Posted Apr 15, 2020
My daughter is obsessed with this YouTuber known as 'Papa Jake' who uses his mad DIY skills to build some of the craziest, over-the-top box forts you've ever seen - from McDonald's, complete with drive-through and Play Place, to a Fortnite bunker to an oversize toilet filled with slime (yes, really). Needless to say, she was ecstatic when, in an act of coronavirus quarantine desperation, I ordered some large exercise equipment to outfit our basement...which, of course, came in correspondingly large cardboard boxes.
We're not quite Papa Jake material over here, but wanted to "think outside the box" a bit (pun intended, of course), so we turned to our friends Google and YouTube for some creative DIY inspiration for our cardboard. If you don't have cardboard boxes handy, you can purchase some online relatively inexpensively.
Marble Labyrinth Maze
This is a great project for older kids who would enjoy the mental challenge of planning and designing a maze and have the physical dexterity required to cut and assemble this more intricate project. It's recommended that you have a drill on hand with a 1-inch hole bit to cut out the holes for the marbles. You can find step-by-step instructions here. Once complete, kids and adults alike will enjoy the challenge of maneuvering the marble through the maze while avoiding the traps.
If a labyrinth maze is above your child's age/skill level, a simpler cardboard marble run is a great alternative. We found a few cool versions of this project. This one from The Pinterested Parent incorporates cardboard tubes in the design - you can use either toilet paper or paper towel rolls or a combination of both. Since it seems like the whole world is currently hoarding paper products, we're betting you have some rolls around your house to spare.
This version from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls uses craft sticks and paper cups to make a sort of marble run Plink-O game. Cool beans...er, marbles.
Image via sweetfajr/Instagram
This cardboard box maze design is super simple to create if you have a lot of boxes of similar sizes laying around (and a good amount of open space in your house!). Simply open up the bottoms of the boxes and tape them together in succession. Kick the fun up a notch by sprinkling some things for the kids to collect throughout and challenging them to see who can get through the quickest while collecting the most booty.
For a more sophisticated design, use boxes of varying sizes and cut out windows, portholes or doors in some of the boxes to give the kids a little light or escape hatch along their route like in the design shown in the video above.
Photo: DIY Cardboard Mailbox From Little Red Window
Mail carriers are frontline heroes, showing up to work day after day and putting their health at risk to make sure we all continue to receive the essential deliveries we need to get through pandemic lockdown. Show your postal worker love with this oh so adorable cardboard mailbox DIY that looks complicated but is actually pretty simple. Your littles will love pretending to both mail and deliver letters and packages.
Multi-Story Cardboard Car Garage
If your kids are crazy about cars, then this one's for you! Your kids will get a kick out of driving their cars up the ramp, parking them in their spaces, and then watching them shoot down the ramp over and over again (hopefully, for hours on end - fingers crossed).
I'm not sure who's more excited about this one, me or my kids! I'll admit I'm a bit of a Skeeball addict and this DIY version from Beau baby is the coolest! According to the inventor, the trick to this project is getting the 'bump' just right for the ball to bounce up into the hole.
I love projects like this where you can add details over time, providing ongoing creative opportunities and adventures for your kids. Once the 'bones' are done, you can add details like windows, wallpaper, floor coverings, staircases, and even mini cardboard furnishings and people over time.
If you don't have a large cardboard box available, you can make a miniature version with a shoebox like shown in the video above, complete with mini bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room. Most of the DIY furnishings are above our skill (and patience!) level, but the basic design is pretty easy, incorporating wrapping and/or craft paper for the walls and floors.
Shadow Puppet Theatre Box
This is one of the coolest cardboard box projects I've seen, and while it looks a bit elaborate, it is actually pretty simple to make. All you need is a cardboard box for the theatre, white tissue or parchment paper for the screen, wooden skewers or sticks and sturdy paper to make the puppets, and a light to shine from behind to illuminate your theatre. Get creative by making many different sets of characters from your kids' favorite fairy tales, books and movies for hours of showtime fun.
Castle Fort With Drawbridge
Every kid loves a good old fashioned fort. Everything seems more exciting when you get to do it in your own little secret space . . . reading, snacking, or the activity of the times these quarantined days, video chatting with a friend or two. While you could just throw a sheet over the dining room table and call it a day, if you happen to have a large cardboard box at your disposal (or perhaps several you can hook together), why not fashion a fort fit for kid royalty, complete with working drawbridge?
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