Kids never tire of boxes. Stacking them, building with them, hiding in them, ripping them up… there are endless possibilities held within the four walls of a good cardboard box. They build imagination and creativity, plus they’re easy on the wallet and you can recycle them after you’re done! Who needs toys when you’ve got a cardboard box! Down with toys! Now what are some ways to stretch your child’s play further and get full use of these boxes?
1. DIY train set
I would have loved this as a kid, which is maybe why it’s listed first on this list. Your children can use smaller cardboard boxes and bottles to construct trains and then cut the boxes into tracks for them. You can also paint different-sized boxes to make stations and signs. And now why stop there when you can make a whole city, like this clever mama did!
Who doesn’t like dress up? This doesn’t have to be just for Halloween—boys and girls alike will love cutting up the boxes into different costumes to play pretend. Robots, dinosaurs, minions, even Ironman and crew! By no means do they need to be as elaborate as these — I’m sure your children’s imagination will be able to do the rest.
3. Car, bus, airplane!
Next up after the miniature town is the real thing! Let your children construct racecars, airplanes, jet fighters, whatever they set their minds to! Now imagine this big enough to fit a child-size mattress—your child’s dream bed and Christmas is sorted for the next year!
4. Play kitchen
You could go out and buy one of those plastic kitchen sets OR you and your children could make your own customisable play kitchen. Panini grill, waffle maker, breakfast bar? Whatever your children want for their kitchen, they can create it themselves! And maybe make you some real breakfast in the meantime. And while we’re at it, since we’re in Hong Kong, your kids could try it Asian-steamed-buns style.
5. Homemade projector
How about a projector to watch Peppa Pig off of your smartphone? Your child will be mesmerised and you’ll get a full five minutes to do some work. And if you’re strict on your child’s TV watching, then hey, after they’re in bed, you and your significant other can cuddle up and laugh over stupid YouTube videos, now on the big screen! No more straining your eyes to make out the details on that tiny screen. You can make one yourself with just cardboard, packing tape, a magnifying glass and of course, your beloved phone. The full instructions can be found here. Using similar principles, you could also make a telescope!
6. Floor canvas
Ever seen this brilliant idea on Pinterest? Let me tell you, it doesn’t work for toddlers at least. I tried it and my toddler quickly made a game out of throwing all the markers out of the box and then toppling the box over as he tried to retrieve them. He’s got the bruise to show for it and I ended up picking up all the markers anyway. So maybe it works when they’re older, but by then, why not make them a whole mural or floor canvas instead? And they aren’t limited to markers and crayons. Try using the cardboard itself, like these guys did. Your profound little artist will thank you for the space.
7. Cardboard castle/fort
What child doesn’t dream of a play fort or castle in their own room? I’m picturing tunnels and passageways from room to room. Heck, your family cat would love it! Your children can customise it however they want, with turrets or windows, doors and gates. It doesn’t have to be limited to a house or fort — why not a storefront or hobbit hole? They can paint it or draw on it, put stickers on it, you name it. You might want to veto the moat, however, as your mop can’t handle that.
8. Cardboard furniture
Cardboard boxes aren’t limited to child’s play. Stools, bookshelves, coffee tables, clothes hangers — people are using cardboard as a sturdy, lightweight and inexpensive way to furnish their home. In fact, this guy has successfully managed to make a whole business out of it! With a good paint job or some creative upholstering, it doesn’t have to look budget or cheap at all. You can download Incredible Cardboard for free on iBooks, which has more ideas and even instructions for how to create your own cardboard furniture masterpieces. The best part is, if your child puts a permanent marker to it, you can always just make another one.
9. Weed killer
Why do those stubborn weeds keep coming back after you already pulled them? When the seeds are below the surface, they return and return with a vengeance! The simplest solution is in your handy cardboard box. Cut a piece from a box free of ink and wax, lay it over the trouble patch, cover with thick mulch and wait. The cardboard should insulate the ground and kill the weed seeds.
10. Cute storage boxes
And last but not least, these aren’t just any old storage boxes. Why buy the overpriced storage boxes from IKEA that probably cost more than the contents inside! Make your own by using some pretty paper or fabric to cover up your cardboard boxes and no one will even be able to tell. These are perfect for toy boxes or even shelving separators for your closet if you lay them on their side. Just fold and tape the flaps in to reinforce the sides so they don’t collapse!
From there, you can make your boxes stretch even further (if you’re not already sitting on them!). File folders, snow sleds, puppet stages, piñatas — the possibilities are limited only by you and your child’s imagination! And at the end of the day, why not just hand your children the plain cardboard box and let them figure out a good way to use it. Chances are, they’ll come up with something you never could have dreamed of and they’ll find it more fun than anything you can make them do with it. Happy upcycling, mamas!