‘Upcycle’ Old Items Into Toys and Holiday Gifts!

Hello, to all my DIY Mamas out there!

Recently I heard about this cool e-Book called “Uppity Owl Upcycles a Brooch” by children’s book author Monica Blas. It’s about a crafty owl that lives by a pond and learns to “upcyle.” What’s upcycling? I was asking myself the same thing!  It’s finding new uses for old things you have just kicking around. I think this is a really creative and neat way to start teaching kids about the environment. And they can make some pretty neat homemade presents!

upcycling ideasPin for later!

Try these upcycling ideas with your kids – click on the links for the full instructions.

Share your ideas for creative uses for old items!

Giant flip-flops made from baby wipes containers! Giant Flip Flops:

Here is something cute I found, although it might be a bit dangerous so just make sure you’re supervising! Take two empty baby wipes containers and four rubber bands, and you can create giant flip flop stilts for your kids.  Only for the light of feet!
How to upcycle an oatmeal container into a straw game for babies or toddlers. Oatmeal Container Straw Game:

Love this idea for toddlers! Just punch holes with a hole-punch in the top of an empty oatmeal container, grab some plastic straws and you have a great game for little ones. Trust me, some babies could spend hours doing this!  You can even decorate the container if you’re feeling artsy in fun, primary colors.  And just think how much money you’re saving on not buying a pricey toy.  Plus, straws are pretty easy and cheap to replace unlike other blocks!

How to upcycle baby food jars into snowmen!

Hot Snowmen:

I spotted this adorable family crafts idea for re-using baby food jars on Pinterest, of course.  And it’s perfect for this time of year! Fill one jar with peppermints, one with hot cocoa mix and one with marshmallows, and decorate. You can buy the felt hats at any crafts store and either use a hot glue gun and felt pieces for the faces, OR just relax and let your kids tape on construction paper eyes and noses. These would make great little DIY holiday gifts for a teacher or babysitter from your child.  I recommend putting the cocoa and marshmallows in the jars after the kiddies have decorated, lest you end up with cocoa mix all over the kitchen floor or find that the elves are nibbling!

Thanks for stopping by and make sure to check back for more! xo

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  • Tina Tapia

    For mason jars, you can drill a hole in the top and put a soap pump in its place, fill the jar with hand soap for a rustic kinda looking dispenser. I have so many more upcycling ideas however my brain is currently fried due to 3 children and a new addition on the way :)

  • lace

    We save cardboard boxes, tubes, and other interesting shapes for the girls to make marble runs. They love when I bring out all the saved items and let them go. They will build for hours testing out what works best for their marbles.

  • Keli B

    We are huge fans of HappyFamily snacks. We buy the puffs and save the containers to store toys in and other little items. My son also likes to color and decorate the containers too. The containers are BPA free so we have also used them to plant flowers.There are lost of different uses for those containers :)

  • Emily G

    We use empty Gerber puff containers as bowling pins for our toddler. Strike!

  • Christine

    I’ve used tissue boxes to make dinosaur feet – based on a craft shown on Sprouts. I also save all my toilet paper and paper towel rolls for my kids. They can be anything from telescopes to swords.



  • chana u

    we use all sorts of containers to make musical instruments

  • Jennie

    Love these ideas! We like using bubble wrap as a “planet surface” for action figures … lots of noisy fun!

  • sharon

    We use 20 oz water bottles filled 1/2 way with water, throw in some glitter for color, and seal the cap on with wax. They make great bowling pins!

  • Anitha Kuppuswamy

    You can reuse old LEGO / building set blocks. For small blocks cut shapes like circles/ squares out of foam and add glue to the block to use in kid’s projects or paste in their bedrooms.

  • Marcella Cook

    We live in the country and take old mason or pickle jars and screw them into some wood for the squirrels to eat. It’s a great use for all those jars hanging around. Also, we use the Jam containers that you get at the store with the handle as cups to drink out of.

