The summer holidays are coming … Hopefully, we’ll have some decent weather, but even so there are only so many times you can visit the park or have garden picnics before the dreaded words, “I’m bored!” echo through your house.
Crafting with your children is one way to keep them entertained and happy, and we’ve found some easy things to make out of cardboard. We’ve put together a mixture of cardboard crafts your children can make on their own, with limited supervision, and some that you can make together, for some family bonding time. We’ve also found some that you might want to make on your own, to unwind after a day of entertaining!
Why use cardboard?
One way or another, cardboard boxes will inevitably make an appearance in your home at some point: perhaps you’ve used them to move house, or have bought a household appliance, or ordered pretty much anything online. Whilst cardboard boxes can be reused once or twice, and some councils will recycle them, you can repurpose them with these easy cardboard crafts.
Easy cardboard crafts for independent play
You can give some children a cardboard box and they’ll just play with it - they’ll pretend it’s a car, or a boat, or a train etc and have a whale of a time. Other children - particularly as they get older - need a bit more guidance and some ideas on how to transform their cardboard into something they can play with or keep.
You’ll need to show them pictures of some ideas, so that they can visualise what they might create, and provide them with safety scissors, paints, felt tips and so on (and plenty of newspaper to keep things clean) but then just let them get on with it!
1. Cardboard dog house
If you have a pet dog, or if your child has a toy dog they’re particularly fond of, they could transform a cardboard box into a dog house and decorate it for their favourite pooch!
Obviously, if you have a St Bernard then a shoebox isn’t going to work, so either try to source a cardboard box big enough that your dog could fit through the door, or encourage your child to make a toy dog house. Either way, as it’s made from cardboard, this will be an indoor doghouse, as we live in Britain and there will be rain at some point.
Your child may need help to create an apex roof, or they may be happy for their dog/toy to have a flat roof and use a square cardboard box. They’ll need to make a doorway, so perhaps they could draw it and you could cut it out for them as it’s quite difficult to cut cardboard. Then your child can spend as much time as they like painting or colouring it, and add a cushion or blankets inside to make it comfortable. Make a nameplate out of a strip of cardboard and fasten it above the doorway and it’s all done!
2. Cardboard castle
This is another cardboard craft that can be made in different sizes. If you have a large box, from a washing machine perhaps, your child will have loads of fun making it into a castle for themselves. Show them how to make crenellations, and a drawbridge (cut a flap in the side of the box, attach a long piece of string on each side of the ‘door’ near the top and feed the string back through the castle walls, secured with big knots on both ends of each string) and then let them decorate it and fill it with comfy cushions and treasure!
If you don’t have a large enough cardboard box, your child could make a castle for their toys to enjoy. You could use empty loo rolls to add towers, and maybe some mini furniture for the toys to sit on.
3. Town made out of cardboard
If you have lots of cardboard boxes available, your child can use them to make their very own town. Talk about what sort of buildings they might need for a town - houses, a shop, a post office, a school, offices, a hotel etc - and let them decorate their boxes before placing them together. You could perhaps place them around a village green or park, and make playground equipment out of cardboard too. This is a longer project and you can dip in and out of it whenever they’re bored!
Cardboard craft ideas for family time
Making cardboard crafts together can be a great way to spend quality time with your child. Plan it in advance so that you have everything you need, and be prepared to be very patient - however tempting it becomes to do it all yourself!
Primary school aged children often have poor scissor skills and helping them learn to cut using scissors will help them tremendously at school. Any use of fine motor skills, such as folding paper and drawing/colouring will also be beneficial. Plus, with these cardboard craft ideas, you’ll hopefully create something fun!
4. Target practise
Again, depending on the size of the box you have, you could adapt this to pretty much any ball sport.
If you have a small box, you could make a mini golf course. Cut holes of varying sizes in different boxes, and place them around the garden: remember that even the smallest hole needs to be large enough to fit a golf ball. You and your child can then take turns to hit the golf ball through the hole - or roll it, if you don’t have toy golf clubs. If you’re inside, cut three different sized holes in a single box and mark each hole with a different point value.
