Totem Pole from Recycled Materials


This is a great Family project. Make this fun Totem Pole from discarded plastic containers and some paint. Colorful Garden project for the whole family.

Items needed: 

  • Plastic Milk Cartons  and Coffee containers
  • * Do not use plastic soda or juice containers as the plastic is too hard to cut through to insert the pole.
  • Gesso paint
  • Acrylic paints/ brushes
  • Old broompole or PVC pipe
  • Plastic placemat ($1 from Dollar stores)
  • Sharp knife - for adult use only


  1. Rinse and dry containers and then an adult can cut an X shape in the bottom of each container you are using for your Totem. This will ensure that the containers fit snugly on your pole.
  2. Paint with Gesso. This is available at Art supply stores and Home improvement stores in the paint section. Let dry thoroughly.
  3. Paint each container a different, bright color and let dry.
  4. Decorate each piece of the totem as desired and also let theis dry completely.
  5. Cut plastic placemat into wing-type shape, as shown, and paint if needed.
  6. Cut two slits into the center of the wings, so they will slide onto the pole between two heads.
  7. Slide heads and wings onto your pole. You can secure the bottom one by twisting some wire around the pole at the bottom.
  8. Insert into ground or into a large garden container. Surround with dirt of rocks to hold Totem upright.
  9. You now have a wonderful piece of Family garden art.

**  Some Acrylic paints are actually diluted paints sold for "craft projects", we suggested using house paints, artist acrylics or spray paints that are made to adhere to plastics. 

Sharon Pierce McCullough