Using recycled materials for therapeutic crafts.

I often look carefully at my household recycling before deciding whether to place it in the recycling bin. It often holds many items that can be re-purposed for craft activities in therapy and is an economical way of providing the child with something they can take home at the end of the session. I’m finding it particularly useful at present however as a way of limiting the amount of cleaning we need to do in the clinic room. As we move back into face to face work I’ve had to reduce the amount of toys I have out at any one time and clean toys and surfaces between sessions. Items that are from my recycling, however, work well as I can utilise them for individual children without needing to purchase items specifically for each child.

So if you are keen to think about re-using some of what is in your recycling, providing children with something they can take as a reminder of the work you have done at the end of the session, and help the environment along the way here are some ideas to get you started –

  • Cardboard boxes are often a great source of thick card and can readily be used to create board games, characters or box puppets. Pasting coloured paper over them or painting them with some colourful paint often gives the plain brown board a new lease on life.
  • Plastic or cardboard inserts, such as those found inside chocolate boxes or packets of biscuits, are often fun to use in therapy. These work well for sorting activities, for example, you might encourage a child to use one to organise the sorts of experiences that lead to them having different emotions. These can also be useful for listing a range of options the child can use in different situations, such as a range of safe ways they can express their anger. Writing these options on small pieces of paper and inserting each into a spot in the insert tray often works well.
  • Vessels of any kind have many uses in therapy and are often easy to source from your recycling. Whether it is small take away food tubs that or shoe boxes, containers of all shapes and sizes can be repurposed for therapy. A small container might be used to hold a magic potion, while a medium-sized one might be perfect for making a lucky dip game. Larger containers can work well as calm boxes or the like.

It is, of course, important that we ensure that any materials we use with children are appropriately cleaned. While this is a priority particularly at the moment it is a crucial consideration even more generally, particularly given the number of children that have food allergies. Washing plastics in hot soapy water or running them through the dishwasher if you can work well and cardboard should be wiped over to ensure it is free of crumbs and to reduce the likelihood of spreading germs.

Using items from your recycling is a great way to create something unique with a child that they can take home. It’s a useful way to manage our materials during the current pandemic and has an added benefit of helping the environment. So next time you are popping something in the recycling have another look and see what you might be inspired to create.

Have fun making,

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