Welcome to the biggest shopping week of the year! Try not to spit out your coffee, but Amazon ships around 1.6 million packages around the world every single day. That’s a lot of cardboard boxes, Batman. November is a massive shipping month thanks to Black Friday, and you may find yourself overstuffing your paper recycling bag for the next few weeks. But before you do that, why not use them for something creative first?
Go nuts and build. Don’t worry about the tiny bits of cardboard and crafting supplies that embed themselves in your carpets or tuck into the corners of your room. Spend your time creating with your family and let pro cleaners come in to handle the nit-picky clean up at your next appointment. If you don’t have a cleaner yet, consider adding that service to your Black Friday to-buy list. It’s the gift that keeps on giving so you don’t have to think about cleaning mess after mess.
On that note, here are some ideas to keep your kids busy and inspire their inner artist and engineer. Some of these suggestions have a holiday theme but your kid may have other ideas. Just let it flow!
Cut open a small- to medium-sized box and remove the flaps so it’s open on one side. Use tape and coloured construction paper to set the scene. You can also draw out a scene on white paper and tape that on as a background. Just be aware that cardboard is not the greatest medium for paint, as it absorbs quite a bit, and the colours don’t usually come out very vibrant. The best marker for cardboard is Sharpie, hands down. They come in every colour you can imagine and are always handy to have around.
Then go nuts with a holiday-theme inside, using every scrap of crafting supplies you can find lying around the house! Plasticine gingerbread men, popsicle stick Christmas trees, colourful beads for holiday lighting … the possibilities are endless.
Faux Gingerbread House
It’s not the mess that makes pre-made gingerbread houses a fail. That’s probably the best part. But it’s disheartening when your house collapses in on itself because no one is patient enough to wait until the icing dries between each panel. And let’s be honest: It never looks as good as it does on the box. Plus, no one is ever gonna eat that stale gingerbread after it’s been literally collecting dust for a week or more.
Guess what material is the exact same colour as gingerbread? Yup – cardboard. Cut up a box into panels just like you’d find in your pre-made kit. Glue them together and embellish your “icing” lines with white pipe cleaners. Decorate with candies or other crafting supplies because both with work. Just use real glue instead of icing.
Life-size Hot Wheels
This one is reserved for the biggest cardboard boxes, of course. You can make a car or get a little festive and create a sleigh with one or more boxes, complete with fabric straps stapled in so your little one can hang it from their shoulders and zoom around like Kris Kringle. All you need is a plan, a Sharpie for drawing details, a good pair of scissors and ideally some large crafting brads so you can have movable parts. Go wild with painting or bedazzling, whatever floats their boat! Constructor’s tip: Utilize the flaps as doors, a hood, or a trunk – just cut to fit!
Every favourite stuffy needs a cardboard car. Hot Wheels and toy trucks need a drive-through car wash with a fringe dangling in front of the entrance. Dolls need beds and action figures need secret HQs. Sharpie, scissors, glue, crafting brads and a creative mind are all you need to outfit toys with temporary accessories.
Fun finger puppets
Cut cardboard boxes into people-shapes from the waist-up (no legs required, but make nice, wide bottom). Then draw on the details and colour in your finger puppet with Sharpie. Then cut out two small holes towards the bottom, just big enough for a finger each. Poke your index and middle fingers through the holes and there you go! You’ve got moving legs for your puppet people or animals. Use a bigger box to create a puppet theater by cutting the flaps off one side. Add a piece of fabric as a curtain and open the back flaps when your puppets are performing.
Chez play kitchen
Strong cardboard boxes make for a terrific little kitchen set, complete with an oven (with a door flap!), fridge (again, with a door flap), cabinets and a countertop with a hole cut out for a sink. Sharpie on all the details like stove elements and dials. For extra effect, cut the sink hole out to fit one of your metal mixing bowls, using the lip of the bowl for a snug fit. Constructor’s tip: You can even go British and incorporate a washing machine in your kitchen set up! Cut a front-flap and draw all the dials and knobs on with Sharpie. Same goes for a dishwasher – get creative!
Bigger, better board games
Tic Tac Toe. Match the shapes. Checkers … any the simple game can be made bigger and better with a carboard box set! First cut out your main game board and then use the rest of the box bits to make your play pieces. Colour with Sharpie and play away!
Robots and monsters
Life-size or mini – depends on the size of boxes you have! Empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls make perfect mini-robot legs and arms, while smaller rectangular boxes are great for funky-shaped stand-alone monster heads. Draw on one cyclops eye or use big googly eyes to complete the look. With bigger boxes, cut out a hole big enough to fit your kid’s head through, and use a separate big box for the body complete with arm and leg holes. Turn it into a life-size robot or fun monster!
How perfect for Black Friday, right? Playing store at home is any child’s right of passage so create your own and stock its shelves with play food, folded clothes, or goods you make out of smaller cardboard boxes. Stack smaller cardboard boxes to create shelves or cut the flaps off one side a large box and use the flaps as storage and shelving. Another box turns into a cash register – just make sure customers bring their own bags!