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10 Kids Activities That Reuse Plastic Bottles

Updated on April 10, 2012

Reduce, reuse, recycle......and have fun!

We all have too many plastic bottles. Let's face it - it's better for the planet not to buy them at all. Sometimes you just have to though, and you make sure you recycle them afterwards. But before you put your next plastic bottle in the recycling why not consider what else it could be used for? And maybe keep the kids busy at the same time? For some inspiration, take a look at these ten ideas for kids' activities that all make good reuse of an old plastic bottle....

Plastic Bottle Kaleidoscope
Image credit: Tobyotter

Take care....and have fun!

These activities are suitable for kids of a variety of ages, and some, as with many craft activities, involve using scissors, sharp blades and other items that could be dangerous. Please take a moment to consider helping your kids with these actvities, and most of all - be safe, and have fun!

Ship in a bottle, Trafalgar Square, London
Ship in a bottle, Trafalgar Square, London

#1 Ship in a bottle

Around $4 if you have some craft tools already

Okay, this is the activity that requires the most craft skills, and to be honest, unless you're planning a lot of extra work, it won't look like the ship in a bottle pictured. But you and your kids will have the satisfaction of having built one yourself.

Ship in a bottle
Trafalgar Square, London
Image credit: Steve Fareham

You've might have seen various instructions and videos on the web that achieve the ship in a bottle feat simply by cutting a hole in the side of the bottle, making a ship and gluing the section of bottle back in, placing that section underneath so it isn't visible. This seems like cheating to me!

The link below takes you to instructions for how to do it properly! Build the boat flat, slide it in to the bottle, and raise the rigging! It's more work, but it's got to be more rewarding.

Build a ship in a bottle

It requires a 3 liter bottle, and some craft tools and supplies that you may already have, and one other item - a balsa wood boat hull. The link in the instructions for this isn't great - try this one, it'll take you straight to the right place.

Balsa wood hull

#2 Plastic bottle rocket - Around $25 including shipping, if you already have the required tools

Take a humble plastic bottle (any size from 0.5 to 2 liter will do), and turn it into a rocket, and your yard into Cape Canaveral! But before launch, paint a design on the bottle, maybe add some cardboard fins, and see who can build the coolest looking rocket!

Launch requires a pump (bicycle or foot pump or air compressor) and a couple of tent pegs, and you'll need a few tools and some PVC cement to assemble the launcher.

Soda Bottle Water Rocket Launcher Fabricated Parts Kit + Red Parachute (Rocket NOT Included)
Soda Bottle Water Rocket Launcher Fabricated Parts Kit + Red Parachute (Rocket NOT Included)

Just needs water and air (and plastic bottles!) to be used again and again. Comes with a remote trigger string, so you can launch from a safe distance and stay dry!

 
Launch!
Launch!

Plastic Bottle Rocket Launch
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

#3 Plastic bottle terrarium - You may need to buy some small plants

Turn a 2 liter plastic bottle into a terrarium in a matter of minutes, and then enjoy watching it grow! A great way to make a miniature, low maintenance, indoor garden.

You will need some gardening moss, to retain moisture, and some charcoal, to filter out impurities, as well as some small plants.

#4 Plastic bottle catamaran - Around $12 plus two AAA batteries

Turn two 1 liter plastic bottles into the twin hulls of a catamaran powered by an air-propellor. Not only fun to build and sail, but a great introduction to a very different type of boat. Find out more about the catamaran, and its history dating back to ancient Greek times here.

Try it out in the pool, or some other small area of water - on a lake or river you may end up losing it!

Pooh Sticks Bridge, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex UK. Thought to be the bridge that features in the 'Winnie the Pooh' story.
Pooh Sticks Bridge, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex UK. Thought to be the bridge that features in the 'Winnie the Pooh' story.

