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Saturday, January 9, 2021

10 Easy Ways to Repurpose & Upcycle Kids Art

I know the thought of throwing out any of the kids masterpieces can be heart-wrenching, especially if you're a sentimental person like me who wants to keep everything, but at some point you'll have to face the reality of culling the hoards of pictures, paintings and letters that make their way into your home. 

However, just because you decide you don't want to store or display some of the kids artwork, doesn't mean it's destined for the recycling bin. In fact there are many creative ways you can upcycle kids art. I've put together a list of 10 easy ways to upcycle kids artwork and give them new life.

kids crafts

Kids drawings, paintings and even letters can easily be turned from scribbles on paper into practical objects. With a tiny bit of effort your scrap pile of art can be turned into free gifts for friends and family, homemade decorations and even functional items like placemats and envelopes. 



Personalise presents for relatives by wrapping them in your kids art. Either wrap the present in old paintings or drawings, or wrap presents in brown or white paper and then cut out parts of the artwork to stick on as highlights like The Craft Train did below.


If the artwork you want to upcycle is too small to wrap a gift, you can cut them down to smaller pieces to make them into creative gift tags. If they need to be sturdier, glue them onto some cardboard {cut up cereal boxes will work}, or laminate them. 


To make gifts even more special, turn old paper art into DIY gift bows. You can make them with any paper that is A4 size. Cut the paper into 5 strips, fold and glue them into place following the instructions in the video below. You can also make gift bows with old newspapers, coloured paper or magazine pages.


Instead of using old art as wrapping for gifts, you can give the art itself as a gift. We've framed many of the girls drawings to give as gifts to relatives. You can also make old artwork into a new piece of art like we did in the image below. 

kids collage drawing

This was a gift for grandma and was made by gluing strips of tissue paper onto a cheap canvas from a dollar store. We then cut out one of my daughters drawings of her and grandma and glued it on top and then added another layer of clear glue to seal it. All up it only cost $2.50 as we only needed to buy the canvas.


Be inspired by famous children's authors such as Eric Carle or Jeannie Baker and get the kids to create their own collage illustrations using old artwork. Give children's art new life by cutting it up into pieces and combining it with other items to make mixed media collages. Use old paintings, sketches, scrap colour or printed paper and even tape or ribbon pieces to create interesting illustrations or family portraits. Barley and Birch made the below mixed media collage of a neighbourhood scene using old art. Find out what techniques they used to make this collage and others here.

upcycled art collages - make old art new again

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to collage, simply layer different pieces of the same or varying textures until you're happy with the composition. Collage is process art where children are free to explore and create as they wish with no predetermined outcome. In addition to this it's also a great way for children to practice fine motor skills while cutting, tearing, folding and gluing.


Instead of buying placemats for the kids, simply laminate their drawings and voila you have a unique placemat. If they get bored of it, make a new one with a different drawing. Finished pages from colouring in books are great for this because they're already A4 size. I still remember the Bananas in Pyjamas placemat I made as a gift for my cousin when I was little, which was just a laminated colouring page.


It's easy to turn old pictures into paper beads that can be used for play activities and other craft. To make paper beads you need to cut your artwork into long triangles, cover them with glue and roll them up {largest end to smallest} using a wooden skewer. Follow this step by step tutorial from Shannon at Oh Creative Day to create your own unique paper beads. Paper beads are also a great way to repurpose old picture books, junk mail or magazines.

Make DIY paper beads from kids old artwork

The finished paper beads can be used as a threading activity for kids by threading them onto skewers or dried spaghetti. They can also be made into bracelets by threading them onto pipe cleaners, or necklaces using cotton or nylon cord. Use the finished paper jewellery as dress ups or give them to family and friends as handmade gifts.


If you want to save on holiday decorations then turn the kids old paper art into garlands or paper chains. To make a garland, first use a shape cookie cutter or freehand draw shapes onto each painting or drawing and then cut them all out. Then either sew them all together in a line using a sewing machine, glue or tape some string to the back or peg each individual shape onto some ribbon or bakers twine. If you want to re-use the garland, laminate the individual pieces before stringing them together, this will make them more durable and easier to store.

heart garland inspired by Eric Carle
Image: Oh Creative Day

To make paper chains simply cut the artwork into rectangle strips and then interlock them securing each loop with tape or a staple. Use the paper chain to hang from the roof or above windows, hang on a mantelpiece, wrap around a stair rail or to decorate the Christmas tree.


It's easy to turn scrap paper, discarded drawings and old paintings into some pretty fancy envelopes with a little folding and some washi tape. The kids can use them for some post office dramatic play, drop them in neighbours letter boxes, give notes to friends at school, or use them for good old snail mail to brighten someone's day. 

kids drawings recycled as envelopes


Make Christmas even more memorable by creating your own unique paper ornaments with the kids old paintings and drawings. To make ornaments like the ones from Picklebums below you'll need to cut up paper into circle or star shapes {use a cup or cookie cutters to make sure they're all the same size}, then fold and glue them all together with string. Follow the instructions at Picklebums here.

picklebums paper ornaments

Paper ornaments can be made in many different shapes including Christmas trees like these ones at Red Ted Art or origami style ornaments like these at DIY Candy Shop. You can also turn cardboard craft into ornaments by cutting them into the desired shape, punching a hole in the top and adding some ribbon or string. Paper snowflakes are also fun to create with old paper art, follow the cutting instructions at One Little Project to create your own.

Easy ways to repurpose and upcycle kids artwork

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Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience, which means I may earn a small commission at no cost to you, should you make a purchase. All craft images within this post have been used with express permission.

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