Which parent among us hasn't scratched her head wondering what to do for a child's next birthday party, Scout meeting, or club activity? Here's a collection of simple projects that will spur kids' creative juices to flow, save you money as a host, and teach both the value and fun of repurposing.
All of these projects involve using parts from discarded ceiling fans, chandeliers, loose ceramic tiles, cabinet hardware, or other household items. So scour the clutter in your basement, closet, or attic; check out the freebies and broken items at garage sales; or look for bargains at resale stores.
Use your imagination, and don't be limited by the suggestions here. Add hot glue guns, plenty of glue sticks, and an adult per child or two, depending on their ages. Then let the kids' imaginations take over as they repurpose trash into treasure with any of these projects.
These door nameplates were made by five-year-olds (with parental assistance) at a birthday party. Photo: Julia Wasson
This project can work for children as young as five with one adult per child. Older children and teens can do this on their own. You'll need the following materials:
- One clean, dismantled ceiling fan blade per child
- A hot glue gun, glue sticks, and power supply per child or two
- A variety of decorative items to choose from: shells and small rocks; Scrabble letters or other game pieces; colored glue or water-based paints and paintbrushes; nuts, screws, nails, and bolts; colored ribbons and lace; and virtually any small thing you're willing to let the kids glue to their fan blades
- Butcher paper or newspaper and tape to cover the work surface
1. In advance of the activity, an adult should remove all metal from the fan blades of one or more ceiling fans. Smooth blades without decoration work best for children's creativity to shine.
2. Give each child a clean fan blade and access to the assortment of small objects. Suggest that they decorate the fan blade or write their name on using the assorted objects you've provided.
3. Once they have designed their fan blade to their liking, heat up the glue gun. Older children can then glue their items on the fan blades. Adults should assist younger children to avoid burns. Press firmly to be sure the glue holds the items in place.
4. For vertically oriented designs, add a ribbon or string in the center hole at the top of the blade. For horizontal designs, either drill a hole at each end of the blade and attach a ribbon or string, or add one or two picture hangers to the back of the fan blade.
A teen creates a simple garden candle by gluing a discarded chandelier flute to assorted tiles. Photo: Julia Wasson[/caption] This simple project is appropriate for ages 5 and up with supervision from an adult or older child. You'll need the following supplies per child:
- A glass flute from a chandelier or other light fixture (be sure there is a flat surface on one end and an opening large enough to light a candle on the other)
- One or more squares of ceramic tiles
- Tiny ceramic tiles, glass beads, or other decorative items to add to the larger tile
- A tea light candle or battery-powered candle
- A hot glue gun and glue stick
1. Heat the glue gun and insert the glue stick.
2. Glue together two or more tiles, if desired.
3. Squirt a generous amount of hot glue on the narrow end of the glass flute (the opposite end from where a bulb would be inserted).
4. Quickly invert the flute and place it on top of the tile(s). Press down firmly to seat the flute into the glue.
5. Decorate the tile by gluing on other small nonflammable items.
6. After the glue dries completely (about 10 minutes), place a tea light or battery-powered candle into the base of the flute. Important: Be sure to caution children that only adults should light the candles. To avoid having the creation fall apart, have the child or adult pick up the finished garden candle by its base, rather than by the flute.
Gluing together discarded odds and ends to make an original creation proves to be a lot of fun for this young fellow. Photo: Julia Wasson
This project is most appropriate for ages 10 and up. Younger children will require adult assistance. You'll need:
- Lots of spare parts from ceiling fans, lamps, chandeliers, trophies -— virtually any metal or plastic item left over from an unfinished project or rescued from an item destined for the landfill; use extra caution with sharp objects
- An assortment of nuts, bolts, and nails
- A hot glue gun and plenty of glue per person
1. Give each child access to the scrap piles or bins. To help with indecision caused by too many options, you may want to limit younger children to xnumber of pieces for their creations.
2. Heat a glue gun, and assist young children in gluing their pieces together. (Hint: Have the child select a piece for the base, then glue items together by building up from the base.)
3. Allow pieces to dry for 10 minutes before picking them up by the base.Let the Kids Do It
Despite the need to supervise young children where hot glue guns are involved, we adults need to keep in mind that creative projects are only fun for the kids if they get to most of the creating. Suggestions are fine —- if asked for. But the finished product means so much more when a child can truly say, "I made this myself!"
~Julia Wasson, Publisher