If you’ve had the joy of celebrating a birthday or Christmas with kids, you’ll know that when it comes to presents, nothing – literally nothing – can beat a plain old cardboard box.
It’s a hard blow when you’ve taken great care to choose the ‘perfect’ present, only for it to be flung across the room and ignored in favour of the packaging.
In fact, this Christmas, my kids, aged three and eight, spent the whole morning sitting inside the giant cardboard box that housed the ‘family drum kit’ I’d invested in (don’t ask me why I did that). It was, in turn: a house, a spaceship, a picnic table, a monster and a race track.
So if you have any boxes lying around the house, now’s the time to crack them out and let the fun begin. Here’s how to harness the ‘joy of cardboard’ during lockdown.
1. Make your very own robot challenge
Cut square eyes and a circular mouth on the front of the box, then add anything that makes it look extra alien: foil, pipe cleaners, even bubble wrap. Get your kids to search around the house with you to see what additions they can find. Once finished, either play handheld robot wars – or, if big enough, put the creations on your kids at costumes and get set ready, go. Make sure you have space – or go out in the garden to play.
2. Create a unique space station
Similar rules apply here: you want your box to shine, so now’s the time for glitter, foil and shiny tape. Add random shapes to it, such as plastic bottles, and you’ve got yourself a perfect – ahem – model of the International Space Station.
3. Get ready to score a goal
Your opened cardboard box, turned on its side, doubles as a football goal. And, even better, if you have two cardboard boxes on their sides you can create your very own football pitch in the garden. What teams are you playing on?
4. Get writing for the postbox
If you’ve got a small(ish) cardboard box, cut a square slot in the middle and get your child to colour it red, or stick red paper on it. Then you can ask them to write letters to beloved friends and relatives... and post them through the box (at least, until you can get to a real one).
5. Make a dolls’ house – or actual playhouse
Cut out windows and a front door, then add a triangular roof to make a mini dolls’ house for their toys – it’ll be a simple one, sure, but still fun to make. Or, if your box is big enough, make a house that’ll fit your little ones inside. They might even want to live in it for an hour or so.
6. Build a wonderful fortress
Cut out a drawbridge on one side of the box – okay, easier said than done, but we’ve found a few online tutorials that will help. Then, hole punch the top of each corner and attach two pieces of string so your child can lower and raise it. Get the drawing pens and felt tips out, too– they can make their very own fortress. You could even add on some toilet rolls to create castle spires.
7. Play with your own marble run
Get a flat piece of cardboard and stick on some cut-up plastic straws at different lengths to create ridges – leaving gaps on each row. Then prop the cardboard at an angle and let a marble or small ball find its way through the maze. Whose ball falls down the fastest?
8. Run a puppet theatre show
Cut out a hole in the front of the box to create a ‘stage’. You can decorate with fabric for a curtain if you have some going spare. Then, cut out two circles on the back of the box for your child to reach their hands through. They can put on a show with hand puppets made of socks!
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.