The cardboard box is a childhood staple. Some kids played with cardboard boxes as is, while others decorated their boxes with stickers and crayons or decorated them with paint. I can tell you that with the advent of online shopping, cardboard boxes are more available now than ever (thanks Amazon)!
What better way to give your kids some screen-free entertainment than to let their imaginations run wild with some cardboard boxes and a few other materials? Not to mention, many of these activities will help kids with motor skills and imaginative play.
Fun Cardboard Box Activities
The most popular activity with kids using cardboard boxes is building towers. They can stack them high, then knock them down again. Another favorite game if you have a lot of boxes is stacking the boxes into a pyramid shape.
While that’s a good start, there are so many more fun things you can do with cardboard boxes. So let’s get into it!
Cardboard Box Puppet Show
Children love puppets, and they’re a great way to let their imaginations flourish. With this puppet theater idea, you take a cardboard box and cut one of the walls as a viewing window. Then, decorate it as though it’s a stage in a theater and supply some puppets for your kids to tell stories. You can also glue paper cutouts onto popsicle sticks and use those as puppets.
Turn a cardboard box into a replayable game of tic-tac-toe. This project is slightly more involved, but with a little extra effort, this really cool game will keep the kids occupied for a long time!
This fun little sensory box is meant for younger kids. All you do is thread ribbon or fabric through holes in the cardboard box and tie the ends with knots (so the kids can’t actually pull the ribbon or fabric through. This allows your child to pull the ribbon or thread through the holes until it reaches the knot.
Cardboard Knight’s Shield
Kids love knights and castles, so why not make them a knight’s shield out of cardboard? With a well-made cardboard shield, your child will be able to fend off dragons, an attacking army, or even a volley of arrows!
Cardboard marble mazes are a fun spin on an older idea. I used to have wooden marble mazes with knobs on the side that would tilt the maze and move the marble around. It was actually a pretty fun game. This is a much simpler idea where you make a maze using things like pipe cleaners, straws, or even PlayDoh to create the maze inside of a cardboard box. This is great for developing motor skills and motor control.
Cardboard Box Castles
Try making a cardboard castle from scratch if you want to get a bit fancier. It can be as elaborate as you’d like or as simple as a cardboard box with a hole cut out as the “draw bridge” and the rest of the box drawn on to complete the castle.
Cardboard Box Zoo
You can turn any old cardboard box into a zoo by decorating it with animals made out of paper or filling it with plush animals. Have your child give you a tour of the zoo and tell you what sound each of the animals makes. This is great practice for toddlers.
The Robot Costume Cardboard Box
With a robot costume, your kid can pretend he’s a real-life robot! To make the costume, you’ll need a cardboard box, tape, and markers (or paint). You cut a “head hole” in the bottom of the box, arm holes in the side of the box on opposite sides, and decorate it to your heart’s content. Then, it’s as simple as putting the box over your child’s head and their arms through the arm holes. You can also easily create a “robot head” using a smaller box, like in the video below. Easy!
Cardboard Box Cars (Beep! Beep!)
Cars are another classic cardboard box activity to make and it makes for a great toddler playtime. decorate the box to look like a car. You can use tin foil as the windshield and a paper plate as the steering wheel.
Put two long pieces of string or ribbon from opposite corners to make a loose “X”. That will be the shoulder straps. Then, simply cut a hole in the bottom of the box for your kid’s legs to go through. Your kid can now wear their amazing cardboard car and drive around the house.
Cardboard Box Train
This idea is very similar to the car idea above, with one fun addition: instead of just making the locomotive, you can also make boxcars! This is especially useful if you have multiple kids or just some friends coming over to play. Thomas the Tank Engine anyone? Here is a really well-done example, although you certainly don’t have to go this elaborate!
Cardboard Box Barn
Another great cardboard box project is turning your cardboard box into a barn. You can have your kids fill it with all of their plush stuffed farm animals. There are a few ways you can make a cardboard barn. This video shows a more involved way, but I thought it looked really nice.
Cardboard Box Play Aquarium
This is an easy one but it’s really, really fun. Cut a viewing window out of the side of a cardboard box, then glue some blue construction paper to the inside. You can also cut out other fun aquarium decorations and glue them to the side of the box, such as a castle, seaweed, and coral. Then, make paper fish and tie or tape them to the fishing line for your kids to dangle from the top of the aquarium to give the illusion that the fish are swimming. You can also make a more stationary version like the one in this video:
Cardboard Box Marionette Stage
Just like the aquarium above, but instead of making an aquarium, make a theater stage. You can then cut out characters and tape them to wooden dowels, skewers, or pipe cleaners. Then have your characters on the stage acting out your kid’s favorite stories. This is a good interactive play for multiple kids.
Cardboard Box Play Tunnels
One thing that never gets old is playing with tunnels. Another great thing: it’s perfect for developing basic motor skills in toddlers. Luckily, these are easy to make with cardboard boxes.
While taping them together will make them stronger, and less apt to separate, it’s kind of optional. We’ve always just taped them together because it makes the activity low maintenance. This is another great option for toddler playtime.
Learning Activities For Children Using Cardboard
As much fun as you can have with cardboard boxes, did you know you can learn with them as well? It’s true! You can use cardboard activities for child development. I’ve put together some of my favorite learning activities that you can do just with some cardboard boxes and a few other materials.
Cardboard Coin Bank Box Activity
There is a very simple way to make this, and a much more intense way. The easy way is to wrap a Kleenex box like a Christmas Present and cut a slit into it to drop coins. Make sure you have a way to get the coins out without destroying your work such as a flap.
Next, I found this YouTube video of a much more elaborate cardboard coin bank that uses a conveyor belt! Now, you can teach your child about saving money.
Cardboard Box Coin Sorting Machine
On the subject of money and cardboard, why not build a cardboard coin sorter? Yes, it’s completely possible and probably easier than you’d ever think. This is a great way to teach your kids about the different coins and their values. When it comes to essential activities for children, I think understanding money is extremely important.
Cardboard Color Sorting
With a few smaller cardboard boxes, you can glue colored construction paper into each box as a liner, then let your child sort toys based on their colors. For example, line a box with red construction paper, line another box with green construction paper, then line the third box with blue construction paper. Then give your child an assortment of red, green, and blue toys to sort. Here’s a video with a few different styles of a similar idea:
Cardboard Shape Sorting
Have you ever heard the phrase “you can’t put a square peg through a round hole?” That doesn’t mean your kids won’t try! With this activity, you cut shapes out of your cardboard box, then your child tries to take put those shapes through the holes you made. Here’s a great video detailing how to do it.
Cardboard Box Washing Machine
This is probably the most elaborate idea on this list, but it also teaches your kids about doing laundry (kind of) so take the bad with the good! Hahaha. This super adorable idea might not have your kid’s clothes looking cleaner, but it’s a super wholesome way to introduce them to the idea of basic life skills.
While there are many ideas in this post, the main point is that if you’re willing to be creative, you can find lots of ways to use cardboard boxes. These activities aren’t all perfect, but they should spark some interesting conversations between you and your kids.
Hopefully, you enjoyed our ideas for fun things to do with cardboard boxes. There are many more ideas out there, so if we missed any, please share in the comments below!