DIY Christmas project – How to upcycle old toys into decorations

For me, Christmas always evokes a feeling of nostalgia so I've raided my childhood toybox to decorate my Christmas tree with retro toys. Here's how to upcycle any small plastic animals or metal cars to create festive decorations for your tree...

For me, Christmas always evokes that feeling of nostalgia so I decided to upcycle the toys of my childhood toybox to decorate my Christmas tree. Red, white and silver are a classic colour combination, but you can pick jewel tones or even neon brights to coordinate with your festive décor. Create a North Pole scene with stags, seals, polar bears and penguins, or give exotic animals a snowy makeover.

You don’t have to raid the kids’ toy box to make this project – I picked up old plastic animal toys and die-cast metal vehicles from charity shops to upcycle. You could stick with one ‘set’ of toys to create a theme for your decorations – how about using planes, trains and cars for a travel theme? Or you could upcycle some plastic dinosaurs of varying sizes to create a pre-historic Christmas tree for the kids.

Here’s how to upcycle any kid of toys to create retro Christmas decorations for your tree.


  • Small eyelet screws
  • Drill with a small drill bit to match the eyelet screws
  • Bendable wire or paperclips
  • Fine sandpaper or sanding block
  • Small paintbrush
  • Metallic spray paint in silver
  • Matt white spray paint
  • Cherry red gloss spray paint
  • Silver marker pen
  • Coloured thread or ribbon


Using a small drill bit that matches the size of the eyelet screws, carefully pilot drill a hole in the toy. Choose a point where you can hang the decoration; somewhere on the back or head of the animal or the top of a car or truck.


Carefully twist the eyelet screws into the pilot hole. Screw it all the way into the toy until all of the threaded part is inside.


Bend a small piece of wire (or use Christmas tree hanging hooks) to loop through the eyelet screw and hang the toy over a pole or broom handle in preparation for painting.


Spray paint the toys with a fine coat of metallic silver paint. Once one side is covered, turn the toys around to spray back the backs. Be sure to cover the tops and bottoms too.


When the paint is touch-dry, give the toys a second coat of the metallic spray paint to make sure that all surfaces are completely covered.


Spray paint some of the toys with a top coat of red paint, again making sure to coat the toy from all angles. Hang them up to dry.


Once the red paint is completely dry, use a fine sandpaper to rub away some of the red layer to reveal the metallic silver underneath. This effect looks great on small vehicles or on textured surfaces.


Spray paint some of the toys completely white or use the spray paint to give animals a light dusting of ‘snow’ over their backs, leaving a sparkling silver underside.


When the white paint is dry you can use a silver marker pen to draw dots onto the animals’ backs, or to decorate red toys with a silver star pattern.

Another technique for decorating the toys is to spatter them with paint. I dipped a small paintbrush into white paint and flicked it at the silver horses and zebras to create a snowy, dappled design on their backs.


Thread metallic cord, striped string or red yarn through the eyelet screws to create a loop to hang the toys on your Christmas Tree.

Let me know if you have a go at upycling some toys to use as Christmas decorations, I’d love to hear what type of toys you used so please leave me a comment below. And it would be great to see your creations, so feel free to tag me in your photos on Instagram @cassiefairy too!


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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in Lifestyle Promotion Studies and is trained in Personal Money Management. She loves to ‘get the look for less’ so regularly shares thrifty-living advice, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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