Break Out The Old Buttons And Ribbons For These Easy Upcycling Art Projects Your Grandkids Will Love

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Do you have a box or bag of old wrapping paper, buttons, and/or ribbon that you have been saving for years “just in case”? The time to use them has finally arrived, and I commend you, my fellow Grandma, for thinking ahead with your resourcefulness! 

In this throw-away world, teaching our little ones the joy of creating something new from something old is not only a brilliant way to bond but also instills the value of sustainability. Here’s how we grandmas can make magic with upcycled art:

1. Memory quilting

In case you missed it, I recently did an entire feature on memory quilting, but I think it deserves to be mentioned again when using upcycled materials, a la baby clothes and blankets. Sit down with your grandkids and tell them the stories behind the clothes as you sew. It’s a perfect way to share family history while your hands are busy crafting.

2. Tin can garden creatures

Those empty soup cans are a treasure trove! Who knew? With a splash of paint and a sprinkle of creativity, you and your grands can transform those cans into colorful planters or delightful garden creatures, making for an afternoon of crafting and an invaluable lesson in reusing and recycling.

3. Story stones

Find smooth stones on your walks and paint or draw characters, settings, or objects from a story on them. Use them later as storytelling prompts for a fun and imaginative activity that hones their narrative skills and yours! (An added bonus is that every stone will remind them of the stories you’ve crafted together.)

4. Scrapbooking

Got leftover wrapping paper, old magazines, and family photos that never made it to frames? Turn them into a scrapbooking adventure! It’s history in the most personal and touching way – designed and curated by you and your grandchild(ren).

5. Upcycled jewelry

Those lone beads and old buttons are not just bits and bobs but rather future jewelry masterpieces. Spend an afternoon designing unique pieces with your grandchildren. While you’re working, you can even tell your grand the stories behind each piece. Who wore it? Where was it from? The conversation is just as precious as the craft!

6. Ribbon wreaths

Those bits of ribbon that seemed too pretty to toss can find a new home in a festive wreath! You don’t have to limit it to Christmas or Hannukah – why not also make a pretty red, white, and blue one for Independence Day and a pretty pastel-colored one for spring?

7. Old book, new story

Do you have worn-out books collecting dust? Turn the into a brand-new adventure! Sit with your grandchildren and cut out pictures from old, torn books, then glue them into a new ‘story.’ Reading and creating a tale with them not only brings those old characters to life but forms new, indelible memories.

8. Sock puppets

Orphaned socks are not lost but rather future stars of the stage! Invite the grandkids to help you turn those old socks into charismatic puppets. Then, put on a show that could rival Broadway—well, in heart and spirit, at least 😉

9. Paper bead necklaces

Those colorful magazine pages? They’re actually vibrant, soon-to-be jewelry. Teach your grandkids how to cut the paper into long triangles, roll them tightly, and seal them with a dab of glue.

10. Vintage fabric tote bags

Guide your grandkids through the process of making a simple tote bag. It’s a wonderful opportunity to impart sewing skills and chat about the original projects those fabrics were part of. Plus, it’s a bag they can proudly use, knowing grandma’s love is stitched into every seam. Those remnants from past sewing projects are a tote-ally new, beautiful bag in the making.

11. Memory jar

Every empty jar can be a time capsule or a treasure holder. Show your grandkids how to fill jars with notes, trinkets, or shells—whatever tells the story of their current lives. They’ll see it as fun now, but in the future, it’s a jar full of memories from time spent with Grandma.

12. Tin can drums

There’s even more that you can make with old cans than just planters! Unleash the rhythm by helping your grandkids transform those cans into drums using colorful paper and some string. As you craft, share memories of your own favorite songs and dances, turning crafting time into a mini dance party. Who knew Grandma had such moves?


Not only are these upcycled art projects an excellent way to spend an afternoon, but also pass on a legacy of creativity, sustainability, and love. Every snip, brushstroke, and stitch we make with our grandkids connects them to a wider world of imagination—and to us.

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