I love working with cardboard. Why? For starters, it's abundant. Cardboard sneaks into your home every time you bring in groceries and sundries, and you can get boxes for free at most stores just by asking for them. Then there's the fact that you can build big things with it, using only some tape or glue. Finally, cardboard can be recycled, so it's ecofriendly. I've made hundreds of cardboard projects, ranging from small milk-carton houses to cars and huts big enough for my three girls, ages 4, 5, and 7, to play inside. We work together to think up, plan, develop, and construct these toys. The three projects on the following pages were originally built and played with by my family. They also appeared on my craft and sewing blog, ikatbag (ikatbag.com), where you can find instructions for making the seven other crafts shown at right. Here's are three fun projects using my favorite material.
Sized just right for tiny peg dolls, this basic structure can be used to make a dollhouse or castle turret as well.
Start with a cardboard canister, such as an oatmeal container. Trim the top to shorten it. Cut three fins from corrugated cardboard. For the nose cone, cut a circle from cereal box cardboard that's twice the diameter of the canister (our canister was 4 inches wide, so we used an 8-inch circle). Trim away a pie-piece section, and curve the rest into a cone, securing it with tacky glue. Paint the pieces with acrylic paint and let them dry.
Cut a small circle in the canister's side for the door window. Cut a larger circle around the first circle, leaving 3/4 inch on one side uncut for a hinge.
Use hot glue to attach the fins and the nose cone. Add details with paint.
This no-whacking-required pi?ata provides just as much suspense as the traditional type. Kids take turns pulling one ribbon at a time, only one of which opens a trapdoor holding back the treats.
From corrugated cardboard, cut a rectangle (ours is 16 by 25 inches) with the flutes parallel to the short sides. Cut tab like crenellations along one of the long edges. We also cut out a window and added a drawing of a princess. Roll the rectangle into a cylinder and glue the overlap in place.
Trace the tower's base onto a piece of sturdy corrugated cardboard and cut out the circle. Use a craft knife (an adult's job) to cut a trapdoor, leaving one side scored but not cut through to form a hinge.
Cut about a yard of curling ribbon. Glue one end to the inside of the trapdoor, opposite the hinge. Run glue along the bottom edge of the tower, and attach it to the base.
Cut more lengths of ribbon -- at least one or two per player. Lay about 6 inches of their ends within the three sides of the trapdoor opening, then carefully close the trapdoor; the ribbons will be pinched in place.
The hinge edge of the trapdoor will not have any ribbons -- a dead giveaway. To mislead players, use a craft knife to make small slits close to the hinge and insert ribbons into them.
With a hole punch, make holes at the top of the pi?ata, then tie a ribbon loop for hanging. Fill the tower with treats and hang it up.
These were created when my daughters were in a serious Musketeer phase -- swinging broomsticks around, fighting invisible enemies.
The blades of these swords are made from wrapping paper tubes. For each sword, flatten one end of a tube, trim it to a blunt point, and tape it closed.
Cut a strip of corrugated cardboard (with the flutes parallel to the short ends) that's about 1 inch wider than the tube and about 12 inches long. Round off the ends. About 2 inches from one end, cut a hole big enough to fit the tube.
Slide the tube through the hole.
Next, bend the other end around to the flat end of the tube, and glue it in place. Spread a thin layer of glue on the blade, then wrap it with aluminum foil. Add a line of glue where the foil overlaps. If desired, paint the handle guard.
Originally published in the March 2012 issue of FamilyFun magazine.