Reuse Cardboard Boxes Creatively

21 Ways to Recycle Boxes

There are so many ways to reuse cardboard boxes creatively. Use them as they are, cut them up, reshape them in almost any way you can think up, paint them, cover them - once you get inspired, you may never want to throw a cardboard box into a recycling bin again!

As a parent haven't you often felt you forget the expensive gifts for the kids  and just give them the box! They seem to end up playing with the cardboard box more than the toy!

Got cats? Then you already know that when you throw the family pet cats into the mix, you may find you don't have enough boxes around to keep everyone happy.

But sadly, usually we have a surplus of boxes in all sizes and most get thrown out into the recycling bin - which is good, but not as good as if you reuse those boxes creatively so they are re-purposed.

Adults everywhere are discovering that the ordinary box has tons of value and there are many ways to reuse boxes creatively, That's great! Since cardboard (and other) boxes offer a wealth of possibilities and not only as imaginative toys.

Here are some fun and practical ways to reuse cardboard boxes.

The Humble Box

Reuse Cardboard Boxes Creatively for Kids

1. Building blocks

Small boxes can add up.  Close them so that there are no open sides, decorate them with contact paper, wrapping paper, glitter, paint, etc. and let the little kids use them for building and stacking. They're fun just like that but you could also decorate them so they can be used to teach colors or write numbers or ABC’s on them like small wooden blocks, too. Use anything from jelly powder boxes to large cereal boxes and to large cardboard containers.

Small children especially enjoy these building blocks because they are so lightweight and being larger they are easier for little hands. Of course, the sky's the limit - big boxes can make great building blocks, too. If the box is really large, it can be a play building itself! Break out the markers, paints, and construction paper and decorate your playhouse.

2. Car or airplane

With a few simple modifications, a cardboard box can make a fun toy car or plane for a child to sit in. Cut wings out of the box's top and attach them to the sides, then let your young pilot paint and decorate his airplane with inexpensive paper cut-outs or colored tapes like electricians tape to add stripes.

A car is a simple innovation, too, and you can get as creative as you'd like by adding wheels, a top, a steering wheel, etc. As with the airplane, let your child decorate her car. 

3. Make-Your-Own Jigsaw Puzzles

You can make flat or 3-D puzzles from cardboard boxes. The puzzles you buy in the store are, in fact, cardboard. Look online for patterns and you can cut all sorts of shapes that fit together. Paint and decorate your cardboard before cutting it up, and use a sharp craft knife, scissors or a box cutter to cut out the shapes.

You can use either cereal box cardboard or the bigger boxes.

Get more instructions here.

Get more templates here.

4. Crafts

There are entire books dedicated to the re-use of cardboard boxes. Check your local library for some great craft ideas to reuse cardboard boxes creatively. You'll find ideas of things to make for anything from rockets to hair barrettes to toy animals to Christmas tree ornaments.

Cut them in a wreath shape to use as a backing for seasonal wall and door decorations.  Cutting them up into large letters so you can make-your-own Happy Birthday banners. Make sure you cut extras of some letters so you have enough for everyone in your family. Use the large letters to create names for bedroom doors or walls.

Check us out on Pinterest, too. Look at our Crafts and Re-Use, Recycle Boards for some ideas.

5. Magic Light Cave

Make a Magic Light Cave with a large box and a string of Christmas LED Twinkle lights. Poke holes in the top of a large box, like a moving size box,  (big enough for your child to  get into or at least lie down with their head inside.

Poke lots of holes in the top just big enough to slip individual LED twinkle lights into so the bulb pokes into the inside of the box.

Throw in a blanket and a pillow, turn on the LED light string, turn off the room lights and you have a Magic Light Cave.

Just a suggestion: if you have more children than The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe or just want a bigger space for the whole family, why not use a large piece of flat cardboard, poke the holes, insert the lights, etc...but set it resting on two chairs so there is more space underneath for everyone. Drape blankets around the chairs leaving only the top open where you will place the light board.

I feel some story telling coming on!

You can find instructions and videos online, too.

Reuse Cardboard Boxes Creatively in the Garden

6. Compost

Cut up your cardboard boxes and toss it on your compost pile. Worms love to get under cardboard and happy worms are what make good compost.

7. Plant pots

Use small tetra boxes for starting seedlings. Cut the tops off, clean well, fill with your potting soil and plant seeds. Larger tetra boxes can handle larger plants.
You can stand many together in a larger box or container. This makes watering plants easier.

Line a larger cut down box with a heavy plastic bag, fill with soil and you have an even bigger planter. For longer term, with no leakage, you may want to use 2 bags, but you often cut the top half of the bag off and use it _ or pieces of an old shower curtain to add extra layers. Just make sure they come up the side high enough. If you can leave enough to fold down over the sides so you can tape it to the bottom your box will be weatherproof, too, unharmed from watering spills or rain.

8.Garden Use

Like stacks of newspapers, cardboard crushes weeds and keeps them out. Lay them down, cover with mulch or soil. Done.
Cut out pieces the right size for a kneeling pad, stack them, tie, tape or glue them together, cover with heavy plastic if you want, and you have a very handy kneeling pad that will have a little give, too.

Ever get tired when you are out working in your large garden and need a place to sit down? Cut up sturdy boxes to make pieces of the same size, stack them, tie or tape together, creating a handle and you have a small stool you can take with you into the garden for an instant seat. Make it waterproof so you can leave it out by covering it with a heavy duty plastic bag.

Or just use it on your patio for a side table.

Probably wouldn’t risk standing on it though!

Use tips #14 and #22 to make a garden tote for tools or packs of seeds and your bottle of water.

