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5 unique ideas to entertain your kids with cardboard

Matt Dobson: Last Updated 16th February 2024
Posted In: Environment | Guides and Advice xx 31179

School Holiday Tips

Keeping the little ones occupied on gloomy days

With the summer holidays in full swing, and with British summertime never at its best, it’s essential to have a backup plan for keeping the kids entertained on the greyest of days.

On a budget?

Not a problem, the answer – cardboard boxes!

Cardboard crafts are superb for entertaining children with endless imaginations – these boxes are not only toys but, can be a whole universe of imaginary items and places. From pirate ships, caves and animals to a paint splattered wall, with a bit of guidance, your child can turn an ordinary cardboard box into an assortment of memorable activities.

In addition, cardboard makes for an environmentally friendly toy or activity for your child!

As such, this article highlights 5 of the best ways to use cardboard as a fun activity this summer. This list can both be followed as a step by step or used as an inspirational guide and customised where required.

Continue reading below for DIY cardboard crafts and toys with a brief guided description and links to the original article/guide.

Quick Reference / Contents

01: Cardboard Rainforest and Jungles

Adventures and imaginative play for your little ones

This craft idea doesn’t need to be limited to rainforests or jungles; it can be a desert, ocean, lake or any form of habitat with animal occupants. You may, however, require a trip to your local supermarket, pound or craft store for a couple additional purchases.

As well as being bags full of fun, the task at hand could open up a range of questions from your little ones, subsequently stimulate their thirst for knowledge.

Rainforest craft
An example of a cardboard box transformed into a rainforest

Materials Needed

  • Plain Cardboard Box (no high shine graphics)
  • Paint / Paint brush & bowl
  • Scissors
  • Glue or double sided sticky tape
  • PVC glue or hot glue (to be used by an adult only)
  • Branches, moss and/or leaves
  • Fish tank plants (plastic – can be found in pound stores)
  • Miniature toy animals – pound store or craft store purchase
  • Rocks
  • Background image (not essential) – this can be printed from the web or can be in the form of scrap/sample wallpaper strips.
  • Blue gems/beads/sequins (this is to represent a pond/water any additional likewise craft supplies can be used)

How to

In brief, the cardboard box needs to have three sides – so the first step is to cut one of them off.

Secondly, get your child to paint the box – colours can vary depending on the habitat your child is dreaming up. Once dry, you can either glue the background into the box (if you have chosen to use one). Alternatively, use the piece of cardboard you previously cut off to either glue or sticky-back tape the image to the board and push into the box for a sturdier, less fiddly way of adding a background.

If you choose the latter, be sure to remove approximately 1mm from either side before glueing so the backdrop fits in without having to bend it.

Rainforest brances
Making your rainforest is relatively simple, and the results can be played with for many days after

Crayon box chronicles version notes that the only other completely adult orientated task asides from the cutting are the glueing of the branches.

This can be done with hot glue and may need holes pierced in the side of the boxes to help it stay.

Asides from this, the remaining tasks are only limited by your child’s imagination. For a more detailed explanation follow below for Crayon box chronicles.

02: Cardboard Garage / Ramp

Perfect for toy cars and vehicles

Most likely to be a hit with the boys, although obviously, girls can enjoy car toys all the same!

This cardboard garage/ramp is an example of another environmentally friendly toy which, can be easily recycled once finished with.

More likely to be longer lasting and more sturdy if constructed by a parent, get your little ones involved in the decorating. Colouring in or painting the ramps and parking spaces will be guaranteed fun for the youngsters!

Cardboard garage
A cardboard garage will keep boys and girls who love to play with cars quiet for hours

Materials Needed

  • Cardboard boxes 3-4 depending how big you want to make it
  • Glue / Glue-gun / Tape
  • Paint / Felt tip pens
  • Scissors
  • Clear packaging tape will add stability although not required

For additional information on how Frugal Fun for Boys put this together check out the site linked at the end of this blog.

03: Cardboard Box Splatter Printing

Because whos' kids don't like making a mess!

Any parent knows paint is a great activity for keeping the children entertained.

However, it almost always ends up in a mess.

Paint splatter
Using boxes to contain paint splatters helps minimise clean up for parents

What better way than to minimise that mess with a cardboard box. Saying that it is recommended this activity takes place outdoors to reduce the risk of destroying your floors and furniture.

