So, I kind of lucked out. My kid has small feet that grow slowly. As in, her shoes tend to last an entire school year, which is awesome. I also have managed to keep my “OMG! So cute! Must have!” shoe impulse-buying in check, so she tends to have a fairly small collection of shoes. Nevertheless, our annual-ish shoe replacement party results in a stack of empty boxes. Add to that the regular replacement of running shoes that my husband and I do, and we’re left looking at our box tower and wondering what in the world to do with all those shoe boxes. True, we could just recycle them, but what’s the fun in that? (Plus reusing is always a better option than simply recycling.) And with only five days of summer break under our belt, my daughter and I are both ready for school to start again. Arts and crafts to the rescue! Here are some fun things to do with empty shoe boxes!
Toy Storage: I know it sounds boring, but this is my personal favorite! I’d been using empty shoe boxes to corral my daughter’s collections for a while (Disney MagiClip Princesses, cars, Star Wars action figures) and they work really, really well! In an effort to spruce up the house, I decided to cover them with Duck Tape. The result is totally genius, if I do say so myself! You could also use pretty wrapping or scrapbook paper, or even fabric. Pro tip: If you do go the Duck Tape route, avoid the glitter tape; it doesn’t stick to anything. I had to glue mine on.
Guitar: This can be as simple as removing the lid and stringing a few rubber bands across the deep part of the box, or as involved as you and the kids want to make it. Check out this style (featured above), this style, or this impressive style that even talks about changing pitch on your instrument!
Computer: I don’t know about your kid, but mine loves herself a computer. At preschool,l she and her classmates loved playing office with the old keyboards and computer mice the teacher provided this year. At home, my daughter uses a little cigar-style box that we got in the mail as her computer, but I love this idea even more! I mean, seriously—it looks your child can even change the images on the screen! This looks more like a parent project where you’ll be making a toy for your child, but I think it would be totally worth the effort.
Dollhouse: Got a bunch of boxes? Make a whole dollhouse! I found an easy-to-follow tutorial, or there are also lots of useful videos like this one and this link, which has a video and written directions. Or make a little studio apartment/bungalow. Once the house is built (or prior to assembling the house—whatever is easier), your child can have tons of fun decorating the rooms with “wall paper” or paint and “flooring.” And this doesn’t have to be just a doll project—make a castle, apartment building, or villain’s lair for action figures. I see a eight-bit-style Death Star in my daughter’s future.
Garage: Oookay, Christina, you say. I’ve made a nice dollhouse (or apartment building, whatevs) and I have a billion leftover shoebox lids. Now what? Well, I say, you probably also have a billion empty toilet paper tubes, too, right? Make a double decker parking garage with ramps. Oh yes. And keep it simple like in the tutorial, or go all out and paint the lids black for asphalt before adding in painted spaces, or use a fun, bright color for the floor and use washi tape to mark spaces and aisles. Go nuts!
Mini Foosball Game: AKA table football, this is a genius idea! You can make it together and then play together. Or you could get super-excited over the “new toy” and encourage the kids to play it on their own. This is a no judgement zone, folks. Using quick-drying paint or even markers, this could be a fun make-and-take favor or game-themed party; you could also prepare kits with the necessary materials and send them home as favors for kids to decorate with their own families! I’m sure their parents will totally love you for that.
Monster: Why would you want a monster, you ask? Why not, I reply. Touché, you say. But if that’s not a good enough reason, how about making a monster to eat your kid’s worries? Take some DIY inspiration from these totally adorable Worry Eaters and give your child a place to share their worries. With some major life transitions in store, this is something I think my family could use. Helping to bring the monster to life can make it even more meaningful and personal to your child. And we’re talking kids here, so let’s also talk about learning through play. In addition to all the fine motor skills involved in the actual craft, your child can practice their writing and spelling skills when they record their worries before feeding them to their monster. And just for fun (there’s no tutorial and it’s a bit creepy) check out this link to an awesome shoe box craft inspired by Harry Potter’s Monster Book of Monsters.
Plant Maze: I saw a really neat photo of a shoe box maze, but the link to the tutorial was dead, so I Googled “shoe box maze” and a ton of versions of this amazing science experiment popped up instead! How lucky! This is a really fun way to teach about phototropism (the orientation of plants toward—or away from—light). And you’ll get to see results fairly quickly, which is nice.
Marble Maze: What—you didn’t think I’d just leave you hanging did you?! Check out this tutorial for making a marble maze out of a shoe box lid. You can use the bottom of the box, too; the walls will just be deeper. I also came across instructions that used popsicle sticks in place of straws, which could be useful if you have a small bouncy ball rather than marbles.
What other great ideas do you have for repurposing old shoe boxes? Share your wisdom in the comments!