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Fun & Frugal: Recycling magazines

We’ve been experiencing weeks of intense heat here in Kansas. With three young and active children, the heat has provided a challenge as they can’t go outside and play for long stretches of time.

So, everyday has been exercise in creativity (and sometimes patience!) as I wrack my brain for new and interesting indoor activities to keep them occupied. Earlier this week, I was feeling rather uninspired when I spied my stack of magazines. I pulled out a few issues that were getting ready to head to the recycling bin, got out scissors, glue, and other craft supplies and told them to make a page of all their favorite pictures.

They had a blast and it kept them busy for quite a long time. Best of all, it cost me nothing as I used things we already had on hand.

What fun & frugal activities have you been doing with your youngsters recently? I’d love get some new ideas to add to my list!

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  • Jessica says:

    I love using magazines to create a variety of things – handmade cards, a vision board (in the process of this now), exchanging magazines with others, etc.

    • Marie says:

      can you explain your vision board idea. Is this for you or for the kids. I’m just looking for more ideas and this one caught my attention. Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      I am also curious as to what a vision board is. Would you mind sharing? Thank you!

    • Jessica says:

      Hi Marie and Karen!

      I do not have any kids – I’m doing the vision board for myself, but I think this could certainly work for kids aged 6ish and up. I have goals written down that I’d like to achieve: mission trips, help kids (donating my time or things they need), help animals (donating my time or food/litter/etc.), reading, crafting (things I want to learn: sewing, etc.), and characteristics I want to improve in myself: gratitude, patience, etc.

      From that list, I’ve been going through my magazines and looking for words and pictures that best capture the goals I have written down. Then, I’m going to arrange all of the things I cut out onto a piece of poster board to hang up in my office at home. I’m hoping that being able to easily see my visions for the future, I’ll be reminded to do them!

      I hope that helps 🙂

  • Katie says:

    I’ve done this w/ my son too! He loved it so much the 1st time, he asks to do it all the time now! My husband works as a Operations Manager w/ a garbage company, so I have him go into the recycling center there and he brings home a bunch of different magazines! (oh and my coupons 🙂 )

    We do “themed” ones sometimes- like all animals, or “summer”.. or Red things… It’s fun!

  • Sheri O. says:

    Love this! Why didn’t this occur to me??? We will be doing this asap – it’s super HOT here in Virginia, too!

  • Nicole says:

    This is exactly what I do with my 4 year old. Fantastic wintertime activity here in Denver!

  • Denise says:

    We’ve done that for art class – make a collage. If they make a really nice one you can use contact paper and make placemats for the table too:) It does keep them occupied!

  • Robin says:

    I put my coupon insert leftovers in a box for my daughter to do with as she pleases. She loves to be able to have her own coupons to cut (the restaurant and expired ones) or she can glue them to paper.

  • Carolyn says:

    I love this idea. Keep them coming!

  • sarah says:

    thanks this is a great idea and we will be doing that this week for sure!! thank you

  • Jan says:

    what a good idea! I used to love making collages when I was little 🙂

  • Ginger says:

    1 idea I got was to look at large pics and cut out hearts, then I taped a ribbon across all and hung them across my door=cute.
    I also have been cutting out men and women, full body, similar size. Then my son has to sort men and women! I want to do something with food. Either starting letter, veggie, meat, starch not sure yet.

  • Rae says:

    I’ve done letter collages with my son before using old magazines. I’d pick one letter for the day and he’d spend a long time looking for pictures of things that started with the letter and also words (not in the regular print but words from bold titles and stuff like that) that started with the letter. When we did “L”, he’d cut out a ladder, lemon, etc for the photos and the word “Love” and “Learn”. He also found the largest “L” (or whatever other letter) that he could and that would be the center of the collage.

  • angela cutler says:

    you could try making paper bead necklaces with the magazines also…. you most likely have all the supplies and it can make nice gifts for anyone extra for the holidays.

  • I make paper plate spinners with my kiddos. Cost me nothing. I just use what I have on hand. Great Idea with the mags. Thanks

  • I do Scavenger Hunts with my little one. I do 5 or 6 clues, each clue leading them to the next clue. (Like, I’ll hide a clue on her baseball glove, and say “find something that you use to catch balls with”). At the very end I hide a baggie with a snack in it. She loves searching for “treasure”, and she learns how to follow directions as well as think abstractly.

    • We do this to. We also play simple find it where I just take two items and hide them while my son closes his eyes then he goes and looks for it. So simple, but it keeps him entertained.

  • I should say I write each clue on a post-it note, and stick it to the object.

  • Doing this next week! It is hooooot in Houston!

  • Camille says:

    Our summer is like winter back East — it’s hot and we rarely go outside to play unless it involves water! Last week I pulled out a bag of poms poms for something and the kids BEGGED to play with them. At first they just played but then we sorted them by color, size, etc. They had a blast!

