Arts & Crafts

9 Things to Do With a Cardboard Box

By: Mary Sears
A child dressed in a cardboard box like a robot.
Ages 3+
Critical Thinking
Fine Motor Skills

Got a few cardboard boxes taking up space in your garage or attic? Give them a second chance, as cars or other toys for your children.

A humble cardboard box packs a world of possibilities. Try these DIY ideas to boost creativity and clear the clutter.

1. Build a watercraft

Choose a box with a boat-ish vibe—anything large enough for your child to sit in. Paint it gray or white, or skip that and just scribble numbers on the side. Invite kids to name their ship. Tether it to the sofa or table to keep it from drifting. Let little ones ”Request permission to come aboard,” and teach them the following saying: “Star light, star bright—starboard is on the right.”

2. Construct a theater

Remove one side of a large square box. Cut a rectangular shape on the opposite side of the box to create a stage for your actors. Set the theater on a table. Paint the exterior a snappy red, or cover it with colored paper. Add fabric swatches for curtains. Use flashlights for lighting. No puppets? No problem. Recruit stuffed animals for the leading parts.

3. Craft a dollhouse—or apartments

Assemble several medium-size cardboard boxes and tape them together. Cut out doors and windows, or draw them with markers. (Or repurpose an empty wine box with cardboard dividers and shave minutes off the project!) Then decorate the units. Try gauze pads for rugs and magazine pictures for wall decor. Fashion a sofa out of an eraser, and stack pennies as seats. Add a paper-towel-tube chimney. Open a rental office to attract tenants.

4. Invent an arcade game

Line up boxes of various sizes in a large open space in your garage or playroom. Assign a point value to each box, and label the boxes accordingly. Hand out self-closing plastic bags filled with beans—these are for tossing. Keep score. Go for a simple layout first, and then boost the challenge in round two by rearranging the boxes.

5. Engineer a robot

Stack two large boxes, one on top of the other, and fasten them together with duct tape. Rustle up smaller cardboard boxes for the robot’s appendages and head. Provide markers, pudding boxes, aluminum foil, chenille sticks, table-tennis balls, and small, clean paper cups so your kids can customize their project.

6. Design wall art

Grab a medium-size rectangular box for your child to show off his favorite possessions. Decorate the outside of the box with stickers, wrapping paper, or colored paper—or slather on bright acrylic paint, inside and out. Help him assemble and secure his collectibles with glue or sticky putty so he can display his treasures in an artful way. 

7. Gussy up a goal

Use two large, same-size cardboard boxes, both open at one end, to set up a soccer field in a clutter-free yard, garage, or playroom. Paint or decorate the boxes in opposing team colors. Use a soccer ball outside; make a ball from dad’s socks to play indoors.

8. Assemble a wriggle-through tunnel

Gather three or more kid-size cardboard boxes. Open the flaps at both ends of all the boxes. Attach the boxes to one another with duct tape, creating a long, skinny tunnel to wriggle through. Cut air holes in the top of each box for safety. Want to kick the project up a notch? Run time trials to see how fast everyone can get through the tunnel.

9. Make a mailbox

Grab a short, squat box, or a tall, slender one, and cut a small slot at the top. Paint the box red, white, and blue, or decorate it with stickers. Use it to send each other reminders and cheerful messages. Check the mail daily.

Author Photo
By: Mary Sears

Mary Sears writes about homes, gardens, and families. She and her husband have one daughter.