Household trash can take the place of a craft store for creativ

November 07, 2003|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

"You're not going to throw that away are you?"

My 8-year-old son was gazing intently at the cardboard tissue box cube I had in my hand.

"Well, yes. It's empty, so I'm putting it in the trash can."

His shoulders sagged in disappointment.

"But Mom, I could make something from that."

Not wanting to stifle his creativity, I handed it over.

And so it goes in our household. I tie up the kitchen trash when my son is in another room so he's not tempted to stake a claim on the packaging from dinner.

I've given up on trying to straighten his room because what I see as trash, he views as treasure.

Among the books lying here, there and everywhere are items that he has salvaged.

An empty toothpaste box is a craft waiting to happen, and the bottom of a 3-ounce bathroom cup has potential. You never know when you'll need that size circle in a project.


When I couldn't stand the mess any longer, I told him to keep his "throw-away" treasures in a shopping bag. That way, Mom didn't have to deal with the clutter and Son was happy to have stuff to use each time the light bulb flashed.

If every family in Washington County had at least one member like my son, the landfills wouldn't be nearly as full. And I'm only half joking here. My husband makes a trash trip about once every two weeks.

Parents talk about children who play with the boxes containing their Christmas presents. Our kids just want to know when the detergent will be gone or when I'll use the last egg in the fridge. Detergent bottles make great piggy banks and egg cartons can be transformed into caterpillars or other creatures.

Who needs a craft store when you have household trash?

I wish I could say my kids aren't chips off the old block, but that would be untrue. I save, recycle and have trouble throwing things away.

Rather than fight it, I've just chosen to make the best of it, aiming for a little organization to guide the creative chaos.

And we've actually had great fun making things from what would have been trash.

Here are some ideas for your family to try, from the book "Arts & Crafts From Things Around the House" by Imogene Forte:

  • Popcorn pictures - Have a few handfuls of popcorn left over from last night's snack? Don't throw it away. Use it to make popcorn pictures. Place water and a few drops of food coloring in paper cups. Drop popcorn pieces into colored water. Stir with a plastic spoon. Put colored popcorn on newspaper to dry. Draw a picture on a piece of paper. Glue the colored popcorn to the paper to fill in the design.

  • Playful pencil holder - Wash an empty frozen juice can or tomato paste can and let it dry. Use scraps of construction paper, ribbon, yarn and other odds and ends to create a colorful animal or character.

  • Cat's eyes game - Draw a big cat on the bottom of a clean, dry meat tray. Color with crayons or markers. Find two buttons. Cut "eyes" in the cat's face slightly smaller than the buttons. Place the buttons on the tray. Stretch plastic wrap tightly over the tray, wrapping it under the sides. Tape in place. The object of the game is to see who can slide the buttons into place as the cat's eyes.

  • Roly-poly critters - Cover an empty paper towel roll with construction paper, leaving enough paper to turn in at either end. Attach legs, feet, hands, faces, hair, hats or clothes to give the critter personality.

Paper towel rolls also are great for teaching the colors of the rainbow (Roy G. Biv - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) because children can paint a band of each color side-by-side on the roll.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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