Do you remember when your kids were little and you got them a new toy and it seemed like they were more interested in the box than the toy? That usually changes when they are older, but that doesn’t mean that cardboard doesn’t have a lot of great benefits. We still use cardboard in our homeschool all the time! Cardboard is a great material. Here’s why you should use cardboard and some tips, tricks, and ideas to get you started!
Advantages of Building with Cardboard
Cardboard is extremely open ended. Unlike toys or kits or games that come with specific instructions on how to use them, cardboard just is. The possibilities for what you can turn it into are endless. It can be the main part of project – or something that supports and strengthens the main project.
While we love kits and projects to get a specific result, there are so many benefits to working with open ended materials. It works a different set of skills to need to design and figure out the steps for something yourself. It promotes thinking skills, creativity, planning skills and so much more. It really focuses on divergent thinking skills when you use open ended materials.
There are so many things that you can make with cardboard. It can be a house, a suitcase, a plane, a mailbox, a phone – all of these are things you can build with cardboard. If you can dream it, you can probably build it out of cardboard. The only downside is that it’s not edible. You won’t be able to eat your cardboard creations – but you could make some cool things.
Cardboard is also versatile because it comes in different shapes. You can have flat pieces and boxes and tubes. The fact that you can find different kinds of cardboard for different things means that you have even more possible ways to use it.
Cardboard is very easy to obtain – you probably bring some into your house all the time. You can get it from your groceries, from your toilet paper, from the packages you buy in the mail. Cardboard is readily available and you are probably already recycling it every day. You can take something that normally we would get rid of and turn it into amazing sculptures and art projects!
If, by chance, you don’t happen to have any cardboard readily available, you can ask your friends and family and I am sure they would be happy to save some for you. This can be especially helpful if you are looking for cardboard that comes in specific shapes you might not have as many of. Most people are happy to give this to you for free, since they are just getting rid of it anyways.
What Supplies Do I Need to Build With Cardboard?
The other great part about working with cardboard is that you likely have all the tools you need to build with it already. Plus, you can incorporate very easily any existing craft supplies you already have. Some things you might want to have on hand include
- Scissors – Having a good pair of scissors can be really helpful. For extra thick cardboard, a utility knife may be helpful, but this will be an item that should be used by an adult or an older more experienced child.
- Tape – All kinds of different tape can be used with cardboard but the two we use the most are masking tape and shipping tape.
- Cardboard Tools – You can actually buy cardboard tools. These were a gift we got for my oldest one year and they have gotten a lot of use! The set we have comes with screws which can help cut down on some of the tape use.
- Markers – Markers can be really useful for drawing on the cardboard. You can also use crayons and colored pencils, but in our experience, markers show up the best.
- Stickers – Stickers are great for decorating your cardboard creations!
What Can I Build With Cardboard?
I think the best thing to do with cardboard is just let your child go wild with their imagination, but check out these ideas if you need more.
- Mailbox – As you saw from the picture above, my son made a mailbox to tape outside his bedroom door. You can build a mailbox out of any cardboard, but a common idea is to use a shoe box and cut a slit in the top. This is especially great for Valentine’s Day.
- Marble Run – I can’t take credit for this idea as we saw it in a book, but the basic premise is to take your toilet paper and paper towel tubes and tape them on the wall as a marble run.
- Cardboard City – Lemon Lime Adventures shares some awesome ideas for creating a Cardboard City.
- Chomping Cardboard Dragon – Hess Un-Academy has this awesome chomping dragon – perfect for a STEAM challenge for older kids!
- 10 Ways to Turn Cardboard Boxes Into Endless Fun – Homeschool Giveaways & Freebies has some awesome ideas for using cardboard boxes. My personal favorite is the mini foosball table.
- Recycling Unit Study – Did you know that in my recycling unit study I have some ideas about building sculptures out of recycled materials, including cardboard?
I hope I’ve given you some great ideas for working with cardboard! There’s enough here to get you started, but your kids will most likely run with their imaginations if given a chance, if only you take a moment to think about the box!