Shi Xiaowei’s tweens think it’s great to convert discarded stuff into toys!

MUM SAYS My kids turn junk into toys

For as long as I can remember, my kids were taught to be environmentally responsible by upcycling household objects. As we are all avid crafters, it’s no surprise that we spend many hours giving new life to unwanted household stuff. “What can we turn this into?” I’d ask as I hold up the empty Milo tin to them.

My son once repurposed a vacuum cleaner box into a Captain American shield, a hoverboard and a Minecraft sword. Forget enrichment classes. Wanna raise an amazingly creative child? Get your kids to upcycle.

1. Hoard your junk
We are all big junk hoarders — food cans, coffee capsules, jam jars, Yakult bottles, wine boxes, cookie boxes. If these don’t rot, they are here to stay. I store our recyclables neatly in low drawers, so that they are within reach of the kids. The kids call the drawers “The treasure chest”.

2. Tools, tools, tools
Scissors (child-safe ones with blunt tips), staples, Scotch-, double-sided and masking tape, paint, marker pens, hot glue gun and — and if your kids are old enough — a pen knife. These tools are easily available at most stationery shops. Our favourite art supply shop, Art Friend, has a great selection of crafting tools suitable for different age groups.


3. Collaborate!
Upcycling creates the perfect opportunity to bond as a family. The best part is, you can do it anytime, in the comfort of your own home. And it’s free! Our upcycling projects have taken us on hikes to MacRitchie Reservoir where we’ve foraged for branches, stones and leaves to use as embellishments. Discussing what to make and which materials to use are a great way to get the creative juices and conversations flowing. At times, your child may already have a brilliant idea what he wants to make, so all he needs from you is a pair of hands to hold up various pieces while he creates something!

4. Get inspired by the Web
For some, figuring out what to make is the most challenging part of upcycling. Not to worry — there is a plethora of blogs and websites specially dedicated to upcycling activities that are both easy and kid-friendly. Pinterest is a good place to get ideas. Just search “upcycling for kids” and you’re all set!

5. Get inspired by ANYTHING
We received two Hediard hampers at Christmas. The kids promptly emptied them out and turned the containers into giant puppet heads using nothing more than washi tape. The giant heads are now hanging proudly on their wall.

Shi Xiaowei — instagram: Tinker_Tales — is mum to Brandon, 7, and Ashley, 9.

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