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Playful Cardboard DIY Ideas

Favorite cardboard DIY ideas to keep children busy and entertained. Some kids can do alone and some for adults or older kids to help build.

DIY cardboard box ideas

DIY Cardboard Inspiration for Families

I LOVE cardboard! Today I’m sharing our DIY cardboard creations in hopes that they will inspire you to get creative with cardboard.

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Super Simple DIY Cardboard Projects

These DIY cardboard projects take under five minutes to put together, but they provide hours of child entertainment!

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Babies LOVE cardboard boxes! I love how many hours of play you can get simply by placing a baby in a cardboard box.

Johnny's airplane, made from a cardboard box

Kids love cardboard boxes just like babies, and they especially appreciate the opportunity to turn them into whatever they want! This one is a cardboard airplane, but my kids have also made many cardboard cars over the years.

cardboard box train

Line a few boxes along the floor for an instant cardboard train!

Painting sheets of cardboard outside

Cardboard boxes make fantastic big art canvases! I especially love using them outdoors in the summertime, but we have also painted cardboard indoors.

simple cardboard toy teeter totter

Explore the laws of physics with this simple cardboard teeter totter.

animal habitat

Cardboard boxes make fantastic tunnels for simple floor play setups like this one.

Intermediate Cardboard Projects

These projects are still very easy, but they require a little bit of planning, and parental supervision if children are doing the making.

simple cardboard play house

I turned nearly every cereal box into this simple cardboard house when my children were small. They would walk their counting bears in and out, over and over.

painting the house

This cardboard play house is a little larger and offers roof access. It’s also a great example of how cardboard crafts lend themselves perfectly to both pretend play AND art!

kid-designed cardboard robot at mamasmiles.com

Give children creative challenges as they get better at working with cardboard! I love this cardboard robot that my oldest daughter created when she was 7 years old.

emma with her cardboard box washer/dryer

Cardboard washer dryers are fun and easy to make for kids! I’ve made this particular cardboard craft for my children over and over. It’s one they remember and ask to have made again every couple of years.

Fancy Cardboard Projects

These cardboard projects are much more involved. They take quite a bit of time to put together (and parental supervision if kids are doing the making). They are also toys that children will play with for hours after the project is finished.

cardboard pretend store for kids to play

This DIY Cardboard play shop created by my 10-year-old son is actually my all-time favorite cardboard creation! It’s a great example of how, by playing with cardboard, kids learn how to make pretty sophisticated projects.

Homemade cardboard laptop

My brother made this cardboard laptop for my son’s fourth birthday. Eight years later, it’s still seeing play time! Cardboard can make a serious toy!

space shuttle from a cardboard box

A battery-operated string of LED lights really brings this cardboard space shuttle to life. I loved watching my three oldest children cram into it for all sorts of space adventures when they were small.

doll car seat

This cardboard doll car seat one is really only advanced because it can be tricky to cut open a salt box. But it’s a favorite from my own childhood, and I couldn’t resist including it here.

More Cardboard Inspiration

Here are a few cardboard crafting books you can use for further inspiration:

  • Box! Castles, Kitchens, and Other Cardboard Creations for Kids is full of fun ideas that parents can make for their children out of cardboard.
  • Cardboard Creations: Open-Ended Exploration with Recycled Materials. These are child-led projects and will be most interesting to families with young children.
  • I recommend the Big Book of Building for parents looking to try building with cardboard together with their children. The projects are doable by a motivated older child or teen, but I think they make excellent parent child collaborations.
  • Written for a 9-14-year-old audience, Cardboard Box Engineering features more sophisticated projects.
  • Cardboard Box Creations from Lonely Planet offers a range of projects. Some are simple ones for parents or caregivers to create for young children. Others are more complicated and would work well as tween or teen projects or parent child collaborations.
  • Cardboard Furniture is written for adults. Children will enjoy looking through the photos, and motivated teenagers could definitely tackle the projects.
  • The fiber arts centered Cardboard Loom Weaving shows you how to use cardboard boxes to make your own looms. The book then gives you a range of projects you can make with these cardboard looms.

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MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

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