When funds are tight, or getting out of the house seems impossible, it can be hard to find ways to entertain your children. But one of the very best ways to keep kids happy is to find ways to let their creativity shine! These cardboard crafts are simple to make, use what you already have on hand and will provide hours of fun after they’re done!
While many of these crafts were originally intended for younger children and toddlers, each one can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. Trust me, my kids span seven years between youngest and oldest, and they have all enjoyed these crafts together, even when I imagined they’d be too old.
The beauty of homemade toys is that there are no rules for how they should be enjoyed. The only limit is in your imagination, and children have plenty of that going around!
This fun upcycle is perfect for kids with toy cars they enjoy. While traditional toy car garage play sets can be really expensive, this one is made from a meal box that would have gone in the trash!
Plus, your kids can add their name to it so it is extra special!
Once again, we’re saving money on expensive toy car play sets by making our own. This toy car wash set can be combined with the car garage to give a full service station! My kids love to push their cars through it and watch them come out the other side “totally clean.”
For extra fun, give them a mini sponge and a small plastic bin of soapy water and let them clean the cars for real.
When my older boys were really young, they were gifted some Little People character toys that they absolutely loved. But it was a while before we got around to buying some of the play sets that went with them. Until then, we built our own.
One of their favorites was this camp site set. We raided our craft supplies to find a few spare sheets of construction paper and straws, grabbed some pipe cleaners and a stick, and voila! So much fun!
All of my kids have gone through a pretty heavy Minecraft phase. None of them have so far left that phase. Maybe it’s NOT a phase? Whatever the case, everything in their lives revolved around this game, and officially licensed merchandise is EXPENSIVE.
I wasn’t about to pay the crazy prices for what I could make myself, so with some spare toilet paper rolls, a bit of paint and some creativity, we made these cute desk organizers.
Once again, we’re back to a fun toy car play set, this time with a fun parking garage. The fun for this one comes in the up and down ramps, which make for a great time when your kids inevitably discover how much fun they are for racing their cars.
The hours my boys have spent letting their cars both go at the same time down the ramps and seeing whose could go farthest and fastest was worth the time it took to make this easy upcycle.
If you’re old enough to remember old-fashioned televisions – the kind without wide screens, that had big huge backsides and antennae on top, you might get a kick out of this particular craft.
In essence it’s just a cute cell phone holder. A way to let your kids watch Netflix on your phone without worrying about them holding it or dropping it. But it’s a really cute and clever craft that you can make with the kids and have them decorate however they want.
Getting kids interested in nature can be hard when all they want to do is play on their electronic devices. But this simple craft can help them appreciate the beauty of the outdoors by seeing their work enjoyed by animals for months to come.
While a milk carton isn’t quite as durable as a wooden bird feeder, it’s much easier to make, and it really will last for at least Spring, Summer and Fall. Just hang it up and fill with some seed, then watch as the birds flock to your yard. The kids will love it.
This craft is perfect for a STEAM project this summer. Grab an empty pizza box and some kitchen tools, and you’ve got yourself a fun little oven the kids can use. It’s an awesome way to teach them a bit of science, and they get a fun treat out of it, too!
Once again, when our Little People didn’t have a lot to do, we decided we needed to give them a home. And because my kids are a bit extra, they decided it had to be a castle. This one is pretty simple to make, with no fancy extras. But trust me – you can make it pretty crazy if you decide to.
Check out this post to see a different version we made when my kids got some Harry Potter toys and wanted their own Hogwarts!
While this was originally made to teach my toddler his colors, this ended up being a firm favorite of my older boys, as well. They ended up using it as a coordination game, standing high above the cylinders and trying to drop the disks into the correct bins. They turned what was essentially a preschool game into a highly addictive game of skill.
Seriously, man, kids’ imaginations are amazing. They’ll find a way to make anything fun!
This is another toddler game that was meant to help learn colors, but since it is also a game of skill, it was a hit with the older kids. They’ve since asked for an expanded edition with further colors in a longer box, so we’re working on that now. But even in its original form, it is a game that they really enjoy, and the process of creating it is great fun, too!
Okay, so this one isn’t entirely a cardboard craft, but it does use paper straws and those papery pots, so I included it here anyway. This is a really cute craft that my kids totally loved. They really enjoy the plants that we have around the house, but they’re not really able to help take care of them yet since they can’t reach them.
These are really basic cacti, but the kids can use the instructions to get a feel for them and then create endless versions of their own. They make such cute decor in kids’ rooms!
This is a pretty simple craft, but it makes for a fun multi-day activity for the kids. Have your kiddo(s) make these simple construction paper binoculars, then print out the free weather watcher activity sheet. The kid(s) can then keep an eye on the weather and chart it each day.
It’s fun to look for weather patterns, gather information, collect and analyze data and extrapolate information. My older boys have enjoyed this so much, even creating their own experiments based on weather ideas. It’s so much fun to see them learning!
So there you have it. Some amazing and fun cardboard crafts you can do with your kids to keep busy and have fun. They’re all cheap, easy and enjoyable. Which one is your favorite?
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Katie Reed is a passionate writer and mother of four vivacious boys from Salt Lake City, Utah. Drawing from her own journey through TTC, pregnancy, and the joys of raising children, she offers a wealth of insight into the world of motherhood. Beyond her heartfelt tales, Katie delights her readers with family-friendly recipes, engaging crafts, and a curated library of printables for both kids and adults. When she’s not penning her experiences, you’ll find her crafting memories with her husband and sons—Dexter, Daniel, Chester, and Wilder.