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Cardboard Boxes as Kid Activities -- Keeping Them Busy!

cardboard-box

Boxes--They might have contained furniture or large appliances before, but now they contain imagination!

I know that when I was a kid, it was a great delight when my folks came home with a large appliance or something else that required a large box. My folks might have enjoyed whatever came in the box, but my sister and I would put the box through a workout. That box would become a spaceship or a submarine or an airplane ... or a playhouse, a fort, or a castle.

So, if it's a miserable rainy or bad-weather day or your kids are stuck at home with the sniffles, how do you keep the boredom from getting to them (and to keep them from causing you to lose your mind)? Maybe a good selection of boxes will give them something to exercise their creativity and craftsmanship.

Chances are good that you could go out into your garage and find a cardboard box or two (or three). But if that's not an option, you can always run over to the UPS Store or a Public Storage place and pick up some nice large boxes and moving boxes.

Maybe pick up a few markers (the wash-off water-color versions are great for the younger kiddos), some packing tape (masking tape or duct tape also works), and bring those boxes home and you can get started.

Use a little imagination (even better, let the kids use their own imagination--to get it started, read them a story --or let them read on their own--about spaceships, submarines, trains, ships, trucks, forts, and castles), and supervise with the assembly and cutting (for the younger kids, you'll have to cut the "portholes", "doors", "windows", "peepholes" and other openings and constructions yourself).

The sky is the limit with how far you can go with the project.


Those long boring days stuck in a house during bad weather can be much better with a collection of cardboard boxes!

Flat, Pristine, Cardboard....Full of Possibilities for Wild Imaginations!

Flat, Pristine, Cardboard....Full of Possibilities for Wild Imaginations!

Flat, Pristine, Cardboard....Full of Possibilities for Wild Imaginations!

Empty box on a drive-way, ready for new adventures!

Empty box on a drive-way, ready for new adventures!

Empty box on a drive-way, ready for new adventures!

Cardboard boxes, flattened, ready for repurposing!

Cardboard boxes, flattened, ready for repurposing!

What a cardboard box can become...

Sheets of flat cardboard can be used as "building sheets" and cardboard tubes can be used for supports. Sides of large cardboard boxes can be cut off to be used for the large "building sheets". But the cardboard boxes themselves can be used for play structures. For little kids, an unaltered box is sufficient to keep them busy for hours.

When I see an empty box -- especially the big ones -- I think of all the possibilities. A spaceship? A submarine? A party house? A limousine? A bus? An airplane? -- So many possibilities. And what's cool is that lately I've been seeing empty boxes everywhere! (And it's particularly cool that I have a small pickup truck--perfect way to haul excess cardboard!).

When I was in Colorado visiting my sister and her family, she and I were heading back from the store when we spied an empty air-conditioner box on a driveway. We asked if we could have the box--and the folks at the home said, "Of course." It was lucky that my sister was driving a station wagon--we folded the seats down and managed to get the box into the car--the box could be a fun playhouse for our 5-year old granddaughter and the neighbor kids!

Some boxes ready for new purposes! Just give the kids a chance .... and get out of the way!

Some boxes ready for new purposes!  Just give the kids a chance .... and get out of the way!

Some boxes ready for new purposes! Just give the kids a chance .... and get out of the way!

All About Boxes!

Although you can probably come up with a bunch of spur-of-the-moment ideas for what you want to make out of your box, the references and products below can help you with ideas on how to perfect the effect and to keep those idea juices flowing.

Get a few or all now so you can have 'em ready when you need to make a new creation!

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The Flat Panels of Cardboard Boxes Provide Plenty of Room for Artwork!

The Flat Panels of Cardboard Boxes Provide Plenty of Room for Artwork!

The Flat Panels of Cardboard Boxes Provide Plenty of Room for Artwork!

Sometimes the Flat Boxes Don't Want to Stay Upright - This One Is Supported by a PVC Pipe Frame!

Sometimes the Flat Boxes Don't Want to Stay Upright - This One Is Supported by a PVC Pipe Frame!

Sometimes the Flat Boxes Don't Want to Stay Upright - This One Is Supported by a PVC Pipe Frame!

