10 Uses for Empty Cereal Boxes

By: Emilie Sennebogen & Cordelia Hamilton

Tired of boring gift bags? Try sprucing them up with cutouts from your favorite cereal boxes. Nothing says, "Cool gift enclosed" quite like Cap'n Crunch, Toucan Sam and Franken Berry can.
Tired of boring gift bags? Try sprucing them up with cutouts from your favorite cereal boxes. Nothing says, "Cool gift enclosed" quite like Cap'n Crunch, Toucan Sam and Franken Berry can.
iStockphoto/Roberto A Sanchez

A cereal box is more than just something to read while you're eating breakfast. You can use it as a foundation for many inexpensive crafts you can make at home. And, with a hungry family, you're never short on supply.

Recycling and reusing pre-produced materials is an easy way to be green. If getting your trash to the local recycling center is a bit of a hassle, you have other options for making use of that old box. Before you throw it away, consider the many crafts you can use it for. Just gather your leftover cardboard with a few other materials from around your home, and you can transform your trash into treasure, usually using well under $5 worth of materials.


Other than a box, the three most important tools you will need for these projects are a pair of scissors, a glue stick and a bottle of decoupage. But don't think that because the list of materials is short that these projects will be boring or bland. Grab some glitter pens, ribbon, wallpaper scraps and any other decorations you have handy, because this article will guide you through plenty of ways to use them.

10: Mosaic

Mosaic has been a popular art form for years. To make one usually means gluing small pieces of glass or tile to a surface, creating a colorful composition. But by no means are you limited to the usual materials when creating the look of mosaic. A selection of cut up cereal box pieces artfully arranged make a beautiful mosaic pattern. In this case, we'll be creating a frame.

You can either purchase an inexpensive frame -- remember, we'll be covering the surface with the mosaic -- or better yet, find one that you have laying around at home that hasn't been used in a while. It will be easiest to work with one that's made of unfinished wood and doesn't have any decorative ridges or markings. You'll also need your bottle of decoupage and a burnisher -- a rounded tool that will help push down the edges of your box piece -- which can be purchased at any craft or art supply store. You can also use the back of a spoon if you don't have a burnisher handy.


Now, simply start cutting small pieces in different sizes out of the different boxes. The more color variety, the more visually interesting your piece will be. Then, before you attach the pieces, lay them out arranging them so they fit together like a puzzle. For a true mosaic look, be sure to leave some space in between them so it looks like the grout area. Once it's time to attach them to the frame, simply use decoupage on the back and your burnisher or spoon to help create a firm adhesion. Next, apply three coats of decoupage over the finished product to seal it. Be sure to let each coat dry before applying the next.

You can use it as a picture frame, or put a mirror or chalkboard in it to hang on the wall.

9: Notepads

If your home is like ours, it seems like you can never find a piece of paper or a notebook when you need one. This means you can never have too many notebooks at your disposal. Making a notepad out of scrap paper and cereal box covers is an easy and fun project for the family.

For this project, you'll need your cereal boxes, paper, decoupage, a wide, thin paintbrush, two large binder clips, two paint stir sticks and an Exacto knife or paper cutter. As far as paper selection goes, you can use index cards, an existing notepad, notebook paper or plain copier paper cut to the size you want your notebook to be.


Start by cutting your paper to size and then cut two cereal box covers, one for the front and one for the back. Sandwich the paper between the two covers, making sure it's nice and even. Place the top of the notebook between the two stir sticks and attach the binder clips on the left and right so that everything is held together. This will keep the pieces in place while you apply the binding glue.

Take off one binder clip and coat the notepad with decoupage, and then replace the clip. Do the same on the other side. You'll want to do three coats total, letting them dry completely in between. Once the final coat is dry, voila! You'll now have a notebook at your disposal. You can pop one in your purse, leave one by the phone or keep a stack in your desk for later. Make some extra to give as a creative and thoughtful gift.

8. Map of the United States

If you're really creative -- and patient -- cut out puzzle pieces for some extra challenge.
If you're really creative -- and patient -- cut out puzzle pieces for some extra challenge.
Top Photo Group/Thinkstock

If you've gotten your feet wet with some of our simpler projects and you're hungry for one that's a little more complex, then get out your cereal boxes because we're going to teach you how to make a colorful map of the United States.

For this project, you'll need a sheet of poster board, lots of different kinds of cereal boxes, an Exacto knife and some decoupage. It would also help to have a real map with each state outlined for reference. And if you really want to make it look good, print out the shape of each individual state on light paper to use as a tracing tool.


