Cartoon image of a wooden boat held together with tape with a main mast and sail in the center.

Build a Recycled Sailboat

Reuse old materials from around your home to help your child build a toy boat.


  • Clean, reused materials: Small plastic or styrofoam food containers, lids, trays, bottle caps, etc.
  • Craft sticks or coffee stirrers (for masts)
  • Colorful magazine pages (for sails)
  • Masking tape
  • Large, shallow basins of water or use the bathtub
  • Drinking straws (cut in half)
  • Pieces of cardboard


  1. While you collect the building materials, talk with your child about reducing, reusing, and recycling, and how these actions help the environment. Point out the recycle symbol on the bottom of a container and talk about what it means. Explain that, together, you are going to make a sailboat out of some items you no longer use.
  2. Encourage your child to use their imagination to design the boat and ask for additional ideas for materials that could be used.
  3. Use a larger container as the body of the boat.
  4. Have your child help you tape a craft stick or coffee stirrer pointing up, as the mast.
  5. Cut big shapes from the magazines for sails and help your child tape them to the mast.
  6. Encourage your child to decorate the boat.
  7. Talk to your child about wind and how it can make things move. Ask, “How does wind sound?” and “What does the wind feel like?” Then, have your child blow on their hands, first making a soft breeze and then a strong gust of wind. Ask them to show you other ways to make the air move (waving their hands, fanning the air with an object).
  8. Put the boat in the water basin or bathtub. Let your child use their wind power to make the sailboat move across the water. Try blowing through straws or fanning with cardboard. Ask which method works best.

This craft comes to you from the creators of Curious George.

Iowa PBS STEAM Activities and Crafts provided by PBS KIDS Parents.