Small Cardboard "White House", with Painted Garden and Landscaping

Small Cardboard "White House", with Painted Garden and Landscaping

Small Cardboard "White House", with Painted Garden and Landscaping

Small Cardboard "White House", Another View

Small Cardboard "White House", Another View

Small Cardboard "White House", Another View

Cardboard Sailboat... Complete with Anchor (Cardboard, of Course) and Sail!

Cardboard Sailboat... Complete with Anchor (Cardboard, of Course) and Sail!

Cardboard Sailboat... Complete with Anchor (Cardboard, of Course) and Sail!

Cardboard Castle Tower in Process of Being Set Up

Cardboard Castle Tower in Process of Being Set Up

Cardboard Castle Tower in Process of Being Set Up

Cardboard Castle, with Visitors Checking Out the Drawbridge Entrance

Cardboard Castle, with Visitors Checking Out the Drawbridge Entrance

Cardboard Castle, with Visitors Checking Out the Drawbridge Entrance

Cardboard Log Cabin, View One

Cardboard Log Cabin, View One

Cardboard Log Cabin, View One

Interior Shot of Cardboard Log Cabin

Interior Shot of Cardboard Log Cabin

Interior Shot of Cardboard Log Cabin

Close-up of Cardboard Log Cabin's Walls

Close-up of Cardboard Log Cabin's Walls

Close-up of Cardboard Log Cabin's Walls

Cardboard Camouflaged Limo or Hummer or Some Other Form of Transportation

Cardboard Camouflaged Limo or Hummer or Some Other Form of Transportation

Cardboard Camouflaged Limo or Hummer or Some Other Form of Transportation

Cardboard Army Tank, Complete with Cardboard Turret

Cardboard Army Tank, Complete with Cardboard Turret

Cardboard Army Tank, Complete with Cardboard Turret

Giving the collection of cardboard boxes the 'lab-test'. Hmmmm. What to create out of this?

Giving the collection of cardboard boxes the 'lab-test'. Hmmmm. What to create out of this?

Giving the collection of cardboard boxes the 'lab-test'. Hmmmm. What to create out of this?

Popping out like a 'jack-in-the-box'? Cardboard box ideas are starting to come around.

Popping out like a 'jack-in-the-box'? Cardboard box ideas are starting to come around.

Popping out like a 'jack-in-the-box'? Cardboard box ideas are starting to come around.

Cardboard House with Roof Tiles Made of Painted Cardboard Egg Flats

Cardboard House with Roof Tiles Made of Painted Cardboard Egg Flats

Cardboard House with Roof Tiles Made of Painted Cardboard Egg Flats

Using a fluorescent light to create a 'reading nook' from a cardboard box.

Using a fluorescent light to create a 'reading nook' from a cardboard box.

Using a fluorescent light to create a 'reading nook' from a cardboard box.

Cardboard box 'mini-tunnel'? Maybe we could make a maze like in the hamster cage?

Cardboard box 'mini-tunnel'? Maybe we could make a maze like in the hamster cage?

Cardboard box 'mini-tunnel'? Maybe we could make a maze like in the hamster cage?

Turning a cardboard box in the living room into a 'formula-one race car'.

Turning a cardboard box in the living room into a 'formula-one race car'.

Turning a cardboard box in the living room into a 'formula-one race car'.

Checking out the windows and decorations of an outside yard tiki hut.

Checking out the windows and decorations of an outside yard tiki hut.

Checking out the windows and decorations of an outside yard tiki hut.

Getting a view from one of the rooms of a cardboard 'tiki hut'.

Getting a view from one of the rooms of a cardboard 'tiki hut'.

Getting a view from one of the rooms of a cardboard 'tiki hut'.

Enjoying a cool tropical drink -- pineapple and mango juice -- on the 'front porch' of a cardboard tiki-hut.

Enjoying a cool tropical drink -- pineapple and mango juice -- on the 'front porch' of a cardboard tiki-hut.

Enjoying a cool tropical drink -- pineapple and mango juice -- on the 'front porch' of a cardboard tiki-hut.