#5 Plastic bottle Poohsticks

You'll need waterproof boots or a fishing net

Remember the 'Poohsticks' game from the Winnie the Pooh stories? Pooh, Christopher Robin, Tigger and Eyeore drop sticks on one side of a bridge, and the winner is the person whose stick first appears on the other side of the bridge.

Pooh Sticks Bridge
Ashdown Forest, East Sussex UK
Image credit: David Brooker

Would you believe so many visitors to Ashdown Bridge, East Sussex, England, which is thought to be the bridge the story is based on, snapped sticks from the surrounding trees to play the game that you now have to bring your own sticks with you? Well, here's a version that won't damage any trees....

First you'll need a bridge, preferably a footbridge so there's no traffic, over a fairly shallow but flowing piece of water.You'll need a least two players, and one other person to collect the bottles before they float away too far.

The players select a bottle. Perhaps take some time to decorate it, or place a piece of paper inside with the player's name on it - if you've ever tried it with sticks it's often very difficult to determine which stick is which! The players drop their bottles on the upstream side of the bridge, and the first bottle to emerge on the downstream side is the winner. The extra person, who'll need waterproof boots and maybe a fishing net, retrieves the bottles so the game can be played again.

You don't actually have to have a bridge of course, any point where you can drop the bottles in together and watch them travel to another clearly marked point will do. Obstructions in the water which modify the flow, like the bridge supports, or rocks, increase the unpredictibility.

Please be kind to the environment, and retrieve the bottles afterwards!

#6 Tornado in a bottle - Around $5

Create a tornado in a bottle, using two 2 liter plastic bottles. Replicate a tornado, or a maelstrom (if you want to get fancy!), as the water flows between the two bottles.

Make sure the tube is well secured to both bottles, and doesn't leak, before you begin!

Tornado Tube - Assorted Colors
Tornado Tube - Assorted Colors

A simple 1" diameter 3" long tube, threaded at each end to allow a bottle to be screwed on. Hold vertical, with the full bottle at the top, give it a circular whirl and a vortex is created - similar to water draining out of a bathtub but a lot more fun. Add Monopoly houses or other small toys, glitter or food coloring for extra effect.

 

#7 Plastic bottle bowling alley - Free! If you have a marker pen and a ball

Create your own indoor bowling alley using any sizes of plastic bottles. Use bottles all the same size, or create an extra challenge using different sizes, weights and stability. Number the bottles using a marker pen and keep score.

The video uses a cricket ball as the bowling ball - if you value your floor and paintwork though I might suggest something a little softer! Any ball that's not too big and has enough weight to knock a plastic bottle over will do!

Many plastic bottle bird feeders are not squirrel or weatherproof. See the instructions on how to build one that is.
Many plastic bottle bird feeders are not squirrel or weatherproof. See the instructions on how to build one that is.

#8 Plastic bottle bird feeder

You'll probably need to buy bird food, but may have everything else

This is a very simple and quick activity. There's a great set of instructions here, which should create a feeder considerably more squirrel proof than that pictured opposite:

Many plastic bottle bird feeders are not squirrel or weatherproof. See the instructions on how to build one that is.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Bird feeder instructions

Some extra tips are:

- Make sure the bottle is clean and completely dry inside.

- Any more or less round bits of wood around 10" long can be used for the perches (chopsticks even).

- The size of the holes made for feeding does depend on the size of the seed to be used, and oval holes taller than they are wide will help the birds to feed.

- Bird feeders do need to be kept clean and refilled regularly!

#9 Plastic bottle amphibian rover - Around $23 plus two AAA batteries

Reuse four plastic bottles to act as wheels or floats, to create a vehicle that works both on land and on water.

See it in action on YouTube here:

on land

and

on the water.

Plastic bottles can be used to make jump rope handles.
Plastic bottles can be used to make jump rope handles.

#10 Jump rope handles

You'll probably have everything you need lying around

Another very quick and simple activity.

