Earth Day is a yearly reminder to consider our role in protecting the environment. Parents can make a positive impact by creating fun, educational toys from everyday items that may initially seem like trash, but can be repurposed into teaching tools.
“Children are natural learners, and often see educational opportunities that adults can miss,” says Richard Peterson, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy Child Care Learning Centers. “Anyone who’s given a child a new toy and then found him playing with the box can appreciate a child’s gift for creative play.”
Want to feed your child’s imagination, while helping the environment? Kiddie Academy offers the following ideas for creating recycled educational toys:
An outdated keyboard is a perfect teaching toy, as it includes the entire alphabet to assist in early literacy exercises. Challenge your child to sing the ABC song while locating each letter on the keyboard.
Shoebox to Mailbox:
Children love getting mail. Reinforce both reading and writing skills by creating a family mailbox from an old shoebox. Encourage your child to write notes to family members, and leave notes for them as well.
Water Bottle Instrument:
Fill a clean, dry plastic water or soda bottle with rice, bells, beans or coins and shake them to hear a variety of new sounds. Glue the top on to secure the contents.
Instead of immediately sending your unwanted mail to the landfill, allow your child to play with the envelopes and letters. She can pretend to be a postal carrier while getting additional exposure to printed words.
Glossy photos in magazines are perfect for creating collage art that provides fine motor skill practice with scissors and glue.
Children love pushing buttons. An unused television remote control can be used for number and math play. Simply remove the batteries and ask him to find the numbers as you call them out.
Clothing: Dramatic play is an essential teaching tool that allows children to explore social roles, practice problem solving and language skills. Add no longer needed pieces of your own wardrobe to the toy chest to encourage your child’s imagination. She can literally “try on” a different role by wearing your skirt, hat or shoes.
Your child can use a worn out sheet or towel as a cape, picnic blanket or as the roof to a play fort.
Toilet Paper Tube:
Empty TP tubes are a favorite art tool in classrooms. Save a box of them, and give them to your child along with a few craft supplies to see what he can create. Binoculars, stamps and creatures are popular choices.
While it’s tempting to immediately recycle a box, your child can have hours of fun using an empty box for creative play. What seems like trash to you could become a school bus, secret hideout or magic castle.
For more eco-friendly education tips, parents can visit Kiddie Academy’s Family Essentials blog.