The League of Young Inventors starts in a few weeks! While we’re waiting, we want to ask all parents and kids to start saving things that they can bring in for their inventions. The inventions we make use mainly recyclables, but those small items really pack a punch! Using recyclables like bottle tops, jar lids, cans, and cardboard, gives these things one more use before they are recycled into new items. And reusing things like straws or plastic cups helps to keep them out of landfills for a bit longer. Using recyclables and things we might otherwise throw away helps kids see the stuff around them as treasure rather than trash.

Even more importantly, when kids understand that they can use this readily available free stuff to create their own toys, a whole new world opens up to them. They don’t need expensive parts to create cool things that work. Corrugated cardboard is one of the basic building blocks of kid inventions. It’s sturdy, cuts well, and attaches easily using glue or tape. Plastic soda bottles can be used for things like rocket ships, race cars, and funnels, or you can cut the bottle open and use the plastic for anything that needs a clear surface. Bottle tops, another ubiquitous household item, are perfect for making wheels, gears, spinners, and any number of things. Take four bottle tops, drill a hole in the middle of each, attach them to the ends of two takeout chopsticks, and you have the wheels and axles to build a car. Twist ties, straws, rubber bands, popsicle sticks can be put together in a million different ways to make fun toys. Old broken toys can be scavenged and used to create different and amazing toys that you can’t find in any store.

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The more kids learn to reuse what’s around them, the better off they – and we – will be, now and in the future.