Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Cardboard Boxes: Trash or STEAM Learning Tool?

Written By: Aysia Torres

Are you looking for some hands-on, educational fun this summer? Do you have an obscene number of cardboard boxes lying around from birthdays, holidays, or bouts of online shopping? You’ve probably tried to get rid of them, then hesitated, wondering if you might eventually need them. The truth is, you don’t need to recycle them just yet, because one girl’s trash is another girl’s inspiration, and cardboard is a great and inexpensive way to build science, technology, engineering, art, and math skills this summer! Playing with cardboard boxes is a fun, versatile, and hands-on way to cultivate important life skills for kids of all ages. While this list is short, the possibilities for cardboard STEAM projects are endless, so let’s explore ways to minimize screen time and harness our inner makers.


*While cardboard is the base for the projects below, most will require a few other materials.



Build a Fort

Difficulty: Easy


Required Materials:

  • Lots of cardboard

  • Basic art supplies (optional)

  • Duct tape or packing tape

  • Scissors (or cardboard cutter with parent supervision)

  • Yardstick or measuring tape

Instructions:

  • Take stock of what boxes you have. If it helps, sort them by size.

  • The base of your fort should be made from at least two big boxes, using the biggest for the main room of your fort. Use the duct tape to hold up weakened or flattened areas of the cardboard.

  • Tape bottom flaps together for sturdiness.

  • Using scissors or a cardboard cutter, cut the flaps (as straight as possible) off the open side of the box. This will be where your roof goes later.

  • Measure the width and length of your fort. Using those measurements, cut two pieces of cardboard the same width as the fort and at least as long as it (and longer if you want a pointier roof).

  • Tape the two pieces together on both sides to create a slanted roof and use tape to hold the roof to the opening you created earlier.

  • (Optional) Measure and cut another piece of cardboard into two triangles that fit inside the openings in the roof to create gables that will better stabilize the roof.

  • Using a box cutter, cut a door into the side of your fort.

  • To expand your fort, find another big box to attach to the side of your fort’s main room.

  • Tape open the flaps on the open side of the box to make it longer.

  • Line up the open side of the box with a flat wall of your fort and tape the two boxes together.

  • Climb inside the main fort of your box and cut a door in the wall where both boxes meet. Start slow and small so you can make it bigger as you go. If you cut off too much at first, it will be hard to add it back.

  • The size of your fort is limited only by your imagination.

  • (Optional) Use your construction paper, paint, markers, stickers, and imagination to decorate your fort as much or little as you want.

Geoboard

Adult Supervision Required

Difficulty: Medium


Required Materials:

  • Cardboard

  • Pushpins

  • Hot glue gun

  • Scissors (or cardboard cutter with parent supervision)

  • Rubber bands

  • Ruler

Instructions:

  • Cut three pieces of cardboard. Using your ruler, make sure they’re the same size. The bigger they are, the more space you have to play with.

  • Using your hot glue gun, glue the three pieces together, one on top of the other. The thickness of the three boards ensures the push pins don’t poke through and prick your fingers.

  • Using your ruler, mark evenly spaced dots across the cardboard. Remember to leave yourself a border that’s at least ½ inch thick.

  • Push your push pins in the cardboard where you marked it in the previous step.

  • Using your rubber bands, make different shapes, patterns, numbers and letters.

Make Your Own Board Game

Difficulty: Medium

Adult Supervision Recommended


Required Materials:

  • Cardboard

  • Ruler

  • Pens, Pencils, Markers

  • Scissors

  • Scrap paper

  • Game/player pieces or make your own

  • Optional: dice

Instructions:

  • Brainstorm ideas and write them down. What is the objective of the game? The rules? Is there a theme? Does your game have any dice, card drawing, player pieces, time limits, etc.? If you get stuck, you can always look at other games for inspiration or look online at some of the games other people have come up with.

  • Write down the rules and objectives. How long are turns, and what does each turn entail? How do your pieces move? How do you win? Are there rewards and challenges? If so, what are they? Keep in mind these might change as you continue to develop your game.

  • Sketch a rough draft of your design. Where are the paths and playing fields? How big does it need to be to fit all the pieces you need?

  • Optional: While you can use figurines or pieces from other games, you can also make your own game pieces. For the best results, create prototypes of your pieces.

  • Use scrap paper and pencil to create a rough prototype, or multiples, of your game board.

  • Test your game prototype by yourself, adjusting the number of players as you go to see if you need more or less to play than you had originally thought. Are there any loopholes to be exploited for an unfair advantage?

  • Test your game with friends and family. Do they have any feedback or questions about rules or the difficulty of gameplay? Take notes while you play and keep your eyes peeled for any confusion.

  • Now that you’ve gotten all the hard work out the way, it’s time to use your cardboard, markers, papers and make the final version of your board game.

  • Play and have fun!


Make Your Own Guitar

Difficulty: Easy

Adult Supervision Recommended


Required Materials:

  • Large cereal box

  • Rubber bands

  • Scissors

  • Ruler

  • Cardboard tube

  • Duct Tape

  • Basic art supplies (optional)

Instructions:

  • Measure and cut a hole in the front of your cereal box. Center it as best as you can.

  • Measure the hole of the cardboard tube and cut a hole of that size at the top of the box

  • Make small cuts at one end of the tube. This will be the top.

  • Insert the bottom of the tube in the hole on the top of the box and secure it with duct tape.

  • Using the cuts at the top of the cardboard tube, wrap the rubber bands around the guitar from the top of the tube to the bottom of the box.

  • Tape rubber bands in place at the bottom of the box.

  • (Optional) Using your art supplies, decorate your guitar, making it even more unique.

  • Throw on some music and jam out using your new guitar.


Make a Diorama

Difficulty: Medium

Adult Supervision Recommended


Required Materials:

  • Cardboard box (shoebox, tissue box, etc.)

  • Basic art supplies

  • Scrap paper

  • Construction paper

  • Scissors

  • Glue

  • Optional: Toys and figures

Instructions:

  • First, brainstorm. What will this diorama display? You can create your own magical world, or you can base it somewhere real like the Amazon rainforest, African plains, or a tropical island.

  • Using your box, make a base. Shoeboxes are just one possibility; you can also use tissue boxes, small to medium-sized shipping boxes, or something reusable like a plastic or tin container.

  • Use your scissors, paper, and art supplies like markers to create a background. Get creative!

  • (Optional) You can make your own figures by drawing them or getting inspiration from online printable coloring pages. Or, you can use whatever toys and figurines, like animals or LEGO people, you already have lying around for your diorama. Plan their placement and once you’re satisfied, glue them down.


If you try any of these projects, be sure to take photos and send them our way! We'd love to see all of the creative things you come up with! Tag us on social media (IG: @reinventedmagazine, Twitter: @reinventedmag) or email them to us: info@reinventedmagazine.com.

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