This post contains affiliate links, but I’m only recommending my favorite books and tools. I hope you enjoy them as much as me!
Even if you’re low on art supplies, you’ve probably got cardboard around the house. Look around! Cereal boxes, diaper boxes, all those Amazon packages — that’s enough to spark a ton of fun activities.
Whether you’re self-isolating with a toddler or a too-cool-for-school tween, a cardboard box is actually a great jumping off point for open ended creativity.
Embrace limited supplies
A fun book I often read to my students is Not A Box by Antoinette Portis. It promotes the idea that you can make anything from “nothing” — all you need is your imagination. Now more than ever, this is a great reminder for all of us.
For Little Ones
For older kids, something like a complex cardboard automata is an awesome challenge, but let’s start with something a bit more simple for the littles.
Grab a big box and some non-toxic paint or washable markers and some spare stickers. Have some ribbon on hand? Even better! Set these all out as an invitation to create. We attached the ribbon to the entrance of the box above and then let the kids play and explore.
The set up is super simple, and when your child engages with the materials, they’re using gross motor skills to paint brush, fine motor skills to peel and place stickers, and practicing their own decision-making skills.
Let your child lead
A big part of what we do at Figment is providing supplies and listening to our kids’ ideas. I recommend pulling out some boxes and asking your kids what projects they have in mind. They will probably have ideas right off the bat. Go with it!
It’s easy to quickly jump into “no” mode, but if they’re really excited about an idea, pause and ask yourself, “What do we need to make this happen?” You may have to make some substitutions, but is there a way you can make this project happen? And how much peace and quiet will it buy you if you do?
I find that cutting some cardboard up into manageable pieces helps to have at hand for projects. It acts as excellent (and cheap) canvas. It’s also a great building material that can be put together in countless ways. We love to use hot glue or craft picks.
But if you get a BIG box save that for deep exploration!
Awesome tools for creating with cardboard
If you have a cereal box and scissors you’re ready to go, but if you really want to up your game, here are some of my favorite tools at the studio.
Remember, always be safe when using tools. Ask an adult for help and make good decisions.
The idea of open-ended exploration can be a little intimidating. If you’re more comfortable with exploring chartered territory, I’ve got you covered. My friend Barbara Rucci wrote a killer book called Cardboard Creations- Open- Ended Explorations with Recycled Materials that you’ve gotta check out. It has more than 20 sustainable art projects with over 75 different variations. I love it so much that we actually sell it at the studio.
Another one of my favorite creative cardboard books is Leslie Manlapig’s Epic Cardboard Adventures. It has 20 different adventures across four exciting themes, 60 easy-to-make projects that use everyday items, and step-by-step instructions with helpful tips and ideas.
The two books are very different, but they’re both awesome. It depends on if you are looking for something more process based (Cardboard Creations) or project based (Epic Cardboard Adventures).
As always, the most important thing is to have fun, connect with your kids, and after your spark their imagination, stand back and let them create.