No matter how shiny the gift inside, time and time again kids want to play with the box. We’ve found 17 epic transformations of an ordinary cardboard box that will make you forget its humble past. From mini-golf to airplanes to castles, flip through our slideshow to get inspired.

Indoor Golf for Preschoolers

Don’t let the rain or cold get in the way of your golf game. Just makeover a cardboard box to keep practicing your swing no matter the weather. Great for hand-eye coordination for the preschool set, it also can serve as a math lesson. Have the kiddos help keep track of their points as they score. Learn how to make one yourself over at Craftulate.

3D Nature Suncatcher

Dreaming of the outdoors? This 3D suncatcher from The Artful Parent is so cool no one will believe it was once a humble cardboard box. Plus, you’ll have as much fun gathering the materials for this project as you will making it. The stained-glass windows make it elegant little lamp, too. Click over to The Artful Parent to learn how to recreate this with your kids.

photo: Melissa Heckscher

The DIY Mailbox You Can Actually Do

Inspired by the postal service, this super cute (and super easy) cardboard mailbox can be used for pretend play and messaging the kids! Drop the occasional postcard or note in there to thrill them no end. With little more than paint and tape, you can transform a box you have hanging around the house in no time. Get the complete step-by-step here.

Add Up for Fun

We’d still love this cardboard cash register even if it wasn’t painted in a bright, cheery yellow. Besides the basic box, you’ll need hot glue, a calculator and a plastic tupperware container. Find out how to measure the space just right and how to get your drawer to slide in and out over at Handmade Charlotte.

On the Road Again

Check out this sweet camper. Perfect for unlimited vacations to wherever the kiddo’s imagination took them, this cardboard camper also makes a great rainy day activity. Head over to The Merry Thought for the tutorial.

Blast-off! Box

If there’s better material than cardboard to build a spaceship, we haven’t found it. Get inspired by the rocket spotted over at Kate’s Creative Space; the bright colors pop and side-positioned gadgets and gears are genius. The look on your mini-astronaut's face as she blasts off into space will totally be worth the time you spent haunting the local U-Haul for a big box. For the tutorial, head over to Kate’s Creative Space.

Cardboard, Ahoy!

From the queen of cardboard comes an arrrrg-uably awesome pirate ship. Probably one of the more easier projects you’ll find over at ikat bag, your little mates will be able to help raise the mast and set sail! Find out how to make your own at ikat bag.

photo: Christal Yuen

Auto-Box

We bet Lightning McQueen would trade his whitewalls for one of these garages. Using a shoe box and paint, it’s easy to give your motor-revving, tire-screeching tyke a place to park all his special cars. Get the low-down here.

Suds-Free Washing Machine

Doing chores has never been this much fun! Don't be surprised if this DIY washing machine jump starts your kids love for cleanliness. To get the details on making this uber cool cardboard creation, head over to Ooh La Wawa.

Making Movie Magic

A car and a movie? This is one great way to get kids to stay in their seats (especially when it’s their own seat) and mess free as they nom on popcorn, candy and lemonade. Visit Small Fry blog to see more pictures of this totally awesome drive-in party.

Make Your Own Maze

Work on a range of skills with your kiddo (shape identification, predictions and gross motor) during an empty afternoon with a quick and easy ball maze like this one from A Happy Wanderer. This project takes about two items and maybe 20 minutes to complete. Find out how to get it done over at A Happy Wanderer.

Perfect Puppet Theater

Ah, here is one classic box creation that every kid loves. This mom turned her son's puppet theatre into a lovely venue with some curtains, chalkboard paint and a pretty show sign. Head over to Kidoinfo to see how to make your own puppet theater.

Kitschy Kid Kitchen

Okay, so maybe you don’t have the time (or space) to create a full-sized play kitchen for your busy kids. How about an adorable doll-sized version? You probably receive the perfect sized box from Amazon on the regular, so start collecting and when you’ve got the material you need, head to Mer Mag Blog for the tutorial.

Going Up?

Here's an elevator with push buttons that’ll take your little one on a up and down ride. Mom-crafter Sarah made this tot-approved gadget with a few boxes, googly eyes and a brad tack. Get her DIY instructions over at her website Repeat Crafter Me.

It's the Small Things

Making a customized playhouse for your little ones is easy when you’ve got boxes on hand. Throw in a few adorable small details (work wall, doorknob, mailbox) like Michelle of Rust and Sunshine and you’ve got the makings of one seriously sweet space. Head over to Rust and Sunshine for more ideas.

The Neverending Story

This toddler loves cardboard boxes so much that he got an entire play yard for his first party. Tiny guests had a blast in their cardboard play yard, and went from riding trains, rocket ships, cars, planes and more! See more of this awesome party over at his dad’s photography blog here.

For Which It Stands

Now this is one store we wouldn’t mind spending forever in. From the back to front, this grocery stand is filled with clever details like windows, shelves and drawers that really make it a one-stop shop. See the other (equally and amazingly detailed) side of the store at ikat bag. Pst, if you want extra tips on making cardboard work for you, Lorraine also has a tutorial here.

 

— Christal Yuen & Gabby Cullen

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cardboard box