Two young brothers play on the floor with two cardboard boxes.

What’s in a cardboard box? 12 new play ideas for kids

Editor’s note: This post was updated on Sept. 8, 2021.

With a few clicks you can get just about anything delivered to your home. It’s (scary) simple, shockingly fast, and all too familiar nowadays. Boxes of all shapes and sizes show up on doorsteps and create cardboard congestion in recycling bins. The environmental impact of online shopping is real and rising, which is why these forgotten shipment shells deserve a second chance.

Not to mention that kids often find the most fun in an empty box of possibilities! Check out these 12 ways to “unbox” play.

1. Indoor forts

Stuck inside on a blustery day? Use empty boxes and cardboard tubing to create a custom castle or fort. Add blankets and pillows for extra comfort and fun.

2. DIY wagon

Kids can push, pull, and slide around in makeshift cardboard wagons. When it’s time for a rest, see #3.

3. Drive-in

Grab some healthy snacks and pull up to the “drive-in” with a cardboard box car. If resources and space allows, project the movie in an outdoor space and enjoy under the stars.

4. Puppet theatre

A big box makes the perfect stage for puppets. Use toys and dolls from around the house, or make your own, and put on a show!

Related read: Making use of loose parts

5. Robot dress-up

Boxes of all shapes and sizes can be fit to make a robot costume. Tip: Use empty tissue boxes for robot shoes and cardboard tubing (cut length ways) for arms.

6. Cardboard sports

Hockey net, basketball hoop, skeeball ramp, mini putt target, bowling pins, etc. Cardboard can be an easy indoor solution for sports and activities.

7. Tunnel time

Cut out the tops and bottoms from different sized boxes and make tunnels for crawling. Tip: tape them together for a homemade maze.

8. Construction site

Kid-friendly cardboard construction tools make it easy to create and play.

9. Colouring cave

Jump inside an extra-large box for a four-walled colouring canvas.

10. Balloon baton

Discarded gift wrap tubing is an indoor alternative to a bat or racquet and perfect for balloon batting and balloon tennis.

11. Cardboardville

Flattened cardboard can be the foundation for a new town or city with roads mapped from edge to edge.

12. Pretend play

Cardboard can transform into almost anything: a food truck, rocket ship, kitchen, train, time machine… an empty box is full of possibilities.

Do you have other suggestions about what to do with cardboard boxes? Leave us a comment below to share your ideas.

3 responses to “What’s in a cardboard box? 12 new play ideas for kids

  1. Excellent ideas. We would also make an indoor gym movement center with boxes. Each type of box required a different type of movement (hot water heater boxes laid on their sides for crawling through, inside refrigerator boxed for jumping, tall/narrow boxes were stuffed tightly with wrapping paper for balance beams taped to the floor, etc. Note: local merchants saved these for us to pick up.

  2. Totally awesome ideas for cardboard toys. Alone it could be a fun toy for my kiddos, it is time to make some arts out of them as well.

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