Building with Plastic Bottles


I had told the kids we were going to build this week. Here I sat racking my brain about what materials to use when I heard my husband remark about the lack of recycling. I grabbed the bag in his hand and opened it to find my building material-plastic bottles! I didn’t know how or what was going to come out of it, but I’d found my building material!

I was still mulling over it as the kids arrived. They went straight to the table where the boxes of (empty) bottles were stacked. We brought the boxes down, and one of the kids asked, “Oh! Are we going to build with bottles? How do we put them together? We need something to make the bottles stick.”

“I wonder what we can use to stick the bottles together?” I asked back.

“We can try tape or glue. Can I get some from your other room? (They love my supply room for a reason.)” Rummaging through my storage containers, we pulled out a roll of twine, ribbon, masking tape, glue and even packaging tape. I did remind them to ask me for help with the packaging tape because I didn’t want them to cut themselves by accident.

One of the girls made loops with masking tape, but the bottles didn’t stay stuck tight. Next, they tried tying them with twine, but the bottles kept slipping and falling.

“Maybe you should help us,” one kid suggested.

“What would you like me to do?”

The children wanted the packaging tape, so I cut some pieces for them. “The bottles are together! This tape is stickier than the other tape,” the kids were relieved to see it working.

After putting several bottles together, one child tried to make them stay up but the ‘wall of bottles’ wasn’t stable. Another boy held a few bottles in an upright position. “We can keep them standing like this. But our hands will pain. Can we put more tape?”


Finally, they sat in a row and held a bottle down with each hand, and my ‘job’ was to put packaging tape around the bottles. This line of bottles was steadier and didn’t topple over. One row of bottles was ready! Counting, “one, two…one, two” the children grabbed more bottles and soon we had a long line of bottles. Just as I stood there wondering what they were going to make of this, the two-year-old walked in with some cars I had given her earlier. Wham! The line of bottles became their block of flats as the kids parked their cars inside their compound!




“We need a road,” “A highway to come to your house,” “A long highway from my house to your house,” “A road to drive to my school and to … (local supermarket).” Their eyes fell on the tape and soon we had the straight highway and smaller roads crisscrossing through the neighbourhoods. Luckily there were several cars, and soon it was a blur of action (and hence the blurred picture).The most significant lesson of the day was the reminder I got! children can use ordinary materials in novel ways and develop play schemes that interest them. They didn’t need fancy outcomes. It made perfect sense to see the series of bottles as a set of high rises buildings, packed tightly because of the way this city is planned. Considering that all the kids didn’t share the same language and their fluency in English varied this was the session with the most peer interactions.


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