Cardboard & Kids Equals Creativity and Learning!

cardboard activities for kids

Isn’t it funny that with so many toys, gadgets and electronics on the market these days children still love playing with cardboard?  I think this is amazing and shows that when it comes to child development simplicity is often the key.

My children are 5 and 7 years old (at the time of writing this article) and it never ceases to amaze me that they can have so much fun with a few cardboard boxes.

The appeal of playing with cardboard doesn’t seem to have a set age group.  Children from the ages of 12 months to 8 years and perhaps even older still love cardboard.

Below are some examples and suggestions of how children play with cardboard at various ages.

children playing with cardboard box

Cardboard Projects For Kids: Inspiring Creative Learning

Play Ideas For 12 to 24 Month Old’s

  • throw cardboard pieces in the air
  • try to rip the cardboard
  • put toys/blocks into the box and then dump them out (or watch an adult put the toys in the box and then the child dumps it out)
  • explore the cardboard – if its a box, she may open and close it or turn in over and bang on it like a drum.  If it’s just a piece of cardboard she may just explore it with her hands or mouth to see how it feels.

Play Ideas For 3-5 Year Old’s

  • use a cardboard box as a house/fort (if its big enough, even if its not, they will most likely still try to climb into it)
  • use a cardboard box as a car (sit in it and ask an adult or older sibling to push them around)
  • stack multiple boxes together to make a tower, and then run into the tower to knock it down
  • put “food” into the box and play restaurant (pretend to be delivering food to someone).
  • paint pieces of cardboard (with fingers or brush, fingers are probably more fun!)

Play Ideas For 5-8+ Year Old’s

  • enhance a cardboard box by cutting it and gluing/attaching other mediums onto it (e.g. paper, pipe cleaners, paint, glitter glue, etc.)
  • coming up with more elaborate things such as turning the cardboard box into a rocketship or even a teleporter (see explanation on this one below).  Or making a dollhouse by adding rooms and levels.
  • decorating small cardboard boxes to make closet organizers
  • make a “pet” carrier

As you you can see children playing with cardboard never gets old.  However, the purpose behind it is very different at the various ages.

A 12 month old does know have the fine motor skills or knowledge that a 6 year old would have.

But, the same cardboard box will be engaging to both of these children.

What is the Best toy for language development?

How Parents Can Enhance Playtime (with cardboard)

Cardboard activities for kids allow you as the parent to add language to something that your child is interested in.  This is great because it means that you are following his lead, which is a crucial part of language development.

For example when a 12 month old is trying to rip the cardboard you can narrate what he is doing and add some sounds/noises that he may imitate (e.g. “you are so strong”, “let’s rip the cardboard”, “weee”, “put it on your head”, “touch it to your toes”, etc).

A 5 year old on the other hand has a greater vocabulary and understanding so your interactions would be much more advanced.

You can use this time to introduce new vocabulary, e.g. “that cardboard is corrugated, that’s what you call these bumps”.

For a 3 year old you can draw attention to adjectives and opposites by saying things like “your car is going so fast, be careful” or “let’s see if your car can go up the stairs and then back down”.

Some Examples Courtesy of My Children

My children love pretending and playing with cardboard.  They will often run to the garage where we keep our recycling to see if there is any cardboard for them to use.  I love seeing the things they come up with.

Here is my son’s “teleporter” that he made with cardboard, some paper and duct tape.

Creative ideas for kids using cardboard - skylanders teleporter Creative ideas for kids using cardboard - skylanders teleporter

If you are familiar with Skylanders, those are the figures you can see inside of the “teleporter”.  My son is 5 and I did not expect him to use this word.  So I asked him about it.  His answer made me laugh!

Me: James, can you tell me what a teleporter is?

James: It’s a thing that takes you from one spot to a different spot really fast.

Me: When did you learn that word?

James: From the Sponge Bob Movie, silly

I never would have thought that Sponge Bob would be teaching my children vocabulary.   That being said, I personally believe that screen time should be limited in a child’s early years.  When a child is young, screen time should be supervised as well.

Here is my daughters cardboard creation: her office

cardboard projects for kids

I would love to hear what your children are coming up with!  Please leave me a comment if you would like to share your stories.

Cardboard is amazing for teaching kids creativity, problem solving, independence, fine/gross motor skills, etc. Find out how a simple cardboard box can do so much for your child's development

10 Comments

  1. Joe

    This is soo true!
    My father in law always tells the story of when he bought a new computer for the kids thinking they would love it. It turns out they played with the box it came in far more than they ever used the computer.
    I find this true with my little boy who is just over 12 months now. He likes to play with anything. Boxes are a delight for him though as he can do anything he likes with them.

    Reply
    1. Tanya

      Haha Joe, I completely agree! Especially for younger children. The greatest gift would probably be a box within a box within a box and then the last box would contain tissue paper that they could destroy!

      Reply
  2. Ana

    It’s amazing how the simplest toys, and least expensive ones, can give so much joy and pleasure to children. I believe there is a difference in playing and using imagination when playing. For instance you can play a game that has set rules (like monopoly) but when you play using your imagination (like using a carboard box as a telepoter) there are no limits and it’s much more fun.

    Reply
    1. Tanya

      Yes Ana, you are right. Free play allows for much more imagination than a rule based game. However, rule based games do have their place, since society is based on rules and laws. Thank you for your insightful comment!

      Reply
  3. Michelle Medeiros

    What a fun article! Thank you for sharing these great ideas! Totally loved your children creations… It makes me happy to hear that there is still some children who would really have fun with something so simple. Plus, they are developing their creativity much more than other kids. Very inspirational!

    Reply
    1. Tanya

      Thanks Michelle! I sometimes need to convince my children to just play. My son loves any kind of screen. With so much technology these days its easy to see how traditional play is getting lost, which is very unfortunate. So much language development comes out of play.

      Reply
  4. Travis

    Buy your kids an expensive “toy” and they play with the box! I’m glad someone is promoting using your imagination instead of whatever new gadget is on the market. Very nice!

    Reply
    1. Tanya

      Thanks Travis! There are many inexpensive ways you can encourage play. However I do believe that there are also some very good, high quality toys. Most of them do not come with sounds and lights though…

      Reply
  5. Zoe

    I love this!! Kids can be sooo creative when left to their own devices with a couple of very simple items!! This blog could just be like food for their imaginations!! =)

    Reply
    1. Tanya

      Thanks Zoe! I love how allowing a child to play inspires imagination. And their imaginations often inspire their play!

      Reply

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