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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


  • 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.


Adult Supervision Required