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Apply green thinking to your kid's art projects

Kids create a lot of art! When you can finally get yourself to let go of their masterpieces, you may not always be sure what exactly to do with them. Here are some tips on how to properly dispose of the arts and crafts that come home and how to reduce the amount of trash created in the first place.

Be careful about wish-cycling 

Unfortunately, many art projects just shouldn’t be recycled. Think about them from this perspective: how difficult would they be to separate into individual materials? If a piece of artwork has paint, stickers, glue, googly eyes, glitter, popsicle sticks and feathers, it should go in the trash. Are there plastic pieces? Foam stickers? These are all things that cannot be recycled, and shouldn’t be placed in the recycling bin even if they are attached to paper or cardboard. But, if your child brings home a drawing or a craft that only has a small amount of tape or glue connected to otherwise recyclable materials, then it may be okay to recycle. Remove what you can before placing it in the blue bin.

Stick to recyclable or compostable materials

You can’t always control what comes home from school or activities, but there are methods to reduce the amount of trash you create while you encourage your little one’s creativity at home. Start with the basics, like reusing the back of printer paper for coloring, and keep things simple. Art made from tapeless origami or watercolors, crayons, colored pencils, and/or markers on paper can all be recycled when no longer wanted. To make compostable art, start with paper, make stamps from potatoes or apples, stick to vegetable paints, and glue on natural items like hole-punched leaves with a simple flour and water glue. Paper mache sculptures and homemade playdough can be composted as well. For an older child, try plastic bag crocheting and you can recycle their creation the next time bring your grocery bags to a drop-off.

Think beyond disposable

Creating art doesn’t have to be something you can only do a single time. Try art you can re-start like digital drawing apps, chalkboards or an Etch-A-Sketch. “Paint” with water on a sidewalk, or take pictures together. Have your child make 3D creations like sandcastles, mosaics from natural items like sticks or stones that can be put back, or use light tables with blocks or shapes. You can even help kids learn functional art like sewing and mending, knitting or macramé, designing a garden or decorating edible items like cakes or cookies (even if they don’t look great, they’ll still taste good!)

Encourage your child to exercise their creativity and learn lower waste habits at the same time by using fewer materials that must be trashed, providing them with recyclable or compostable supplies, and practicing methods that don’t produce waste.