Last night, while cleaning up from dinner, I told L not to throw away her pudding cup because it can be recycled. She replied, "What's recycle? What's it mean?" So as I was doing my best to explain to a 2-year-old how plastics are melted down and made into new containers, I remembered how I used to make paper as a kid...it's the perfect activity to teach kids of any age how things are recycled! I lost my paper-making kit years ago, but it didn't take long to locate and piece together the materials needed for homemade paper. I love this activity because your kids can help with each of the steps, keeping them busy and entertained the whole way through!
-2 small window screens
-felt (or thin cloth like a cloth diaper)
-plastic tub or wide container
First, dig through the recycling basket for colorful paper. (I always save colored-on pieces of construction paper for projects like this!) Have your kids help you tear it up into 2-inch pieces and throw it all into a large bowl.
Add some water to the bowl, covering all the paper pieces, and let it soak thoroughly for a few minutes. Your kids can now reach in the bowl to see how the wet paper feels compared to the dry.
Next, scoop and dump the paper and water into your blender. There's no exact amount of water needed since it'll all be squeezed out in the end. Blend the mixture for about a minute. The pulp should resemble the consistency of oatmeal.
Now for the fun, messy part!!! Lay one of the screens over the plastic tub or container. (You could use your sink, but it's easier for kids if the project is done on the floor!)
Then lay a large piece of felt on top of the mixture and next, the second window screen.
Using sponges press down on the felt, squeezing most of the water out. We started in the middle of the felt and worked our way out, pressing the paper underneath nice and flat.
Next, take off the top screen and, placing one hand on top of the felt, quickly flip the other over. Remove the screen and leave the paper on the felt to dry. I did this last step outside on our picnic table so the paper could dry in the sun and summer heat. It takes about a day to dry on its own. When I was a kid, doing a similar paper-making project, the paper and felt pieces were much smaller and I'd pop it in the microwave to dry. The paper would curl a little bit sometimes, but it was quick and easy.
Here's our finished paper! It doesn't look like your typical paper, but it is beautiful with all the bright yellows, reds and oranges mixed in! It'll be perfect to paint on later in the day!
Making Seed Paper:
To make seed paper, add a handful of flower seeds to the pulp before squeezing all the water out. After the paper dries, you can cut it up into squares and gift it to friends. They can plant the paper strips in soil in the Spring, water and wait for their flowers to grow! We used our leftover, perennial Balloon Flower seeds...they're easy to grow and look beautiful anywhere!
-Before squeezing the water out of the paper-pulp mixture, add some flower petals to the pulp for a fresh and colorful look!
-After squeezing the water out and removing the screens, use cookie cutters to carefully cut the paper into shapes. After they dry, you can punch a hole to hang the paper shapes and make ornaments! We may do this around the holidays, using holiday-colored paper.
-You can also add glitter to the paper pulp, before squeezing the water out, to give your paper a little sparkle!
Have fun and get messy! Your kids will love you for it!!!