Eco Friendly Kids Crafts – Three Easy & Cheap Ideas For DIY Fun

We can all agree that screen-free time is healthy and an important part of any child’s development. But when the weather’s gloomy and we are stuck at home, going outside to play is not an option. Enter arts and crafts. Some of our fondest memories of childhood involve hours spent doing various arts and crafts at home. We reckon it’s time to revive these oldies but goodies. Kids love to make stuff and nothing beats that feeling of accomplishment when they finish a project that they can hang on the mantle. Below are three great craft ideas that require few materials, most of which will be readily available in your kitchen or pantry and all of which are cheap. Have we mentioned they are eco-friendly too? They all involve natural, non-toxic and/or recycled materials and are a great alternative to plastic/packaged activity kits. Happy crafting!

papier mache cat

Homemade Papier-Mache

Most of us have old magazines and newspapers lying around, papier-mache (French for chewed paper) makes great use of them. The little ones can create objet’s d’art of all sizes- it’s especially fun to make animal sculptures. A few things to note: papier-mache projects are more of a long term endeavour. There are various stages because there is ample drying time involved (for the glue, for the assembly and for the painting). Also, it requires a fair bit of workspace. 

What You Need: the glue paste which you make from equal parts white flour and water cooked in a pan, newspapers or a tarpaulin to lay on your work surface, newspaper or magazines torn up in palm sized pieces and depending on what you are making a base object to glue the pieces of paper on. Finally you need paints to finish the objects- make sure they are non toxic. If you use magazine pieces, you don’t need paints at all so that’s the most eco way to go! Balloons are the most common way to start. They work great as the main part of a sculpture, and then you can add things like old paper towel/toilet rolls, cones, cups and anything else to create your desired shapes. 

Homemade Playdough

DIY Play Dough

Store-bought play dough is full of rubbish and the homemade variety is so easy to make! This is a great activity if you have a couple of hours to fill. Make sure to use the natural dyes we talk about below or non toxic, child safe and food safe colorings. 

What You Need: Stir a cup of water, a cup of flour, 1/4 cup table salt (finely ground), a few squirts of white vinegar, a generous spoon of vegetable oil and the coloring of your choice on medium heat until it hardens into the dough. Cool down for a few minutes, then knead with your hands into dough balls. If it’s winter, you can store it in an air-tight container for a few months, if it’s summer keep it in a container in the fridge. 

Vegetable Dye Eggs

Make Your Own Vegetable Dyes 

One of the most processed items in your pantry is food colorings. It’s hard to find good quality natural ones that are safe in the event that a child consumes them. The good news is you can make your own pretty easily using vegetables and fruits. They are not going to offer the same wide range of Crayola-like colors and the truth is they will run so they are not great for fabric dying but for your run of the mill arts and crafts projects, they will do just fine. 

What You Need: The ingredients vary depending on the desired color- beet peels or red cabbage for purple, tomato peels for red, spinach leaves for green, lemon peels for yellow, orange/grapefruit peels for orange, blackberries for black/dark purple, raspberries for pink, onion peels for brown- but the method is the same for all. Get one cup of peels/ chopped vegetables and mix with two cups of water in a stove top pan. Simmer on medium heat for about an hour. Drain and store in a glass container. These dyes work really well for coloring paper and egg shells. 

An earlier version of this post was published on Sassy Mama Hong Kong.

Photo Credits: Homemade Jello Playdough via photopin (license), Papier mache cats via photopin (license), Papier mache cats via photopin (license) and Bee free! via photopin (license).