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Engaging Children in Creative Activities: How to Make Beautiful fun items from Waste Materials

Updated on June 7, 2012

A Child's Creativity is not necessarily a Function of the Mind of Parents

Many parents want their children to get engaged in creative pursuits. They spend a lot of money for the training of their children in painting, music and other creative pursuits. In town life, almost every child undergoes a training in any of these activities. Unfortunately, only a few of them actually develop an interest in any of the trades. Why?

Probably, a child's sense of creativity is far different and complex compared to the way we adults think. When children grow up, they keep discovering new things consistently. Their inquisitiveness has no limit. Many questions that come to their mind need to be answered suitably. Since the unexplored world before them is vast, the questions that come to their mind are also wide ranging. Where do the sun goes after evening? How birds fly? Why the ears of one dog is upwards while that of the other is downward? How the goldfish breathes in water? So on and so forth. If they do not get answers, they get upset. Many children are by nature introvert and they have more questions in their minds than answers as they do try find their answers on their own. There are still some others who find it difficult to frame questions due to want of vocabulary. They get irritated when we force them into a formal training of painting or dance or music. Their mind is not yet mature for structured training. I think the best way to develop their creativity is to let them frame their questions and find their own answers with whatever means they have with them. No matter whether they use stones, leaves, empty boxes, a thread, some shining buttons, a red paper, a yellow piece of cloth, a plastic cap or anything else. In the present hub, I have discussed how I engaged my child in making some beautiful items from household scraps and waste materials.


Why use Used/Waste materials when we can afford to Purchase New?

The immediate answer to this question is, it is not us but our children whose creativity we are concerned about. It is likely that the child may not be able to express exactly what is needed for his/her use. Again, given the fickleness of the tiny minds, by the time you arrange the required items, the child may lose interest from one thought and have shifted to some new thought. But there is also some larger issues involved, i.e, efficient use of resources.

Whenever we go for shopping, we end up accumulating a lot of wastes in the form of cardboards, waste papers, envelops, polythene wrappers sheets, plastic bags and so on, and these materials keep on accumulating. We also accumulate empty glass bottles, empty toothpaste tubes and many such items. Often we sell these so called useless stuff to scrap dealers. In my part of the world, many people tend to re-use these “waste” products if they are useful for packaging and other purposes. Many poor people also make use of these products in their daily use as substitutes to buckets, containers and so on. Scrap is not value-less. These are useful for someone or other. So if they are sold to scrap dealers, it makes a lot of sense in terms of re use and recycling. However, many times, the amount of such stuff we accumulate are not suitable for sale to scrap dealers especially when they are less in quantity. At times, some scrap dealers are also not interested to purchase certain items. So, many people just throw these away. These waste materials not only make our roads dirty but also contribute to air and water pollution as in most third world countries, in the absence of suitable environmental standards and laws the town cleaning authorities burn these wastes or dump those in rivers or use as landfill. While we may not be able to get rid of the urban waste management problems completely, we may re-use some of our household waste in some productive and creative manner. It may be further rewarding if we can teach our children, the usefulness of waste products and involve them in making beautiful things out of waste materials, we may inculcate some creative inspirations in tiny minds. In the present hub, I have discussed some personal experiences of making some such things from household wastes like waste cardboards and newspapers and how useful the experience was to encourage my son to do such things on his own.

Pen-stand made from waste paper cardboard boxes
Pen-stand made from waste paper cardboard boxes | Source

How a Pen-stand was made from Waste Cardboards ?

It was a Sunday and I was seriously looking for a pen stand for my desk to keep some pens and pencils in order. I was cleaning the house and was not interested to go to market to purchase a pen stand. I just kept the pens and pencils of my son in a cardboard box which was a cover for a syrup bottle that I purchased a couple of days back. I showed that make-shift pen stand to my husband and asked him to purchase a pen-stand from the office stationery shop. My husband told me that using a hand made pen-stand is a much better way of resource use than buying one. Later, he spent some time with my son and they made a beautiful pen stand out of waste wrapper boxes. My son was involved in making of the pen-stand and he was very happy to see the end products. After that, they made many such things from waste cardboard boxes.
Making a pen-stand from waste cardboards is extremely easy. What you need are as the following.
(1) A waste cardboard box of suitable size to be used as a pen stand. A bottle cover made of cardboard is the most suitable one. In the picture presented as figure-2 was a cardboard box cover of some electrical equipments. See how beautiful it looks after being converted to a pen-stand!
(2) A pair of scissors, a slide cutter and a pointer to make a hole.
(3) Some sheets of plain white paper and glue
(4) Colouring equipments like colours, pencil, markers and colouring brushes.

