Entertaining for Less: A Party Out of a Box


I’ve tossed a couple parties in the direction of my backyard from grilled gourmet, hanging out and birthdays, but none were quite so successful, or quite so affordable, as my no-reason-at-all box party. I entertained for a good hour and a half having only purchased some packing tape.

In my happy green world, there are few things more enticing than throwing a party on the premise of recycling. It’s that comfort of sitting inside a cardboard box as a kid that inspired it, the closeness, the multipurposeness, the in-and-out-ablility. It’s the joy of opening a gift with yet another empty box, and the joy of coming home finding an order had been delivered. The box-love doesn’t go away, and I embraced it.

The dream was refrigerator boxes and other large sturdy sorts added side by side with doors cut and secret passages, but none of the appliance stores in town kept their boxes whole, thanks to mass-recycling programs. Everything gets squished into cubes. After the rains and I canceled that first attempt, I started keeping my eyes open for more ideas. When I finally got around, two years later, to having a growing cardboard structure in my back yard, it was as good as I imagined: towers, drawbridges with intricately engineered latches, a miniature dungeon, a dog house. The time inside surrounded by giggling was just like childhood. Then it was time for dinner and we all grew up and went home to eat.

To throw your own nostalgic box party, for the child in all your adult friends, here are a few starter ideas.

  • Address invitations on paperboard cereal or soda boxes. Request guests bring tape or boxes of significant size. Be sure to invite children old and young. Cost: Free, recycled.
  • Prepare by calling furniture and electronics stores for large boxes, and arm yourself with some box cutters for doors and windows. Cost: phone calls plus $5 for cutters
  • Cut slabs of cardboard from smaller boxes for serving trays. Graham crackers and boxed drinks are some good novelty snacks (For fancier shin-digs, call in a pot luck). Cost: $15 for snacks and drinks
  • Schedule a cardboard pickup from your recycling company shortly after the day of your party. Cost: maybe $3 for an extra pickup
  • Prepare bottles of water-based biodegradable paints, like tempera, to decorate the structure. Buy primary colors and blend your own. Cost: $20 for pre-mixed bottles
  • Incite competition — have teams with separate structures, as supplies allow.
  • Keep first aid close by for cardboard paper cuts. Cost: $5
  • Make cardboard cutouts of your guests to prop up in and around your structure. Offer some old t-shirts and shorts or skirts for the cutouts to wear. Curled paper could be used for hair.
  • Build a siege machine (pdf) in miniature for destroying the structure at the end of the day with water balloons or pumpkins, for the destructive side of our inner child. Cost: depends on your improvisational skills. You may decide to just aim a hose.

Image courtesy of alykat

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2 Responses to Entertaining for Less: A Party Out of a Box

  1. Gail says:

    I remember as a child having access to those big cardboard boxes and the great fantasy lives that we lived in them. 50 years ago kids knew how to play!

  2. Kristian says:

    Old boxes are a strange thing. When you need them their value is immense, they are indespensable even. But when you have used them and need only to store them they seem a burden.

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