• Tarryn Myburgh

8 ways to play with a cardboard box

Why playing with cardboard boxes is good for children:

A big empty box is great for children to play with. It introduces 'imaginative' and 'creative' play too them. Your child can learn how to change the boxes structure, build something new for 'pretend' play or use their imagination to create a game. Bringing ideas to reality, kids can use a box, make it into a pirate hat and eventually start a game of pirates sailing.

Cardboard boxes can also encourage physical play. Often the first thing your child wants to do with a cardboard box is to climb into it – and perhaps jump out to surprise you!

The tools you need for playing with cardboard boxes

Boxes of any size are fun to play with and get your child's imagination working. They come from the packaging when you purchase new shoes or food. You can even collect boxes from local shops and supermarkets.

If you want your child to be able to change or decorate the box, some of these tools might come in use:

  • Scissors or a craft knife (adults use only)

  • Sticky tape and glue

  • Markers or thick crayons

  • Colour paper, paper plates, cellophane and other fabrics for decorating


How to play with cardboard boxes

There is no right way to play with a cardboard box. Instead, let your child decide what he or she wants to do and follow her lead. If your child needs some ideas to get started, try some of these:

1. Build a cardboard aeroplane or a car

Use paper plates for wheels and steering wheels. Get creative cutting slots into the cardboard and push the pieces together. Cut off the box flaps and stick them back on as the wings and tail of a plane. Let your child draw or paste markings and racing stripes to decorate your aeroplane or car.

2. Make a house

Grab the box and cut open a window and door from two sides. Let your child add cushions and other 'furniture' to create something homely. They can build a house for their doll or their action figure.

3. Use the cardboard as a canvas for your art

Forget buying paper or canvas'. Help the environment by reusing the cardboard box your purchases are packaged in and give them to your kids to use as a place to make art. They learn to express their creativity and learn skills in art.

4. Make a robot costume

Whether you make a robot, an animal or a tinman. Cardboard boxes can be used to create costumes and eventually transform into roleplay and games. Cut out a head hold and armholes with your child and let them decorate it with foil and coloured markers.

5. Design hats for roleplay

Put on a hat and you can basically pretend to be anything. There is a lot of potential to develop your child's imagination and creativity when it comes to hats. Build a pirate hat and become a traveller of the sea. Build a construction hat and become a builder.

6. Create a puppet theatre

Grab a box and cut a doorway and a window on opposite sides of the box. Hang a curtain over the window and let your child put on a show for the family from inside the box. Dress it up or down, and create a performance of a lifetime.

7. Decorate the box

Cut holes for your child to stick colourful cellophane over. Let him draw or paint on it, and stick paper or scraps of fabric of different textures inside and outside for a sensory experience.

8. Use boxes to sort your toys

Okay, let's be honest, this is more for the parents. But boxes are a great way for kids to sort out their toys. Make it a game to play and create a system to sort out your toys into categories. Check out more in this article.


Adapting cardboard box play for children of all ages

Let your younger children take the lead with cardboard boxes. Let them climb in an out. Let them scribble on, jump over and break apart. They will be excited to try anything, so let their wild imaginations run free.


Encourage your older children to get involved in construction. Rather than giving them solutions, help them solve problems. They can learn to choose between tools, how to build and let out their inner creativity.

The potential of a cardboard box and playtime are endless, so don't just throw them away!

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