Begin by picking a state and cutting the shape out with an Exacto knife. If you want to use the print out as a guide, be sure to clamp the picture to the box so you'll get a clean cut without the knife slipping. Take your time when cutting tricky angles or shapes.

It's best to work across or up and down the map, cutting out states that are next to each other to make sure you like the way they're fitting together. Use different boxes for states that are next to each other to really set them apart. Lay it all out on your poster board to make sure everything is how you want it to look before you start gluing.

Once you're ready to attach the states, again, work from left to right or top to bottom, adhering states that are next to each other. When you're finished with the 48 contiguous states, you can either cut the excess poster board away or leave it so you can frame it. Just be sure to leave room for Alaska and Hawaii.

7. Cereal Box Village

If you have a little lady who loves her dollhouse, then this is the perfect project for her. You can use leftover cereal boxes to create an old-timey town square or Main Street, complete with all the businesses that the residents of a small town needs access to.

For this project, you'll need cereal boxes, scissors, your trusty glue stick, an Exacto knife if you want to make tricky cuts and whatever markers, pens and colored papers you want to use. And of course, your imagination.


Start by cutting the backs off the cereal boxes, so they're just three sides. It will end up like a façade with the two sides to make sure it sits upright. You can leave the top intact or cut it off, depending if you want a flat roof or not. Cut out doors and windows with an Exacto knife, or draw them on with a sharpie or marker. Embellish the buildings with peaked roofs and staircases made from accordion folded box tops. Use pieces of the backs of cereal boxes to make signs for all the shops. Use more cardboard pieces to create the sidewalk and street outside.

Once the buildings are in place, then comes the fun part. You can decorate them any number of ways. Cover them in paper, color in all of the white parts with a marker, or get out your glitter pen and draw the window frames. The sky is the limit as to how you decorate your little town. Don't forget to add details that can be seen through the windows, like items on the shelves in stores, and rugs and furniture in homes.

6: Gift Bags

Paint it one solid color, or let the colors of the cereal box do the decorating for you.
Paint it one solid color, or let the colors of the cereal box do the decorating for you.

Decorative gift bags are beautiful packages for presenting a gift. Not to mention they save you on wrapping paper time and waste because they're great to save and re-gift. But nice ones may cost anywhere from $3 to $5 a piece, putting you over your gift budget. So, we'll show you how to make an easy and cute gift bag out of materials you already have at home.

For this project, you'll need a cereal box, spray adhesive, decorative paper and any crafty notions you have stashed away for projects, like buttons, sequins, ribbons and fabric trim.


Start by cutting the tops of the box with scissors. Get your paper ready and spray a side of the box with spray adhesive. Attach the paper and do this on each side, working your way around the box. Creasing it at the box edges will help it stick a little better. Once the box is covered with paper, it's time to decorate.

Use ribbon to create handles by punching two holes on each side near the top and knotting the ribbon on each side. Add a little spray adhesive to the back of some zigzag or fringed trim to outline the bag, and then decorate with buttons, sequins, stick on letters or whatever you have in your craft kit. Creating your own gift bags lets you customize it to any occasion, and your crafty creation will probably be received as well as the gift itself.

5: Magazine Holder

There's no need to shell out money for an expensive magazine holder when your Cheerios box will do the trick.
There's no need to shell out money for an expensive magazine holder when your Cheerios box will do the trick.
Amos Morgan/Photodisc/Getty Images

Loose papers covering the desk. Magazines lying open on coffee tables. Newspaper pages strewn over couches and end tables. Does this sound like your home?

Finding a place to put all of those miscellaneous papers and magazines can be tricky, and organizers can be expensive. But if you have an empty cereal box or two, there is an easy solution to this common household dilemma. With a cereal box and some decorative paper, you can construct a magazine holder that will make expensive, store-bought organizers seem dowdy.


Before you get started, you will need the following: a sturdy cereal box, a utility knife, glue and some decorative paper. Wallpaper scraps or gift wrap work great if you are looking for something with a fun pattern or design.

First, cut the top flaps away from all four sides of the open end of the box. Then, use a ruler to measure 4 inches (10 centimeters) from the bottom of the box. From this point, carefully use the knife to slice upward and away from you at a 45-degree angle to the top corner of the box. Do this for both the front and back of the box.

