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Milk Jug Decorative Window Crafts

By Lindsey Boardman

We’re always looking for cheap or– better yet– free materials to craft with here, so we’ve played around with crafting all sorts of things out of those big plastic gallon milk jugs over the last couple of years. The type of plastic they are made from is pretty versatile as far as crafting goes. You can cut it easily with scissors, use hole punches on it, stick it with hot glue and best of all you can draw on it with permanent markers with great results due to it being semi-opaque and mildly textured on one side. We have two crafts here to show you. Before the kids got to doing these two crafts I had to prepare the plastic for them. All that was involved was washing out a couple of empty milk jugs like these:

Milk Jug Window Art

Milk Jug Window Art

Then I used a sturdy pair of scissors to cut out any flat side panels from the milk jug plastic. I wasn’t careful about the shapes I was cutting out. I just wanted to get as much area out of each jug as I could for them to draw on. All the left over bits just went right back in the recycling bin where the jugs had come from in the first place.

Milk Jug Window Art

If you have really little kids then you could cut them simple shapes to scribble colors on like hearts or flowers or circles etc, or even the letters of their name. My two girls are five and six years old, so they were fine to draw their own pictures and cut out their own shapes. Just make sure that you draw on the mildly textured side of the plastic (the outer side of the milk jug) as this will hold the colors better than the smooth side. The other great thing about this plastic is that it is transparent enough that you can trace pictures through it, so my two had fun tracing their favorite cartoon characters from the fronts of their books.

Milk Jug Window Art

Milk Jug Window Art

My five year old did a lovely large wild flower panel on one of the irregular shaped large side pieces that I had cut from one of the milk jugs, and my six year old made a collection of candies and treats that reminded me a lot of the illustrations from “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. Once they had drawn the things they wanted, they cut them out using kid’s safety scissors and hole punched a little hole to hang them from.

Milk Jug Window Art

We hung them in the window for the light to shine through like little stained glass decorations using teeny suction cups from the Dollar Tree.

Milk Jug Window Art

My older daughter also used paper clips to make a long dangling display from her candy treat decorations, and I couldn’t resist making a couple myself too. Fun for all ages!

Milk Jug Window Art

Milk Jug Window Art

Milk Jug Butterflies

As well as our window decorations we also made some hanging butterflies with more of the milk jug plastic and some beads and pipe cleaners. These were to hang on a mobile for our baby that has since just arrived, but you could hang them anywhere.

Milk Jug Butterflies Craft

Again, if you have younger kids, you could just cut out a butterfly shape and let them scribble their colors all over, or if you have older kids then they might prefer to draw their own butterflies or trace a more anatomically accurate butterfly to color.

Milk Jug Butterflies Craft

I have included a pdf print out of three different anatomically correct butterflies that I drew a while back for a different art project, so anyone that wants to trace one can do so.

Here’s the PDF. Just click here and download and print.

I printed out these butterflies, cut them out and taped them to another piece of paper with a piece of milk jug plastic taped over the top, with the slightly textured side face up. I did this to make everything stay in place for the kids to color.

Milk Jug Butterflies Craft

Milk Jug Butterflies Craft

Then when they were done I drew the intricate black details with a fine line permanent marker for them. Older kids would be able to do this part themselves though. Then we pulled the colored butterflies off the paper they were taped to and cut them out with scissors. We also gave them a little fold in the middle to make the wings crease upwards a bit. All you need for the body are a few random beads and a pipe cleaner that has been bent in half.

Milk Jug Butterflies Craft

Twist the bent end of the pipe cleaner and thread on a couple of the beads to one side to make the butterfly abdomen and thorax, then put your plastic milk jug wings in between the two bits of pipe cleaner and twist them together to keep the wings in place above the beaded body. Lastly you just need to thread both pipe cleaner ends through the bead that you have chosen for the head and then trim the ends to be the right length for antennae and curl them with your fingers.

Milk Jug Butterflies Craft

Milk Jug Butterflies Craft

Make as many as you like and use the bare length of pipe cleaner on the opposite side of the wings to the beaded body to tie some string and hang your butterflies.

Here are ours hanging from the mobile that we made for our latest little girly. I hope she likes them.

Milk Jug Butterflies Mobile

There are so many things you could use this type of plastic for. Hopefully these two projects will serve as inspiration for many more ideas and lots more decorative fun!


Lindsey Boardman
About the Author

Lindsey Boardman

Lindsey Boardman loves to share the messy art and crafting fun projects she concocts with the help of her two young daughters, her “filth wizards.” She documents this fun on her persona...

