4 Fun Ways to Use Cardboard Boxes at Your Next Party

know you’ve seen one of these before…in person. On your porch, or in your garage or basement, or on the curb to be picked up for recycling. You might even have one of these in your home right now. What is this {not-so} mysterious item??

A seemingly mundane cardboard box! Nearly everyone has them, but have you ever used one in your party decor? If not, you’re probably thinking, “Dull, brown, cardboard garbage {recycling}, with random black utility markings on it? Amanda, you’ve lost your mind. What kind of parties are you throwing?!” I hear ya! Just bear with me ;). I hope to inspire you to save a few and use at least ONE for your next party!

Before we get into four fabulous ways you can use cardboard boxes as party decor, just a quick note about what kind of boxes we’re talking about. The reality is, truly ANY size box can be used. Depending on how you want to use them, small, medium, large, or huge can serve several purposes for your party. Typically, the best kind are corrugated shipping boxes (think Amazon, UPS, USPS, etc…. any box used to ship something). You want them to be sturdy enough that they won’t quickly become flimsy.

1) Add height to your food display

If you don’t have cute little crates, cake stands, or tiered trays to use, small boxes can be great for your buffet. Adding height to your food display creates visual interest, is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and adds dimension. It’s usually something most of your guests won’t consciously notice, but their subconscious will tell them they like what they’re seeing.

NOTE: To use boxes on your buffet table, you’ll also need some fabric to cover them (a tablecloth, table runner, or really any fun fabric). Just having the boxes on your table with all their marked-up glory is definitely not appealing to the eye. And be sure your boxes are sturdy – you don’t want your food dish to come crashing down!

2) Behind-the-scenes support for a sign or large decoration

We’ve used flattened boxes as a sort of “base” or support for a paint archery target and a “Tiana’s Palace” sign that we put up on our roof.

3) Photo op and other decor

This one is probably my favorite way to use big boxes! We have used large boxes and painted them or covered them with craft paper to turn them into a cool car photo op, Rapunzel’s tower, jungle animals, Boo’s door (from Monster’s Inc.), and more. For my son’s upcoming “Abominable”/Everest party next month, we’re going to make a fur-covered Everest! (I’m super excited about it and will add a link to it when I have the photos up!)

4) Kids Play

If you have kids or have been around kids much, you probably already know how much they LOVE playing in boxes. So we’ve found fun ways to let kids just PLAY with cardboard boxes at a party. This generally works best with the five-and-under crew, but I’m sure there are ways older kids could have playing fun with boxes, too. We’ve taken boxes and painted them to make little personal “cars,” and used them just as they are to turn them into a big canoe and dragon caves! !

One of the most fun things we did that absolutely appeals to people of all ages was creating a “Hulk Smash Wall”! We got the idea from As Cute as a Bug’s Ear – they even stepped it up an extra notch by painting every box. We decided to save some time and just use them in their plain brown (and white, and printed-on) loveliness, but painting them to look like bricks is super-star level for sure! This was a lot of fun, and the kids had a great time smashing the wall and building it back up again, over and over and over and OVER :).

Smash those boxes!

You can also cut out a panel from a box and turn it into something fun – like this “dragon fire” mini-photo op we created, just by using a box cutter and some acrylic paint!

Tips for Using Cardboard Boxes

  • Use the flaps of the box, if needed, to help prop it up. Strong tape (like duct tape) is a great help with this as well – just tape the flaps in place so they are a little stronger/sturdier.
  • If you’re going to be painting your box(es), acrylic or poster paints both work great. If the color doesn’t seem to “pop” the way you want it to, you can prime it first (with a coat of white paint).
  • If you’re painting, use a few different shades of a color to add some texture, dimension, or visual interest to your artwork. (The dragon fire and jungle photo op above are good examples of this.)
  • Need a really big box? Appliance boxes, assemble-it-yourself furniture boxes, and others can be a great asset for a party! Here are some tips to get one if you don’t happen to have one:
    • Ask local friends and neighbors if they have any (the NextDoor app is a great way to do this!). Someone near you will have received a large box they haven’t gotten rid of yet.
    • Try calling a local “big box” retailer, like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, HomeDepot or Lowes, or anyone else who might receive large shipments of items. Ask if they have a large box you could have. (Be sure to give them a general idea of the dimensions or size you’re looking for.)
    • Drive around on garbage-pickup-day to see if any big boxes are out on the curb and in good condition! (That’s how we stockpiled so many boxes for the Hulk Smash wall.)
    • If you do receive something that comes in a big, oversized box, break it down (so it’s flat), then store it along the wall inside your garage, basement, attic, closet, or anywhere out of the way, just so you have it in case you end up wanting one for your next party!
  • A note about recycling boxes: if they’re painted, they generally cannot be recycled. But you can still feel good about the fact that you already helped the earth by reusing the box in the first place!

What are YOU excited to do with a cardboard box for your next party? Are there any ways to use them that we missed? Let us know in the comments, we love to hear your ideas!

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