  • Brianne says:

    You can also make beads out of magazine pages. You take the pages and cut strips in a pennant shape and glue the wide end to a straw then roll it up and cover the whole thing with clear nail polish. Then cut out the paper bead and make necklaces and bracelets out of them. Its on family fun .com

  • Holly says:

    We have played indoor baseball. We use a piece of paper wadded up into a ball. Then we use some sort of bat (plastic bat, foam sword, etc.). Mark bases with stuffed animals. Lots of fun!

  • Natalie says:

    We deal with extreme temps every summer here in AZ, so we do indoor activities all summer long! Thanks for the idea! 🙂

  • Judy says:

    We made a puppet theater out of a cereal box recently and had a great time with it!

  • Raquel says:

    My daughter and I have always loved to cut out pictures and make a look n find page. We would make a list of things to find on the back page. We would look for things like ~ 3 pairs of shoes, a necklace, 5 stars, etc. My daughter is a little older now and so she’d make one where I would have to look for pictures of Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, and Victorious. She loves making them and definitely keeps her busy for awhile.

  • Kimi says:

    I was just looking at some blogs for projects using scrapbook paper and came across this cute hand made “apple picking” game. Here’s the link to ther blog.

  • Stacy says:

    My mom used to make photo books for the kids when they were younger. She would cut out pictures and put them in a cheap photo album and the kids would sit for hours looking at them. This was one way of using up her magazines after she was done looking at them.

  • carrie says:

    We made bubble art the other day. Put a little food coloring in some bubble solution, and blow bubbles onto big pieces of white paper. Messier than I expected, but the kids loved it, and the paper looked so swirly and pretty that I’m going to use it as wrapping paper! I think I saw the idea in Family Fun earlier this summer.

    • Chris says:

      Less messy idea: put bubble solution in a low shallow bowl/plate and have the kids blow through a straw to make the bubbles and when there is a lot of bubbles (almost overflowing) place a sheet of paper over the bowl/plate so it is just touching the bubbles and not the solutions you will get a nice work of art.

  • Jessica says:

    I have my 4yo daughter make cards for upcoming birthdays, or I will have her help me with the baking (it takes 3 times as long when the kids “help”). She also has two felt storyboards and a lot of characters. My husband will play kids of carcasonne or something like that with her. My 1yo son is a whirling dervish of energy. One minute he is playing with the percussion toys and the next he is crawling up the stairs chasing the cats!

  • Tanya says:

    I have used lots of magazines with my preschool class. I would ask them to find healthy foods or pictures that were of a certain color. We also found pictures that started with the same letter of their first name. You could also do this at home. Just found your website. Looking forward to following it.

  • Tanya says:

    I use a lot of magazines with my preschool class. I would have them find pictures of healthy foods, pictures of a certain color, things that started with the same letter of their name. You could use these ideas at home too. Looking forward to following your blog.

  • Trixie says:

    What a fun idea! When I was little we used to enjoy cutting out pictures of people and clothing from Sears and JC Penny catalogues and making our own paper dolls. Lots of fun on a rainy day.

  • Thumper says:

    We save our magazine’s and every year we make what we call ‘Treasure Maps’. We cut out things that we like or want and make a collage out of them by glueing them to a poster board. Making it look pretty to us. We hang it on the back of our bedroom door and all year we periodically look at it and when we actually get something we put a gold sticker on the picture. I used to do this with my daughter as she was growing up.

    One year I put a picture of a police officer (thinking I was going to become one) and realized at the end of the year, while I wasn’t a police officer I was now dating one. I had to show him and he just laughed!
    We now joke, be careful what you put on there!!! You never know how your going to get it!

  • Hi Crystal!

    We bought a small and shallow under the bed box for our son and filled it with sand. Now he has a great indoor sandbox. I bought the kind w/ wheels so that it can be more easily moved indoors and out. We move it out onto the deck when the weather isn’t so hot.

    This works great for indoor winter play as well!

    The only problem is that the sand can be a bit scratchy on our wood floors, so I am thinking about getting a large bag of inexpensive white rice to use in the future.

  • Leann Lenze says:

    My kids did this and gave it as gifts to their Dad and grandparents. They have to cut out pictures that reminded them of that person. It was alot of fun and only cost was the poster board.

  • Camille Craw says:

    We had an unbirthday party and invited kids of all our kids ages. We asked them to bring a wrapped white elephant gift and we had a toy exchange. We played the exchange your gift with someone who has blonde hair. If you have blue eyes, find someone with brown etc. I made a cake and everyone got to blow out the candles. We played a couple of games (a dress up relay) and what’s in the bag. It was fun! 🙂

  • Deja says:

    Here in West Texas we’ve had temps over 100 for close to 2 months straight. We home school in the summer… The kids play outside in the mornings off and on, then we eat lunch, swim to cool off and come inside for schoolwork, turn-the-living-room-into-a-fort, or get out the building toys, swim some more to burn off energy before dinner and sometimes swim again before bed.

