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Turning Trash Into Treasure: Upcycle Crafts for Mom and Kids

Upcycle. What exactly is ‘upcycling’? Basically, upcycling is using an item that no longer has any worth to you to create something that has value or is useful. Upcycling is very similar to recycling, and is not only eco-friendly but also can save you money at the same time! I’ve been thinking a lot about upcycling lately, especially since Earth Day is coming up soon. I have found inspiration for some upcycling projects of mine own across the web, including fellow Charter Chiquita Mom, Vanessa’s post with the upcycled T-shirt bag tutorial that is super easy, quick, and finds another great use for all your old T-shirts! Upcycling is all about not being wasteful, and Chiquita is a prime example of a company that takes upcycling, recycling, and sustainability to heart.

In Panama, Chiquita recycles thousands of plastic bags each year through a program that involves local woman who use the plastic bags to handcraft purses and handbags. They then sell these bags to make a living, putting food on the table for their families. It truly is amazing! Take a look at this video…

You can find out more about this project and others that Chiquita is a part of here. Watching the video is inspiring to me, but to actually see one of the bags up-close and in-person is even better, Chiquita recently sent us one of these handmade purses to check out. Kylie is quite taken with the bag, and it’s so sturdy!

After getting inspiration from Chiquita, the women in Panama, and fellow Charter Chiquita Mom, Vanessa’s post, I decided to create some upcycle projects at my house, some for me, and some to get the kiddos involved. I found tons of creative ideas including festive garland made from cereal boxes, magazine pages turned into drink coasters, and as soon as I have time I’m going to use up all the old scraps of fabric I have in my sewing closet and make a fabric scrap U.S. map for our school room!

Here’s two upcycle projects you can do with your children using items right out of your recycle bin. They’re fun, and a great way to bond with your children while discussing the importance of recycling:

1. Calming Tool (aka Glitter Shaker) – Using this tutorial from The Stuff of Success, we found a fun use for some of our plastic bottles that were in our recycle bin. A simple mix of food coloring, water, and glitter had our three year old, Luke, happy for quite some time.

Similar to a snow globe, the Glitter Shaker is fun to watch, and even more fun to shake. Luke has been having fun for days shaking his and watching the glitter float to the bottom.

2. Cardboard Animals – I found a template online to create a cardboard elephant. Caitlyn, my eleven year old, helped me cut out the cardboard, paint it, and glue it together. We liked it so much that we also made a design for a giraffe. Children can be entertained by the simplest things, and these cardboard animals are Luke’s new favorite toy!

Here’s a couple upcycle craft ideas for all the mommas out there:

1. Book Page Wreath – I saw this project idea over at See Kate Sew and knew it was perfect for the wall in front of my sewing table. It’s a piece that inspires, and it used several items I already had around the house including some silk flowers, a stapler, a tiny bit of acrylic paint, and an old paperback novel that had been added to our donation pile and was headed for our local library.

The book pages wreath tutorial is easy to follow and really doesn’t take too much time or skill. Didn’t it turn out great?!

2. Zipper Flowers – A few Christmases ago, I was cleaning out my sewing closet and came across a large box of old zippers that had been given to me by my great aunt several years earlier. Some were still in the packaging, while others had been torn out of old clothing.

I was determined to find a use for them, and found several tutorials online showing how to use old zippers to create cute zipper flowers. They are several different styles of flowers you can make, and an abundance of tutorials out there! That Christmas I made all sorts of gifts with those old zippers, everything from broaches to headbands and barrettes. And they cost me almost nothing!

Now, I never get rid of a piece of clothing that has been ruined without first tearing out the zipper!

These are just a few project ideas to get you started. Do an online search for ‘upcycle projects’ and you will find all sorts of ideas to turn your junk into gifts, toys, and decor!

Got any upcycle craft ideas of your own?

My name is Angie, and I'm a homeschooling mom of four who fills my days with ABC's and mounds of laundry. My husband of 13 years and I have been blessed with two girls (ages 11 and 9), and two boys (ages 7 and 3). I've become an expert at flying by the seat of my pants, and after a normal tiring day with the kiddos, I like to curl up on the couch and escape into a good book. I blog about my crazy family, homeschooling, and fun finds at
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  1. Pingback: New at #ChiquitaMoms - Upcycle Crafts, Shopping Consignment Sales, and Easy Ways to 'Go Green'

  2. I love, love, love the book page wreath! I’ll have to make one for myself…super cute!