And Yes, You Can Make *Costumes* (Halloween or Otherwise) With Cardboard Boxes! - Cardboard panels and boxes provide handy rigid material for costumes of all so

Cardboard shark costume -- taking a break

Cardboard shark costume -- taking a break

It takes a bit of planning and "design" (working with small boxes to figure out how to cut things to make the costume look right... but once you've got the plan down, you can create a great costume! Robots, Shrimp or Lobster, Medieval Knight Suit of Armor, Computer, Airplane, Sailboat, ... these all make for interesting costumes... ideas, anyone?

You can also create your own cardboard cutout stand-up posters from cardboard panels if you have the patience. Just get a photo or image you'd like to have large, print it on a large-format printer (like that used for banners), or just print the image out in sections that fit your printer and then assemble them into the completed large-sized image. Then paste these assembled sections over the cardboard "standup" cutout.

Cardboard Shark "Costume" Worn by Costume Party Goer...

Cardboard Shark "Costume" Worn by Costume Party Goer...

Cardboard Shark "Costume" Worn by Costume Party Goer...

Well, the Shrimp Costume is Made of Cardboard. There Was More of it Until it Rained...

Well, the Shrimp Costume is Made of Cardboard. There Was More of it Until it Rained...

Well, the Shrimp Costume is Made of Cardboard. There Was More of it Until it Rained...

Okay, you've got a cardboard box (or a bunch of them!) - So what would you like to create with them?

Ah, where to start? Gather up the duck-tape, the markers, the paints, the things you'll use to cut (SAFELY please!) port-holes, windows, doors, and other necessary openings or "trimming". Ah wait... decide what you want to make first! Then, you can more wisely choose the types of accessory materials you'll be needing!

Copyright and Attribution Notice

NOTE: All photographic images in this website, with exception of those obviously in the Amazon, eBay, YouTube, and similar sections, were shot on my own camera by me and are thus mine. Likewise, the narrative is original and based on my experiences. Your mileage may vary.

© 2008 David Gardner

See that Little Box below? Well.... Say Something in the BOX!

izabella-wollbrandt on March 21, 2014:

Great inspiration for our kinda!

Lee Hansen from Vermont on March 20, 2014:

We recently created a cardboard box pirate ship complete with mast and sails ... never run out of ideas to be creative with cardboard boxes in our home.

Amy Trumpeter from Oxford on March 08, 2014:

Amazing! We used to love making dens out of cardboard boxes as kids!

M. Victor Kilgore on February 11, 2014:

I loved cardboard boxes and imagination when I was knee high to a short duck...and I love seeing that creativity in my kids. fun lens

injuryatty on October 17, 2013:

Make's me think, what can i do with a piece of box. It reminds me about my childhood!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on September 24, 2013:

I loved using cardboard boxes to create things when I was a child and all 3 of my boys did too when they were children. That log cabin looks amazing and now I want to try making that one. What a fun lens!

janey126 on September 10, 2013:

Wow what a great info and lensjust awesome!

PhilVardy on May 04, 2013:

Awesome lens, Dave. I hugely support the use of cardboard.... definitely supports my frugalism, my anti-commercialism, and my environmentalism! Thanks for sharing!

rihamah lm on April 17, 2013:

nice creative ideas for the kids, I love them all

Heidi Vincent from GRENADA on April 16, 2013:

Very interesting and unusual cardboard box lens! Who knew cardboard boxes were so much fun.

miaponzo on April 16, 2013:

I LOVE cardboard boxes and when I was a kid I made houses and forts with them!

hmommers on April 16, 2013:

Creativity is the best tool we have :)

stephen downing on April 16, 2013:

Great minds think alike! Kiddies like cardboard boxes better than sliced bread. or at least the crusts!.

Great lens! Thank you.

Jogalog on April 15, 2013:

We're moving house soon and me and my little girl are going to have lots of fun with the boxes when we unpack. I love all the ideas - some obvious like a house but some I'd never thought of like a racing car.

CatJGB on April 15, 2013:

My boys love playing with boxes, I have so many photos of them in different boxes, they're just a hoot. The last few large ones were turned into a minecraft house.

