Cloth-Clad Treasure Boxes

Upcycle your plastic clamshell containers to hold untold riches! Renewing and gluing with leftover fabric scraps helps your preschooler discover their math and recycling skills, too.


Always thoroughly wash and dry recycled containers that have previously held food.

MATERIALS - click to buy
  1. Clean plastic clamshell containers like these, in any size.
  2. Quick drying, non-toxic glue - Aleene’s glue here on works best with plastic. Adults, you can work with younger children to add glue to cloth and plastic. Or, 3 and 4-year-olds can work with small amounts of glue on their own, see optional materials below.
  3. A variety of fabric scraps - ideally with different textures and colors, such as craft felt like this example, ribbon pieces, bits of towel, shoe strings, colorful sock pieces … whatever you have lying around will do!
  4. Scissors - for adults only! Adults, we find it’s best to pre-cut the fabric into small and large pieces. If desired, cut your fabric into shapes; squares, circles and triangles, to practice shape recognition for your 3- and 4-year-olds.
  5. Optional - Small plate to hold glue. We like to use 9-inch paper plates like these for quicker clean-up.
  6. Optional - Wooden craft or Popsicle sticks found here - to spread glue onto cloth
  7. Optional - Extra design materials like toothpicks, assorted sequins and buttons.
  1. Skilly Spark #1: Here we have an empty plastic box with a lid. Can you tell me what used to be in this box? Right, it used to have the green spinach leaves we had in our salads. What shape is it? Now let's see how it opens and closes. And here are our pieces of cloth. What colors do you see? Pick one up and tell me how it feels. Does the towel scrap feel different than the felt piece? How does that ribbon piece feel? Let’s see how we can turn this empty plastic container into a special box to hold your treasures.
  2. If you're working with 2-year olds, help them add glue to their choice of fabrics. If you're working with 3 year olds and up, you can squeeze a small amount of glue into the plate, about two tablespoons. Then, show your child how to dip a popsicle stick in the glue, spread it on the fabric scrap, and then put the fabric on the clamshell. 
  3. Note that 2-year-olds will love the whole gluing process itself and may not be concerned about any particular design. Older 3’s and 4’s may want to make designs and pictures on their boxes. For this age, you can add extra design materials like toothpicks, sequins or buttons.
  4. Skilly Spark #2: To put language into action, talk about the process while your little one glues the fabric onto the clamshell. For example try: I see how you glued the red felt piece onto the box. Or, That’s an interesting shape you just glued on. What shape and color is it? How does the cloth you’re using now feel different than the one you put on first?
  5. Let your child continue to glue fabric scraps on to the top and sides of the clamshell until they are satisfied.
  6. Allow your boxes to dry for 2 hours or so, then go on a treasure hunt!
Keep the fun going
  • Re-store it! Use several cloth covered boxes to stash crayons, markers, rocks or any other small items that need a special storage spot.
  • Instead of store-bought wrapping-paper, use your cloth-clad containers as custom-made gift boxes.
  • Put your heads together! Older children, ages 3 and 4, can work together, with siblings or family members to create collaborative designs.

Inspiration/image credit goes to Laiduan uk’s photo of the RMS Rhone, a UK Royal Mail Ship wrecked off the coast of Salt Island in the British Virgin Islands on 29 October 1867.