Reuse Cardboard Boxes Creatively For Pets

9. Cat Scratching posts.

Why buy them when you can make them in a flash by cutting out the shapes you want and gluing them together in a stack. Tie small stacks together to make cat chase-and-play toys, too! I hear some purrs coming!

10. Animal bed

Cats especially love cardboard boxes for napping - put one in the middle of the floor and see how little time it takes for a kitty to curl up inside it. Make it official by covering the cardboard box with non-toxic paint or contact paper, and putting a folded towel or other padding inside. This would be a good dog bed, too, if your dog is not a chewer.

Reuse Cardboard Boxes Creatively For Decor

11. Photos

Photos, especially those printed on a home printer, sometimes need some reinforcement in the form of a sturdy backing. If you are going to frame a photo, paste it to a piece of a cardboard box and cut it out. Or, cut out the side of a cardboard box to make a flat rectangle, and paste printed photos on it to make a collage.

Find instructions here

12. Magazine Holders, Desk Accessories, Totes

Cut the sides down in an angle, just like the shape of magazine or file holders you see in the stores. Cover with pretty paper and you’ll have container that will tidy up your magazine collections in no time. Coordinate the colors with your home office or family room for beautiful accent pieces that will add to your décor.

A quick search online will give you lots of ideas and instructions of how to reuse cardboard boxes creatively to turn a box into the perfect item you need.

I love the ideas for covering the boxes - look for boxes covered with fabric, twigs and rope.

13. Canvas for painting

Turn them into a canvas for painting pictures on. I love this idea. Lightweight, costs next to nothing and perfect for artists of all ages.

See how Alma makes a cardboard canvas here.

14. Make a Night Light or a Lamp

How To Make a Cardboard Box Night Light - DIY Home Tutorial - Guidecentral
and How To Make a Simple Beautiful Cardboard Lamp - DIY Home Tutorial - Guidecentral

I found instructions on YouTube or just design your own.

15. Make furniture

There a so many ways to re-use sturdy cardboard to make furniture – anything from stools and almost-instant coffee tables – to elaborate pieces like this Diy cardboard corner furniture, a corner cabinet with hinged doors and glass windows that you can find on Isa's World on YouTube.

Want magic for your little girls? Make sure you look at her Cartoon Furniture.

Reuse Cardboard Boxes Creatively in Kitchens

16. Freezing food

Clean larger sizes of tetra pack boxes, fill with water up to an inch of the top (leave room for water expansion as it freezes) tape the flip top closed and freeze upright. Use these to keep your freezer full so it runs more efficiently. In case of power outages, the extra ice blocks will help to keep food in the freezer frozen longer.

Or, if you are absolutely sure you have cleaned the inside perfectly, refill using a funnel with your own homemade juice or soup or broth and freeze. You can also cut the tops off the boxes, line with a freezer weight plastic bag and fill the bag with your juice, soup or broth to freeze. Once frozen you can remove the bags from the boxes and – yup! – re-use the tetra packs. Either way, the square blocks pack well in your freezer!

Not reuse cardboard boxes creatively exactly but close enough to cardboard!

Super handy!

17. Utensil holders

Tape or glue 6 or 8 small tetra boxes together, 2 wide, to make utensil holders that are perfect for your picnic table. Cover with self-sticking, washable paper, a washable cloth bandana tied round with ribbon or raffia. Even colorful printed duct tape can look attractive and be easy to clean. Or just place all the containers in a caddy just big enough to hold them in place.

18: Make a Solar Oven

That’s right! You can cook your dinner with a home made recycled cardboard box made into a Solar Cooker. How cool is that! (or hot?)

There are a lot of instructions online.

Reuse Cardboard Boxes Creatively in Photography

19. Lightbox for Photography

Many many website or blog owners need to produce quality photographs for their content. It's expensive to buy all the fancy lights and set-ups that you need and most work-at-homers don't have room for a separate photography studio. Instead, like you, they make do and try to come up with creative substitutions.

Reuse cardboard boxes creatively and make your own lightbox is one way quality photos can be made in a small, less costly way.

If you are looking for ways to take quality photos that will really stand out on your blog - or you may even want to start selling your photos - I have lots of tips posted on my Pinterest Board, Food (and people) Photography

Reuse Cardboard Boxes Creatively for Moving

20. Moving. Use them as packing boxes. Small and large.

We all know – and hunt them down – that large sturdy boxes are perfect for moving house. But did you ever think to make use of small boxes, too?

To reuse cardboard boxes creatively in this case means using even small boxes from crackers or cereals to make packing personal and household items more secure. The squareness of the boxes makes it possible to fit them into larger boxes with less waste of space. Packing smaller items into a larger box, like a cereal box, means you can lift out the cereal box bringing with it many smaller items. A little less back breaking bending is always appreciated when it’s time to unpack.

Packing wrapped crystal, smaller plates, ornaments, even cutlery in these boxes makes sense but filling them with washcloths, cloth napkins, or placemats, too, means you could place those softer boxes as barriers around the outside of a large box to protect more fragile items in the middle of the box. And they will all be easier to lift out. Do the same when packing bathroom items (all first aid in one box, all make-up in another) and also corral socks, jewellery, scarves, mitts, even underwear.

21. Flatten and Store

Just one more way to make sure you can reuse cardboard boxes is to flatten them and store them away for when you need a box. Look through your collection every so often and think of what you need (ie. office storage) and then see what you have that you can transform into the perfect usable re-used object.

Reuse Cardboard Boxes Creatively

Hope you have been inspired to reuse cardboard boxes creatively and have lots of ideas of your own now, too.

If you found some good ways to reuse cardboard boxes creatively we'd love it if you would  share our page. Thanks! We sure appreciate it.

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