Upcycled Toys: Boxes with Slots

What can you do with that shoe box, tissue box, or produce box before recycling it?  Let your kids use it as a toy!

Putting cards through a slot is a favorite activity of my kids.  We simply cut a slot in a box, and use cards that we already have on hand (obsolete business cards, card games, index cards, flash cards, etc.).  You can also put frozen OJ lids through the slots.

I like to use boxes that allow my kids to get the cards and other objects out by themselves.  With the box pictured at the beginning of this post (formerly a shipping box), my kids can just dump the cards out the side.


With shoe boxes, I find that my infants and toddlers can easily take off a shoe box lid, but have trouble putting it back on by themselves (and usually end up destroying the lid).  So I reserve especially for kids the shoe boxes that have attached hinged lids, like the one pictured above.

This raisin box is fun because of the long drop, and my kids can turn it upside-down to get the cards out by themselves.  This box would make a great mailbox too, if you want to get all crafty.  I know I'm not the only one who buys organic raisins at Costco.

Empty tissue boxes make great dump and fill toys.  I like to pull off the plastic that lines the slot to make the slot a bit larger and easier for little hands to reach into.  You can put cards through the slots and shake them out when you are done.  Or fill with bigger objects, like those tiny board books.  As most parents know, kids love to take things out of tissue boxes (especially tissues).  We store lots of little toys like finger puppets in tissue boxes.  Getting the toys out of the box is often more fun than playing with the toy.

This box once contained organic heirloom tomatoes.  I bought the box for about $10 at Trader Joe's a couple of years ago.  If I had known how much fun my toddler boy would have the box, I would have paid $10 just for the box.  Without any fanfare, I simply turned the box over to him once it was empty, and he soon found the perfect use for it:  a place to deposit the small wooden letters from an alphabet puzzle.

Other small objects, like wooden ABC blocks, or the blocks from our clock puzzle, also work well.  This box is a little tricky to open and close, so I sometimes had to do that for him, or sometimes I would just close the lid only partially (without the tabs), so he could open it by himself.  With his small hands, he could also reach in the holes and get the objects back out the way they went in if he wanted to.

So the next time you are looking for a safe and eco-friendly toy for your child, check the recycling bin!

More Upcycled Toy Ideas

What is your favorite upcycled toy?

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  1. My kids always want to cut the cardboard boxes to pieces anyway--thanks for the idea to channel their destructive tendencies creatively!

  2. Love the ideas! I've been saving some of the hinged shoe boxes for school, though I think I have more than enough right now. I'm actually pulling together ideas for keeping little ones occupied at home while the big ones are at school. I'd love to add a link to your post when I talk about our "junk drawer." I'll be in touch!

  3. I'm not allowed to put any cardboard directly into the recycling; my kids scream and holler if I try :-) I do try to have some limit on the amount of reusable material I let them squirrel away for future use - they really would keep everything!!

  4. Great ideas! My kids are constantly raiding our recycle bins for boxes and other reusable items. They just made an entire city with cereal boxes this weekend. My kids are a bit older than yours so these ideas will work for years-they just evolve!


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