and a cardboard box ~ tripod grasp, eye-hand coordination, tip-to tip- grasp
Cardboard box golf tee hammering~ eye hand coordination, tool use, strengthening, letter learning, visual scanning, visual motor activity
Cereal box fine motor coordination~ tripod grasp, visual motor play
Pretend play pizza shop~ imagination, pretend play, language development
How to create a craft bin from recycled materials~ process art with imagination
recycle bin flower craft~ fine motor development
Bottle cap crafts and activities for kids:
Christmas stamps with recycled bottle caps~ fine motor development
Recycled bottle caps fine motor activity– We used dry chick peas to build fine motor dexterity with recycled bottle caps, but you can use any small object.
Bottlecap Spinning Tops- These fine motor power tools are great for precision, dexterity, grasp, in-hand manipulation, and arch development of the hands
Use bottle caps in visual tracking– Recycled materials can be used with big visual processing benefits to address visual scanning and tracking.
Recycled bottle cap sight word stamps~ sight word learning, visual scanning, matching
Bottle cap flower craft– Build precision and eye-hand coordination with bottle caps.
Bottle Cap DIY Toys– Recycle bottle caps into DIY toys with fine motor benefits.
Letter learning with recycled bottle caps~ letter learning, visual scanning, matching
Recycled Materials List for Parents
Working wiht children on an Occupational tehrapy home program or in OT teletherapy sessions? You can ask parents to hold on to some of these recyceld materials to use in OT sessions or to work on specific recommended activities;
- Toilet paper tubes
- Paper towel tubes
- Plastic containers (spice jars, Parmesan cheese containers, squeeze jars, shampoo bottles, berry containers, cupcake containers, etc.)
- Bottle caps
- Cardboard tissue boxes
- Delivery cardboard boxes
- Egg cartons (cardboard or Styrofoam egg trays)
- Styrofoam take-out containers
- Shredded paper
- Old worksheets, paper that’s been used on just one side
- Paper bags
- Cereal boxes
What would you add to this list?
Looking for more ways to work on specific skills in teletherapy? Check out this ultimate occupational therapy teletherapy resource to guide a wide variety of treatment ideas.
Earth Day Crafts
Any of these recycled crafts make a great Earth Day craft…why? Kids are using recycled materials in crafting and they are learning to use what they have on hand!
For more seasonal crafts to use in OT sessions, you’ll love our Spring Crafts library!
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.