We love LEGO bricks, they love LEGO bricks, but sometimes you want your budding builders to try something new. Getting creative with at-home or easy-to-find materials can be just as easy as LEGO and we promise, just as fun. So ditch the blocks, just for the day, and get busy with marshmallows, cardboard and more. Read on for our 9 favorite ways think outside the blocks.

newspaper fortphoto: Modern Parents Messy Kids

1. Use Your Extra Newspapers
Got a stack of newspapers lying around, ready to be recycled? Don’t toss them yet! This genius idea from Modern Parents Messy Kids uses rolled-up newspaper to create geometric forts. Drape a blanket over the top and it’s an instant hideout. Get the super-easy instructions here.

photo: Hungry Happenings

2. Graham Cracker Houses
It’s the holiday season, which means gingerbread houses are in abundance. Break out the graham crackers and let your little architects have a yummy good time with this adorable (and delicious!) idea, courtesy of Hungry Happenings.

shoebox blocksphoto: the stay-at-home-mom survival guide

3. Shoebox Blocks
Here’s a great excuse to buy more shoes: Turns out, shoeboxes make great DIY jumbo building blocks! All you need is a little wrapping paper, tape, and a big batch of boxes. Get the details from the stay-at-home-mom survival guide.

kids with giant lincoln logsphoto: Bob Scroggins at Instructables

4. Build a Log Cabin…without the Logs
Lincoln Logs are great and all, but it would take a whole lot of them to make something big enough to climb inside and get cozy. Why not jumbo-size your logs with this project, courtesy of Bob Scroggins at Instructables. Note: Mom and Dad are going to have to get in on the building; these giant cardboard logs (made from old carpet tubes) require a few hours of prep time—and a saw—to make.

Kids-Made-DIY-Toys-Building-Blocks-from-Recyclables-at-B-Inspired-Mama photo:  B-inspired Mama

5. One Man’s Trash Is a Little Builder’s Treasures
Turn your boxes, toilet paper rolls, and cans into building blocks— then recycle them when your kids are done building. Get the scoop from B-Inspired Mama.

photo: Melissa Heckscher

6. Cardboard Cut-Out Construction
Love cardboard box projects but don’t love the space the boxes take up in your house/yard/ garage? This project from Inner Child Fun uses only the flat sides of boxes to let your kids create three dimensional structures. That means, when all is said and built, you can stow all your building materials easily in a closet. Get the details here.

toothpick sculpturesphoto: The Artful Parent

7. Toothpick Towers
Got a box of toothpicks? Stick them into a marshmallow or gum drop, or cheese cube—you get the idea—and get ready to make skyscrapers. Get some inspiration from artist and author Jean Van’t Hul at The Artful Parent

Parental note: If your tots are too small for toothpicks, you can do the same thing with pretzel sticks. Get some examples here.

photo: Melissa Hecksher 

8. Sponge It Up
Who says your little builders have to give it a rest when they’re in the tub? A few packs of colorful sponges and your kids have a new set of water-friendly blocks. Whether in the bath or out — these super-soft shapes are especially good for little ones who love to throw their stuff at unsuspecting siblings. Mother-of-two, Valerie Deneen, shares some tips at Inner Child Fun.

cardboard-petstorephoto: Billy Brown via Youtube

9. Cardboard, Cardboard, Cardboard! 
What’s better than a cardboard box? A cardboard rocketship! Or elevator car! Or stuffed animal hotel (see the super-cool building featured above, with the kitty)! Get your boxes together and find all the ambitious building plans here.

Will you try any of these creative building materials? Share in a comment below.

—Melissa Heckscher

featured photo: Mitch via flickr