RustyDoodle on April 15, 2013:

Cardboard boxes are really a wonderful play thing for kids! It is really a shame that parents lately make use of technology like computer tablets to keep kids occupied. Bring imagination back!

Stuwaha on April 04, 2013:

These are all amazing ideas, I especially like the log cabin! :)

Aristo on February 19, 2013:

Great Lens! good ideas for different boxes

applejacking on December 26, 2012:

Thanks for interesting article here. optimize unused things into useful one is great way to support the go green project.

Miha Gasper from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU on August 02, 2012:

A kid can have more fun with an empty box than his father with an iPhone from that same box. Just sayin'

stevel58 on July 17, 2012:

Many a happy hour spent in my space ship (cardboard box).

Great lens thanks.

tslizzy on June 15, 2012:

love the ideas. they are great

ViJuvenate on April 11, 2012:

I'd love to give a child a stack of brand now boxes in various shapes, just to let those creative juices flow. :o)

anonymous on April 07, 2012:

I built the Starship Enterprise from a Pizza Box and Paper Towel Rolls!!!

justDawn1 on March 28, 2012:

Have made several Halloween costumes from a cardboard box....A robot. Dice. Train. Race Car. Washing Machine.To name a few :)

imaginemdd lm on March 14, 2012:

Good ideas for kids, very creative. Nice lens, amazing what can be put together.

anonymous on January 30, 2012:

very creative

writerkath on January 25, 2012:

I am so pleased to see people still encouraging that amazing creativity for children! There's NOTHING like a box to spark the thinking. A blank canvas! I can't even imagine that someone would prefer a yucky plastic toy house over making their "dream house" with a box. Excellent lens! I hope thousands of parents find this and use it! Hugs and blessings! :) Kath

mimthemom on January 24, 2012:

I absolutely love this lens!!!! Great job!!!!

CherryTriggerCola on January 23, 2012:

Great article1 Thanks for sharing.

Bob Zau on January 20, 2012:

Great lens, very creative ideas.

Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on January 18, 2012:

Cardboard boxes are in my opinion probably most popular toy for kids all over the world. They are great tool for sharpening their imagination. Thumbs up!

LoKackl on January 18, 2012:

Cardboard boxes as educational toys! Why not?!

NPC123 on January 16, 2012:

Love it! My daughter is a big box enthusiast...houses mainly, and cars! Thanks for a great Lense!

anonymous on January 13, 2012:

online shopping for a gift right now, really enjoyed your ideas here, thank you.

cristianlikessq on December 21, 2011:

Intuitive. Well written. Great lens!

SteveKaye on December 20, 2011:

The best toys are the toys that kids make for themselves. Instead of chasing all over town to find the perfect gift, we should just give our children a box.

NickyT LM on December 20, 2011:

I fondly remember having some of my most fun days as a child making "forts" out of cardboard appliance boxes. Great lens - thanks for the memories!

JoleneBelmain on December 17, 2011:

Cardboard boxes sure are amazing toys.... forget what's in the packaging (when kids are concerned anyway).

Close2Art LM on October 02, 2011:

It's funny we've got one now in the middle of our living room, been there for three days now, it's about time the box gets moved into his room...lol

jaredsgirl on August 28, 2011:

What a fabulous lens! I love the puctures. Thanks for sharing.

J-Stanley on August 28, 2011:

This lens is hilarious. I absolutely love some of the designs... Keep up the good work..

hessa johnson on August 26, 2011:

I used a washing machine box for a playhouse when I was younger. Love this!

hessa johnson on August 26, 2011:

I used a washing machine box for a playhouse when I was younger. Love this!

goo2eyes lm on August 20, 2011:

The kids' imaginations are very pregnant. never thought about this idea. however, we had a flea market today and i used the boxes as cabinets for books to make them stand. the books are nicely arranged like in the library.

WorldVisionary on June 06, 2011:

Such creative ideas for kids - thanks for putting this lens together! Angel blessings to you!

FunkyJewelleryUK on May 18, 2011:

Absolutely brilliant lens! So creative! :)

RMKK-Marlene on April 18, 2011:

What a great lens. If only more parents would realize how simple it is to help their children release their creativity. Lots of fun for less. Don't forget the pots and pans. :)

And by the way I know what you mean about misspellings. I saw a billboard over the weekend that said "If Your Looking, it's Working".

