Beaded Fish made from Toilet Paper Rolls

Beaded Fish Craft from Recycled Toilet Paper Tubes

At this year’s Family Nature Summit, I taught recycled crafts with the kids in the kindergarten and first grade groups. The four crafts we made were:

  • Jellyfish from snack-sized apple sauce containers – I adapted this idea from crafts that used non-trash materials. Cutting socks into jellyfish legs was my most creative improvement.
  • Reversible cardboard circle necklaces – I got the idea from this julep. My improvement was to make the string from a black t-shirt cut in strips that I then pulled until it became like a piece of yarn.
  • Popsicle stick puzzles – Idea from Spoonful – My only improvement was to use skinnier tape like quilters get to mark a 1/4 inch seam
  • Beaded fish decorations from toilet paper tubes

This last craft came directly from my head rather than adapting a non-trash craft, although I have since seen a non-trash-material “flying fish craft” on Mineco. I think the idea of using toilet paper rolls and adding beads takes this to the next level!

Step-By-Step Instructions for Beaded Fish Craft

  1. Paint the rolls inside and out.
  2. Once they are dry, cut them in strips about one centimeter wide. These will be rings.
  3. Snip the rings so they are a long rectangle.
  4. Snip half-way across at the point where you want the tail to start.
  5. Again, snip half-way across on the other side of the tail, opposite direction.
  6. Slide the two tail pieces together until they line up and you have a great fish.
  7. Use a small hole punch (smaller than the size for notebook paper) and make a hole at the top of the fish.
  8. Make another hole directly below on the bottom of the fish.
  9. Thread yarn about 2 feet long on a plastic darning needle and tie a big knot at the bottom.
  10. Open up the fish if the kids want to put beads inside the fish. (I found most kids didn’t want to bother with that, and just kept the fish closed.)
  11. Let them sew beads and fish in whatever pattern they like.
  12. When they have at least 6 inches of yarn left, tie off a big knot at the top to keep things from sliding off.
  13. Snip off the yarn at the very top to get your needle off.
  14. Tie a knot again with the two leftover bits so they can hang up their fish later.
  15. Write their name on the bottom fish’s tail if you have a group and everyone wants to keep their own.

Here is one of my students proudly showing her crafts:

Camper showing her recycled crafts - toilet paper roll fish and applesauce container jellyfish
Camper showing her recycled crafts – toilet paper roll fish and applesauce container jellyfish

Lessons Learned

Lesson 1: Making the Fish Tails is Hard for Kids – Even though I think it is cool to put colorful beads inside the fish and clear beads outside the fish (to represent bubbles), the kids really don’t want to stop threading long enough to open their fish.

Lesson 2: Kids LOVE the fish – Kids wanted a LOT more fish than I thought they would. I had prepared about five fish per kid, and they wanted about 10 each. At the the Summit, my mom ended up helping me make a bunch more fish at the last minute because my first group used up my fish! If you want to limit the amount of fish prep work, give the kids shorter yarn.

Beaded decoration - fish with beads
Beaded decoration – fish with beads

A Funny Freecycle Story about Toilet Paper Tubes

While I’m on the topic of recycling toilet paper tubes, I have a funny story. A few year ago, I had saved up maybe 50 toilet paper tubes. I put up an offer on Freecycle for Toilet Paper Tubes. Or maybe I put Toilet Paper Rolls. Anyhow, I clearly did not communicate that the tubes were empty, i.e. there was no toilet paper on them anymore. A person from a local church responded to my offer. They came to pick up the tubes. I was not at home so I left them on my porch.

That night, I was out walking around my street and I saw my box of carefully-saved toilet paper tubes beside the curb. The next day was garbage day, so my box was sitting beside someone’s garbage. It became clear in that moment that the person had taken my box, realized their mistake (or my mistake, I guess) and then dumped my box. I was pretty sad about that, given that I thought they wanted the tubes for a craft at their church. Anyhow, it was one of my rare sad experiences with Freecycle.

Lesson learned: If I want to freecycle something that typical people think is trash, I have to be SUPER clear about what I mean. It’s just a typical day in the life of Trashmagination, I guess.