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There is an old adage that says a child would rather play with a cardboard box than its contents. Try thinking out of the box and you and your children can embrace this idea by turning ordinary cardboard boxes into easy toys for kids.


Ferocious feet

You’ll need two tissue boxes for this craft. Choose the ones that have a hole at the top. To make toes, cut out cardboard triangles and stick them on the top of one end of each box. Paint the boxes green, with yellow triangles, for crocodile or monster feet. Or try orange feet, with purple toes.

Going places

Fancy taking a drive? Maybe your little one wants to head out to sea for the day. Turn your cardboard box into a car, simply by flipping over one of the top panels, and sticking a paper plate onto the inside of the box. You can tuck the other panels into the box and add a cushion for a comfortable seat. Use more paper plates for tires.

To make a boat, cut off the top panels and use them to add cardboard points onto both ends of a box. Add a strip of cardboard over the middle of the box. Cut a hole in the middle of this and stick a cardboard tube into it for a mast.

King of the castle

If you have a large enough box, cut out a door and windows to make a house or castle. If you cut only the sides and top of the window, you can bend the cardboard down to make a shelf. Tie string to the top of the shelf and attach it to the box for extra support. You can add a roof or turrets, made from other cardboard pieces. Or cut the top off and shape crenels into the top of each side. Give your children some paint or crayons and let them decorate their fantasy house.

Music maker

Use a small box, such as a thin tissue or shoebox, to make a guitar. Cut a hole in the middle of one of the smaller sides, and stick a cardboard tube into this for the handle. Cut a hole into the top of the box and place big elastic bands over the box, so that they cross over the hole. If the elastic bands are slipping off, cut small grooves into the edge of the box, to hold them in place.

Shape sorter

Find an assortment of simple toys in your toddler’s room, such as a ball, a block and a board book. Cut shapes into the box, to match each of these items. Then let your toddler sort and post these shapes into the box.

Something fishy

Make your own fish tank by cutting out one side of a large cardboard box. Paint the inside of the box blue, paint some rocks, coral and sand onto the box, and stick a sheet of clear or light blue cellophane over the hole. Get children to make some fish, sharks, jelly fish and other sea creatures, making sure to colour in both sides. Attach these to some fishing line. To make your fish hang into the tank, string lines across the top of the box and tie your fish onto these.

Theatre lovers

Make a puppet or shadow theatre. For both, use a large box and cut out one side, leaving a small border. Cut the back off the box. Fix a string or thin dowel rod on the inside of the box, above the hole, and thread some material onto this for a curtain. Place the box onto a table or another box, so that children can sit behind the stage. If you’re making a shadow theatre, stick some wax paper or thin material over the hole. Keep in mind that you will also need a light behind you, for the shadows to be seen. Then all your children need to do is make some puppets and put on a play.

Tamlyn Vincent

If you enjoyed Thinking out of the box and making easy toys for kids, read more on how kids benefit from building things.