Now you can pull out your pretty paper and glue because it's time to decorate. To determine the amount of paper you'll need to cover the magazine holder, take the paper and wrap it around the box. Then, a simple way to attach the paper neatly is to wrap the box as if you were wrapping a gift. As you wrap, secure the paper with glue or tape. For heavier papers, such as wallpaper, tape will hold better than glue.

If you needed a magazine holder, then it's a safe bet that you have some reading materials lying around. For directions on how to make a top-notch bookmark, see the next page.

4: Bookmarks

Who wants a boring bookmark? Create bookmarks your kids will love using old cereal boxes.
Who wants a boring bookmark? Create bookmarks your kids will love using old cereal boxes.
iStockphoto/shuchun ke

A handcrafted bookmark is an easy-to-make gift for the bookworm in your life, and with a few embellishments, no one will know you made it yourself.

All you need is a cereal box, scissors, one sheet of clear plastic contact paper, a hole punch, and a small amount of yarn or ribbon.


To start, open the bottom of the box and carefully cut down one side so the box can lie flat. Use a pen or marker to trace the shape and size bookmark you want. For straight lines, try using a ruler or trace around another bookmark. Or, for something with a little more edge, cut around the silhouette of the cartoon character on a cereal box.

Then, after the bookmark has been cut out, laminate it or seal it with contact paper. The clear, plastic coat will waterproof your bookmark, making it more durable. If you don't want your bookmark to have a plain cardboard backside, cut out two bookmarks the same size and glue them back to back before applying the contact paper. Now it's time to add the tassel!

A tassel of ribbon or yarn will not only add a pinch of color to your bookmark, but it will also make the bookmark easier to find when it's tucked inside a good book. To add a tassel, use a hole punch to make a hole at the top of the bookmark. Then, take a colorful piece of ribbon or yarn and tie it through the hole.

If you run out of empty cereal boxes, don't forget about the other small cardboard boxes in your home. Tissue boxes, for example, have patterns that could make bookmarks with a more sophisticated appeal.

If you still have some cardboard left over after finishing a stellar set of bookmarks, see the next page for directions on how to make a postcard in minutes.

3: Postcards

Throwing a party and want a fun, creative invitation to send?
Throwing a party and want a fun, creative invitation to send?

The price of a postage stamp is continuing to rise, and many people are choosing e-mail over snail mail. Postcards, however, cost less to send than a letter, and sending a homemade card can be a fun and unique way to keep in touch. With help from a few household items, you can make your own postcard -- leaving only the stamp to buy.

Before you begin cutting, trace an outline to ensure that the postcard will be the proper size for mailing. The dimensions of a standard postcard are about 4 inches by 6 inches. To get the size just right, use a ruler or trace around a postcard you already have.


Once you've finished cutting, flip the card over so the side with the design is facing down. Then, draw the placeholders for the mailing address and a postage stamp, and draw a line down the center of the postcard from top to bottom.

Now, on the right half of the card, draw three horizontal lines that are spaced evenly apart (you'll want to leave enough room for writing an address). In the upper right corner of the card -- still working on the back side -- draw a square that is about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch.

Bookmarks and postcards are fun in a useful way, but how about something that really ticks? See the next page for directions on how to make a cereal box clock that really does tell time.

2: Clock

Kitchen-themed clocks can get pricey. Go for a more affordable option -- make your own using an old cereal box.
Kitchen-themed clocks can get pricey. Go for a more affordable option -- make your own using an old cereal box.

Remember the days when analog clocks ruled the classroom? This was back when digital time telling was reserved for the microwave and wristbands -- back before practically everyone owned a cell phone. As the digital era continues, analog clocks are taking on a retro vibe. And if you need a vintage-looking timepiece for your kitchen, this recycled cereal box clock may be just the ticket.

Gather the following materials:


  • cereal box
  • protractor
  • quartz clock kit (found at most craft stores) and suitable batteries
  • Velcro with adhesive backing
  • stickers (or stencils) numbered one through 12
  • scissors

Begin by arranging the numbers on your clock. To achieve the proper angles, you may want to use a protractor. Once the numbers are secured, locate the center of your clock's face and mark it with a pen - this is where you will be attaching the clock's hands.

In the place you marked, cut a small, pea-sized hole. Then, place the clock mechanism inside the cereal box. Arrange it so the rod (where you will attach the clock hands) is poking through the hole you cut.

To attach the second, minute and hour hands, follow the instructions that came with your quartz clock kit. These directions may vary depending on the type of kit you purchased.

The last step is to apply strips of Velcro to the box's top flaps. This will enable you to open and re-seal the box to change the clock's batteries and set the time as needed.