Process of making a pen-stand is simple. Just cut and design the cardboard box in the shape of a pen-stand. This would serve as the frame for the pen-stand. Cover the frame with plain white sheets of paper by using glue and let it dry up. Make some design in pencil and fill those with colours. In the pen-stand shown in the picture, some random designs are filled with contrasting colours, made the look of the pen-stand really attractive. One may also make several other things in the same way.

Pen -Stand made of cardboard
Pen -Stand made of cardboard | Source
Drying the toy train upside down
Drying the toy train upside down | Source

Making a Pen-stand inspired making of a toy train

The other day my son came with some cardboard boxes he gathered from here and there and requested me to help him make a toy train. It was very pleasant to see him taking interest in such creative activities. Both of us made a toy train out of those card board boxes. The process was a bit time taking, but was a lot of fun as I made my son work on toy train under my active guidance.

First, we made the wagons, cut designed doors and windows, covered these with newspaper by using glue. Then we made the engine by making a cylinder and a small box and joined them together to get the shape of an engine. We also made a small pipe like cylinder and fixed it on the top of the engine cylinder to make the frame for chimney of an old coal fired train. We wrapped this too with newspapers by using glue.

Making the wheels of the toy train was a bit cumbersome for my so. So I did it myself. I got the shape of wheels marked on a cardboard sheet by making circles on it, then cut the circles and again wrapped everything with news papers. We assembled everything to form a toy train and then coloured the train with blue ink and paints. After the glue dried up, the train was ready and my son really loved it. He played with the train for several hours. This was a useful experience for my son.

My son's Dream House
My son's Dream House | Source
The nest made by my son for the sparrow couple
The nest made by my son for the sparrow couple | Source

A Nest, A Dream House and Many Other Items my Son did on his Own

The experience my son had during his involvement in such activities inspired him a lot to make many other things. Everyday I keep some grains and left over foods on the walls of my balcony and many sparrows, pigeons and crows come everyday for eating that. Such a practice has some cultural backgrounds also. In my religion, it is believed that after death, the soul is reborn as different species of creatures and they bless people who give them food. Although, at present, its more of a cultural practice for me rather than any belief in birth cycles, given the fact that my balcony faces a jungle, a lot of wild birds come to eat the food I keep for them. They are so used to get food from the wall that if I forget some day to keep food in the morning, the birds make a lot of noise and demand food. Some times they enter into my house and roam around freely. My son used to ask me a lot of questions about these birds and we have also given some names to recognise these flying friends. One day, while answering some questions on sparrows, I told my son that the sparrow couple do not have a house and they do not have enough money to build their own house. They live under open sky on the branches of a tree in the jungle. Next day my son made a nest house for the sparrow couple and we hanged that in our balcony. It was not very finely crafted, but it was beautiful and I was very happy that my son have learnt using waste materials in a better way than contributing to the garbage. He also made a dream house with waste cardboard boxes, a toy helicopter, a honey bee, a slope, a mobile phone and many other things. He also collects empty matchboxes, nuts and bolts, strings and anything he finds useful for making something for which, he has a plan in mind.

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Playing with the toy train


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    • profile image

      gungun koul 

      4 years ago


    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I used to love making stuff with my kids. They were always finding old junk to play with. I always said that they enjoyed creative project with old junk more than they liked store bought toys.

    • purnimamoh1982 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Dear Jynzly,

      I feel so grateful to receive a comment from such a brilliant person like you. I read your hubs. They are not only insightful, they have a practical sense of application too. Your comment is so inspiring, I can not express my feelings in words. Delighted to get in touch with you.

    • Jynzly profile image

      Jenny Pugh 

      7 years ago from Marion, Indiana, USA

      Wonderful hub!

      My eldest granddaughter is now sophomore college in Far Eastern University taking up Architecture. I asked her why Architecture instead of some more feminine courses; her reply "Grandma, I never forget the beautiful paper houses you created when I was just a kid."

      Yes, this amazing hub reminds me on what I used to do when my grandchildren were just living nearby and were kids.

      You created such an amazing hub...I wish that I could present my paper houses creations as comprehensively as you do. Voted up.


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