It’s no secret – kids can use a ton of materials when their creative juices get flowing. Reams of paper, puddles of glue, entire shakers of glitter… It can be mind boggling how fast they go!
While we don’t want to discourage children by setting too many limits, we must address the costs, both financially and ecologically, of using large amounts of art materials.
So, how can we keep art time fun and free while reducing waste?
10 Tips for Reducing Waste at Art Time
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1. Start with repurposed materials. Ask friends and family to keep an eye out for fabric scraps, felt, paper, cardboard and the like. In the past, I’ve collected boxes of dot matrix paper, stationary from businesses that have gone under, ribbon bits and wrapping paper scraps. Not only do repurposed items make ecological sense, they keep art time interesting!
2. Take a little bit at a time. Talk with children about squeezing out just a little paint at a time or taking just a few items at first. With young children, I’ve found that even unused materials tend to be sticky or wet by the end of the activity. Start small and have additional materials close at hand but separate from the work area to reduce the amount of waste.
3. Limit glue use. Have you ever seen the look of glee on a preschooler’s face as they squeeze out an entire bottle of glue? At one point, my day care kids were obsessed with it. I wanted to honor their impulses but wasn’t willing to go through several bottles of glue each day.
My solution? I bought a gallon of school glue, a pump dispenser and enough tiny glue bottles for everyone. At art time, I’d fill each about half way (equal to a tablespoon or so of glue) and let the kids know that was their glue for the day. If they still chose to squeeze it all out, I would offer them a glue brush so they could still use the puddled glue. It saved a ton of glue and still allowed the kids to play freely.
4. Collage with magazines. Before you toss your magazines or catalogs into the recycling can, tear out any interesting pictures or large letters and put them aside for collaging.
5. Save stray glitter. Just like glue, young kids love to use a ton of glitter! Shaking the entire shaker of glitter out can be big fun but result in a lot of waste. My solution is to place a sheet of newspaper under glitter projects. When the shaker is empty, I pick up each side of the paper so the glitter gathers in the crease and pour it right back into the shaker for more fun.
6. Make art with random objects. Ask friends and family to be on the lookout for interesting objects they don’t need. Collect them and use the objects for collaging or making mobiles. (See Oryx Ink for instructions on how to make mobiles).
7. Save your crayon stubs to make new crayons! Find out how at Frugal Living.
9. Reuse and recycle. When art time is over, work with your kids to sort out which materials can be saved for later and which can be recycled.
10. Enlist the help of your kids. Talk about why it’s helpful to repurpose materials, to recycle and to be creative with what we have rather than always buying new things. Teach not only what to do, but why.
These 10 tips will help you reduce waste at art time while still allowing your kids to be creative and in the moment.