With your clock fully assembled, you can insert a battery and set the time. All that's left to do is to look for a place to hang your retro, time-telling cereal box.

Another fun way to decorate your kitchen is with personalized placemats that can be used for pets, children, plants, or arts and crafts. See the next page for directions on how to make your own.

1: Placemats

Recycled cereal boxes are ideal for making placemats.
Recycled cereal boxes are ideal for making placemats.
Image Source/Image Source/Getty Images

With this creative placemat, you'll always have something to read while you eat breakfast.

To make a placemat, you'll need two sheets of clear plastic contact paper, a cereal box, photographs and stickers. First, cut the side of your cereal box so you can lay the box flat. Then, use a pen or pencil to draw a pattern for your placemat.

To ensure that you'll be able to completely seal the edges of the placemat, draw a pattern that's 1 inch shorter in length and width than the contact paper. Then, cut out your placemat and begin decorating. Try to use decorations that lie flat, such as photographs, stickers or thin ribbon -- objects that stick up may protrude through the contact paper.

Now, with your placemat fully decorated, you can apply the contact paper. Because the placemat is larger than the bookmark we discussed earlier, it will be easier for air pockets to form as you apply the contact paper. One way to combat these pesky bubbles is to place your placemat on a flat surface and use the edge of a ruler to slowly press the contact paper down, from one side to the other, one sheet at a time.

Want to use individual-sized cereal boxes instead? No problem. With about six mini cereal boxes, you can design a placemat that resembles a patchwork quilt. Start with a piece of construction paper that's about 1 inch shorter in length and width than your contact paper. One at a time, cut off the front panels of the boxes and glue them to the paper. After all of the boxes have been glued down, cut off any excess material hanging over the edge of the construction paper. Then, carefully apply a sheet of contact paper to the front and back sides of the placemat.

After the placemat is sealed, trim off the extra contact paper, leaving a slight border around the edge of the mat. If you cut too closely to the edge of the cardboard, the contact paper will pull apart. To clean the placemat, wipe it down with a damp, soapy cloth, but don't submerge it in water. Soaking the placemat could cause water to seep in between the plastic layers.

To learn more, visit the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

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  • Cropping Corner. (Accessed 4/19/09). http://www.croppingcorner.com/search?special=search&searchtype=common&words=corner+round&search.x=0&search.y=0
  • Dinneralovestory.com. "Cereal Box Village Craft Idea." Jan. 8, 2012. http://www.dinneralovestory.com/crafts-moms-dirty-secrets
  • Fraser, Stefanie Gabrych. "Recycle a Cereal Box into a Clever Clock." Suite 101. March 22, 2009. (Accessed 4/18/09). http://crafts.suite101.com/article.cfm/make_a_clever_diy_cereal_box_clock
  • Gaulin, Pam. "Kids Crafts: Making a Cheap Homemade Placemat for a Pet." Associated Content. May 7, 2007. (Accessed 4/18/09). http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/234502/kids_crafts_making_a_cheap_homemade.html?cat=53
  • Hodges, Larky. "Crafts for You and Your Kids." Go Green Guidance. 2008. (Accessed 4/18/09). http://www.gogreenguidance.com/education.html
  • Infarrantlycreative.com. "Cereal Box Crafts: Notepads." Jan. 8, 2012. http://www.infarrantlycreative.net/2011/04/cereal-box-crafts-notepads.html
  • Infarrantlycreative.com. "Cereal Box Mosaic." Jan. 8, 2012. http://www.infarrantlycreative.net/2009/08/cereal-box-mosaic.html
  • Kaasman, Chris. "US Map Art Made From Cereal Boxes." Inhabitat.com. May 5, 2010. http://inhabitat.com/springgreening/2010/05/20/us-cereal-box-map-wall-art/
  • Keller, Rachel. "Frugal Parenting: 15 Ways to Reuse Small Boxes." Living a Better Life. 2005. (Accessed 4/18/09). http://www.betterbudgeting.com/articles/frugality/recyclecerealboxes.htm
  • Lake, Jane. "Recycling Crafts: Recycled Magazine Holders." All Free Crafts. (Accessed 4/18/09). http://www.allfreecrafts.com/recycling-crafts/magazine-holder.shtml
  • Meredith, Lee. "How to Make a Custom Clock." CraftStylish. November 29, 2008. (Accessed 4/21/09). http://www.craftstylish.com/item/13602/how-to-make-a-custom-clock
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