Shannon from Florida on April 10, 2011:

What great ideas! Thank you for sharing them! My kids will ove trying some of these out.

glowchick on April 01, 2011:

Love this lens~ so many great ideas, thanks for sharing :)

tealmermaid on February 07, 2011:

Really creative ideas here. I'm going to have to use some next time we have a big empty box.

deyanis from Oz on January 26, 2011:

Very creative ideas, great lens. It will definitely stimulate kids' brains and encourage them to be more creative. --- Blessed ---

MargoPArrowsmith on January 21, 2011:

This is what kids need, more of this today

mivvy on January 16, 2011:

Cats also like boxes. Great lens!

ScottE LM on January 15, 2011:

A great source for free boxes are Costco or grocery stores. Great lens.

JodiVee on January 15, 2011:

Why bother with boxes when you have the outdoors? Just kidding, boxes of the cardboard variety are great :)

(JobVirtue.com)

anonymous on January 14, 2011:

Very creative and eco-friendly cardboard boxes to keep the children busy.

Jhangora LM on January 14, 2011:

Really creative use of cardboard boxes. It rains a lot in myhometown, infact it's raining right now too - but ya during dry months I can give this a try, and make some interesting stuff for my nephew.

Amy Fricano from WNY on January 14, 2011:

Card Board forever. Better than most toys. Great lens.

JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on January 14, 2011:

Hey, Dave ~ congratulations on making a top 100 lens! This is one of my favorite lenses of yours. It deserves high ranking. =D

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on January 14, 2011:

These are great fun and free ideas for kids. You can make a play kitchen (stove, fridge, etc) from cardboard boxes too. I have some links in my Play Kitchens for Kids.

JanieceTobey on January 14, 2011:

I loved playing with cardboard boxes as a child, and my children loved them as they were growing up too! Blessed by a Squid Angel and featured on my Squid Angel Blessings lens!

Carolan Ross from St. Louis, MO on January 10, 2011:

VERY creative ideas, love these. I did some of this when my sons were small, we once built several structures right in our front yard for a neighborhood Halloween party, I SO wish now that I'd taken photos, we 'painted' them with pieces of colored tissue paper and watered-down glue, the colors combined and made a very unual effect. But my favorites were the costumes made from boxes like fire trucks and trains...I do have photos of those, somewhere...

darciefrench lm on January 01, 2011:

Post-Christmas I imagine there are tons of great cardboard boxes to make things for kids to play with. We make cardboard box towns for our puppies to play in (and shred) when we have them. Great lens idea.

hotbrain from Tacoma, WA on December 06, 2010:

Great ideas for kids! Lots of fun. Angel blessed :)

Liz Mackay from United Kingdom on December 06, 2010:

Love the log cabin. We all know the kids prefer the cardboard boxes rather than the presents inside them.Blessed by a suid angel and featured on my lens, Me?!! A Squid Angel.

anonymous on December 05, 2010:

Boy if I had a dollar for every box I made a fort out of I would be rich.

blujeanmomma from Rocky Mountains on December 05, 2010:

What great ideas. Kids loves boxes and you have shown such unique designs & ideas. Perfect crafts for today's economy. Don't know how I miss this lens when it was LOTD - but I can see why it was LOTD - congratulations!

howdoyouspellst on October 31, 2010:

When I was about 12, my friends and I took some purple paint to a huge cardboard box, and made a little clubhouse! It was a blast. Cardboard boxes are good cheap fun... Sometimes you can get them behind grocery stores for free!!

ChildBlessed on October 19, 2010:

Wonderful lens and such creative ideas! I can't wait to share them with my kiddo's.

elliQQ on October 19, 2010:

... you had my attention with the sentence: "I found that I *love* words and fooling around with making them work as best as possible." I was on Guam in 46 with my Dad & Mom, yes it definitely makes an impression on one LOL.

hobbitme lm on October 19, 2010:

Nice and what's amazing is how easy is to put in practice, this weekend I will experiment my creativity with my kids and off course theirs too

devilsworkshopc on October 19, 2010:

Adorable ideas! Love the cardboard log cabin.

