What's Inside the Box?

Bendable. Pokeable. Glueable. Cardboard is a versatile playtime possibility.



Recently my children begged for a big-screen TV, but it wasn’t the TV they actually wanted—it was the gigantic carton it comes in! Cardboard is cheap and plentiful. Kids practice fine motor skills when they paint, cut, tape, and fold it. Using their imaginations to create toys, crafts, or secret hideaways builds ingenuity, spurs creative thinking, and hones problem-solving skills. Try these neat building activities:

Puppet theater

Turn a big box upside down and cut the back off. Cut a window in the opposite side for the puppets to peek through. Tissue paper makes great curtains. Putting on a show builds language and storytelling skills.


Together, cover two little boxes with aluminum foil or colorful paper. Attach paper towel rolls for head, arms, and legs. Complete the face by gluing on buttons, paper scraps, and foil.

Board game

Invite your child to come up with his own rules; then make the board and playing pieces out of cardboard. This strengthens problem solving and critical thinking.

A-frame easel

Fold a very large, strong piece of cardboard down the middle so you have an upside-down “V.” Then poke a hole in each bottom corner and tie a piece of rope or ribbon through each pair of facing holes to anchor the easel in place. Use binder clips to hold paper on each side, and two children can paint masterpieces simultaneously.

Painter’s palette

Cut an oval out of cardboard with a hole for your little artist’s thumb. Then have her designate a space for each color paint she’ll use. It’s a perfect accessory for your new easel and a good intro to the color spectrum.


This evergreen is popular with all ages. Let your kids decorate the outside of a large box. Then cut out a door, windows, and a mail slot. Deliver “mail” to your little homeowners; it’s a fun way to inspire reading and writing.


Put a twist on this classic by making an apartment- or castle-style dollhouse. Stack two or three boxes and adjoin them with duct tape, or make turrets with paper towel tubes.


Tape a shoebox lid to the box and cut an oval hole in it. Stretch five rubber bands across the hole (like strings) and secure with tape. For easier strumming, place an unsharpened pencil under the rubber bands to lift them up. Attach a paper towel roll as the neck.

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Creativity and Imagination
Arts and Crafts