I’m always looking for fun alternatives to just plain paper when it comes to painting with the Little Tots and with my recycling bin overflowing this idea presented itself. This simple activity painting with recyclables was enjoyed by 3 x 2 year olds and really held their attention longer than painting on paper.

Process art, where the focus isn’t on the actual end product, is perfect for toddlers and lets their inner artist shine through.

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This is probably one of the quickest activities I’ve ever set up and not only that, I already had everything I needed.

You will need:

  • Ready mixed paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Cardboard boxes, paper tubes, egg boxes etc (whatever you have ready to be recycled)
  • Tuff tray (optional but it helped contain mess)


I put the empty egg boxes, paper tubes, envelopes and cardboard boxes in the tuff spot along with some brightly coloured paints and our chunky paint brushes from Early Years Resources and let them get painting.

At first I don’t think they were to sure on what it was they were suppose to paint so I explained they could paint what was in front of them and off they went.

Painting on different textures did prove to be a bit tricky but they really enjoyed the challenge and was extra messy as they had to use one hand to keep the items in place.

Painting with recyclables

In total, they spent nearly 30 minutes painting and I had to go and find more things for them to paint after we ran out. This is a lot longer than if I’d just given them some paper.

It wasn’t long, of course, before it ended up in hand print painting (because when doesn’t painting turn into body parts painting?). It was at this point I was glad I set this up outside despite it being a grey day so as soon as they were finished I could wash their hands in a bowl of water before they touched anything else.

Recently I have been trying a few different painting techniques and they’ve all been popular especially painting with string and painting with cotton reels.

Links to EYFS:

  • Physical Development  – making connections between the marks they make, enjoying sensory play
  • Literacy – early mark making
  • Expressive Arts & Design – 
  • Maths – shapes and counting

Painting with recyclables

Painting with recyclables

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