Recycled Materials Jetpack

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Lead your little one through an imaginary adventure in space travel with this simple, child-made jetpack using recycled materials!


What We’re Learning & Skills We’re Building 

  • Creative reuse – using items that might’ve been thrown away to create something new   
  • Collaboration – children and adults working together to build a jetpack 
  • Fine motor skills – using the small muscles in the hands to hold scissors, rip tape, and decorate 
  • Dramatic play – using the jetpack to act out the role of an astronaut


Optional Materials 

  • Stapler (adult use only) 
  • Aluminum foil (about 2 ft or more)
  • Recycled materials for decoration: Small cardboard boxes, plastic containers, empty cereal boxes, buttons, beads, bottle caps, magnets, wine corks, old toys, etc.

Prepping the Materials

  1. Cut a square piece of cardboard that’s about 8”x8” (or whatever size fits comfortably on your child’s back). This is the base that you’ll tape or staple the shoulder straps and  the jetpack canisters onto.
  2. Create the straps of the jetpack by cutting two strips (about 2 ft) of webbing, felt, yarn, string, or old shoe laces. (You want these to be long enough to hang over your child’s shoulders like a backpack.)
  3. Tape or staple one strap onto the top and bottom of each side of the cardboard square. Have your child try it on before moving on to the next step!

Making the Jetpack

  1. Wrap the jetpack canisters (see recycled materials to use for the canisters in the Materials list above for ideas) in aluminum foil, decorate them using construction paper, or paint them (we recommend waiting until after step 3 below if you use paint). 
  2. Once the canisters are decorated, use duct tape to attach them to the cardboard base in between the shoulder straps. 
  3. Now, decorate the entire jetpack! Use construction paper, streamers, or tissue paper to create flames. Add buttons, bottle caps, toy parts, and more for extra decorations and “control buttons.”

Using the Jetpack in Dramatic Play 

  • Your child can use their jet pack on a make-believe spacewalk (which is when astronauts exit their rocketship to test or repair equipment on its outer side. They need jetpacks to move themselves around in space! See this video of an astronaut walking on the moon for the first time in history. 
  • To add to your child’s imaginary play, attach a rope, leash, or other tether to their jetpack (or clothing) so they can pretend to be on a spacewalk.
  • Brainstorm together what can be used for a pretend rocket ship. Things like large cardboard boxes, stacks of boxes, couch cushions, or furniture (a bed, for example) can all be considered in a dramatic play set-up. 
  • Make it another activity to decorate cardboard boxes with spaceship windows and solar panels. Check out our Rocketship Control Center activity for ideas on creating a mission control center to add to the fun.
  • Learn more about the everyday life of an astronaut for more ideas on what to create and how to play.