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 whos given a child a new toy and
then found him playing with the box can appreciate a childs gift for creative
Want to feed your childs imagination, while helping the environment? Kiddie
Academy (www.KiddieAcademy.com) offers the following ideas for creating recycled
Computer Keyboard: An outdated keyboard is a perfect teaching toy, as it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.
Junk Mail: 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.
Magazines: Glossy photos in magazines are perfect for creating collage art that
provides fine motor skill practice with scissors and glue.
TV remote: 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
childs imagination. She can literally try on a different role by wearing
your skirt, hat or shoes.
Linens: 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.
Boxes: While its 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.