Alternatively, you could cut holes in the top of a box that are large enough for any balls you have (such as plastic balls or even pompoms), and take turns to try to throw the ball into the holes - mark each hole with a different score, so that more points are won by getting the ball through the trickiest holes.
5. Cardboard scratching post and toys for cats
Build upon the bond your child has with your pet cat, or help them care for a cuddly toy cat by showing them how to make a scratching post and toys out of cardboard. Many pet shops now stock toys made from corrugated cardboard, because cats seem to love the smell and texture, so you could also save yourself a bit of money by making your own at home!
To make a scratching post, you can cut narrow rectangular strips from your cardboard box and roll it into tight coils, taping it regularly to stop it from unravelling, until you have a large circular scratching post/mat. Alternatively, fill a shoebox lid with strips of cardboard (placed with the cut edges facing upwards) and tape it together.
To make a toy for your cat, you could cut holes in the box at various heights so that your cat can crawl in, hide and then jump out at you (they love that!). Or you could cut squares of cardboard and thread a piece of thick string/cord through the centre: tie the end of the string to a stick and drag it along the floor for your cat to catch.
6. Cardboard flower press
Cut out two squares of thick cardboard (around 20cm x 20cm) and punch holes at each corner; let your child decorate one of the pieces as this will be the top of their flower press. Cut 10 pieces of thick white card or sugar paper to the same size as the cardboard and punch holes in the corners of those, too, ready to line up with the cardboard holes.
Your child can then collect flowers that they like from the garden and place them between the pieces of white card/sugar paper. Make sure the holes of the cardboard/sugar paper/white card are lined up in a neat square once your flowers are in place and make a ‘sandwich’ with the cardboard at the top and bottom, and layers of white card/sugar paper and flowers in between.
Then, squeeze the cardboard ‘sandwich’ tightly together and secure it with the split pins. You may need to place something heavy like a thick book on top, or add elastic bands to secure it tightly.
Leave the flowers for a few days and then gently remove them once they’re flat and dried. Your child can then make pictures out of their pressed flowers!
7. Cardboard stationery pot
If your child has lots of pens and felt tips, they can make a cute organiser to keep them tidy. These are easy to make - choose a cardboard box of the right size for however many pens your child has to store, and cover it in patterned paper or fabric. You can add empty loo roll tubes to separate out the different types of pens/pencils, and add smaller boxes to store paperclips etc.
8. Cardboard shoebox theatre
If your child likes making up stories or acting out little shows with their toys, this will give them hours of fun!
Cut a large rectangle out of the lid of a shoebox, lay the shoebox on its side and cut slits in the side that now forms the top edge.
Decorate the inside of the box with the theme of your child’s choice - jungle, city, arctic, pet shop etc - and make little pictures of the characters who will star in the ‘show’.
Attach the characters to wooden coffee stirrers or wooden kebab skewers (suitably blunted!) and thread these through the slits in the box. Your child can then make the characters move up and down and create a little play in this homemade theatre!
If you have time and opportunity to buy some, you could add battery-powered LED lights to act as the footlights for extra pizazz!
Easy things to make out of cardboard for adults
Here are some easy cardboard crafts that you can enjoy in any spare time you get between the children going to bed, and you falling asleep..!
9. Drawer organiser
If you love organising your home so that it’s efficient, neat and tidy, make some drawer separators out of cardboard strips.
Measure your drawers carefully and cut strips of cardboard that will fit lengthways and sideways. Cut slits to slot the pieces together in a way that gives you separate compartments of the right size for what you want to store.
For longer-lasting dividers, cover them in fabric or sticky-backed plastic before slotting them together.
10. Cardboard photo display board
These are really easy to make and are a novel way to show off your favourite photos. Simply back a piece of thick cardboard (of whatever size you choose) with fabric or patterned paper. Thread some twine across the front, and sellotape the ends to the back of the board. Use tiny wooden pegs to attach your photos to the twine, and it’s all done!
Whatever craft you choose to create, have fun and feel pleased that you’re doing your bit to reduce waste and setting a great example for your children.
If you fancy having a go at some of these creative cardboard crafts but don't have any boxes here are 8 Places to get FREE boxes!