Cardboard Box Creations

One thing we never seem to be in short supply of in my house is cardboard boxes. Between diaper boxes, cereal boxes, shoe boxes, shipping boxes, etc., we’ve got them in just about every size.

Something I started doing with my kids was making crazy things from all of the boxes. Race cars, vacuum cleaners, houses, mailboxes, fork lifts, and cranes (yep,  cranes):

Cardboard Box Crane

Cardboard box crane made from a diaper box, paper towel tubes, paper plate, ribbon, and a random piece of toy packaging.

The thing about these projects is that while they were great fun for the kids, they were very ME-heavy in creating them. Which is fine. It’s good to be involved with my kids. But what I worried about was that me doing so much of the work in creating a project meant my kids just watched and didn’t get to practice any skills, because this type of thing was beyond their capability. I always gave my kids the opportunity to decorate and color these things, but they wanted nothing to do with that when they could jump in and use a functioning crane. I can’t say I blame them.

So, with that little worry nagging at me–that these projects were fun, but didn’t teach much–I stopped making them and concentrated on smaller things. Stuff my kids could do with me or on their own.

But lately I’m thinking I was wrong in my assumption that the kids weren’t getting any benefit out of them. I mean, right off the bat they’ve got some role-playing and imagination going on. They could be construction workers, or mailmen, or race car drivers. There’s great benefit to that. But also, they watched me take ordinary items and find out-of-the-ordinary uses for them. Not only is it a lesson in re-using/upcycling, but I was showing them how to be creative. And I didn’t even realize it until recently when my 4-year-old began finding items around the house, bringing them to me, and saying, “Let’s make ________ out of this ____________.” (Like: a parachute guy out of this piece of tissue paper, or a bulldozer out of this strip of corrugated paper.)

This is amazing to me. It’s renewed my motivation. He’s looking at something like a strip of corrugated paper (which came as packing material in a box we received) and he’s connecting that it looks like the caterpillar treads on a bulldozer and he’s asking to make the bulldozer. I love that! So here’s today’s project (*note: these are never meant to be pretty, they’re about creating the general idea and letting the imagination take over):

cardboard box bulldozer

A bulldozer made out of a cardboard box, a paper towel tube (you can't really see it, it's attached to the pusher on the front and inserted through a slot in the box so my son can push it forward like a real bulldozer), two cardboard tubes, corrugated paper, tape. P.S. Forgive my crap photography skills.

It’s almost enough to justify some more online shopping, huh? To get more materials for our creations :).


15 thoughts on “Cardboard Box Creations

  1. Cardboard boxes rule. Go with your gut. Now, if your kids were setting fire to the creations you might want to re-think the apporach. I mean look at all the things Calvin made from his cardboard box just in his mind. A time machine, a transmorgifier….the possibilities are limited only by imagination….build away!

  2. So much can happen with a carboard box. This Christmas we had a box from a dishwasher. The kids liked it better than the presents.

  3. I love it. We do the same thing – cars, catapults and light sabers.

    Selfishly, I usually steal the little cardboard boxes (cereal, snack bars etc,) for scrapbooking projects. At least I can indirectly claim those are for the kiddo too! >:)

  4. I predict your kids are going to be little engineers!! This is fabulous Erin, really. My kids have been making trains out of boxes and I was getting a bit irritated by all the clutter. Now, I’m thinking I ought to stop complaining!

  5. Thanks, Angie! It would be nice if they’d become engineers :). My son says he wants to be a construction worker, so these skills would come in handy for that too (though mostly I think he wants to drive a real bulldozer).

    To be honest, eventually the boxes start to get on my husband’s and my nerves. They can be pretty clutter-tastic. But they are fun.

  6. Awesome! There is so much value in imaginative play– what always impresses me about these sorts of things, is how much joy and inspiration my kids draw from the simple box (it can be a bed, or a castle, or a race-car, etc) compared to how quickly a new matchbox car gets tossed aside and/or lost.
    Have you ever read “Not A Box” by Antoinette Portis? I bet your kids would dig it.

  7. Pingback: Conflicting Moments of Pride « Erin Writes

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