10 imagination-sparking activities to try with an empty cardboard box

When they coined the phrase “the simple things in life are often the best”, they were almost certainly referring to the versatile talents of the humble cardboard box!

While kids are often capable of hatching their own cardboard box-themed games, we’ve got a few tried and true ideas up our sleeve too. Not only are these activities easy and low-cost, they have the potential to keep your child entertained for hours on end. Hooray!

Let’s get started!

child in box

1. Box tunnel

Some packing tape, similarly sized boxes and a bit of determination is all you need to create an exciting tunnel that will not only provide hours of entertainment for your child, but also help refine gross motor skills. Decorate your tunnel, with your child’s help, if you like. Add cushions and blankets for extra fun!

2. Cubby house

A big box and some strategic incisions combine powers to create a simple cubby house, complete with door and windows. You can help your child paint their cubby or collage the exterior with colourful paper together.

Cubbies set the stage for all kinds of fun role play, so don’t be surprised if you overhear some familiar dialogue from within!

Toddler in cardboard box

3. Box kitchen

No need to splash out on those expensive kitchen playsets, parents. Some cardboard boxes, paint, paper plate “hotplates” and milk bottle lid knobs are an equally fun-packed, recycled alternative. Let your child explore your family’s kitchen cupboards and choose plastic containers, small saucepans and wooden spoons for an extra touch of realism.

4. Puppet show

Go to town, making an elaborately customised puppet theatre with curtains and cut out stage, or keep it super simple with upturned box and cut out top for your puppet performers. The choice is yours. Help your child make puppets from old socks, toilet rolls, or cardboard and paddlepop sticks and then prepare to be entertained!

kids playing in cardboard box

5. Milk bar

Raid the pantry for baked beans, tins of tuna and the like, and help your child set up their very own shop! Not only will you be their number one customer, this game will help them begin to make sense of concepts like money, meal planning, shopping lists and favourite foods.

6. Mail box

In this age of electronic mail, the game of mail box is in danger of dying out. You can do your bit to preserve the snail mail tradition by cutting a slot in a cardboard box and giving your child things to helpfully post. Use old envelopes and catalogues rescued from the recycling, or sit down together and make some of your own special letters. If you have a young child who likes to “post things” around the house, you’ll already be aware of how many hours of enjoyment will come from this activity.

7. Doll house

Taped-together shoe boxes make the perfect DIY doll house. Raid the toy box for little characters who can live within your newly-hatched cardboard home, make furniture with bits and bobs from the recycling bin or seek out proper doll house furniture from your local op shop, if you prefer.

Cardboard city with toy figures

8. Little world

A chopped-down, large cardboard box (think cardboard box tray) can make a fun to decorate (and easy to store) little land for your child to play with.

You can use coloured tape to mark out roads or footpaths. Draw on other details like flower gardens, rivers or lakes. Throw in some buildings made from blocks, more boxes or Lego, cars or characters from the bottom of the toy box and before you know it you’ve created a whole new world!

9. Aquarium

Tip your box on its side, paint the inside blue or green and you’ve got a ready-to-fill aquarium. Cut out simple fish shapes or other underwater creatures and raid the craft basket for some seaweed-y wool or other treasures to pop inside.

Chid playing with cardboard box

10. Box TV

If you cut most of the bottom out of a large cardboard box and turn it on its side, your child can be an instant TV star! Glue or tape milk bottle lids to the front to form your TV’s knobs.

Use a smaller cardboard box to make a remote control. Then let your child crawl in, turn on the TV and watch your new favourite show!

This is the year for taking a deep breath and keeping our parenting simple – and that’s what BIG W are all about too, providing you with the stuff you actually need for your kids, at the right time and price. From 2nd February, BIG W are launching their Dymples Babywear, Emerson Kidswear and Kardashian Kids ranges in store and online. You’ll find affordable yet cute baby basics, created with an eye to catwalk trends. Check it out at BIG W.

(This is a sponsored post for BIG W)

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