I've got a bunch of insanely creative cardboard crafts for kids that will provide you with inspiration and ideas to spark young imaginations.
Your children will be occupied, challenged and away from those screens for hours!
And for those of us who are not so crafty, don't worry! These are easy to prep for and are guaranteed to bring laughter and fun.
You'll find these cardboard craft ideas great for rainy days, weekends and holidays 🙂
Cardboard is easy to work with, strong and comes in abundance around the house. Cardboard boxes, toilet rolls or a quick trip to Bunnings around the corner will get you up and running!
Best of all, these cardboard activities will keep the children entertained for hours without having to purchase expensive plastic or digital toys that eventually end up in landfill.
Eco-friendly and free, the best of both worlds! So let's get started!
By the way, there's a special bonus at the end!
Tools of the Cardboard Art Trade
Before we get crafting, we'll need some basic tools.
Most, if not all, of these will be readily available around the house.
However, if you need anything special you can usually pick them up for a reasonable price at Kmart or small arts and craft stores.
Basic Tools to Get You Started
- scissors (child safe ones are recommended, as well as adult supervision or help)
- masking tape and/or sticky tape
- PVA glue
- low temperature glue gun (optional, but very handy to have... and a fun too!)
- measuring tape (for the larger projects)
- pencil or marker pen
- a retractable blade utility/Stanley knife (for use by adults only! Great for cutting lengths of cardboard or cut-outs)
Other Things That Might Come in Handy
- craft paper
- streamers, ribbons
- cotton wool
- paddle pop/popsicle sticks
- old newspapers or magazines
And for the kids
- colouring pencils
- marker pens (washable, anti drying-out)
- finger paints
Tip: You can start a box of miscellaneous 'crafty' type things that the kids can dig through as little additions to their creations. Odd buttons, bottle caps, takeaway chopsticks and more!
Not All Cardboard Boxes Were Made Equal
Cardboard comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and thicknesses so the arts and craft projects we take on will need to be tailored to what we have available.
As a result, I have sorted the projects into two main categories, big and small!
The larger ones are great for outdoors, larger rooms or halls, perfect for sunny days outside or birthday parties.
The smaller ones are excellent for table-top art activities, and essential for those unexpected rainy days inside.
Let's take a look at a bunch of inspiring ideas for those larger cardboard boxes and projects!
These are great if you have access to some sizable boxes from new purchases of TVs or white goods, like fridges and washing machines.
Or, if you don't, you could try your luck at the local Bunnings where they provide boxes of all sizes (just after the counters, at the front entrance).
Alternatively, you can go to your local Good Guys or Harvey Norman. Head around the back to the delivery/pickup dock, they'll usually have a pile of large boxes waiting to be sent for recycling.
A Handy Lap Desk
Great for bringing the fun back into homework, or when they are making their little artistic masterpieces! This lap desk can be made out of most medium-sized boxes. Simply cut-out the centre to create legs on each side. This project can be mainly driven by your child, however they may need some help with the cut-out.
Tip: Tape the inside of the box to ensure the table-top remains rigid. You may also like to put clear sticky tape across the top of the table (after it is coloured-in or drawn on), to improve the longevity of the desk surface.
A Mysterious Maze
What to do when you have a ton of boxes after moving house? Make a maze by connecting them all together. The children will love crawling through these mysterious tunnels, exploring, hiding and discovering something new around each corner. You can get creative by having the maze open up into a centre 'courtyard', or attach the largest box in the centre and cut-out windows to make a castle or fort!
If you are not quite sure on how to put the maze together, here is a simple example below. A few dead end challenges and a hidden entrance to the centre courtyard or fort!
Tip: You may also like to cut flaps or holes in the ceiling of some of the tunnels. This is great for a bit of ventilation, checking up on the children or as pretend trapdoors. You can get even more value out of the maze, by giving your little one(s) some colouring pencils or markers to decorate the inside of the tunnels. This will be sure to provide endless fun and imagination!
A Magical Tree House
For little pixies or elves! You can let your children's imaginations run wild in a magical tiny world. Cut-out little doors, build in paper towel roll slides and hang coloured string or streamers as vines. If you build two, you can even connect them via a bridge! Check out the fantastic far away tree creation below from Ikatbag, along with a handy tutorial.
Tip: Use a low temperature glue gun to connect the accessories like the slides together, and to secure the tree house layers.
Tiny Town Builder Play Mat
Great for long boxes (or join several together) to create a self-contained play mat for your little one(s). They can colour-in and draw they own roads, streets, lakes and trees! Line up figurines, build Lego houses, or even create some from spare cardboard and glue. This tiny town will be sure to provide hours, if not days, of entertainment and creative play for kids. And an added bonus, is that the 'mess' is contained all within the box. No stepping over toys or Lego bits.
