How to use Recyclables as Painting Tools with Preschoolers

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

Paint with recycled containers for a process art activity

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Painting activities with kids don't have to be limited to using traditional paint brushes. A variety of recyclables and homemade brushes can add interest and creativity to painting sessions.

This activity makes use of several recyclables including foam trays, plastic yogurt or pudding pots, and plastic packaging or lids.

Painting with recyclables

A variety of items can be rescued from the landfill by using them as paint tools. The different sizes and shapes 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 involvement in choosing materials and applying them to the canvas.

This type of activity supports fine motor and creative skills.

Supplies for 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 painting activity


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


Pour 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


Put two or more paint colors in one tray.

Make patterns or random designs on the paper.

Suggestions for small group activities:
  • Count the number of impressions made with the container.
  • Talk about the sizes and colors used.
  • Mix two or more paint colors together to make a 'new' color.
  • When the paint is dry, add features to the stamps to make animals or other characters.
  • Cut out the round shapes and glue to a rectangle to make a vehicle.


Paint the tops of recycled containers to use as paint tools


Alternately, paint the tops of recycled containers and then use as a painting tool!

Either way, the hands-on process of dabbling in paint and creating art is a fun learning opportunity for kids. 


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