You see a cardboard box, but your toddler sees a world of possibilities.

What Can Toddlers Make Out of a Cardboard Box Besides a Fort?

by Renee Miller

By the time your child is a 2-year-old, her imagination is on fire. Household items become sources of inspiration for imaginative play, and cardboard boxes are the mother lode in terms of creativity because they can be so much more than a simple fort. Art projects provide toddlers with an enduring way of communicating that they can be and do anything. Creating a cardboard box masterpiece allows your toddler to develop many important skills.

1. Imagination Machine

Let your toddler determine just what he's creating, but decorate it so he can change his mind later and use it as an ever-changing source of imaginative play. Give him free rein to put whatever he'd like on the outside. The options are endless for boxes this size, particularly if you have the props to go with it. For example, draw round windows along the side and attach paper or plastic fish to make an imaginary submarine, or cut the circles out before you begin coloring, so your toddler can peek out at you while he’s inside. The next day, your toddler might put a clock inside and decide his submarine is a time machine. With different props, your toddler's decorated cardboard box can be anything his imagination decides it can be.

2. Box Cars

Toddlers love things that move, and a cardboard box can be made into a car or a truck in a snap. Before you set your tiny artist to work, cut out large holes in the bottom for his legs, and cut around two thirds of the top, leaving the cut portion attached at the last third so you can fold it back to make a windshield. Paper plates make perfect wheels, and plastic or paper cups glued to the front make headlights. Make doors your toddler can open and close on either side and once the cutting is done, let your toddler go nuts with crayons, tempura or finger paints to personalize the car.

3. Tiny Stage

Toddlers are just delving into imaginary play, and role playing and performing are activities most toddlers enjoy. Encourage your budding performer by making your cardboard box into a tiny one-person stage. A large box big enough for your toddler to climb inside is ideal, but one big enough to fit the top half of her body or to use with puppets, dolls and stuffed toys will also work. Cut out part of the front of the box before you begin crafting with your toddler. Glue fabric along the sides for curtains and take turns putting on plays or singing songs to entertain your toddler and the rest of the family.

4. Work Stations and More

Medium to large boxes provide an opportunity for your toddler to create and recreate each day. Seal the boxes closed and flip them over side-by-side. Spend a bit of time with your toddler painting and decorating the boxes whatever way she chooses. Draw a couple of burners on top, add some food boxes and plastic utensils, and your toddler can use the boxes as her own kitchen. Gather a couple of play tools and she has a work bench. With some wooden spoons and a bit of imagination, the boxes can become a drum set.

Photo Credits

  • Michael Blann/Lifesize/Getty Images