Boston Children’s Museum Pop-Up Recycle Shop

Boston Children's Museum Pop-Up Recycle Shop | Tinkerlab

We spent some time in Boston over the winter break, and had the great pleasure of happening upon the Boston Children’s Museum’s Pop Up Recycle Shop. The Recycle Shop has been a staple of the museum for over 35 years, and lucky us, they’ve brought it back just for the holidays.

If you find yourself in the Boston area in the next few days, it’s open through January 1, 2014, and totally worth a visit. Hours posted here.

We were lucky to meet the Alice Vogler who oversees the space, as she gave us a little tour and talked with my children about the various materials. Alice writes an outstanding recurring blog for the Children’s Museum website called Creative Confidence, and you should check it out if you like learning about how to raise creative children.

recycle pop up shop bags and room

The Pop-up Recycle Shop is located on the second floor, next to the Art Studio.  When you walk in, grab a bag and fill it with industry cast-offs that most kids see as treasures, full of potential for sculpture-building, art-making, and all sorts of inventions. My children each filled a big bag with shiny papers, tubes, and materials to make bird’s nests.

recycle pop up shop bags

According to the museum, “all of the materials are provided by Extras, a clearinghouse that recovers tons of material from being burned or thrown away and redistributes it for creative educational use.”

There’s a similar organization near our home, located in San Jose, CA called RAFT. I’ve been thinking about compiling a list off all of these reuse spaces — would you find this useful? If there’s a creative reuse organization near your home, will you add its name in the comments? [UPDATE: You can find a complete list of creative reuse centers here, courtesy of Lancaster Creative Reuse]

recycle pop up shop collecting

The space is only open for a few more days, but Alice mentioned that it’s been a huge success and will probably return again.

After filling a bag with goodies, move next door to the art studio, where you can make an upcycled character from wood scraps, felt, cups, and other found materials. I love how the simple act of adding googly eyes or eye stickers to an object brings it to life.

I’ll share a few photos as inspiration, because even if you’re not in the Boston area, these little figures are easy to replicate with found materials that you likely already have lying around the house.

recycle pop up shop characters2

recycle pop up shop stuff

recycle pop up shop characters

Happy Making!


  1. there is a list of these creative reuse centers like the pop up shop and Xtras here:

    The Reuse Alliance also has an association of creative reuse centers

    • Thank you, Mary Beth! I’ll edit the post to include this list. So helpful!

  2. Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (Pittsburgh, PA)

  3. There is a great little place in Roseville, CA that sells all kinds of recycled materials for crafts, that is how they fund their education programs – Recreate http://www.recreate.org/
    They also have open crafting times and birthday parties. My kids love to dig through all the recycled items – they have a huge room just full of wonderful stuff.

    • Hi Karenda,
      I’ve heard of this place! We’ll have to make a stop there on our next road trip east. I’m sure I won’t be able to pull my kids away!

  4. I remember going in their when I was little, with the bins of recyclables just waiting to be turned into something. That’s awesome you got to visit too!

  5. Create Studio in Westlake Village, CA is a fabulous creative reuse space that offers opportunities for kids, adults, homeschoolers, birthday parties, scouts. They have tons of bins to rummage through and inspire. The kids love going there and it can get crowded, yet it has the chilliest vibe. Spills? No biggie. Can’t decide what to create? Take your time, look at the wall of photos if you need ideas, or start experimenting. http://www.createstudiofun.com

  6. Art of Recycle is one such fantastic wonderland! It is a community art center with a Craft Castle, and the worlds most fantastic finger puppet stage that has a two level climbable recycled tree as part of the stage! The Craft Castle which is free to use is stocked with art supplies donated by the local community. The whole project is run by volunteers and is creatively funded through a “thrifty craft store” that sells art supplies demonstrating that “the arts”in our communities really can pay for themselves.

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