With all the empty cardboard boxes that may still be around your house post-holiday, don’t throw them out! Take a lesson from my kids, who have never seen an empty box they didn’t turn into a playhouse, a race car, or a doll cradle. Since we all know the boxes are often more fun for kids than the stuff inside, here are a whole bunch of toys you can make from cardboard boxes — and I promise, they’re actually doable, unlike some of the ridiculous things I’ve seen on Pinterest. (No offense crafters, but I don’t have six days to make a doll bed.)
Cardboard Box Cars and Trucks
The Makedo Make Anything Kits are a favorite way of ours to help kids transform mere recyclables into something magic. Also check out the new Makedo Box Props Kits featuring props to make a roadster, fire engine and more, with the help of kid-safe plastic “scrus” But the truth is, you can also do what my kids do: flip a box upside down, cut a large hole at the bottom (now the top) for your kids to sit in, and draw wheels on the sides. Keep the side flaps open for extra support — or uh, stability around hairpin turns.
DIY Cardboard Toddler Play Area
This upcycled use for a giant box is so perfect for young kids who need a contained space for play. I am so impressed with how Anna of Imagination Tree drew in a little town with roads to give the blocks and cars an environment.
A DIY Cardboard Box Playhouse
When we ordered a filing cabinet from Poppin, the tall box was the perfect height to make a playhouse that sat in my living room for a good four months. It’s not hard to cut out windows and door flaps, or take inspiration from this post at Apartment Therapy which includes cushy pillows inside and easy drapes.
Cardboard Box Washing Machine
Estefi Machado wowed us with this clever and easy play washer made from just a box, a knife and a sharpie. Clothes pins optional — but really nice touch.
Cardboard Box Dollhouse
We recently featured this awesome dollhouse DIY project made with the free printable templates from Mr. Printables to help you get it together. It’s as colorful as the paper you pick to decorate it with — we love how this one looks.
DIY Cardboard Treasure Chest
Also from Imagination Tree, check out this tutorial for a pirate’s treasure chest. It’s fairly easy, and the best part is, it doubles as a place to put other little toys away. Score.
DIY Cardboard Doll Bed
Ambrosia Girl shows us this great cardboard doll bed that’s a step up from just putting some receiving blankets in a small box like I tend to do. The headboard is too cute.
[h/t apartment therapy]
DIY Cardboard Guitar
Love this simple little handmade guitar from ikat bag which offers a really clear tutorial. I love the detail that backing it with a small box adds an acoustic chamber for the rubber band strings.
DIY Embroidery Stitch Cards
My kids have always liked those stitch cards but they can be pretty pricy. Kiwi Co offers this simple tutorial for doing it yourself with cereal boxes and yarn needles.
DIY Cardboard Box Gas Station Pump
This is the kind of toy you could end up getting a whole lot of use out of. Parents Magazine suggests you use two boxes (a smaller one for the top), then hot glue the flaps shut and the boxes together. Construction paper brings it to life, while plastic tubing and a spray bottle make the one pump that doesn’t warrant hand sanitizer immediately after touching.
Hopefully these ideas inspire you, or hey, let your kids use their imaginations. I’m often more impressed with what they come up with than anything I’ve seen online.