If there’s one thing most of us have plenty of these days, it’s cardboard. Before you chuck it straight into the recycling bin, take a look at these fun and creative cardboard activities. There are so many ways for kids to learn and play with those boxes and tubes!
1. Make a marble labyrinth
Marble mazes are all the rage, but we love the added twist of holes to avoid on this version. This is one of those cardboard activities kids will come back to again and again.
Learn more: Frugal Fun For Boys and Girls
2. Thread cardboard beads
Little fingers will have no trouble manipulating these giant cardboard “beads” onto a string. Use them to make and copy patterns too.
Learn more: Laughing Kids Learn
3. Feed the letter monster
Learning the ABCs is so much fun with this adorable box monster! Slide the letter strip, then find the matching letter and drop it into the monster’s mouth.
Learn more: Happy Tot Shelf
4. Put together a DIY geoboard
Geoboards are a staple in most elementary classrooms, but you don’t need to buy them. Make your own with some push pins and a sheet of sturdy cardboard.
Learn more: The Mama Workshop
5. Construct a cardboard city
Set your imagination free and create a whole city of buildings! This stacked version reminds us of Native American cliff dwellings… so cool!
Learn more: Mini Mad Things
6. Wind a cardboard winch
Learn more about physics when you build this simple machine that really works! Get the full instructions at the link.
Learn more: Little Bins for Little Hands
7. Roll the giant dice
Need a set of giant dice? Make your own from cardboard and colorful duct tape.
Learn more: The Craft Train
8. Showcase your nature finds
Build a display case for all the cool items you find on your nature walks. Add dividers and labels just like in a museum!
Learn more: Little Pine Learners
9. Roll and count
Cardboard activities like this one combine hand-eye coordination with counting practice. Oh, and did we mention they’re also a ton of fun?
Learn more: Raising Dragons
10. Launch pom poms into space
Every kid loves getting to throw things across the classroom. So they’ll get a real kick out of building and playing with this cardboard launcher.
Learn more: Teach Beside Me
11. Turn cardboard into construction materials
Cardboard is one of our favorite materials for STEM challenges. Give kids this chart as a reference, then turn them loose to see what they can create!
Learn more: JDaniel4’s Mom/Pinterest
12. Put on a puppet show
This little puppet theater is absolutely adorable … plus it lights up! Imagine the shows your kids can put on with it.
Learn more: Handmade Charlotte
13. Assemble an adding machine
A couple of cardboard tubes and a box are all you need to make an “adding machine.” Drop items down the tubes and add them up, or take things a step further by dropping dice and adding the results.
Learn more: The Best Ideas For Kids
14. Spin a cardboard top
Adding a marble to the bottom is the trick to making these terrific spinning tops. Play with the designs to see which make the best patterns when they’re in motion.
Learn more: Frugal Fun For Boys and Girls
15. Count on a cardboard abacus
A homemade abacus works just as well as the wooden kind. They’re terrific for learning to count, as well as practicing addition and subtraction.
Learn more: Izzaroo
16. Float a cardboard boat
There are so many terrific STEM cardboard activities out there. This one asks students to build a cardboard boat that floats and can carry cargo. Ahoy matey!
Learn more: Teach Kids Engineering
17. Play a game of shoebox foosball
Build a couple of these mini cardboard foosball games with your students, then keep them around for indoor recess time.
Learn more: Mum in the Madhouse
18. Take aim for math skills
Dangle numbered cups from a cardboard frame, then take aim! Shoot an arrow or toss a ball, then add, subtract, or multiply the numbers you hit.
Learn more: Happy Salt Folk/Instagram
19. Turn cardboard tubes into building blocks
Save your toilet paper tubes and make customized building blocks. These are incredibly simple, but kids can build so many things with them.
Learn more: Picklebums
20. Catapult pom poms for reading practice
Practicing letters or numbers (in any language)? Build your own catapult and board to make the experience more fun! Get the how-to at the link.
Learn more: Chalk Academy
21. Drive a rubber band-powered car
This car really works, using the power of rubber bands! For a fun STEM challenge, give kids the basic instructions, then ask them to design a car that travels the fastest or can carry the most weight.
Learn more: Instructables
22. Create a cardboard roadway
Take those cardboard cars for a drive along the cardboard highway! Kids can keep adding to this with new cardboard sheets.
Learn more: Busy Toddler
23. Strum a cardboard guitar
Here’s one of those classic cardboard activities: the shoebox guitar! Use different sizes of rubber bands and pluck the strings to see how the tones change.
Learn more: PBS
24. Map out a maze
Just finished a move? Gather up those large boxes and use them to create a maze, complete with a map for those who get lost.
Learn more: Hallmark Channel
25. Show off your artwork
This doesn’t look much like today’s TVs, but it’s still a clever way to show off kids’ art skills. Learn how to build it at the link.
Learn more: Hello, Wonderful
Looking for more inexpensive classroom supplies? Try these 25 Smart Ways to Use Paper Plates for Learning, Crafts, and Fun.
Plus, 21 Incredibly Cool Things Kids Can Do With Straws.