9 clever cardboard toys to make

Published on Wednesday, 03 March 2021
Last updated on Monday, 01 March 2021

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If you’re looking for an ingenious way to turn an old box into a new toy, then you’re not alone.

Pinterest has recorded an 85 per cent year-on-year increase in searches for ‘cardboard toys,’ and you don’t need to be an industrial designer to make something mind-blowing.

Here are 9 clever – and simple – ideas for cardboard creations.

  1. A collapsible cubby house

A homemade cubby is a classic cardboard build, and for the space-conscious family, this collapsible cubby is pure genius!

There’s a simple 10-step process to build it, and once playtime is over, the funhouse folds down flat for easy storage.

  1. A cardboard kaleidoscope

A DIY kaleidoscope is a quick and easy way to skip the light fantastic.

This gadget transforms everyday items into eye-boggling patterns, and all you need to do is stick three cardboard strips to a sheet of foil, then tape them into a triangular tube. Pegs and LEGO people will never look the same! 

  1. A shoebox theatre

Sometimes, big things come in small packages, and an Arctic shoebox theatre is an inventive way to add sparkle to puppet play.

This not-too-tricky craft project has sliding penguins and magical lights, and your preschooler will enjoy making the theatre with you, then putting on a show. Encore, please!

  1. Geometric shape cardboard sculptures

Geometric shape stackers are an arty take on upcycling.

The triangles, ovals, hearts, diamonds, hexagons, pentagons and stars can all be slid together and stacked high, and once your child has built their cardboard shape sculpture, it’s time to break it down and start again!

  1. A watermelon puzzle

Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to practise your preschooler’s problem-solving, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and this watermelon puzzle teaches fractions too. 

Your under five will get a taste for halves, quarters and eighths as they piece together the fruit, and the homespun melons double as play food. 

  1. A cardboard TV

Young children should have little or no screen time, depending on their age, but there’s no limit to the fun that can be had with a cardboard TV!

This clever model puts your child’s art on the small screen, with cardboard tubes that keep the show reels rolling. 

  1. A cardboard laptop

The cardboard computer is another ingenious unplugged device.

This straight-forward design teaches literacy skills as your preschooler taps out assigned words on their keyboard, and this chalkboard version also turns the home into an office with the power of pretend play.

  1. A shape-sorting box

Anyone with a baby or toddler will know that an empty box is full of wonder, and once they tire of this, a shape-sorting box is a great step up.

This cardboard box shape sorter is a supersized version of the classic shape-sorting cube, and this pull and drop table is an easy peasy way to flex your little one’s fine motor and spatial awareness skills. 

  1. Marble labyrinth game

Cardboard creations aren’t just the domain of under fives, and this marble labyrinth game is a recycled, re-playable skill-tester with engineering appeal for older kids.

It’s constructed with a lidded box, a craft stick maze and holes for your child’s marble to avoid.

If your preschooler is keen to play, you can make the game easier by removing or reducing the holes, and if you’re looking for more cardboard projects, there are stacks of ideas in internet land.

What else has been piquing parents’ interest?

Aside from the surge in searches for ‘cardboard toys’, Pinterest has also recorded increased interest in outdoor education, not-so-furry pets (like snails and frogs) and mindfulness, moral lessons and real-world teachings.

These trends are predicted to play out in 2021, so stay tuned!

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