A Cosy Tent
A perfect way to recycle a new flat screen TV box and much more portable than using chairs and blankets. Simply cut the box in half and fold open to a triangle shape. You can even cut-out the sides and decorate with craft paper like the one below from Handmade Charlotte.
These simple cardboard craft ideas are suited for smaller sized boxes and pieces that you may have lying around the house.
Things like shoes boxes or delivery boxes from your last internet shopping spree will be awesome!
So let's get into some easy projects for those afternoons and rainy days inside.
A Sleepy Shoe Box Village
Do I hear an excuse to buy a new pair of shoes? You can create a tiny village from shoe boxes, tissue boxes and toilet paper rolls. Place a castle in the centre with cottages surrounding it, and maybe even a barn! Get your kids into the activity by asking them to draw windows, cut out trees and colour-in walls. Afterwards, they will love pretend playing with their little figurines, and over time you can add more cottages and a castle wall!
A Pretend Play Camera
This is a super simple project, but great for occupying young minds with pretend play and adventure.
Find a tissue box or small gift box from perfumes or other little trinkets. Grab yourself a toilet paper roll and trace around it in the centre of the box.
Cut-out this circle and insert the toilet paper roll through the box. Then glue on some pretend buttons out of anything circular lying around (some old bottle caps will work a treat).
Your child can decorate it as they like and go around taking pictures!
A Mystical World Under the Sea
This project is another great one for those shoes boxes or slim packing boxes. Open up the front of the box with a large rectangular cut-out, then start with the deep blue background. You can use anything from crayons and paints, to coloured cellophane and craft paper to create the background. Then, simply cut out some shapes of sea creatures like fish, sharks, crabs and turtles. These creatures can be stuck to the back wall of the aquarium or hung from string. You can enhance it by gluing different textured things to the sea life or background, like felt, scrunched up paper, cellophane or streamers. Green cotton wool or string, is great for sea weed! Not only will your kids love making it, but it will be a great one to put on their table or shelf 🙂
A Mad Hatter's Party
Great for those thinner sheets of cardboard you may have lying around, why not create some marvelous hats!? Everything from a cowboy/cowgirl and police officer, to a soldier or pirate hat can be great fun to make and decorate. If your kid(s) have read/watched Alicia in Wonderland, the mad hatters hat will also be an excellent additional. Ikatbag provides a wonderful tutorial on how to make these so they fit perfectly on your little one(s) head. You will enjoy taking those cute snaps of them afterwards 😉
A Pirate Ship to Sail the Seven Seas
Here's a fun project to bring young adventurers and their favourite figurines on an exploration across the vast oceans. You can scale this ship to whatever size cardboard you have available, or replace the felt sail with paper or thin card lying around the house. Check out the great tutorial on how to make this pirate ship at Mollymoo Crafts below.
3D Textured Art Pieces
One of the best ways to recycle scraps and off-cuts from your other cardboard box art projects, is to make some 3D art pieces by gluing the shapes together. Use a glue gun or some PVA glue to stick whatever shapes and pieces your children like to a base shape like a heart, a house, a car or an animal. They can let their imaginations and creativity run wild, bringing each of the shapes to life with texture and depth. Then once the glue is set, they can colour-in or paint the shapes as a follow-up activity!
A Special Bonus for You!
Here is a simple project that will really spark children's minds and get them creating some marvellous constructions.
Bring out the little engineer, artist or architect in them by allowing them to join simple shapes together.
You will provide them with an experience of unstructured free-play, allowing them to create and problem solve all by themselves.
This is sure to create endless hours of fun, great as little mementos for the shelf afterwards, or simply deconstruct and start again!
Cardboard Building Shapes
Just follow the steps below:
1) Cut-out various square, rectangle, triangle and circle shapes.
2) Cut some shallow triangular slots in the sides of these shapes. Tip: don't make the slots too wide otherwise the pieces will not press fit together well.
3) Show your child how to press fit them together and away they go. This will enhance their fine motor skills and strength, along with they problem solving abilities.
Bonus Tip: Give them a simple lesson in engineering by teaching them about how a triangle is one of the strongest shapes in construction. That's how we build those amazing bridges, and next time you're out, they can spot the construction shapes in real life!
Wrapping It All Up
I hope you found these clever recycled cardboard crafts excellent for entertaining, challenging and sparking children's minds!
The possibilities are endless with some simple cardboard and household items, keeping the kids occupied with screen-free play, and hopefully offering your some precious moments to yourself.
You can come back to these projects, tweak them and re-invent them for countless weekends, birthday parties and holidays, all the while, nurturing creativity in young minds.
The other great thing is that by recycling and re-purposing things around the house, we are reducing the amount of new plastic toys, saving you money and preventing them from going to landfill it the future.
Now It's Your Turn
Time to get the kids crafting cardboard!
Let me know how you went with the craft projects.
I'd love to hear how you re-invented the activities!
Or maybe you have a question about one of the activities?
Either way, let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
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