Brighten someone’s day while upcycling some aluminum cans with this easy mini vase project you can make with your kids. Using cans as a vase or mini planter works well because they are watertight, and once the labels are removed, they already look pretty cute. Dressing them up with a few simple embellishments gives them a special touch, perfect for gifting.
I love projects that encourage thoughtfulness and good habits, and I like to think that this project does both of those things. Bringing a few inexpensive flowers to a friend or neighbor is an easy way to reach out in kindness and show someone you care, and that’s good for kids to learn from a young age. And when you’re doing that by reusing something that would normally go in the recycling bin, it’s even better.
Here are three ways that you can decorate and upcycle cans with your little ones.
Supplies for all versions:
Clean aluminum cans
Masking or duct tape
For the washi tape version:
For the ruffled version:
Loose weave fabric or burlap
Yarn or baker’s twine
Large yarn needle
For the painted version:
When you remove lids from cans, sometimes the inside rim can be sharp, which you don’t want. Carefully check for any rough spots or spurs, and if you find a dangerous spot, choose another can. The good news is that most pull-tab topped cans will come off smoothly, and quality can openers do the same.
Even still, it’s a good idea to cover those edges with masking or duct tape before you let your child work with it. They shouldn’t need to stick their hands inside, but it’s better to be safe.
Washi tape can be magical to children. Buy some that’s inexpensive, and let your kids wrap and decorate a can with the tape.
A strip around the top and bottom only takes a minute or two, but of course, you can add as much tape as you like. You could even cover the entire outside with little tabs!
Add some water and flowers and it’s officially now a vase!
For a more rustic (but also slightly girly) vase, add a ruffle. Start with a strip of loose-weave fabric or burlap. You can find these in the ‘utility fabrics’ section at a fabric store. The strip should be 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide, and at least 15 inches long.
Cut a piece of yarn or baker’s twine that’s 3 to 4 feet long, and then thread it through a dull, oversized yarn needle. Tie the two ends of the string together so it is doubled and the needle won’t come off.
Show your child how to stitch through the center of the fabric with a simple running stitch. It will help if you mark on the fabric where they should stitch. Leave some of the string loose at the starting end.
Although it takes a little help and practice, kids can (and should!) learn this basic sewing skill.
As they stitch, gather the fabric a little so it starts to make a ruffle. When they’ve made it all the way to the end, snip the string to remove the needle, then tie the ends together with an overhand knot.
Even out the ruffle and wrap it around a can. Tie the string to make a bow, adjusting the ends of the string as needed. You’ll also want to make sure the ends of the fabric ruffle meet in the middle and that the ruffle looks pretty.
Who wouldn’t want this little vase at their breakfast table?
This last version is potentially the most messy, but it’s also lots of fun. And it’s as simple as painting a can with acrylic paint.
When you work with most paints like this, you’ll find that the metal of the can shows through when you only do one coat. Because of that, trying to paint full pictures doesn’t work so great. But painting random designs does!
Pull out a couple colors of paint (if you only do one color at a time, there’s no chance of color mixing!), and suggest that your child make dots, stripes, or zig zags. The design shown here is basically short brush strokes scattered around the whole can. And a single coat is just fine!
Once the paint is dry, it’s ready for flowers.
For any of these, if you’d rather make a mini flower pot instead of a vase, that works too! You may want to drill a couple holes in the bottom of the can before you start, and add a small layer of rocks before you add the dirt and your plant.
All of these vases would be wonderful to have around the house, but sharing them with people is even better. It doesn’t cost much to bring a smile to someone’s face!