*Updated February 2022*
Isn’t it funny that with so many toys, gadgets and electronics on the market these days children still love playing with cardboard?
This really shows that when it comes to child development and play, simplicity is often the key.
When my children were about 5 and 7 years old they really started getting into creating with cardboard.
They loved raiding the recycling bin for materials.
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.
Cardboard Projects For Kids: Inspiring Creative Learning
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Play Ideas For 12 to 24 Month Old’s
- throw cardboard pieces in the air
- try to rip the cardboard
- put toys/blocks into a cardboard 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.
- flip a cardboard box upside down and hide toys underneath it. See if your little one watches you and tries to retrieve the toys.
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 ideas, such as turning the cardboard box into a rocket-ship or even a teleporter (see explanation on this one below). Or make a dollhouse by adding rooms and levels.
- collect a few boxes and make your own play kitchen!
- decorate small cardboard boxes to make closet organizers
- make a “pet” carrier
If you want to help your kids out with some cardboard projects but aren’t very creative, be sure to check out some of the great PDF cardboard templates from Reuse and Play!
They have templates for all kinds of things from car ramps to cardboard suitcases!
As you you can see children playing with cardboard never gets old.
Keep in mind that the purpose behind playing with cardboard is very different at the various ages.
A 12 month old does not 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.
How Parents Can Enhance Playtime (with cardboard)
Cardboard activities for kids allow you, 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 they 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 loved pretending and playing with cardboard. They are now 12 and 14 years old and for the most part have found other interests, which is to be expected in the teen years!
They would often run to the garage where we keep our recycling to see if there was any cardboard for them to use. I loved seeing the things they came up with.
Here is my son’s “teleporter” that he made with cardboard, some paper and duct tape.
He was around 5 at the time.
If you are familiar with Skylanders, those are the figures you can see inside of the “teleporter”.
Being only 5 years old, I did not expect him to use this word. So I asked him about it. His answer made me laugh!
Me: J, can you tell me what a teleporter is?
J: It’s a thing that takes you from one spot to a different spot really fast.
Me: When did you learn that word?
J: 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 (she was about 7 at the time): A portable office!
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.