new life for a melissa & doug boxMy 3 year old, N, received a Melissa & Doug Deluxe Stringing Bead set from her grandparents that came in a lovely, wooden, shallow, lidless box. Lidless, with tiny beads inside. And this is marketed to little kids. Whaaaat?

Dear Melissa & Doug: Can you please, pretty please make lids for the boxes that house your fabulous toys? Thanks!

Here’s how the problem unfolded…

My daughter unwraps the gift and peels off the top layer of plastic film…on an airplane. She happily plays with the beads, strings them up for a solid 20 minutes, and then puts the beads back into the lidless box and sets it down on the tray table. Meanwhile, my one-year old decides that this would be a good time to climb off my lap and over to her sister. And of course she has to bolt over the tray table to maneuver her crawling body toward the window seat. You can imagine what happened to all the beads. ::Sigh::

new life for a melissa & doug box

While the box was fairly useless as a storage container, it promised other possibilities as a shadow box/painting substrate. So I saved the box, and, as my mom would say, turned lemons into lemonade.

To get this started, I covered a work area with large sheets of paper, squeezed some acrylic paint on an aluminum foil covered plate (the colors were my daughter’s choice), and gave her a handful of paintbrushes to work with. There were no instructions aside from a casual question of “what could we do with these paints and this box?”

new life for a melissa & doug box

She got about this far before calling it quits. It was a good exercise in repurposing cast-off materials, color selection, paint brush manipulation, and pattern + sequence discovery. I think I’ll pull it out another day for one more pass with the paints and possibly some additional bits and bobs that she can collage to the box, and then perhaps we’ll give it another life as a piece of art on one of our walls.

So maybe I should stop complaining and thank Melissa & Doug for the cool shadow box?

Any ideas on what we could do with our box?


  1. Wow great idea! I love Doug and Mellissa toys but your right what are they thinking?

  2. I’d be inclined to make the box into an Advent calendar. I love Advent calendars.

    • This was my thought too! Advent Calendar!

    • I agree! This could make such a cute advent calendar!

      • that’s clever, louisa. i counted the boxes and it would totally work. thanks!

  3. We have many of these floating around, and I just can’t bear to get rid of them. (10 years + 3 kids = lots of Melissa & Doug toys!!) I keep thinking they’d be good hanging on the wall to house little collections, but we don’t have lots of little collections. But maybe to display some special (small) shells or stones? Or if your daughter likes those little porcelain animals? I don’t encourage Things That Need To Be Dusted in my house–my Virgo self has issues with pretty-but-useless things, I like my pretty things to be useful, too–and that’s why I still have these boxes sitting around, because they’d be good for stuff like that, if we had any. I know they must be good for SOMETHING!!

    • Amy, you are so funny. I’ve known my fair share of Virgos and I totally get what you’re talking about! My youngest is a Virgo and I already see that meticulous organizing bug in her. I’m with you on steering clear of “things that need to be dusted,” but maybe housing little pieces of nature would work. Until it got dusty, of course.

  4. Yup love the box – but yes needs an acrylic sliding lid of some kind! The beads are very pretty though!

    • Isn’t it crazy, Leeanne? Makes no sense, especially since they’ve gone the extra mile and put it in a nice wooden box. I mean, it could have been cardboard, after all.

  5. Hahahaha! Oh the serendipity of the internet! My five-year-old and I have the exact same Melissa & Doug castoff and we have had it propped up on my desk for weeks trying to decide what to do with it. We can both see it has potential for SOMETHING but we have no idea what. Maybe over the the Thanksgiving break we will just add a little of absolutely everything to it (paint, glitter, doo-dads, etc) and call it art. Although the advent calendar is a good call. I think I will bring it up and see what she thinks of it.

    • We’re in exactly the same boat. It just sat and sat until I finally threw my hands up and turned it into a simple painting project. I couldn’t come up with anything better, either. I like that you’re taking the idea to the top — curious to hear what she says…

  6. i love these boxes, but you’re so right about the lids! my N uses hers as little “homes” for tiny toy animals. we have them in different sizes (some are deeper, so they make cool little doll(animal)houses when sideways.) the one you have would make for a great shadowbox display of items you might find on nature walks… pretty sticks, stones, shells, and acorns against N’s fabulous paint job, perhaps…? i also like the advent idea!

    • so many good ideas!! thanks, jen!

    • Thanks for the link, Katie. I recently saw that post on Nurturestore, and totally didn’t make the connection.

  7. Oh, what a nice box. Does your daughter have a collection? My daughter collects things where ever we go – feathers, rocks, seed pods, interesting sticks and any other small bauble she can find on the ground. The box would be a great way to display such “collectalbes”

    • My daughter hasn’t turned out to be a collector, although she does have a prized shell collection that we keep in a glass jar. Maybe we could select a few to display. Thanks for the idea, Kerenda.

  8. That’s a beautiful box. I have a thing for boxes, and we have re-used several Melissa and Doug boxes ourselves (I hear you, no lids?!?!?). Some of them are perfect for our craft draw to store things in, but I have re-used some as photo frames too.

    I like the box you have, and I pictured it hung on the wall after it was re-vamped with different textures/papers/etc in each compartment! So many possibilities! Have fun!

    • More good ideas, Heather. If the grooves were deeper, it would be perfect as a drawer sorter. I wonder if M & D could sell more products if they shared a list of super alternate projects for the box itself.

  9. I love these boxes. My daughter put her small rock collection in here. Sometimes we put it in the backpack for when we go hiking. There is always an assortment of things that get collected along the way. I just put the whole thing in a ziplock bag or cloth sack if I can find one. It’s also been used for counting money, beads and sequins, shells, and little balls of clay. Have fun!

  10. H Rachelle,

    I am always on the lookout for boxes like this for my classroom, and I’ve found some interesting ones at second hand stores, with different concave shapes. I think they are beautiful for sorting recycled items or natural items. Sometimes, I’ll put a box like this on a table buttons, for example, and I’ll facilitate children as they sort by color or shape or size.

    I’ve also used a box like this to prompt children to make up their own games. If they are used to dice games, you can prompt with a die and ask what else they need to make a game out of the box. It may not be something with concrete rules, but it is something that gets them thinking and communicating those ideas.

    Have fun!

  11. I was curious to read through the list of suggestions. Have some of those boxes myself and share your frustrations about the lack of lids. We mostly used ours to store small Playmobil parts.

  12. Ah, Mellisa and Doug-the makers of inexpensive and lovely toys. The problem- the boxes. You could use the box as a sorting box or perhaps a shadow box for small collectible toys such as Kindersurprises?

  13. i agree, as much as i love melissa and doug toys, the non-storage, useless box does make me turn elsewhere for something fun AND practical!  i think everything should be reuseable.  and while i love art, you can only put so many art projects up at a time…  even art should be functional! picture with storage behind, etc, etc. 
    melissa & doug – WHY o WHY o WHY are there no lids?????  i just dont get it.  do you have kids of your own?????

  14. My 5 yo has been doing a series of art projects inspired by famous artists (with some guidance from a much older sister who is planning to study art in college). We are going to use some old M&D boxes to create object collages in the spirit of Joseph Cornell. If the practice run comes out nicely, the girls are planning to create on for their grandmother for Christmas, incorporating some old family photos to make it personal.

  15. I work as a therapist; we have some old Melissa and Doug stuff that does have lids. Which leads me to believe they intentionally stopped putting lids on. Some one probably pinched their fingers and sued 🙁 I never know what to do with these boxes!

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