Cardboard boxes spur imaginations

Sabin, Davis, Hetrick, Anderegg, Macalady, Walker, Darling and Katers

Do you have a few cardboard boxes around? Then you are prepared for children.

All you need are boxes, string, ruler markers, box cutter or knife, and duct tape.

If you bring a few boxes home leave them in the children’s bedroom. Don’t do anything with the boxes for a few days. Just let children use their imaginations and art supplies on the boxes. They may make action figure houses, garages for cars, a vehicle, or a whole city.


Who are your children’s story heroes? Are they interested in space characters, princesses, book characters, knights, or super heroes? Imaginary play encourages children to plan a story, take turns being characters, design costumes, set up scenes, plan problems, and use teamwork to solve them. Both the planning and the actual play develop the brain.

Two large sturdy shipping boxes for stoves are ideal for castles or space stations. Remove any staples. Cut out the top and bottom. For easier storage and handling cut one seam of each box so they store flat.


To make a structure, open them up and arrange so they make one large circle with any writing facing inside. Make two puncture holes on end sections and tie them with string so they stay together.

To make a simple drawbridge type door a castle or ship, cut off one section of the cardboard. Puncture a hole on each top corner of this section about four inches from the top and side. Cut two pieces of sturdy string 2.5 yards. Tie one to each hole. Leave the other ends free for now.

Make a hole four inches from the top and side in the two wall sections nearest the drawbridge. Thread each drawbridge string through a wall hole and tie securely. To allow children to close the drawbridge, make a slanted slash on the top of the castle or space ship. Children can pull each side of the drawbridge and secure the strings in the slash. You can help decorate with rulers and markers, cut windows, draw trees and flowers.

Children can help make cardboard costumes and props reinforced with duct tape. For crowns, armor, light sabers, shields, or swords draw patterns on newspaper first. Then trace on cardboard, cut out, and decorate.

Children can act out their story and take turns being a favorite character. The cardboard will easily fold up ready for storage.

These little plays make great Facetime drama or movies to send to long distance relatives.

There are some children’s books about playing with boxes. Check out “The Big Box” by Toni and Slade Morrison and “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis. The internet has many ideas for building with cardboard boxes.

For more see grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com, wnmufm.org/Learning Through the Seasons live and podcasts; also Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.


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