From Scrap to Sculpture: Recycled Art for Kids

Trash doesn’t always stay trash. Many artists build structures from things that would have been thrown away. From scrap metal sculptures to whole playgrounds made of old parts, there are lots of ways to turn “junk” into something new. Read about real-life recycled art, then make some yourself!

The Secret Kingdom is the true story of artist Nek Chand, who made a huge sculpture garden out of trash he collected around his city.

In Birds of a Feather, artist Susan L. Roth says she’s like a bowerbird. They both collect “unusual, often unrelated stuff” and make things out of it.

Get ideas for recycled art in Out of the Box, which features more than 20 projects to make from cardboard boxes and tubes. Before you help take out the recycling at home, see what you can reuse to create something new!

Check out Dr. Evermor's Forevertron sculpture park in Wisconsin, where the sculptures are made entirely of scrap (that means trash) metal. 

The City Museum in St. Louis isn’t really a museum. It’s an old factory, full of play spaces made largely from recycled materials. Explore pictures of this creatively constructed destination for inspiration to make your own junk art.

Do-at-Home Activities

  • Make a sculpture just with things you find around your house. A tower of tin cans? A pyramid of pencils? The possibilities are endless!
  • All you need to make a beautiful hanging sculpture are water bottles, scissors and permanent markers.
  • Got some boxes lying around? You can make a freestanding cardboard dinosaur or use your imagination to make a cardboard anything. What will you build?

Reflect on Your Learning

  • What was challenging about the activity you did? What problems did you have to solve?
  • If you could make a bigger sculpture—a whole “secret kingdom” like Nek Chand’s or a giant playground like City Museum—what would it look like? What building materials would you use?