  • Mary Ellen Ash says:

    Great idea! We live in Kansas City and it’s pretty miserable having to stay inside all the time because of the heat. I better go out and gather those magazines I just put in the recycling bin. My kids would love this! They also each got a “joy box” at church, where they can put little things in that give them joy. What a good idea to go through magazines and find pictures for their joy boxes.

  • Angie D says:

    Ah-ha! I have been gathering supplies for the same thing, we just haven’t done it yet! So, what magazines do you use? I feel I’m limited to Family Fun and old Highlights. Many others have too mature articles (for my reading kids) or advertisements.

  • Stephanie says:

    This post is perfectly timed! I had just thrown some old magazines into the recycle bin last night, but I pulled them back out. I think this will help my almost 4 yr old with her cutting/fine motor skills and her creativity too!

  • Christina says:

    My idea has nothing to do with young children but just FYI when recycling magazines if you have a Half Price Books store in your area they will buy magazines from you to resell. They only pay for the ones that are the current month or the previous month but they take the other ones and donate them to hospitals and doctor’s offices for their waiting rooms. This is a great way I think to recycle the magazines and make a little extra cash in the pricess. They don’t pay much per magazine but every little penny adds up.

  • We do lots of science experiments… especially ones from Steve Spangler… here’s an absolute fave:

  • Or… if you could challenge the kids to take ALL the children’s books and organize them from tallest to shortest in a game of Dominoes! My kids thought this was hilarious!

  • Melissa M. says:

    Things we have been doing this summer to help with hot days. We splash around in our kiddie pool, we also have a slip and slide. We make popcicles with juice and fresh fruit and we have been freezing our pudding-yummy cool treats.
    We have gone to the library and spent lots of time there and we like to walk the mall-not spend money, but keep cool there. Sometimes in the evening we will go sit on the back porch and look at the stars and I let the kids run around and play as it is cool out.

  • Cara Ivey says:

    My oldest 2 are doing this same activity right now!! We are in South East Texas and outside activities just isn’t in the cards too aften!! The house is so nice and quiet while I bath the twins… Can’t wait to see what kind of pictures each kid has gone after!
    Earlier today we made forts! I puuled out the sheets and lightweight blankets and we started building. They loved having forts in their own rooms and it kept them quit busy while I made dinner and did some freezer cooking. I threw a sheet over the table for a “baby friendly” fort and the boys just LOVED it!! Kids love being in little private spaces!

  • Susan says:

    When my kids were young I used to make homemade play dough for them. It was a cooked play dough with a really nice consistency – I used food coloring to tint it and kept it in ZipLoc bags. It lasted a long time as long as it was properly sealed. We’d use vinyl placemats or wax paper to protect the table and the sky was the limit as far as modeling tools – plastic flatware, toy rolling pins, cookie cutters, etc. I never purchased Play-Doh – I don’t like the aroma and it’s so crumbly!

    Another thing I did with my daughter when she was about 3 or 4 years old – I traced Disney characters from her big Disney story books and she colored them. She liked those much better than a coloring book, probably because she chose the characters for me to trace.

    Boy, it sounds like I had a lot of time on my hands back then. I miss those days!

  • Heather T. says:

    We have another heat wave coming this week here in WI and I was dreading it, now we will have something to do. I hope I get a bunch of magazines in the mail this week, I take mine weekly to work so they are not all over. I have been wanting to make magnets so we will have to get some large clear stones at the dollar store. Thanks for the idea!

  • Sonya says:

    If you take the magazine pages and cut them into long skinny triangles you can make them into “jewels”. Take the long skinny triangle, start at the wide end and start rolling so that you leave a small opening. When it is about half way rolled put glue on the “inside” of the triangle. Cntinue to roll until you get it all the way rolled up. and add more glue for enforcement. THe pictures on thepaper won’t matter because you only see a sliver of the paper. As you roll it it mixes all the colors so it looks kind of like a stone bead. Take all of these and thread them onto some stretchy string. Tie to make a necklace or bracelet.
    I hope this maks sense.

    • Sonya says:

      this also works with pre pasted wallpaper scraps because it already has the glue you just get it wet and roll it up, but you might want to make sure you put something small in the middle as you roll it or the paste may make it stick and the hole will disapear.

  • Jenny says:

    I have used the magazine trick for years with my granddaughter. One day I’ll ask her to find flowers and make me a picture,one day it’s dogs,one day it’s babies,one day anything blue, happy people,people who are busy ect….. We did this from age 2 on up and she is so creative today.

  • christi says:

    i recently blogged about a easy to do treasure hunt. my boys loved it and it was FREE =)

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