How many of us have experienced the delight in giving a small child a brand new toy, only to find he or she really does prefer the box it came in?
Well, two can play at that game.
Welcome to Boxland, where anything may happen. Let your imagination run wild and spend some quality time with the little darlings. Added bonus: you can leave your credit card in your wallet. If you’ve just had a de-clutter or a spring clean, you may have to do a little collecting first. Look out for, and stash:
To make two of the projects on this page you’ll need a box large enough for your child to sit in, as a base. Then collect any other cardboard boxes, cereal packets, paper plates, anything that’s clean and food-free.
-Junk Mail comes in handy:
Collect junk mail, advertising brochures, catalogues and magazines. Anything colourful will do.
Bits of shredded paper, wrapping paper with a raised pattern, look for different textures to make it more fun and interesting.
Small pieces of cloth, ribbon, shoe laces, yarn, rope and any other trimmings are great for adding finishing touches.
Alongside all these recycled goodies, you’ll need:
-pencils, markers, crayons, paints etc;
-a decent pair of scissors, and perhaps a craft knife. Keep these out of reach of little fingers.
-glue, sellotape, maybe a little ‘blu-tac’
So, here we go…. projects and ideas for recycling household stuff into delightful toys;
Trains, Boats and Cars
… whichever your child happens to be into at the moment. The only downside to this – you need a strong back as you’ll be expected to provide engine power when the vehicle is built.
Start with a large box that your child can sit comfortably in. Put a cushion inside if they are too little to see over the top.
With paper fasteners, attach paper plates for wheels and steering. Or cut circles out of card and attach with a length of yarn through the centre. Make the wheels turn somehow.
-Cut out a windscreen from another box or piece of card, with a window, and glue to the main body.
Add extra ‘carriages’ to a train by tying smaller boxes on a length of rope, or ribbon behind the main carriage. These smaller boxes can carry the passengers (teddies or other favourite toys)
-stick pictures or stickers to decorate or paint the whole thing.
- optional extra: An engine needs horsepower, so you need some reins. A fairly sturdy length of rope attached through the front of the ‘vehicle’ should do it. Now you can pull your tiny around in their train, car or boat until you run out of fuel.
Fairy castles and Doll’s Houses
A house or castle shouldn’t need pulling round so you can sacrifice a little sturdiness for size. Put 2 boxes together to make a large house your child can go in and out of. The only thing to look out for, is the child leaning on the walls… they may fall down. A large cushion may help secure it, or will at least break the fall 🙂
If you’re making a castle, glue some smaller boxes round the top of the walls for turrets.
‘Wallpaper’ the insides of the house or castle with pictures from magazines and old catalogues. Paint the outside in bright poster paints.
Cut out windows and stick two pieces of cloth on the inside to represent curtains.
Outside the box: Cut a circle of blue card or cloth and lay it outside to serve as a pond. Cut out orange fish shapes from card and scatter them on the ‘water’.
Theatres and TVs
Find a box that will sit on the table and be big enough to partially conceal someone sitting behind it.
Cut or remove half the base of the box. Then turn it on its side. The piece you removed is where the stage is set. If possible, instead of removing the base half, fold it back and adjust the width, so that ‘props’ can sit on it.
Decorate the theatre lavishly with shiny paper, ribbons and bows etc;
Hang a length of cloth over the back of the box (originally the open top) to hide the pupeteer.
Then hold your own puppet show. Make up a script and see how long you can stick to it before laughing!
Ideas for home made puppets:
- Cut celebrity pictures from old magazines and stick them to thin card, Attach a sturdy length of card or a smooth stick (chopsticks perhaps?) with sellotape to the back of the ‘celebrity’ puppet.
- Wooden spoons make very effective glove puppets that small children can work easily. Tie a piece of cloth round the ‘neck’ of the spoon. Paint on a face and stick on some ‘hair’ using yarn or something similar. The child can hold the handle of the spoon under the cloth.
Turn a medium sized box onto its longest edge and on the inside of the edge, draw target areas. These could be strips of different colours with numbers, or different sized numbered circles. Don’t make the numbers too high, no more than 10.
On the base of the box – at the ‘top’ edge, cut 2 slits a few inches apart large enough for a counter to pass through.
Use plastic counters or cut circles from card. Make lots so you don’t run out too quickly.
Child pushes their ‘coins’ in one slit and if it lands on a target area clear of the lines, the child wins that number of coins. There’s room for diplomacy here; if the young player is getting to the end of their coins, a little extra bonus wouldn’t go amiss 🙂
The ‘winning’ coins are posted back through the second slit, much to the amusement of the child, especially if you are slightly hidden from view.
These are just a few of many creations you can make in the wonderful world of boxes. How about…
- making a doll’s house as an ongoing project, slowly adding matchbox furniture and pipe cleaner dolls
- building a complete model village around a village green, space permitting
When the box finally gives up its struggle to survive under such heavy play conditions, recycle what you can and make something else!
P.S. I’ve put together a quick download of 30 off-grid family games to lure them from their electronic devices! Listed here