#RecycleforPlay – Empty Bottles

Click here for our quick tip sheet.

Welcome to our series: #RecycleForPlay. In this series, we will describe how household items that are regularly discarded can be reused and recycled for play. 

We want our children to learn. We want our children to become responsible citizens. Can we do both at the same time and it not feel like work? YES!  

When children engage in unstructured, child-centered (adult facilitated) activities they learn to solve problems and build relationships. They need the time, space and materials provided by caring adults to fully engage. Time with someone that cares about why, how and what they are doing. The space that allows a child’s own imagination and creativity to flourish with gentle prompting. The materials that can be what they are as well as whatever the child can use them for in the story that is being created during play. And when they are permitted to use items bound for recycling just one more time, it is understood that things can used for multiple purposes, not just once and then discarded. 

Try this… 

Rescue some empty bottles from your recycle bin: soda bottles, energy drink bottles, water bottles; whatever you happen to have will work. Work together to wash them out a bit with water (hot works best, so use it carefully) and bit of soap (it’s fun to play in the bubbles). Take the label off, so the inside the bottle can be seen. Then fill it with water and a drop or two of food coloring. To ensure that the tops don’t have leaks, glue the top back on with some super glue. Set the bottles up and bowl them down! 

Prompt a new game to be created by asking “What would happen if we put a number or letter on this bottle?” Use masking tape or a post-it-note to label each bottle with a letter or number. Encourage skill stretching by asking “Can you bowl down the 1, then the 2?” “Which one should we bowl down after the 2?”  

Or if you assigned letters to the bottles, alphabetical order can be practiced in the same manner. Further skill stretching by encouraging pins to be knocked down in order to spell words. Keep the game relational by asking “What I should I try to spell?” 

Another fun way to practice math fact acquisition it to introduce another game by asking “What if each color had a different point value?” Add a new level of challenge by making some of the bottle’s worth additional points, some that subtract points, and some that multiply points. Play along, take turns being the score keeper. Balance out the level of difficulty by having different starting positions. 

Use your bottles as game pieces to play checkers, tic-tac-toe, or another game you make create from scratch. Remember to introduce these options as suggestions not requirements. The first step to engagement is choice. If its required, enjoyment might be found, but engagement requires an emotional investment. 

Playing is learning. Each of these activities provide an opportunity for problem solving, social connection between the players as well as practice with math and literacy concepts.  

How is your family using empty bottles to #RecycleForPlay? Take some photos of games you created and are playing with empty bottles and share them with us using the hashtag #RecycleForPlay. 

Click here for our quick tip sheet.

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