7 ways you can entertain your kid with nothing but a few pieces of cardboard

Updated Jun 19 2017
A cardboard and aluminum foil robot? Love. Photo by jimjarmo, used under Creative Commons license.

Cardboard is kind of the greatest toy-you-might-not-realize-is-a-toy EVER: there are endless possibilities! It's so easy to come by! I can almost promise you that at least one grocery store in your town or city has a few boxes just LYING around, waiting for a family to come along and swoop up to turn into beautiful creations. You can also craft your own cardboard furniture if you ever get a hankering… the stuff is practically magic!

Here are a few of my favorite kid-friendly things to create with cardboard:

Cardboard House OR Tea Party!

Photos via Ikat Bag.

Ikat Bag has two stellar ideas: build a cardboard house or have a tea party! These houses are super easy to build (plus you can go so far with it — why stop at one house when you could build a CARDBOARD CITY?) and the tea cup is PERFECT for a party or an afternoon spent pretending. And by perfect I mean The Best Ever.

Make a ramp!

ramp
Photos by Stephanie Kaloi.

My husband and I recently bought a new mattress, and when we were finished with the boxes our kid asked if he could have them. They became coloring grounds and, most interestingly, a ramp many a vehicle and Duplo box traveled down. This is the easiest thing in the world — all we had to do was flip the piece of cardboard over and dude played with the ramp for an hour.

Cardboard pizza!

Photos by Filth Wizardry.

You could buy wooden toy food OR you could make your own pizza out of CARDBOARD! Both are awesome ideas, but only one both encourages your kids to pretend AND create at the same time.

Cardboard rocket!

Photos by Cindy.

Dudes. All you need to build your own cardboard rocket is two pieces of cardboard, one pair of scissors, and packing tape — that's IT. You may want to use a crayon or two to draw lines so you know where to cut, but the entire process will take you 20-30 minutes tops. You'll be left with a perfect kid-sized rocket for your budding astronaut and his or her world will be rocked.

DIY Cardboard box plane!

Photos by Mini Mocha and Momma's Kinda Crafty.

Of course the DIY cardboard box plane is similar to the rocket above with one noticeable difference: your kid can actually SIT DOWN in the plane of his or her own creation. You can also get super fancy with it and turn the plane into a car for a whole drive-in movie experience!

So there we have my seven favorite cardboard creations for kids. What are yours?

  1. As a kid, my favorite cardboard box activities were putting a big piece of cardboard on a hillside to slide down, or putting several large or long boxes together to make tunnels to crawl through.

  2. okay, you got some of the projects on ikat bag, but seriously she has the most AMAZING collection of cardboard toys/projects. just check out her "cardboard tutorials" button on the left sidebar: dollhouses (with working lights and elevator!), toy grocery stands, suitcases, chicken coop, bunny hutch, food, stoplights, costume accessories (swords, shields, hats, etc), SO MANY THINGS. cardboard is pure possibility. =)

  3. Make a tv! My mom made us 'tv sets' that we could fit over our heads and we'd pretend we were newscasters. We thought it was awesome.

    • Amen to that! Boxes were sometimes more exciting than the contents. My sister and I made a whole village for Barbies out of every box we could find. Took up half the basement.

  4. When I was a kid my mum worked at a supermarket on Saturdays and we always looked forward to her coming home because there was a high probability she'd bring cake (which was discounted/free because it reached it's sell by date) or huge cardboard boxes, which were amazing because we could do so much with them.

    Only problem with this system was dad was much more willing to let us do messy/crazy/impractical things with them so sometimes we had to save some cardboard for the next Saturday while mum wasn't home. But that's ok because one of the great things about cardboard is it's re-useable. The wall of a house can become a ramp or the nose of a spaceship or really thick papier-mâché.

    My only regret is that we never did finish making our own Thunderbirds Island following the Blue Peter tutorial. Something I think every kid in the UK at the time attempted (except my annoying friend who got the real one for Christmas) and almost no one achieved.

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