Turn your Christmas decorations into fun things to do with your kids

Christmas is over and the house is undoubtedly full to the brim of wrapping paper, boxes and all kinds of festive trimmings. Before you head for the recycling bin, try your hand at some of our crafty ideas to use up your paper leftovers. STACIA BRIGGS has fun with cardboard boxes, tubes and wrapping paper.

Christmas is over and the house is undoubtedly full to the brim of wrapping paper, boxes and all kinds of festive trimmings. Before you head for the recycling bin, try your hand at some of our crafty ideas to use up your paper leftovers. STACIA BRIGGS has fun with cardboard boxes, tubes and wrapping paper.

It used to be said that children preferred playing with the cardboard boxes their toys came in more than the toys themselves (I have to admit, this never happened in my house…). Cardboard can be recycled, but before you fold it ready for the recycling bin, why not have some fun with your boxes?

Five things to make out of a cardboard box:

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1) Robot costume. This can be as elaborate or as simple as you like – and all you need is a box large enough for your child to get into and a pair of scissors. Cut the bottom flaps off the box and tape the top flaps shut, cutting a large hole to fit your child's head and two holes in the sides of the box for your child's arms. If you want to create a flash robot, you can also make feet out of two smaller boxes by cut-ting a holes in the top of each box. Decorate the boxes, either with silver paint or leftover wrapping pa-per for a festive robot. Add any dials, lights or switches with a black marker pen or glued-on bottle lids. Wear during repeats of the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

2) Vehicles. The sky's the limit when it comes to designing your own vehicle, whether you add a cone of cardboard to the front and some fins at the back to make a spaceship or wheels to make a car. Think twice before taking your car out in the snow – there won't be rust, but there will be disintegration.

3) Photo or picture frames. Win brownie points with grandma by presenting her thank-you letter in a frame of its own. Write your note and then cut a frame for it out of cardboard, making sure that it's larger than the picture. Cut out a window for the frame and then decorate to your heart's content. I once received a frame covered in dried pasta from my children – I put it on the wall and every so often a piece would fall to the ground and be eaten by a cat.

4) Cat home. Keep your cat so comfy it won't eat your pasta picture frame by making it a palace from a cardboard box. Cut off the top flaps and then cut a cat-sized hole in one side of the box. Place it upside-down on the floor over the top of a soft blanket. You can even tape a piece of fabric over the 'door' for added privacy.

5) Castle or fort. This is best if you have a huge box, like the ones that refridgerators come in (although it's unlikely you'll have given anyone a fridge for Christmas…) but can also work with larger boxes that presents come in. Cut windows from the box, add other boxes to make turrets, make towers from the tubes which sweets come in and then decorate.

If you've got a large family – or you're a generous soul – it's likely that you'll have lots of old wrapping paper tubes hanging around the house. Before they end up as recycling, think about how you can use them.

Five things to make from wrapping paper tubes:

1) Bracelets. As the responsible adult (yes, you) you'll need to cut the cardboard tube into equal-sized pieces ready for decorating. If the tube isn't big enough, cut it so that you can wrap the bracelet round the wrist. Decorate with fabric, pens, sequins and whatever else catches your eye. You can make napkin rings in the same way.

2) Make a rain shaker. It's unlikely you'll want to summon the rain – we'll probably have enough of that without supernatural intervention – but rain shakers are fun to make and provide your would-be mini or-chestra with a simple instrument. Simply tape up one end of your tube, fill it with a handful of small len-tils or dry beans and then tape up the other end. Decorate and shake.

3) New Year crackers. Yes, you will need to make your own 'cracking' sound effects, but it's a small price to pay for having a homemade cracker to pull apart on New Year's Eve. Cut equal segments of tube, cover in paper and tie ribbon to secure. Add a little toy or sweet inside and your own jokes (and old Christmas cracker hats if you have them) and you've got a cracking gift for children.

4) Desk tidy. Use lengths of cardboard tube to make a desk organiser by placing them inside an old tissue box. Cut each length around 1cm longer than you wish it to be and then make lots of cuts up to the 1cm line so that you can fold out a series of tabs to glue to the bottom of the tissue box. You can fit around 15 lengths in a box (I know, I've tried). Decorate with paint or pens after you've finished and then store all your markers, glue, scissors, pencils and crayons in the tubes.

5) Fire starters. If you have an open fire, or know someone that does, make these fire starters to add to the log basket. Fill empty rolls, cut to lengths which will fit in the fire grate, with dried leaves, bits of wrap-ping paper or newspaper and then wrap in a sheet of newspaper, twisting the ends of the paper for easy lighting.

Some wrapping paper can't be recycled because it's embossed with designs. Regardless, you don't need to throw away every scrap when there are plenty of ways to reuse it.

Five things to make from old wrapping paper:

1) Necklace beads. Cut the paper into long triangle shapes about 12 inches long and with a base of around half an inch. Wrap the base of the paper round a knitting needle or skewer and roll up as if you were making a miniature croissant, keeping the paper centred. Once rolled, out a dab of glue on the point and glue to create a bead. Repeat until you have enough beads for a necklace or bracelet.

2) Draw. If you have large pieces of wrapping paper, roll them up and keep them for a rainy day and then give them to the children to draw on.

3) Get organised for next Christmas. Yes, I know, it's only just over. But how smug will you feel next year if you have a stash of ready-made-by-children Christmas cards? Let your children cut out patterns from the paper or make snowflakes from the Christmas paper and glue to card.

4) Reuse. If you've been clever, you'll have opened presents carefully and can reuse your paper. It's not stingy, it's GREEN.

5) Recycled paper wreath. Roll up leftover paper and cut through the roll to create long strips around an inch wide. Repeat lots and lots of times until you have a pile of long strips of paper. Bend an old coathanger into a circle and fasten – you can leave the hook on for hanging. Take each strip and twist it in the centre, leaving an equal amount of paper strip each side. Repeat until the wire is covered and you have a wreath for next year. Enjoy your 'ta-da!' moment.