Most of us are familiar with the sight of a large trash can filled to the brim with takeout containers and coffee cups, most of them made of Styrofoam. Styrofoam, also called Thermocol, is a term generically used to refer to both extruded and expanded polystyrene foam. Styrofoam finds uses in packing material as well as in disposable crockery, making its presence felt widely in our lives.
But what happens to all these disposable cups and plates after we’re done consuming their contents? They end up in a trashcan and eventually in a landfill which is already bursting at the seams. This Earth Day, let’s resolve to be more conscious in our consumption of Styrofoam products, and when we do use them, let’s not dump them somewhere; instead, we can turn them into something fun and useful. Styrofoam is easy to cut and paint, and a little bit of creativity can make the best from waste!
25 Recycled Thermocol/Styrofoam Projects for Earth Day
Recycled Projects from Styrofoam Packing Peanuts
1. Mosaic Tree
It’s Earth Day, so the focus is on trees! This mosaic tree project from Paw Prints is a great idea for collaborative effort and a good use for a huge amount of packing peanuts. Paint the peanuts in different colors and then assemble them together on a large piece of cardboard. This will require some adult supervision and is better suited to older kids.
How cute is this igloo from Cabane a Idees! This is really simple to make with white packing peanuts, since the igloo doesn’t need any painting. As long as you’re careful sticking the peanuts together, this project should come together without much effort!
This project from I Heart Crafty Things is a simpler version of the mosaic tree, and one that even the little ones can get into! Sticking the peanuts first makes life a lot easier, and you can also use red pom pom balls instead of crumpling up red tissue paper.
Creative Jewish Mom has made good use of her packing material by sticking them on cardboard and making these lovely packing peanut stars! You can make them holiday themed, or just go for pastel colors to make wall hangings that are perfect for warm weather.
Packing peanuts can also make lovely art, as shown in the His and Hers blog! Peanuts are stamped with pastel colors to make a lovely print for a baby’s nursery and it looks so easy that you’ll be tempted to try it out yourself!
The Classroom Creative has a pretty upcycled sunflower craft that makes use of paper plates and packing peanuts. They even have the sunflower petal template for download, so all you need to do is stick the peanuts and paint them brown! Easy peasy!
This craft from My Brooklyn Baby is easy enough for toddlers! It involves threading packing peanuts along a pipe cleaner which helps develop fine and gross motor skills. Stick on a tongue and googly eyes and you’re done!
Got a little engineer at home? She’s going to love this packing peanut sculpture from Picklebums. With peanuts and cardboard sticks, there is no end to the kind of structures your little girl or boy can build. See who can make the tallest one!
This is probably the easiest craft to make with packing peanuts – a collage! Money Wise Moms explains how white Styrofoam peanuts make the perfect snowflake. If you draw the snowflake yourself, even a toddler can stick on the peanuts!
Recycled Projects from Styrofoam Cups
It’s the summer holidays and if you have bored kids, ask them to make a game to entertain themselves! This Catch the Bead game from Lakeshore is simple but requires some effort in weaving the yarn and fixing the bead. All in all, the kids will be occupied making the game and playing with it – win-win!
11. Foam Cup Chick
Easter may be over, but you can still make this cute little chick to rest on your shelf! Crafts by Amanda makes good use of card stock and pipe cleaners to make an assortment of animals – go over to check them all out!
This foam cup butterfly from I Heart Crafty Things is a great craft for the little ones, and you need just basic craft supplies. Just cut out the wings and let your child paint everything and assemble the various parts together. Try making many in different colors!
These foam cup snowmen from Kids Activities Blog are too cute to wait till winter to make! With matching mufflers and ear muffs, they look like such an adorable and fun-loving crowd! There’s no painting involved, so these should’t take long to make.
Spiders don’t have to be creepy, they can also be cute, like this craft from One Little Project. You can even make them in any color you like! Use contrasting colored pipe cleaners and googly eyes to add some personality to these eight legged creatures!
15. Plant Pal
This Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to grow a plant, and using an empty Styrofoam cup for the purpose works beautifully. Kaplan shows us how you can use potting soil and seeds to educate kids about growing plants. You’ll also end up with a funky looking plant pal, for whom you can give some cool haircuts!
Danielle’s Place has a very realistic looking lighthouse that makes use of both Styrofoam cups as well as clear plastic cups. This project requires a bit of assembly and care, so it’s better left to the older kids. Use this opportunity to educate them about lighthouses and how they help ships at sea.
Earth Day falls during spring, and it’s only fitting that we do a flower craft! At Crafty Morning, styrofoam cups and straws get transformed into pretty flowers, which can be painted any way you like!
This planter craft from Krokotak is great weaving practice, but since younger kids may break the cups, this is a good craft for the older ones. Make more planters in different colors of yarn and place them on the window sill with plants in them – such a pretty sight!
Recycled Projects from Styrofoam Plates
Earth Day is also a good opportunity to teach your kids about the Sun, Moon and Stars, and you can make these with Styrofoam plates too! Try making the sun first and if you have time to spare, go ahead with the moon and star. If you have multiple kids around, split the crafts between them.
If you have multiple Styrofoam plates or trays leftover, this project from Pink Stripey Socks is perfect for you! Cut off the edges of the plates and paint each one. When dry, cut them up into mosaic tiles and stick them on cardboard for a one-of-a-kind photo frame!
Make a very realistic walrus with this fun project from Danielle’s Place that makes use of a Styrofoam bowl and plate. Use the free printable templates for the flippers and then all that is left to do is paint everything brown!
22. Styrofoam Stamps
Styrofoam plates can be used for a lot of stamping and printing art, and this craft from Parents shows you exactly how to do it. You can draw any motif of your choice using a dull pencil, and then watch the kids have fun printing away with their new stamps!
23. Yarn Embroidery
Styrofoam is ideal for poking holes and learning sewing, as shown in this yarn embroidery craft using foam plates from Craft Fiesta. Just punch in holes and let your child use yarn to join the dots for a fun threading exercise.
You can make lovely Styrofoam art prints with plain foam plates, using a pencil to make the indentations as shown in the Art Bar Blog. Kids can easily make this with equipment lying around the house, and the resultant art prints are good enough to be framed!
Now, this Styrofoam spider is not your average cutesy spider, he’s pretty mean! With Styrofoam plates and pipe cleaners, you can make a gigantic spider that’s perfect for a Halloween party or just to give someone a good scare!
As always, prevention is better than cure, and it’s best to use eco-friendly options as far as possible. However, if you find that some Styrofoam does land up at your home, you know what to do with it!