Materials Needed

  • Balloons
  • Funnel (if you don’t have one to hand create a DIY paper funnel)
  • Rice
  • A scoop – tub/pot for the rice
  • Paint – as many colours as you like
  • Bowls for the paint (to separate the colours)
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Scissors
  • Paper – A4 cut up into quarters (or however you prefer)

How to

This is marginally one of the easiest cardboard box crafts to set up. As such, it means your child can be fully involved without relying too much on adult intervention.

Firstly, your child can grab as many balloons as he/she pleases depending on how many different colours of paint they wish to use.

Place the balloon at the end of the funnel (you may need to hold it in place), and then ask your child to fill the balloon with rice by scooping the rice out and into the funnel.

Rice balloon
Let's face it - kids love to get messy with paints - so with this idea they have fun whilst you minimise mess

The balloons then should be a similar size to the image above.

The next stage is to set up the paint ready in separate bowls. These can be paper, plastic, or even tubs – anything that you’re able and willing to wash. Then place the balloons in the bowls ready for use – Rochelle Doorley at coordinates the balloons with the paint.

The next bit is the fun part for your little one!

Once the boxes are set out ready, have your child to roll the balloons around in the paint and throw them into the box creating artistic patterns.

With the paint still wet, get your child to stamp the cut up paper onto the painted cardboard to make their patterned print and then keep somewhere safe for drying!

04: Cardboard Animal Magnets

Cute characters you can stick on the fridge

Suitable for children of ages 3 and up, animal magnets are another engaging cardboard craft.

Children love animals – whether that is house pets, farm animals or even wild creatures – so what better way to express their creativity with an activity that also has the opportunity to be educational.

Animal magnets
Homemade animal magnets could be adorning your fridge for years to come!

Materials Needed

  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paint
  • Sharpies / Felt Pens
  • Googley eyes (optional)
  • Small Magnets
  • Magnetic white board – optional, these magnets can just be used on the fridge

How to

There isn’t really a right or wrong way of creating these imaginative animal magnets. Meri Cherry’s project shows her creating easy to use circular shapes, but it really is dependent on you and your child’s preferences.

You may need to cut the shapes out and supervise the glueing of additional cardboard features depending on the child’s age.

The decorating, however, should offer a free reign to express their creativity. Once coloured/painted and dry, apply the magnets on the back ready for your kids to use on the fridge or around the house.

05: DIY Yarn Wrapped Letters

Create names, words or even decorative shapes

Cerys from rainy day mum has created these yarn letters taking the theme of Valentines as inspiration, but they could be used to help your little ones explore their names and spelling.

Besides this, it will make for great bedroom décor!

Cardboard letters
These cardboard letters can be an ideal decoration for your kids room

Children 7+ should be able to do this on their own (asides from the glueing), whilst younger children are likely to need guidance and supervision.

Materials Needed

  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Pen / Pencil
  • Yarn – Can be one colour or a mix
  • Sellotape or hot glue

How to

This craft really is a simple process but will require patience from your little ones, so perhaps this activity is best suited for some quiet down time.

The first step is to draw out the letters on the cardboard and then cut them out.

Next use the letters you’ve just cut out to trace another set of letters. This step can be done as many times as you want, to make the letters as thick as you require.

Yarn letter
This idea is great for kids of all ages, although younger children may need help with the initial gluing.

The third stage is to either glue the (same) letters together with a glue gun or, tape them together before securing the yarn to the back.

Next is the part which requires concentration and patience. Start by wrapping the yarn around the letters in vertical lines. Once you get to the end of the letter, cut the yarn and secure it to the back with tape or glue.

Finally, begin wrapping the letter again but, this time in a horizontal direction. Again, once you reach the end secure in place on the back with tape or glue.

Repeat the process for the rest of the letters.

For a more detailed step by step guide please visit the Rainy Day Mum’s blog.

In Summary

More Information and Inspiration

For additional craft ideas and activities suitable for those miserable grey days, please follow the links to the affiliate links below where you will find a range of inspirational projects.

Further Reading...

About the Author

Matt Dobson, GWP Group Marketing Manager

Matt Dobson

Marketing Manager | GWP Group

Matt has worked in the packaging industry for approximately 9 years, having joined GWP Group as Marketing Executive in 2012. [Read full bio…]

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