Turn Trash Into Treasure

Paper-towel-rollYou don’t have to be a dumpster diver to find cheap treasures; rather, with a little planning you can turn waste into wonderful works of art.

The next time you’re about to toss an empty paper towel roll into the garbage; stop, and place it in your craft bin instead.  There are dozens of ways you can recycle the cardboard rolls, including the following projects that are so simple even your youngest children can get in on the fun.

Napkin Rings


  • Empty paper towel rolls
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper
  • Paint


  1. Cut the empty paper towel roll into five equal pieces that measure roughly two inches long.
  2. Stand the cardboard rings upright in a row on old newspaper.
  3. Paint the rings.  You can paint them all one color or add details like stripes and zigzags for fun.  For extra fancy napkin rings, glue on glitter, sequins, gems or beads.  Younger children can add colorful stickers or use glue dots to adhere buttons to the rings.
  4. When the glue is dry, slip a cloth napkin inside and you are ready to show off your recycled masterpiece at your next meal.

Silly Snake  


  • Empty paper towel rolls
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint
  • Red construction paper or craft foam


  1. Paint the inside and outside of the paper towel roll one color.  This will be the body of your snake.
  2. Let the first coat of paint dry and then add another.
  3. When the paper towel roll is completely dry, use scissors to cut it into a coil.  Just follow the lines printed by the manufacturer on the roll, so you end up with a curly piece of cardboard.
  4. Use the paintbrush to add dots to the snake’s body.  Use a contrasting color, so the dots are visible.
  5. Let the paint dry completely, and then flip the snake over and add more dots.
  6. Glue the googly eyes to the snake’s head.
  7. Cut a small piece of red construction paper or red craft foam in a “V” shape to create a forked tongue for your snake.
  8. Glue the tongue to the end of the paper towel coil.
  9. When the glue is dry, you can display or play with your new pet snake.



This entry was posted in Activities & Other Projects and tagged , , by Michele Cheplic. Bookmark the permalink.
Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.