How to use Recyclables as Painting Tools with Preschoolers

Recycled containers provide awesome painting experiences for preschoolers. Explore new ways to be creative using recyclables and other materials as painting tools.

kids art activities with recyclables

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You don't need traditional paint brushes to have a fun painting experience with the kids.

A variety of household containers can be reused for interesting process art activities.

  • This gives recyclable containers new purpose instead of heading right to the landfill.

Recycled containers and homemade brushes can easily be added to your art sessions.

Related: Homemade Paint Brushes


Painting with recyclables

Different sizes and shapes of recyclables prompt process art painting activities with preschoolers.

  • Process art activities are open-ended, meaning there is no specific goal or outcome (product). The benefit is in the hands-on engagement with materials - choosing paint tools and paint colors, and applying the paint to the canvas.

This type of activity supports fine motor and creative skills.

Providing a variety of tools for kids to choose from prompts them to make choices and explore the art process.

Supplies for a painting activity


Supplies for a painting activity with preschoolers using recyclables


  • paint
  • paper
  • foam tray
  • clean plastic containers or plastic packaging in different sizes and shapes.

We were able to come up with circle, a square and something like a rectangle.

The tops of these containers have narrow flat rims which can easily transfer the paint.

Instructions for a painting activity


Press recycled containers in paint and then onto paper to make patterns and designs.


1. Pour a single color of paint into a foam tray.

Press a plastic shape into the paint and press onto the paper.

Can you see a design taking shape? A car? A locomotive?

Painting with preschoolers using recyclables


2. Put two or more paint colors in one tray.

Stamp the colors separately or mix the colors together to make a new color.

Stamp patterns or designs on the paper.


Paint the tops of recycled containers to use as paint tools


3. Paint the tops of recycled containers. 

Instead of dipping the container into the paint tray, paint the rims at the tops of the containers and then press the container onto the paper. This is just another way to incorporate fine motor work into the art activity.

Suggestions for small group activities:
  • Count the number of impressions made with the container.

  • Talk about the sizes and colors used.

  • When the paint is dry, add features to the stamps to make animals or other characters.

  • When the paint is dry, cut out the shapes and glue together to make a craft.
    • Cut out round shapes and glue to a rectangle to make a vehicle.


The hands-on process of dabbling in paint and creating art is a fun learning opportunity for kids.

Reuse any everyday items you can think of, including foam trays, plastic yogurt or pudding pots, and plastic packaging or lids. 

Why stop at paint brushes when so much art is ready to be made!


kids painting activity with recycled yogurt cups



More painting possibilities from other kid-friendly bloggers:


 Painting Activities board on Pinterest 
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