Be Creative, Be Sustainable, Mindfully Make

Top 10 Upcycling Activities

This year The Re-Creators have come up with many upcycling activities teaching people in communities across Auckland fun maker skills. Here is a list of my favourite top 10 activities I have personally enjoyed making this year. These are great activities you can try out over the holidays!

Explosion boxes

I have always been a papercraft lover since I was little so when I saw this concept of a Christmas card and gift box being merged into one, I fell in love! You get to fill the flappable cards with messages, photos, miniature cards, and decorations! Making a Xmas Explosion Box is fairly easy and the only limit is your imagination. If you are interested in adding a little gift in the center of your box or other paper crafts, scroll down and learn how to make an origami lotus!


Tower of Hanoi

Over the Term 3 school holidays, I had the opportunity to make the Tower of Hanoi which was so much fun to decorate and assemble. Throughout the year, the more I practiced using the power drill, the more confidence and comfort I have when handling it. After having a go at making the Tower of Hanoi myself, I think it is quite an easy game to make at home. However, you will need to have all the materials required for this activity, which are wood slices, pencils, a wooden base, and paint. Equipment you will need are power drills, perhaps some wood glue and a power saw to cut the wood slices. If you want a DIY Tower of Hanoi Kit that contains all the materials you need, The Re-Creators are selling the kits in the online store. Check it out if you are interested!


Upcycled Paper Flowers

I love the art of zentangling! It is a great way for people to unwind from a stressful day. It requires people to focus on drawing repetitive patterns, filling sections of a whole image with different patterns to create a masterpiece of intricate-looking art once finished. When people see the finished product, it looks very complicated, but once you give it a go, they will discover how crazy simple it is to do! All you will need is some GOOS paper (good on one side), colour pens, and your imagination!


Halloween Spooky Bottles (Glue Gun Art)

This simple craft activity only requires a few supplies such as paint, a hot glue gun and some bottles. First paint the whole bottle a base colour, we recommend making chalk paint because it applies to plastic smoothly and evenly. Wait for the paint to dry naturally or use a hairdryer. Be careful not to place the hairdryer too close to the plastic, as it will melt and warp it. Once your paint has dried completely, you can either draw your Halloween designs first with a marker (optional) or just freehand it. Once the glue has hardened, you can paint the whole bottle with the base paint again or go over the glue gun designs with different coloured paint to make your designs pop out more. These bottles can be used as a vase for indoor house plants. This activity was for The Re-Creators Halloween making event, however, you can do hot glue gun art on anything you want to give it texture and dimension! 


No-Sew Pillows and Bags

No-sew pillows and bags are a simple and calm craft for kids to do. Grab yourself an old graphic/patterned shirt you never wear, a pillow or stuffing, and a pair of scissors. To make a pillowcase, you will first need to cut the shirt into a square or rectangle, pin the front and back pieces together and cut half a fingers-length of strips around the shape of your fabric. Grab a strip from each fabric piece and start tying double knots around the whole thing. You can have fun with it by mixing the fabric and having two different graphic designs on either side of the pillow! If you are using a long sleeve shirt, I would highly recommend using the sleeve offcuts to make cute sausage pillows, too!


Origami Lotus

Origami has always been my favourite childhood activity, whenever I could get my hands on some scrap paper I would make origami. This year I stumbled across a video tutorial on how to make this beautiful origami lotus and have taught these to kids at The Re-Creators after school sessions. For this activity, you will need paper, scissors and some yarn/twine. You will need 3 A4 pieces of paper, fold them in half and cut along the crease. To make them into squares, fold the paper into a triangle and cut off the excess rectangle piece. You should have 6 squares, fold these all in half and cut along the crease to make 12 rectangle pieces. Divide the pieces into a pile of 4 (leaves)  and 8 (petals). Fold these pieces as shown below. Stack the two petal pieces together making sure that the flaps of the second petal is sandwichedinside the first petal and then add a leaf piece on top. You should have 4 piles. Place the 4 piles together and tie them tightly with yarn/twine, secure with double knot and cut off excess yarn. Fold two petals in half on each side and spread them out evenly to make it look like a flower. Peel one the petals up as shown, and keep doing this to every second petal, then go back and peel the petals you skipped in the previous step. This will create an overlapping effect of the petals. Repeat for the second layer of petals, making sure to skip a petal as you go. The leaves only need to be opened up and will have a slight curve. You can leave your lotus as it is or add a slightly smaller lotus with no leaves (8 rectangle pieces slightly smaller than the first lotus), repeat the steps and place inside the first lotus to make it look full.


Rebound Journal Making

The first Rebound Journal Making workshop I went to was loads of fun! I made a personalised journal for my sister and enjoyed flipping through magazines, ripping out images and gluing them together to create a flowery collage, for the front and back covers of the journal. The Rebound Journal Making workshop is definitely one of my favourite classes and would highly recommend! Paper is provided for you but you can bring along printed images or any thing you would like to decorate your journal with!


Upcycled Creatures

If you have any big containers, tins cans, bottles, plastic bits, bolt heads and screws, bottle caps, buttons, etc. You could combine and transform these materials into an upcycled creature sculpture. Before each of The Re-Creators each upcycled creature making sessions, we would have the kids pick their materials and draw up how they want to assemble the pieces together. Then there is painting and drying involved and assembling the parts together with wood glue, a hot glue gun, yarn/twine, or screws if you want body parts to move.


Sew a Star

Sewing is a valuable life skill that everyone should learn. Sewing a star is not a difficult activity and is a great way to help kids develop their fine motor skills, learning how to stitch consistently, and pivoting around corners. We usually start off by teaching kids how to do a running stitch and then move to a blanket stitch. All that will be needed is either some fabric, one or two old t-shirts you no longer wear, fabric scissors, some thread, a needle, and yarn if you want to hang up your star. You can decorate the pillows with buttons or do a running stitch design.



This activity is a therapeutic activity that requires repetitive motions and allows you to let your mind wander in a relaxed manner. Its fun to use different wool, string, twine, sticks, yarn, and even cut up t-shirts into strips! Weaving is similar to sewing and helps kids to develop their fine motor skills. It keeps kids calm and focused. You will need a long slab of wood, wrap the yarn/twine evenly around the wood and tie the ends together. Start weaving your different coloured string and fabric and separating them with a few sticks. If you don't have a slab of wood, you can hot glue a few sticks together into any shape or form, and wrap string around that, too!


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