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Environment: Recycling—all wrapped up

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By Gillian Ravenscroftscience coordinator and freelance writer

Promote recycling with fun activities that use scrap paper and cardboard

Handmade Viking helmet

Over 11 million tonnes of paper and card are used in the UK every year. Once discarded, about five million tonnes of paper are sent to landfill sites or for incineration, so recycling paper can make both sound environmental and economic sense. Provide each classroom in your school with a recycling bin for scrap paper and encourage children to reuse it – starting with these creative papier mâché, decoupage and origami activities.


  1. Papier-mâché Viking helmet
  2. Cereal-box decoupage
  3. Origami treat basket

1 Papier-mâché Viking helmet

You will need: balloons; torn newspaper and suitable glue to make papier-mâché; card; split pins; masking tape; paint; scissors; pencils and rulers.

What to do:

  1. Use a balloon, roughly the size of a child’s head, to make a basic papier-mâché mould.
  2. When dry, holding the knotted end, draw a line around the middle of the mould. To make the nose piece, measure a 4cm-wide strip anywhere along this line and draw a long rectangle extending towards the bottom of the mould.
  3. Carefully cut around the nose piece and middle line and discard the rest of the papier mâché.
  4. Cut three strips of card – 6cm by 30cm long. Fold them lengthways.
  5. Place one strip of card so that it covers the nose piece and extends towards the top of the helmet. Glue down the long sides, without flattening out the crease. Trim if necessary.
  6. Use pairs of split pins, to resemble studs, to secure the card to the helmet. Ensure to pinch up the central crease in the card.
  7. Attach the remaining pieces of card, in the same way, to either side of the helmet (forming a ‘T’ shape with the first strip). Overlap or trim any surplus card.
  8. Cover the inside of the helmet with masking tape to protect the wearer from the ends of the split pins. Paint the helmet with a mixture of PVA glue, black paint and water.

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2 Cereal-box decoupage

Handmade gift box

You will need: empty cereal boxes; wrapping paper scraps or images from magazines and newspapers; PVA glue; split pins; elastic bands and scissors.

What to do:

  1. Ask the children to choose a theme – such as their favourite sport, pop star or television programme – and to collect enough images from newspapers, magazines or old birthday cards or paper to cover a cereal box.
  2. Seal the open end of the cereal box with tape. Lie it on its back and use clear-drying glue to cover all the visible sides with over-lapping pictures. Ensure all edges are secured with glue. Cover the entire box with an extra coat of clear-drying glue.
  3. To make the lid, lightly draw a rectangle onto the top of the box – as large as possible while still leaving a good border. Carefully cut around three sides and crease the remaining side to form the hinge.
  4. Attach a split pin close to the edge of the lid and another on the corresponding side of the box. Stretch a small, taut elastic band around them to form a fastener.

Don’t forget to download Activity sheet, ‘Origami treat baskets’ – a step-by-step activity sheet explaining how to make an origami basket for little treats.

Origami basket

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