Lindsey Boardman loves to share the messy art and crafting fun projects she concocts with the help of her two young daughters, her “filth wizards.” She documents this fun on her personal blog Filth Wizardry.

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  • Anthony from CharismaticKid

    June 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Now this is what I call a good idea. The only other use I saw in milk jugs was adding sand to them for weight lifting!

    • Safiyyah

      March 7, 2014 at 9:52 am

      Wow this look awesome! I can’t wait to try this with my girls.

  • maryanne @ mama smiles

    June 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Lindsey has so many amazing creative ideas! I especially love these butterflies!

  • Sylvie Créative

    July 1, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Tried! Yours are so nice! Mines are OK 😉 Thanks a lot!

  • Bernadette

    July 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    THOSE ARE AWESOME!!! I love love love the use of thematerial and the way you hung them with the paper clips. Love it!

  • mama magic

    July 2, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Wow!! Beautiful …and very creative. I’ve been wondering what to do with those gallon jugs since it was a habit collecting them for my winter sowing (now a past pastime).

  • Mhairi

    July 4, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Not sure how it would go but if you cut the edge of the ilk jug and then did the butterfly the wings would be beautifully curved.
    I love this idea and so simple. What a great craft activity to do with children. Thanks for sharing.

  • Swati

    July 7, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Love the idea! You might want to use black and white for the infant though – newborns respond better to big patterns in black/white than fine coloured designs.

  • Tricia

    July 7, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    My three girls and I made these tonight. It was so quick, easy and fun! They turned out soooo cute!!! We will be making more of these I’m sure! Thank you for an unexpensive craft idea!

  • Flutter by… « Kids by hand

    July 12, 2011 at 9:05 am

    […] Lindsay from FilthWizardry posted a tutorial on how to make these out of recycled milk jugs over at alphamom. We made ours using patterned velum paper from my scrapbooking supplies and they turned out just […]

  • Sarah Forhan

    July 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I love the butterflies what a great craft idea!

  • lollipops

    July 13, 2011 at 8:52 am

    What a creative way to look at things around your household. Having a fun time with the kids is as easy as finishing a jug of milk obviously. Thanks for inspiring many to spend time with the kids,even on a budget.

  • eliane

    January 5, 2013 at 11:12 am

    muito lindo !!!!

  • Rose Souza

    January 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    lovely,  I liked it !!!!!!

  • Theresa in Kitimat

    January 25, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Your template for the butterflies is excellent. Thank you for sharing.

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  • Clara de Assis

    April 3, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Adorei, pratico.

  • Georgia B

    April 29, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Love this. I’m going to do this. Thank you for putting these on here. XX’s

  • Joyce

    May 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Thank you for the milk jug ideas. My daycare kids will love them.

  • Dawn

    May 9, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I just love the butterflies! Very creative.  

  • genevieve

    June 1, 2013 at 12:20 am

    beautiful! Must get the the students in school to do them.

  • Asha Dsouza

    June 3, 2013 at 10:09 am

    very beautiful butterfly , i love them all.. really wonderful art.. so cute…thanks for the idea…..

  • gloria nickolis

    July 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Unfortunately, the PDF file doesnt work for me! 🙁 Great idea tho.

    • Isabel


      July 2, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      it does work. i just tried it.

      For some reason, the file is taking a long time to open up. We will be working on it to try to speed up it up. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. 🙂

  • Elisa

    August 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Does the permanent marker pens colour stay on the bottles? As I create art work with plastic bottles in the UK, but nothing stays on when I want to add colour, ie glass paint, acrylic paint, stray paint, felt tips :/.

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    January 24, 2014 at 10:34 pm

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    March 1, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    These are amazing and so pretty. Love them

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  • Susan d'Heursel

    March 22, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Love these ideas. Thanks for sharing, especially the butterfly templates as this saves so much time!

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  • Rosanna

    April 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Mi piacerebbe seguire i vostri lavori ed avere delle notifiche. Grazie e nell’attesa distinti saluti.

  • Mira

    May 5, 2014 at 12:28 am

    They are beautiful, how creative! Making some butterflies with my girls soon, thank you for sharing.

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  • Katherine

    July 26, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    What would happen if you tried to bake these would it turn out like shrink plastic or would it burn up I wonder?

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  • Nicole

    April 14, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Great craft–thanks for the printouts! We made butterfly gardens by putting grass or moss in the bottom of clear containers and then putting the butterflies inside. Big hit!

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  • angee

    July 14, 2015 at 1:21 am

    Love this!! But when I go to cut them, the marker rubs off. Even after a day, the marker is coming off whenever I touch it. I tried washable and Sharpies and even pen. 🙁

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