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Don't throw it out! How to reuse gift wrapping paper, boxes, cards, and more in your child's play

December 21, 2020

It’s the holiday season, and for many people, that means gift-giving! 

When you’re giving and receiving gifts, you can end up with a lot of extra packaging. Bags, boxes, cards, bows, and tissue paper all add to the excitement of opening a present, but what happens to them afterwards? Well, it turns out they can be just as fun as the gifts they come with! Read on to find out how to reuse gift wrap in your child’s play. 

For babies who love to explore, 

reuse gift bags and tissue paper. 

Toys and tissue paper in gift bags for a sensory play activity.

Gift bags and tissue paper both make unique sounds when crinkled and crumpled, making them a great addition to your baby’s sensory play time.  

Babies can crumple, rip, and crawl over the tissue paper to explore the different sounds and textures. This activity helps to strengthen the large muscles they will need to walk or run and the small muscles they will need to hold a pencil or tie their shoes.

They will also love to see what happens when they put tissue paper in the bag and dump it out again. Add toys or household objects to this activity so they can hide and find them! This will help babies to develop object permanence–to understand that objects still exist even when they can’t see them.

To learn about how sensory play helps your child learn and find more sensory play ideas, check out our article on Easy Sensory Play Ideas for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers. Or, find more Play Ideas for Your Baby on the Move!

For children who love to play dress-up, 

repurpose tinsel and bows. 

Stuffed animals wearing bows and tinsel to play dress up.

There are so many beautiful, shiny items to reuse around the holidays! Tinsel and bows are a fun addition to dress-up and add a unique texture for children to explore. Tinsel garland can be used as a scarf or bracelet, while bows make great “hats” (put them on your head!) or “shoes” (put them on your toes!). Add tape so your child can practice sticking and unsticking the bows and tinsel to different surfaces.

For toddlers and preschoolers who love to imagine, 

reuse gift wrap, boxes, and packaging. 

Two preschool aged children play inside a large cardboard box.

Toddlers and preschoolers love to use pretend play to act out situations they see in their lives. Packaging from the holidays provides plenty of opportunities for pretend play! 

Boxes make great open-ended toys, meaning they can become anything you imagine! Here are some of the ways you can incorporate boxes in your child’s play time

Gift wrap items like wrapping paper, gift bags, and tissue paper are also great for pretend play. Add these to your child’s play area and see what they come up with—for instance, wrapping up their toys or crafts and “gifting” them to you to enjoy the holidays all over again! 

For children who love to create, 

upcycle wrapping paper and greeting cards. 

Cards, wrapping paper, and tissue paper sit on a table with scissors and glue. These can be reused as craft materials.

Wrapping paper, crumpled tissue paper, and greeting cards are a perfect addition to your child’s arts and crafts materials! These items can be used in collages, sculptures, 3D art, and more.

Cutting up paper, boxes, and tissue paper helps your child develop their skills with scissors while strengthening their small muscles and hand-eye coordination. Exploring new materials in their art allows your child to focus on the creative process! As they create, they are learning literacy skills, problem solving, and science concepts. Learn more about How Art Helps Children Learn

Not sure what to do with your child’s artwork when they’re finished? We’ve put together some ideas here.

For children who love to build,

recycle packing peanuts.

Packing peanuts, toothpicks, popsicle sticks and water for child's building activity

Have you received a delivery lately? You might have packing peanuts at home! Packing peanuts make the perfect building material because they are so versatile. 

Use objects like toothpicks, popsicle sticks, and pipecleaners to build with your packing peanuts. Learn more about the benefits of building structures other ways to adapt this activity!

Many packing peanuts are now biodegradable, which means they will dissolve in water! If you have biodegradable packing peanuts, you can add a bowl of water to your building materials. Children can dip the peanuts in water then stick them together, or try dissolving them completely! 

For more play ideas using the objects around your home, check out our article on Activities for Every Week!

For children who love to experiment,

make a game using wrapping paper tubes.

Reusing gift wrapping paper rolls and toys for child's science activity

Did you know you can reuse gift wrap tubes for fun activities? Children can roll marbles, balls, or small toys through these tubes and watch them come out the other side.

Try experimenting to see what sizes fit into the tube and how to make the dropped objects go faster or slower! Here are some more ways to experiment with your wrapping paper tubes:

  • Fill a bin with small toys and objects, such as: balls, spoons, cars and buttons. Which ones fit into the tube? Which ones go fast or slow?
  • Tape tubes at different angles using a flat surface, a short chair down to the floor, and a tall chair down to the floor.
  • Place different containers at the bottom of the tube for the dropped items to fall into and see what sounds they make. How does a marble sound when you roll it through the tube into a bin? A bowl? A pillow?
Reusing gift wrapping paper rolls and toys for child's science activity with risky play

Add a risky play element by standing on a step stool to drop the toys down the tube. Learn more about the benefits of risky play and how to support your child’s risky play!

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