JimH on October 19, 2010:

Fantastic lens and congrats on LOTD, I remember as a kid that a huge cardboard box to play in was like winning the lottery (I would prefer the lottery now) Brought back a flood of fond memories for me!

lasertek lm on October 18, 2010:

This is a great idea! We usually send our boxes to recyclers because we didn't think we could make use of it. But seeing the different useful ways on this lens, we might think twice before giving our boxes away.

dryder on October 18, 2010:

Great lens! Congrats on making LOTD!!!

MissyBrown LM on October 17, 2010:

One of my best memories as a child was when we had a new refridgerator delivered. I played with that huge cardboard box all summer long. This is a great lens!

randomethoughts on October 14, 2010:

a great way to recycle!

karen vance loudermilk from charleston wv on October 13, 2010:

this was great, I used to use boxes for my kids too, but never this elaborate

norma-holt on October 13, 2010:

Wonderful, inspiring, clever, and great resources. Thanks for sharing. Congrats on LOTD and it is now featured on Squidoo LOTD lenses and also on Parenting Young Children

hollyshope on October 12, 2010:

Great Ideas, can't wait to try it some rainy day!

Rita-K on October 11, 2010:

If I ever need a box to live in I am coming to see you! Great lens, the photos were inspiring, endless creativity!

dessertlover on October 11, 2010:

Clever lens!! Congrats on the LOTD :)

DharmeshTolia on October 11, 2010:

great way of using card board boxes with such a creative vision

good lens

Jen from California on October 10, 2010:

Great ideas for boxes! My son can't wait to get started on his box now.

funmomofmany on October 10, 2010:

wow...what great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

zeroHero on October 09, 2010:

This lens is fantastic! Just looking through all the ideas was a really fun escape into imagination.

Coffeebreaker on October 09, 2010:

I can personally vouch for card board boxes being the best thing ever invented to play with. As a kid and mother...boxes have provided more entertainment and fun than any other toy. Granted, mine weren't as amazing as most you have here, but that just goes to show...even the simple card board box imaginations go a LONG way! This is a fantastic lens!

shush lm on October 09, 2010:

What a cool lens! i'm always looking for something new to do with my cousins :)

divacratus 2 on October 09, 2010:

I really enjoyed going through the lens and the various ideas showcased here! All the creativity is just awe-inspiring even if I'm way older than these kids!

PaulWinter on October 09, 2010:

A very nice lens. Lots of ideas for the kids. We were always amazed that our children often got more fun out of the box than they did out of the toy!

asiliveandbreathe on October 09, 2010:

Great ideas for low-cost fun!

Sojourn on October 08, 2010:

https://discover.hubpages.com/art/cardboard-box

GrandCanyonSandy on October 08, 2010:

Excellent lens! It reminds me of the time when my mother gave my two-year-old daughter a cardboard box covered with fabric for a doll bed complete with a small pillow. My daughter immediately climbed into the box. It was much more fun than using it for a doll bed.

LilliputStation on October 08, 2010:

Congratulations on LOTD.

I love the log cabin! Someone shared this link on a homeschool group years ago. http://www.mrmcgroovys.com/ It is a website that sells plastic box rivets for use in cardboard constructions. They're pretty cool. Reuseable and sturdier than tape.

anonymous on October 08, 2010:

Congratulations on getting LOTD - as the Mum of 4 this lens has taken me back to our cardboard box days and I daresay I will be doing the same in a couple of years - first grandchild due in January :)

TerrenceYoung LM on October 08, 2010:

Wonderful ideas and the photos excite my imagination! Thank you!

RedPanda25 on October 08, 2010:

Wow, creative ;) Nice job

Cheryl Kohan from England on October 08, 2010:

Silly me...I forgot to congratulate you on LOTD! So congrats!!

reasonablerobby on October 08, 2010:

Congrats on LOTD. This lens brings back some happy childhood memories. My brother and I turned cardboard boxes into submarines. Just plain boxes but we drew dials and gauges and portholes on the inside with biro and our imaginations did the rest...fantastic.