Repurpose spools and reels for play!

I love finding inspiration and new ideas to repurpose wooden spools and cable reels into new equipment for play. They are a material that with a little creativity and thought can be turned into something that invites play, imagination, social interaction and more for just a few dollars!

Spools and reels come in many different sizes and can be cardboard, wooden or plastic. All can be turned into something completely different to their original purpose. They can be hard to find though (plastic ones are easier to nab than wooden by the way) and I am often asked how to source reels to upcycle. It really will depend on where you live and the recycling options available in your community but here are a few suggestions for you to try.

Where to find spools and cable reels for play.

  • Local recycling and revolve centres (often based at local council dump and rubbish tips)
  • Ask your local tradespeople if you could have the empty reels when finished with them. Plumbers, electricians and telephone contractors laying cables are a good place to start as are nearby building sites.
  • Electrical supply stores
  • Drive around the local industrial estate – often wooden reels are left on the kerb for pickup so they don’t need to dispose of them (although some do return the larger ones to wholesalers to get back their deposit apparently – but you might get lucky!). You can also get an idea of what businesses use them if you see them piled up in the yards and can go back and ask for the empty reels when they open again.
  • If you are brave enough you could stop at roadworks and ask if they have any you could pick up when available or head into your local council workshop and ask there. Make sure to explain to them what you want to use them for.
  • Online marketplaces like Gumtree often have them listed in the free or giveaway sections.

Hopefully the suggestions above have given you a few ideas for starting a spool and reel hunt!

Now you have one what are you going to do with it? I’ve done the searching for you and collected a range of clever ideas for play spaces! Some simple, some a little more involved and perhaps requiring a little basic DIY skill but I’m sure you will find something in the collection below to get you inspired and wanting to upcycle, repurpose and create.

I have tried to add a source to all of the photos but some were just not able to be found unfortunately (Please do let me know if one is your image though!). There are some links to tutorials and blog posts for you to explore in more detail. Some of our clever Empowered Educator Community members have also kindly shared some of their work to help fellow educators with simple ideas to try when you do find that perfect reel!

Upcycling wooden spools and cable reels for play spaces.

Keep it simple and use them outdoors as tables for paint and craft, messy play and more. Or just use as is for loose parts building, balancing and climbing fun!

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – The Empowered Educator

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Sourced Via Pinterest

They make excellent craft and painting surfaces outdoors – especially useful if you don’t have a lot of child sized tables.  Source – The Empowered Educator.

Bubble wrap painting on the spools outdoors is always a favourite. See more about how we setup and played here.

Source – The Empowered Educator

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source –  Stomping in the Mud – so many other wonderful open ended play ideas here too!

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

We love using them for easy to move tables with loose parts play all over the outdoor space! Source – The Empowered Educator

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

An outdoor science lab! Source – TP Craft

Projects not quite as simple but lots of fun!

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Tic Tac Toe anyone? Source – Early Years Ideas from Tishylishy on Facebook.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Clever DIY seesaw from a wooden spool. Source – Hometalk

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Use as a base for a slide and climbing challenge! Source – via Pinterest.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Turn the top of a spool into a huge outdoor swing perfect for hanging from a tree! Source – via Pinterest

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Tinkering & Sensory fun! Source – via Pinterest

Perhaps use them to create unique garden spaces for the children to look after….

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – via Pinterest

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – via Pinterest

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – DIY How To.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – via Pinterest

Need more seating or tables? Take a look at these creative and unique table and seat ideas using reels….

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – via Pinterest

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – via Pinterest

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Who wouldn’t want to sit outside reading here? Source – Mmofra

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Easy DIY stool! Source – Empowered Ed Community member  Tara Belinksky

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Small cable reel toadstool tutorial for you to try over at  Hatchlings & Hens

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

A little sanding and varnish and you have this simple but sweet seating area. Source – Samantha Thompson from Bush Babyz Family Day Care

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Wonder what is behind the little red door? Source – via Pinterest

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – Via Pinterest

Ready to try making your own? Veronica Delamere from our Empowered Ed Community shared her tips in the group recently for creating an even surfaced spool table. This solution covers both the issue of the middle hole (that toddlers love to post all sorts of things into and it’s hard to get them back out!) and the bolts which can be quite raised on some spools making it hard to use as a level table and sometimes dangerous to little hands.

Step 1 – Cut out one square from wood with a hole cut out. 

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Step 2 – Cut out a large circle piece to fit over the top of the spool so you should now have one for the top and one for the bottom.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Step 3 – place the large circle on top of the square section with hole cut out.

This will stop the issue of bolts sticking up and the black hole that collects toys! Veronica suggests not fixing the circle in place so you can easily move the reel between indoors and outdoors.

Simple but makes such a handy little table size for children!

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Invite children to create, imagine and role play with small worlds, engaging spaces and chalkboard tables!

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

The bottom is chalkboard so the children could add their own backgrounds and scenes if they wanted to!

Source – All Round Creative Junkie

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – Les p’tits loups

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Chalkboard table creativity! Source – Samantha Thompson from Bush Babyz Family Day Care

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Same table set up two different ways to invite small world play! Source – Helen Garland from Sunflower Kids Family Day Care

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

A little road track tape, some artificial turf and you have a new resource to explore! Source – Empowered Ed Community member Melanie Hawkins

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – via Pinterest

Love all the nooks and crannies to explore in this small world! Source – Rachel Campbell from Rach’s Rascals Family Day Care.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Now that is a fairy house! Source via Pinterest

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Love the addition of the branches! Source – via Pinterest.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Simple car play space – just add cars! Source – via Pinterest

Love this train table idea from Renata over at Renata’s Family Day Care. Clever way to repurpose those old train tracks or ones with missing pieces too!

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

If you need a tutorial to help create your own chalkboard table Teach Me Mommy has the process covered step by step for you.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

With a few additions to the reel you can make a clever little bookshelf with tabletop!

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Source – via Pinterest

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Bear Hunt anyone? Would love to see the children creating their own version of this favourite story using the props and space provided. Source – Empowered Ed Community Member Julie Callaghan

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

And in use as a book area….thanks for the inspiration Julie Callaghan!

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

DIY Inspired share a very simple tutorial to create this soft stool/bookshelf.

Or perhaps you could create something similar to our Music Spool  – all you need is some tin cans from the recycle bin and a little rope! See how we made and played here.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

Ready to go searching for some spools and reels of your own now? Keep it simple or create something a little more complex – it is your choice. That’s the beauty of re-purposing and upcycling – you can turn things into what you want or need them to be for your own individual early learning service or home.

Make sure to stop by the Empowered Ed Community here and share a photo of your spool creations with us -we love new ideas and inspiration!

Create budget friendly & playful indoor/outdoor resources by upcycling and repurposing wooden spools and cable reels. Clever ideas to inspire early childhood teachers and parents.

 

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