Thinking outside of the (cardboard) box

When I was about 10 years old, my parents took on a kitchen remodel project.

Photo courtesy of flickr user bfhoyt

But with my parents being my parents, this couldn’t be just a normal DIY project. My dad put his carpentry background to use and they decided to go with an entire addition to the house — more than tripling the space of our old kitchen.

At one point we were required to go outside to access the kitchen sink and refrigerator, but the one bright spot in all the madness for my sister and I was a steady stream of large cardboard boxes.

We’d cut them and use the pieces as sleds. We’d build rockets and playhouses and set up shop in the driveway. We’d decorate them with markers and Lisa Frank stickers and make secret hideouts. And we’d send each other rolling down a pretty sizable hill on the edge of the property that led into a creek.

It’s a miracle that neither of us ever broke anything, but we had a lot of fun with a lot of cardboard and a little imagination.

I stumbled across ikatbag — a crafty little blog — today that showed how a woman created a post office box and mail route for her daughters using assorted cardboard boxes.

Feeling nostalgic, I found a few other crafty ideas to entertain kids with cardboard — that are way cooler than anything my sister and I ever did. Stock up on cardboard, masking tape and paint to stave off cabin fever this winter:

    1. This kitchen in a box will require mom and dad to be a bit crafty — OK really crafty — but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than any plastic version you’d find at Toys R Us.

    2. Create cardboard cars for kids to race around the house — or take a leisurely Sunday drive around the living room — in.

    3. Channel junior’s inner country music star with a cardboard guitar. A lot of prep is required, but there are patterns, so it seems doable.

    4. Make your tot a cardboard box shape sorter. Use balls and toys you have around the house for hours of fun.

    If you’re an over-achiever — you know the kind to turn a small kitchen DIY project into a four-year remodel nightmare (hi, Dad!) — and willing to invest a few bucks in project plans, you can create a pirate ship, a castle and even a fire truck.

What fun things have you and your family created with boxes? Leave a note in the comments section below. And email photos and ideas for creative cardboard projects to

April Trotter

Editor of Smart. NEPA transplant. Penn State and Shippensburg grad. Kickball and craft beer enthusiast. Collector of cardigans. "Bennie and the Jets" fanatic. Contact me at, at "Smart magazine" on Facebook, @SmartMagPA on Twitter or by phone at 717-771-2030.

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