My kids love to recycle but until recently, they really had no idea what happened to our paper after they put it in the recycling bin. This simple activity is a fun and interactive way to teach kids how to recycle paper and can be a good use for the extra newspaper you have laying around from couponing.
We decided to make use of my toddlers destructive streak earlier this week and recycle the book that he destroyed. I’m hoping we didn’t unintentionally encourage his book tearing habit but at least my kids learned how to recycle something we weren’t using anymore. Kids love learning how things really work but there are so few opportunities for kids to see and understand the full process of things that they do everyday.
What You Need
- Paper to be recycled – this can be old newspaper, junk mail (just avoid the glossy kind), leftover tradeshow material (that’s a big one around our house after CES and now as we’re getting ready for Toy Fair), extra construction paper, etc.
- A blender – Don’t worry about using your regular blender for this. The paper washes out easily and after you are done.
- A window screen – If you have old screen material laying around this would work just fine but be sure and put masking tape around the edges to prevent sharp edges from hurting your kids while they do this activity. I bought a cheap adjustable window screen with a metal rim that worked well.
- Optional: Flower seeds – These are a fun addition if you want to plant your paper after you are done use it and plant it in your yard to show the complete process of recycling.
What To Do
This project takes several days for kids to complete because you have to wait overnight for several steps to be complete.
Step 1 – Tear paper into squares that are about 1-2 inches wide. This does not have to be exact. You just want to start the process of breaking the paper down.
Step 2 – Soak the paper pieces overnight in a bowl of water.
Step 3 – Take the soaked paper out of the water and place it in the blender. Fill the blender halfway full with fresh water. Blend the paper and water mixture until you have something that is about the consistency of pureed soup. Add water as needed to thin it out.
Step 4 – Lay the window screen over the sink or have a child hold it over the sink and slowly pour the paper soup over the window screen, trying to pour it in an even layer. We found it helpful to start in the center and pour the mixture in a circular spiral moving out towards the edge until you make a very unappetizing paper pancake. Use your fingers or a spoon to even out any uneven places immediately after pouring. The paper begins to dry almost immediately once the water starts to drain and it becomes less workable as it dries. If you are adding flower seeds to your paper, add them at this point before the paper dries. You can either gently push the seeds into the top of the wet paper or put them on the paper and then use a tiny piece of paper mixture to “plant” the seed by laying it on top so the seed is not visible.
Step 5 – Lay the window screen with the paper mixture on a dry towel and leave to dry at least overnight. Change the towel throughout the day as needed if it becomes soaked through.
Variation – Add natural food coloring to create colored recycled paper to be used for preschool art projects or crafts for elementary school aged kids.
Your homemade recycled paper can be used as part of a preschool science lesson, as a homeschool science project, as an Earth Day project for kids, to send a unique birthday card to a friend, or as a special Valentines Day card.
What will you use your homemade recycled paper for?