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10 Ways to Spark Imagination with a Cardboard Box

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Photo of Alison Smith
Updated | 7 min read

Did you know that the Teach Starter team have recently relocated to a brand new office? It’s incredible and we love working in our new digs but with the move came a seemingly endless supply of cardboard boxes. It was Jill, co-founder of Teach Starter, who asked the question, “Can we do anything with these boxes?”  That’s where the blog – 10 Ways to Spark Imagination with a Cardboard Box started. These fun and exciting cardboard box ideas will have you searching high and low for empty cardboard boxes to use…


Cardboard Box Reading Nook

I seriously loved making this reading nook out of cardboard boxes.

There is no end of possibilities for decorating the outside and inside of your reading nook. Safety is an important factor to consider, so make sure that you choose lighting that is fire safe and that your reading nook is strong and stable.

Your reading nook will be unique based on the materials available to you. However, here’s how I constructed mine:

  1. Clear a corner of your classroom. This provides two, ready-to-go walls.
  2. Create the third wall by stacking up boxes.
  3. Flatten a large box and cut out an entrance. Use strong tape to secure it in place (you will need a helper).
  4. Add fairy lights and party lights (check fire safety regulations at your school).
  5. Decorate the inside of the nook with some of our literacy posters.
  6. Use a large sheet to create a roof.
  7. Add a touch of paradise to the entrance of your reading nook with our Tropical Paradise – Letters and Numbers Bunting

Multi-Media Art Activity

When was the last time you allowed your class the freedom to get creative with little or no direction? This art activity is a great way to encourage your students to work in collaboration and free themselves up from the idea that things need to be perfect. Every time I have used this idea, it has been a total success! It even worked when I tried it with the Teach Starter team.

How To Do It:

  1. Flatten a large cardboard box.
  2. Choose a selection of craft materials. Think drawing, swirling, sticking, cutting, scrunching, textures and shine. Arrange the craft items around the box so that they are easy to reach.
  3. Arrange the students into small groups of 6-8 and give each group 10 minutes to draw, stick and paint on the cardboard.
  4. Encourage the students to do whatever they want and to be as creative as they can be with the items available.

We used star stickers, cupcake cases, tissue paper, tin foil, cotton buds and paint, streamers, felt pens, buttons and blue tac and a variety of tapes. Phew!

Make a Mail Box

I love the idea of initiating a classroom postal system. You could even set up a mailing system between classes. It works well to nominate a postman on a weekly rota and to read letters on Friday afternoon as a whole class activity.

Having tried and tested the idea in my own classroom, I know how important it is to be mindful of complications that can arise, such as students not receiving mail or students receiving unfriendly letters. As a result, I have come up with the following solutions:

  1. Set up a weekly letter buddy system to ensure that each student receives a letter.
  2. Set clear expectations about the content of letters ensuring that all students understand that messages should be kind, positive and make the receiver feel good.
  3. Post your own letters from the teacher, to each student, to provide positive reinforcement.

Number Slide Mathematics Activity

It’s easy to create a Number Slide with a cardboard box, a few paper drinking straws and cardboard tubes. We made this one by flattening a medium sized box.

Here’s how:

  1. Create the ultimate bunting heading by downloading our editable Lush Leaves Blue – Word Wall Template.
  2. Flatten a medium sized box use as the slide.
  3. Create four lanes at the base of the slide by attaching drinking straws. We used double-sided sticky tape to secure 3 paper straws on a triangle formation to create extra height.
  4. Add some fake grass (optional) that can be purchased from most cheap shops.
  5. Secure some paper tubes using double-sided sticky tape.
  6. Secure one mathematics question card in each lane. We used the Lush Leaves Blue – Word Wall Template to make our question cards and to ramp up the pretty factor.
  7. Secure the Number Slide to the wall by using strong tape.

Stationery Storage Cardboard Box House

Create extra storage space for your classroom by constructing a cardboard box house to hold stationery.

If you’re like me and find comfort in compartmentalizing items, then you’ll love using small boxes to create different rooms for crayons, pencils, rulers, felt pens and erasers.

Create a Bookshelf Cardboard Box House

Use the different sections of the house to sort your books into categories such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry and magazines.

Create a Maths Corner Cardboard Box House

Create a maths corner and store concrete items such as Cactus – Numbers 1 to 100 Charts, counters, dice, blocks, number lines and fast finisher task cards.  Read our blog Hands-On Maths Tool Box in the Classroom for more ideas on items to include in your maths corner.

Create a Washing Machine for Your Home Corner

Create the perfect appliance for your Kindergarten home corner in a few simple steps:

  1. Cut out a door carefully and cover the inner circle with clear plastic.
  2. Draw on detail with a black marker.
  3. Jazz your washing machine up by adding a few knobs and dials with bottle tops.

 Create a Clothing Donation Washing Machine

Why not create a clothing donation washing machine in your classroom? Encourage your students to make a positive contribution to your local community by bringing in clothes that they no longer wear (check with parents first of course). When the tub is full, donate the clothes to a local charity.

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Lovin’ this hashtag today! #cardboardboxcreative #Repost @_tiger_time_ ・・・ W A S H I N G M A C H I N E F U N 💦👚👕👖👗📦 . My boys love watching and helping with the washing machine.. can anyone else relate? So we decided to make one of our own! . . I initially made it for Ned but he almost ripped the door off it lol so Ollie played with it instead. It’s another online purchase box.. shhhh . . Basically I tried my best to copy the front of our washing machine and then used clear contact for the door. Something better would of been clear Perspex- which I didn’t have! . . Play based learning is so much fun! So then we grabbed some clothes and played! . . Ollie’s imagination always runs wild when he sees an empty box.. our next creation will be an aeroplane so stay tuned for that! . . Great for encouraging language, role playing, gross motor skills and organising and making social sense of the real world! . . Another winner! 👍🏼 . . #TigerTime #sensoryplay #natureplayideas #playbasedlearning #learningisfun #homeeducation #finemotorskills #playislearning #montessoriathome #play #learning #playmatters #kidsactivities #learningathome #playtime #playthroughlearning #cardboardboxcreative #cardboardboxfun #preschoolathome #preschoolactivities #kinder #toddlerfun #toddlerplay #teachersfollowteachers #everydayplayhacks #greatidea #playislearning #teacherfollowfriday #treasures4teachers

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Create Hands-On Literacy Resources

Your students will love matching lowercase to the uppercase letters with this hands-on teaching resource made from a cardboard box and paddle pop sticks.

How to make it:

  1. Cut 26 slots in a shallow cardboard box.
  2. Label each slot with the 26 letters of the alphabet (upper case).
  3. Label 26 large paddle pop sticks with the letters of the alphabet (lower case).

Next time you are planning literacy rotations, why not set up three or more alphabet activity stations?

Here are a few suggested literacy rotation activities to develop upper and lower case letter recognition, letter formation and fine motor skills:

  1. Cardboard box Match-Up Upper and Lower Case Letters activity
  2. A to Z Alphabet Handwriting Worksheets for Fine Motor

  3. Alphabet Playdough Mats for Fine Motor Development

  4. Alphabet Matching Caterpillar Activity

  5. Upper and Lower Case Letter Recognition

There is something very satisfying about taking someone else’s rubbish and turning it into someone else’s treasure. So, next time you see a cardboard box lying around, grab it and seize the opportunity to make something amazing for your classroom.

I would love to see your cardboard box creations!

Tag @teachstarter on Instagram with your wonderful photos.


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