Take two small, identical, plastic bottles, small enough for your kids to easily grip. Bottles with a fairly wide top will help when knotting the rope.

Small plastic bottles can be used to make handles for jump ropes
Image credit: Open Clip Art Library

Decorate the bottles.

Punch a hole in the center of the base of each bottle, slightly larger than the piece of rope to be used.

Thread the rope through the hole, and knot it firmly so it doesn't pull back through.

And the bonus is, unlike jump ropes with wooden handles it's less likely to bruise your legs when you get tangled up!

Please don't forget to recycle!

Please recycle your plastic bottles afterwards!
Please recycle your plastic bottles afterwards!

Please don't forget to recycle the plastic bottles afterwards!
Image credit: Tobyotter

When you finished having fun with these activities please don't forget to put the plastic bottles in the recycling!

There must be dozens of other ways to reuse plastic bottles before they need to be recycled. I hope this lens has inspired you to think of many more!

Reader comments

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    • profile image

      topbuilderlist 4 years ago

      I like pet bottle garden, its good for indoor display.

    • SusanRDavis profile image

      Susan R. Davis 4 years ago from Vancouver

      I'd totally forgotten about Poohsticks! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Tugee profile image

      Tugee 5 years ago

      Awesome! Number one is definitely my favorite.

    • JJNW profile image

      JJNW 5 years ago from USA

      OMGosh - I love, love, love these ideas! ha. I want to make a bottle rocket with my teenage son. So cool. He says, however (lol), that the confusion of whose stick is whose (who's?) is sort of the "point" of Pooh Sticks. Ha. ***Blessed by a SquidAngel*** for a great layout and giving me a very cool project to do!

    • CraftaholicVete profile image

      CraftaholicVete 5 years ago

      Great lens and wonderful idea that kids and parents can do together. Nice choice.

    • profile image

      gressaaudrina 5 years ago

      great article!^^

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Great article! I love the bird feeder idea. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Enjoyed your creative article for kid activities. Important for kids to get involved in. *blessed by a squid angel*

    • profile image

      anilsaini 5 years ago

      nice lens

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      I have a plastic bottle birdfeeder, and I use an apple-picker that's made from a 2L pop bottle and a long pole, but I haven't tried the plastic bottle terrarium - that will be next on the list, for sure!

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 5 years ago from Australia

      What great ideas! This lens has been blessed and added to my Upcycling Ideas lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Such lovely ideas to stop landfill

    • kislanyk profile image

      Marika 5 years ago from Cyprus

      Great ideas here, blessed for positive thinking!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Very cool ideas! Thanks for sharing - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Love these ideas! The jump rope handle idea is one I've never seen before. Love it!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      There are some great ideas and we have no shortage of plastic bottles. We are going to have lots of fun.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Wow - you have a lot of fun ideas here. I used a plastic bottle for a funnel today in the kitchen. Just cut the bottom off, and presto a funnel. Made me very happy.

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      Wow..so many uses. I like the jump roap handles.

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      What great ideas for reusing plastic bottles! Reusing and recycling them is important, I really love the bird feeder idea:)

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

      Oh, I love these great craft ideas to reuse plastic bottles! My personal favorite would have to be the bird feeder! Of course, that is just because I love animals and that squirrel photo is so adorable. Would you believe I helped my son create a powered car for a Science project one year using a plastic bottle for the body! We had a lot of fun with that project. I still remember that "car" sailing across my kitchen floor a thousand times :)

    • teristazko profile image

      teristazko 5 years ago

      I am all about reusing plastic water bottles. You have a lot of good ideas on how to recycle them. Thanks for sharing.

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 5 years ago

      Got some fun ideas here for the next time I babysit the grandkids!

    • designsbyharriet profile image

      Harriet 5 years ago from Indiana

      Great lens.

    • FantasticVoyages profile image

      Fantastic Voyages 5 years ago from Texas

      Good uses for recycling the bottles. Thanks for sharing!