Upcycled Cookout Caddy

Activity, Grades 4-8, Fine Motor, Art, Elmer’s

Enjoy family dinners outdoors.

Summer wouldn't be complete without cookouts and picnics. You may be surprised to learn that the benefits go far beyond a great burger on a warm evening. Research shows that one factor fosters environmental awareness more than anything else - spending time outdoors. Children between the ages of 5 and 10 who spend more quality family time outdoors foster a love and respect for the environment that they carry with them through adulthood. There are also clear links between childhood immersion in nature and creativity.

Make family dinners outside a priority and reinforce the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling. Environmental education in the classroom is important, but you can make it much more relevant and meaningful to your kids when you model responsible behavior and give them opportunities to follow your lead.

Cognitive Benefits:

  • Fine motor skills

  • Decision-making and problem-solving

  • Visual and spatial development

Social-Emotional Benefits:

  • Respect for nature

  • Awareness of human impact on the environment

  • Greater involvement and concern for community well-being

Family Advantages:

Promotes quality family time and environmental consciousness

Supplies Needed

Clean, empty containers (for silverware)
Empty box (for napkins)
Elmer's Glue-All®
Jute or yarn
Small pebbles or shells
Plastic plate


Prep, create, and clean-up time:

1-2 hours


Choose the containers you want to recycle to hold silverware and napkins. Frozen orange juice containers or soup cans work well for the silverware. Just make sure that there are no sharp edges. Small boxes like the packaging for granola bars or rice work well to hold a small stack of napkins. Thoroughly clean and dry the containers you've chosen.


Use jute or yarn to cover the silverware containers. Place a few lines of Elmer's Glue-All® along the length of the containers and wrap them with the jute. The project in the photo shows a very neat wrap, but let kids get creative with the pattern. A random wrap can turn look great, too. When the entire container has been wrapped, tuck the end under the last strip of jute and add a generous dollop of glue to hold it in place. Let dry completely.


Use a paper grocery bag to cover the box that will hold the napkins. One simple way to do this is to wrap the entire box like a present, and then cut the top end off to create an opening. (Parents can use an X-ACTO knife to cut a clean opening at the top of the box.) Thin boxes (an inch or so wide) work better than wider ones as they will prevent the napkins from sliding down into the box.


Use markers, paint, ribbons, or other embellishments to decorate the containers. Let dry completely.


Send the kids on a pebble hunt. Encourage them to Yind small, colorful pebbles that will be used to hold the containers in place on the plate and add weight to the caddy. Wash and dry the pebbles thoroughly. (You can also use seashells or purchase inexpensive bags of decorative pebbles or shells from most craft and hobby stores.)


Fire up the grill, bring your creative cookout caddy to the picnic table, and enjoy a great family dinner together!

Talk to your children about being "green"

Simple activities like this one teach children that we all have a role to play in protecting the planet. Projects that promote "going green" demonstrate that we all have a responsibility to respect our planet and there are many ways to reduce or recycle. Have a conversation about the little things that help such as turning off lights when you leave a room, reusing grocery bags, or playing outside instead of watching television or playing video games. Make it a family goal to be more mindful of your carbon footprint.

Start with a Story

Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel is a fun adventure of a young superhero who teaches others about recycling. This is a fun and easy story to use as a springboard to teach kids that little things matter when it comes to caring for our environment and we all have a responsibility to do our part. Young kids will get hooked by the main character, and the fun rhymes and rhythm will keep them engaged.

Additional Literature Suggestions:

  • The Garbage Monster by Joni Sensel
  • The Wartville Wizard by Don Madden
  • Why Should I Recycle? by Jen Green
  • Recycle: A Handbook for Kids by Gail Gibbons
  • Changing Habits, Living Green by Darlene Stille