  • Chris

    We are upcycling all those pinecones in our yard that can’t be composted into winter bird feeders. Just slather peanut butter, bacon grease, lard, or suet then roll in a seed mix. Then we’ve saved all of those wire bread ties to wrap around the stem so they can be hung from a tree. A project easy enough for a toddler and a cheap and “green” gift for friends and teachers. Plus, the little one is learning the value of what it means to give to others and will get to experience happy birds eating from his feeders this winter!

  • Denise L

    My all time favorite thing to upcycle is a good ol’ cardboard box. We’ve made race cars, drive thru windows, secret batcaves. The possibilities are endless.

  • Aimee

    We have quite a few shallow wooden boxes (more like trays – no lid) that some of our wooden toys and crafts came in. We’ve upcycled them into hair accessory storage. They stack nicely in the bathroom drawers and have a divider in them to sort out hair bands, barrettes, etc.

  • Kathy Dickens

    We have done a few recycle items. I love to use empty egg cartons to hold paint and Gerber jars work great too. I also use both of these with my kids to plant seeds, when they start to sprout we replant them into either a jug or empty 2 liter bottle and then wait a little longer and plant them in our garden.

    My son also has a rock and seashell collection. He stores them in spaghetti sauce jars instead of mounting them. This way, he can still take them out to look at them when he wants too!

  • Ioana

    We reuse yarn from old/small sweaters and make new dolls and figurines for new toys.

  • jeannine s

    for socks that have lost their match we make bunnies. We fill them with beans, tie off their tops, twist and put ribbon in middle then draw faces

  • Heather Ashton

    Along with egg cartons for paint or play dough, we made a sound matching game with old film canisters, crowns out if cereal boxes (puzzles too) and yogurt containers have been made into a fine motor skill activity similar to the oatmeal boxes using pom poms. Sturdy water bottle make great sparkle bottles or eye spy bottles that fit perfectly in cup holders for an on the go distraction in the car.

  • candace

    We upcycle glsss mason and jelly jars to use as drinking cups. Water tastes wonderful in glass. They are thicker than regular cups and wont break as easily and if they do you have easy replacements. The some people are aftaid of glass breaking with kids around, but plastic chemicals scare me more. They also sell sippy lids on amazon for mason jars. Thanks for the consideration!

  • candace

    Not necessarily a holiday gift, but we upcycle jelly and mason jars to be used as drinking glasses. Some might find fault with using glass in that it breaks and people can get cut, but the chemicals in plastic scare me more. You can even find sippy lids on amazon to cover the top of mason jars. Nothing tastes better than water served in glass. Thanks for the consideration!

  • Carmen

    I love “upcycling” our diaper boxes into storage for my craft room. I just cover with scrapbook paper, contact paper, or fabric.

  • http://www.cloudmom.com/about Melissa Lawrence

    Thanks for all the great comments and suggestions — I’m definitely going to try some of your ideas with my kids. The winner for this giveaway is Denise L…congratulations and keep on upcycling those cardboard boxes!

  • Elaine

    We bought, what we thought, was an entire alphabet pad set thing fro a yard sale. Turns out it had the same letter multiple times and not all letters even had the cutout to go in. My husband now cuts those pads up and makes 3D learning manipulatives with them. There is a shape station and a color station already He is working on numbers and mini block letters.

  • simone t

    My son is huge into Angry Birds, so everything in our house becomes either a set for an Angry Bird to knock over or a box to keep them in. Any empty milk jugs or water bottles get filled and frozen in any extra space in the freezer to cut back on energy usage as well.

  • Anonymous

    i made a small house out of a big box we got from buying our washing machine. cutting rectangular-shaped holes on the sides as windows and another as a door big enough for my 3yr old to get it. and my older kids had fun coloring the house with their crayons.

  • carol

    i made a small house out of a big box we got from buying our washing machine. cutting rectangular-shaped holes on the sides as windows and another as a door big enough for my 3yr old to get in. my older kids had fun coloring the house with their crayons.