Yup, you read that right. An empty cardboard box is a great gift for a toddler!
Not joking here. Pediatricians have been putting this at the top of their go-to gift list for years. I mean, think about it. When a two-year old opens a box, how often is she more interested in the box? You are right if you said most of the time. There's paper, ribbons, sometimes even bubble wrap. What more could they want?!
I will disagree on how long this trick can stretch, though. The report covered here suggests up to age five - I say good luck. When my daughter was three, or maybe she was four, I tried to replicate the magic of the gift of nothing and she didn't exactly go for it. So then I stashed a new pair of underpants in a separate box and "gifted" those to her. She opened the box and did a double take. Then she asked me, sweetly but with a subtle smirk foreshadowing her future teen years, "Did you just give me underwear?"
Yes, yes I did. And we laughed so hard that every year since, at least one holiday present has been a box with underpants.