child making craft with tissue paper


11 Clever Ways to Reuse Gift Wrap and Tissue Paper For Play

Dec 26, 2017

I love wrapping presents. From picking out the perfect paper to sticking on labels and bows, it’s a process that I genuinely enjoy — especially during the holidays. In recent years, though, I’ve found myself feeling a little bit guilty about all the waste that comes from wrapping and unwrapping gifts. Sure the paper (not the foil wrap, though!) and tissue can be recycled, but it still feels like there’s way too much ending up in my blue bin.

You'll Also Love: Pretty and Crinkly Tissue Paper Butterflies

And while I know I could choose a more eco-friendly wrapping material like a tea towel or some old newspaper, it just doesn’t have the same fun factor as watching a four-year-old tear into a perfectly wrapped, colourful and patterned surprise. So this year, I’m ditching the guilt and finding creative ways to reuse my tissue and wrapping paper instead. Here’s how:

1. Use wrapping paper in your sensory bins

What you’ll need:

  • wrapping paper
  • scissors
  • a sensory bin
  • additional materials of your choice

This sensory bin couldn’t be easier! Shred or cut wrapping paper to make the base of your sensory bin, and then mix in a few other holiday leftovers (think brightly coloured bows, some child-safe decorations and jingly bells) for little hands to explore.

2. Try some 3D tissue art

What you’ll need:

  • tissue paper in various colours
  • glue
  • a basic picture (try a simple colouring page)

Move over paint by numbers! This classic activity will have little ones “colouring” a picture using pieces of tissue paper and glue. After crumpling the tissue into balls, dab the tissue one piece at a time onto a glue-soaked sponge and then apply to the picture. Repeat the process until the entire picture has been filled with paper and enjoy the beautiful 3D effect.

3. Teach your kids origami

What you’ll need:

Older kids will love transforming pieces of wrapping paper into beautiful folded sculptures with this easy origami bird activity by Diana Smyth. 

4. Fake a stained glass window

What you’ll need:

  • Tissue paper in various colours
  • black construction paper
  • clear contact paper
  • scissors

Add a little colour to your windows with this simple stained glass art project. Create a “frame” using strips of black construction paper arranged on a sheet of sticky, clear contact paper. Next, add tissue paper “glass” by pressing pieces of tissue paper into the gaps. Once your little artist is finished, hang their creation in a sunny window.

For a fun twist on this craft, use contact paper and tissue scraps to make an easy suncatcher

5. Make decorations for next year!

What you’ll need:

  • wrapping paper
  • tape
  • scissors
  • string
  • hole punch

Get a head start on next year’s decorating by turning scraps of gift wrap into fun holiday decorations. Roll paper into cone shapes of varying sizes to make a simple set of Christmas trees, or create a festive banner or garland by attaching paper shapes to string. You can even turn leftover tissue paper into pretty mosaic tree ornaments, using this tutorial by Jackie Currie.  

6. Enjoy spring blooms all year long

What you’ll need:

  • tissue paper
  • pipe cleaners
  • scissors

Turn leftover tissue into pretty paper flowers in just a few simple steps. Start by cutting your tissue paper into rectangles (we used a DVD case as a guide), and layering five or six pieces on top of each other. Next, fold your stack of tissue pieces accordion-style. Once your paper is folded, secure in the centre with a pipe cleaner (this is your “stem”). Then begin to gently peel and separate the layers of tissue on each side, until your flower shape is revealed. Switch things up a little by cutting the ends of your folded tissue into a pointed or rounded shape to make different “petals.”

7. Create a cutting station 

What you’ll need:

  • wrapping paper
  • ribbon
  • safety scissors

Help your little one work on their scissor skills by offering up a stack of scrap wrapping paper and ribbons to cut.

8. Make a tissue paper bowl

What you’ll need:

  • tissue paper in various colours
  • a balloon
  • Mod Podge
  • a paintbrush
  • a plastic cup (with pebbles or rice for weight)
  • tape
  • scissors

Put your own spin on papier-mâché with this fun gluing activity that even your littlest crafter will enjoy. To start, tape a partially inflated balloon to the open end of a plastic cup. This will create a sturdy base for your little one to work with. Next, cut or tear tissue paper into strips or squares. Brush Mod Podge onto the top of the balloon and alternate layers of tissue paper and Mod Podge until a bowl shape has formed. Once the Mod Podge has dried, pop the balloon and remove from your bowl. You may want to trim the top of the bowl for a clean edge, or simply leave it as is.

9. Make pretty paper beads for jewelry

What you’ll need:

  • wrapping paper
  • pencil and ruler
  • scissors
  • a toothpick or wooden skewer
  • a glue stick
  • Mod Podge (optional)

Turn leftover wrapping paper into a one-of-a-kind bracelet or necklace with these DIY paper beads. Start by cutting your wrapping paper into strips, and then cutting each strip in half, diagonally. Starting with the wide end of your strip, wrap the paper once around a toothpick or wooden skewer (whichever is easiest for your kiddo to manoeuvre). Apply glue to the remaining length of the strip, and continue to roll the paper tightly around the skewer until you reach the end. Slide the paper bead off the skewer and repeat until you’ve made enough to string together for a bracelet. Tip: cut your paper strips in varying widths to make things a little more interesting!

10. Make a campfire for dramatic play

What you’ll need:

  • tissue paper (think red, orange and yellow)
  • cardboard tubes
  • a battery-operated candle
  • a piece of cardboard

Take your blanket fort to the next level with an easy DIY campfire that’s perfect for roasting imaginary s’mores or sitting around to tell spooky stories. Simply affix the cardboard tubes to a sturdy cardboard base, leaving a space in the middle for your battery-operated candle “fire.” Create “flames” by wrapping the tissue paper up and around the candle, then fit into the centre of your cardboard tube logs. Remember not to stick the candle to the tissue paper — you’ll need to be able to turn the light on and off as needed.

11. Make a holiday-themed puzzle

What you’ll need:

  • wrapping paper
  • craft sticks
  • Mod Podge or glue
  • scissors

Turn wrapping paper with a distinct design — think beloved cartoon characters or sweet holiday illustrations — into a DIY puzzle wee ones will love. Simply cut your paper into strips the width of a craft stick, and attach using Mod Podge or glue. (You may want to seal with another coat of Mod Podge for added durability.) Bonus: you can make the puzzle double-sided with another piece of leftover paper.

Article Author Alicia McAuley
Alicia McAuley

Read more from Alicia here.

Alicia McAuley is a freelance writer, editor and all-around web nerd who never met a pop culture reference she didn't like. The former editor of a parenting website, these days she shares a home office in the suburbs with her husband, two adorable boys, and two lazy cats. You can find her cracking jokes on Twitter @aliciamcauley and pinning projects for her to-do list on Pinterest.

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