Reuse Your Boxes: Creative Upcycling Projects Mean Two Gifts in One


If it’s the thought that counts in gift-giving, get ready to think twice. You have the opportunity to reuse boxes and transform them into gifts in and of themselves. The internet is full of DIY cardboard projects made from reused boxes, including our sports trio (dartboard, toboggan and beanbag toss) and cardboard doghouse.

Giving paper packaging a second life with upcycling ideas isn’t just for customers with boxes flooding their living rooms, though. Various companies and packaging engineers have attempted it as well, guiding their customers to transform their boxes into lamps, virtual reality headsets, PC cases and—dating from 1933—a toy truck. There’s even a subgenre of pizza boxes turning into everything from movie projectors to breakfast-in-bed trays. Major retailers are giving it a whirl too, whether that’s through printing a vehicle design on the box so kids can “drive” it or securing a patent for a box that can be transformed into toys like a rocket ship or a suit of “armor.”

In truth, though, cardboard doesn’t need to be gussied up to be a gift for a child, as anyone who’s seen toddlers entertain themselves with a box can attest. Giving unadorned cardboard to a child is one way to reuse boxes while encouraging what’s known as open-ended play, meaning that it’s a toy that allows children to make creative choices.

Building blocks, paper and colored pencils or crayons, and play silks all fall within the category of open-ended play toys—as do boxes. In fact, Let Grow, an organization dedicated to helping children develop independence, suggests stocking play areas with cardboard boxes to help stoke free play.

So whether you have found a box designed to transform into a new creation, are giving a box some DIY love to make it an entirely new gift, or are letting your gift recipient determine the box’s future, know that a box’s life doesn’t stop once you’ve emptied it. In fact, depending on how creative you want to get as you reuse boxes, it could be just the beginning.