Cardboard Crafts for Kids on the Go

These aren't just any cardboard crafts. They encourage kids to move and play!

Cardboard crafts - kids make a tunnel
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What's not to love about cardboard crafts? Cardboard is super versatile, comes in tons of sizes and shapes, is cheap or free, and can be recycled when you're done with it. Plus, it just has magical kid-attracting powers, doesn't it?

If you have a box or several handy, try these cardboard activities. They're not as elaborate as some you'll find, but they all encourage active, not sedentary, play—both in the creating and in the ongoing play.

Cardboard Crafts: Obstacle Course

Make a cardboard-only course or use boxes as part of a series of obstacles. Place intact, open boxes in a line and have kids step or jump in and out. Challenge them to jump over closed boxes or build towers and carry them. Place boxes on their sides, open at either end, to create tunnels (or, make two-sided tents by flattening boxes and then propping them up in an inverted V-shape). If you're brave, you can even make a slide by placing flat sheets of cardboard on a staircase.

Cardboard Crafts: Games

Use cardboard to DIY some simple games, like a shoebox relay race or a ball or beanbag-toss target. For the toss target, you can use a box or a sheet of cardboard. Cut a few holes of varying sizes, prop it up, and challenge kids to throw a ball, beanbag, or even a rolled-up sock into the holes. You can also decorate your cardboard to match a seasonal or party theme.

It's also fun to bring the miniature golf course home with cardboard holes, ramps, tunnels, and other challenges. Check out nine sample cardboard mini-golf holes, and then see what you can come up with on your own.

Cardboard Crafts: Art Projects

Cardboard is a nice sturdy surface for painting or drawing, whether your child is coloring right on the cardboard or using it as a desk or easel.

A large box or cardboard sheet propped up in a V or triangle gives you an easel for two or three painters.

You can decorate any of the cardboard crafts you make, or use the cardboard as an art activity by painting inside a box. Leave the box as is, or line with white paper for a brighter contrast. But instead of paintbrushes or fingers, use inexpensive plastic balls to paint. Dip them in kid-safe paint, then experiment. Kids can drop or throw the balls into the box for an excellent "Splat!" effect, and/or roll them inside the box. Either way, you'll end up with some very colorful abstract art.

Cardboard Crafts: Transportation

While cardboard boxes are ideal for making playhouses, castles, and forts, they are also suited to making things that go—so kids can go, too! Check out these tutorials for making a cardboard rocket and a cardboard wheelbarrow, which is much lighter and easier for kids to manage than the real thing. Indoors, you can also skip the wheels and just attach ribbon or a few strips of tape to a box to make a handle. Kids can use it to drag their box anywhere.

For more kid-powered vehicles, remove the bottom of a box so your child can step through and "wear" it around her waist.

You can either cut arm holes from the side of the box, or make suspender-like straps to hold the box up around your child's middle. Then she can use her imagination, and craft supplies, to turn the box into a plane, train, car, boat, or truck.

For another imaginative transportation toy, spread flat pieces of cardboard on the floor and turn them into roads, train tracks, or an airport for favorite toy vehicles. Kids can use markers to draw their landscapes, and even add additional pieces of cardboard to make ramps, bridges, buildings, and more.

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