Making recycled paper

As part of our Sustainability focus at the preschool I work at, we decided to look at how paper is made.  Regular readers will remember our 'Beautiful Stuff' project post.  If you missed it, you can read it by clicking here.

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Recycling Paper at Preschool - A hands-on look at how paper is made. Perfect way for preschoolers to see (and feel) how paper is recycled into new paper | you clever monkey

We've been reading several books about recycling in the lead up to a visit to a local recycling collection centre.  We loved (affiliate links) Todd Parr's The EARTH Book and Charlie and Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers.  The children also enjoyed playing the Planet game on the interactive whiteboard.


We've talked about where paper comes from = trees and how important it is for us to recycle paper as many times as we can to save more trees from being cut down.  But talking is one thing, seeing and doing is better - particularly for four year olds  most of people.


We watched this clip on youtube about commercial sized paper recycling.  It has loads of awesome machines to keep everyone watching - giant claw anyone?




We started the week with some shredded paper and a little water in one of our tubs outside.  Unfortunately, this also coincided with the coldest weather we've had so far this winter and not many people were inclined to get their hands wet.  After a couple of days of just soaking up water we added some warmer water, grabbed some small buckets and egg beaters to help move things along. Now everyone wanted a turn....


A hands-on look at how paper is made.  A perfect way for children to see and feel how paper is recycled.  For more information, visit http://youclevermonkey.com/


A hands-on look at how paper is made.  A perfect way for children to see and feel how paper is recycled.  For more information, visit http://youclevermonkey.com/

Once the paper had become pulp, we transferred it back into our big tub for more mixing. The water is doing all the work at this point, helping the paper fibres to separate and become suspended in the liquid.

A hands-on look at how paper is made.  A perfect way for children to see and feel how paper is recycled.  For more information, visit http://youclevermonkey.com/

By the end of the week, enough hands had moved the paper around in the water sufficiently for us now to reverse the process - by making paper and removing the water.






We had some timber frames in the shed at preschool but you can easily make some simple ones.  Babble Dabble Do has some how-to suggestions that you can go here to read.  They also share some lovely suggestions for paper making.

Photo credit - Babble Dabble Do
Between the paint stained into the frame and the aged fly wire, our clean water turned this murky colour within seconds of submerging the frame, not that the children minded.

A hands-on look at how paper is made.  A perfect way for children to see and feel how paper is recycled.  For more information, visit http://youclevermonkey.com/

You can see how fluffy the old paper has become.  You could speed up this process by using a blender but the children loved playing with the pulp in the tub for the week beforehand - an fantastic sensory experience.

A hands-on look at how paper is made.  A perfect way for children to see and feel how paper is recycled.  For more information, visit http://youclevermonkey.com/

We tipped a cup full of pulp onto our frame and then shook it slightly to disperse it evenly across the frame before lifting it out of the water.

A hands-on look at how paper is made.  A perfect way for children to see and feel how paper is recycled.  For more information, visit http://youclevermonkey.com/

After much of the water had drained off, we turned the new paper out onto some newspaper. We then covered it with some paper towel (to protect it) and a plastic tray. Lots of hands then pressed down on the tray, squeezing most of the water out of the paper underneath.

The paper was then uncovered and left to dry.  Here's our finished product. You can see the imprint from the paper towel we used.

A hands-on look at how paper is made.  A perfect way for children to see and feel how paper is recycled.  For more information, visit http://youclevermonkey.com/

The children surprised by how thick it was (due mostly to some enthusiastic pouring of pulp) and excited that they could still see some letters in the new paper.

A hands-on look at how paper is made.  A perfect way for children to see and feel how paper is recycled.  For more information, visit http://youclevermonkey.com/

Ideally it would have been great for each child to have been able to make their own piece of paper and then add something of their choosing to it (seeds, flowers, glitter, coloured tissue paper, leaves) before it dried.  If you're keen to try it yourself, I've saved a few different links to my Pinterest board.  I want to make some seed paper at home during the holidays with my own children.

Follow Nichole {youclevermonkey}'s board Recycling/Sustainability on Pinterest.


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12 comments

  1. Exactly what I've been looking for. Sharing!

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    1. Thanks for your comment 3littledolls and I'm glad you found my post useful :)

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  2. We have a recycled paper kit and we still haven't made any. I really want to make some now. The kids look like they are having so much fun. I think putting your fingers in the floating paper would have been the first thing I'd like to have done.

    What will you do with the paper sheets you made?

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    1. It was a lovely sensory experience mixing it all by hand but would have been nicer in warmer weather. We only made 8-9 pieces of paper as the tray we used was quite big. Some went on display, some went in a floor book and the rest the children used. If you do make some, do check out the versions Ana over at Babble Dabble Do shared. They were lovely.

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  3. WOW! That is so awesome. I have always wanted to make recycled paper and when I do I'll be sure to use this guide. Love it.

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    1. It is lots of fun Kate and so easy for children to then see what recycling looks like.

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  4. Great detailed tutorial!
    Thanks for sharing at the Mumsnet linky.

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    1. My pleasure and thank you for your lovely comment

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  5. Looks amazing! Hope to try this in my classroom! Does it need to be done outside? Also how long should it soak for? Thanks in advance!

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    1. Hi Julie, it's lots of fun. It doesn't need to be done outside but I wouldn't do it over carpet and it depends on the group of kids too. We left ours soaking for just over a week before we turned it into paper but you can make it quicker by mixing it more often or by using a blender. You just want the mix to be fluffy for it to work.

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  6. It's looks fun and lotsa hard work! : ) I know from doing it myself only once. Kudos to you and your kiddos.

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    1. Thanks GrowingHearts123 :) It was great, slightly messy fun. The kids loved it!

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