Prime Time with Kids: Fun Ways to Recycle Your Holiday Gift Wrap

Turn your leftover holiday wrapping paper, tissue and bows into a fun art project for toddlers and preschoolers

There are plenty of things to do with holiday leftovers. And I’m not talking food. Think of all the colorful catalogues, wrinkled gift wrap, ribbons and bows stashed away in your recycling bin this week. To artist and retired art educator Becky Anderson, it’s a treasure-trove of stimulating materials that can open doors to expression and creative thinking for her 19-month-old granddaughter, Lucia.

“When Lucia comes over, I like to share what I enjoy doing, and that usually comes in the form of making things with our hands,” she said while tearing cast-off holiday gift wrap into different shapes. “I’m curious to see what she’ll do with paper and a bottle of glue today.”

Sure enough, all it took was the sound of the spit and sputter from the glue bottle as Becky dabbed glue on construction paper, and Lucia was engrossed.

“Sticking colourful papers to the glue is just plain fun for her,” said Becky. “It’s also teaching her cause and effect, a basic skill for life. She discovers by her actions that something changes. To create is intrinsically rewarding for children, and it also expends lots of energy—all the better for a nap later on,” she adds with a smile.

Here are two paper-and-glue art activities for young kids using recycled stuff from around the house.

Here’s the stuff:

  • Leftover holiday gift wrap cut or torn into 2- to 3-inch shapes.
  • Leftover ribbon, string and gift tags
  • Construction paper
  • Household white glue in a squeeze container such as Elmer’s
  • Art paintbrush, paper plate and leftover tissue paper cut into 1/2-inch by 16-inch strips

Here’s the fun:
Toddlers:
If this is your child’s first experience using glue, show him or her how to squeeze the bottle and dab it on the construction paper. Choose pieces of paper one by one and press them into the small puddles of glue every which way. Talk about colours and patterns as you create the collage together.

3s and 4s:

Squeeze some glue on a paper plate, then stir in some water. Using the paintbrush, your child may “paint” the glue solution on the art paper. Stick paper shapes on the glue. Crumple tissue strips and press the wads onto the glue in colorful combinations. Add more glue solution, if needed. Display the art at home for the whole family to enjoy, or hang it in your office as a colourful reminder of your child.

Extra idea: Make the collages on folded cardstock and use as original thank-you notes for holiday gifts. Or glue papers to a box and then use it to store things inside.


Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit www.donnasday.com. © 2012 Donna Erickson Distributed by King Features Syndicate.

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