Art Tips: The Bits and Pieces Box

Weekly Art Tips on Tinkerlab.comToday’s art tip is brought to us by one of my very favorite creative mom bloggers, Ali Wright. This trick is so easy to put in motion — and the payoff can be big. After reading it I’d bet that you won’t look at scraps of paper quite the same way again. As Ali puts it, this is a” frugal way to supply the kids with interesting, varied and free materials.”

Art Tips: The bits and pieces box

Hi, I’m Ali. I am a mom to two arty kids. My kids can go through large quantities of art supplies in a very short space of time. So, I am always on the look out for ways to supplement our art and craft materials without breaking the bank.

I am a big collector. I keep an old shoebox which I fill with all sort of things that I think might appeal to the kids. We call it the bits and pieces box…. and this is what is currently in it –

  • Promotional postcards which I find in cafes and shops
  • Maps and tourist brochures from museums and hotel foyers
  • Clothing tags that are pretty or interesting
  • Theatre programs (I don’t actually get to the theatre I just collect the programs)
  • Old discarded paintings by the kids
  • Wrapping paper and tissue paper
  • Tickets of all sorts – dry cleaning stubs, movie tickets, raffle tickets
  • Art exhibition catalogues
  • Used envelopes with interesting stamps
  • Old greeting cards

Art Tips: The bits and pieces box

This box is kept in sight but out of reach.

I pull it down when the kids ask me or when we are working on an art project that needs some extra materials. When the box comes down from the shelf they get very excited to see the latest additions.

The funny thing about the bits and pieces box is that I can never predict what is going to appeal to my kids. Sometimes they pounce on something I would never expect. I threw in some bank forms last week – they were a big hit.

Art Tips: The bits and pieces box

I don’t throw every piece of paper that comes my way into the bits and pieces box… it would need to be huge if I did that! I am selective: I particularly avoid shopping catalogues.

I look for interesting imagery, quirky uses of text and colour as well as a range of paper types and textures.

My bits and pieces box is a very frugal way to supply the kids with interesting, varied and free materials. The majority of the materials in the box were destined for the recycling bin. This way they are given a second chance at life in the hands of my mini makers.

Ali Wright Ali is a blogger and mother of two kids who adore art and crafts. Making things is a part of everyday life. Ali is also a designer and DIY crafter. She lives with her family in Sydney Australia and shares her creative adventures on her blog At Home with Ali. You can also find her on PinterestFacebookGoogle+ and Instagram.


    • Yes, you can do this, Phyllis! Will you keep us posted?

    • Hi Phyllis, I do actually do this for myself too. I have a magazine holder that I use to store bits and pieces that appeal to me. I hope it works for you.

  1. Perfect! I would be selective of what I choose too. I love this idea not just for its frugality but for decluttering purposes without being wasteful. I save old greeting cards for this reason for scrapbooking, now I need to keep this in mind for my boys own creative uses.

    • Hi Heather, I save a ton of paper and I really like how Ali is so intentional about what she saves. I was just looking at a huge box of scrap paper today that has NEVER been used and seriously wonder if it’s because we have too much?!

      • Being selective is the key, once my box is full I stop adding to it until some of the materials already in it have been used up. If something doesn’t seem to interest the kids I don’t hold on to it and return it to the recycling bin. Cheers Ali

    • That’s so great to hear, Bek! I’m in the same boat. I also save beautiful paper and I’m excited to separate a few really great pieces and place them in a special box for the kids.

  2. I love this! I also use this as a “cleaning” technique. We have a paper box for drawing, painting, crafting and I often add paper products that would otherwise go straight into recycling into the box. I also love watching my eldest reuse her old art pieces. Sometimes the first round is delightfully quick and spontaneous (gotta love 2 year old painting) and I get a kick out of watching her add to a piece later with a different medium.

    Your box, however, makes me want to have a bits and pieces box for myself!

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