Is a Cardboard Box the Greatest Tool for Creativity Ever?

16 Apr

Cardboard boxes, usually reserved for camp building materials or the recycle bin, have experienced a resurgence in popularity as a tool for sparking creativity.  Two years ago, “Caine’s Arcade” – a video about how a nine year old named Caine created a cardboard arcade in his dad’s automotive shop, went viral.

That sparked the creation of the “Global Cardboard Challenge” where kids of all ages use cardboard boxes to create whatever they want–the only limit is their imagination.  Check out this functioning cardboard piano, made by Hannah Jenkins at the Denver challenge:

And it’s not just kids getting in on the cardboard fun.  Cardboardboxoffice, a blog now up for a 2014 Webby award, is a series of photos recreating famous scenes from movies using just cardboard and common household items.  Some of my favorites are:

back to the cute-ture, from

back to the cute-ture, from

Castababy, from

Castababy, from

wah wars, from

wah wars, from

Lilly and Leon, the creators of say the project came about because they had just moved (hence a lot of cardboard boxes) and had a new baby (somewhat housebound.)  Creativity does often spring from necessity!

There are even Pinterest boards devoted to cardboard creativity, like 101 things to do with a cardboard box, and, for the really advanced, cardboard.

I love cardboard projects because they grow a lot of skills that we often teach separately in school and at home.  Just think about Lilly and Leon’s cardboard movie scenes, or Caine’s arcade.  To accomplish those projects, they needed to:

1. Think flexibly – use the materials available to them.

2. Make a plan

3. Persevere over many hours or days

4. Develop construction skills (sizing, cutting, combining, etc.)

5. Think about the user or viewer (develop perspective)

6. Troubleshoot their designs.

and for parents out there…when children play with cardboard they develop ways to entertain themselves.

Cardboard is the exact opposite of many of the toys and tools for children (and adults) that are marketed nowadays.  It’s non-specific–it doesn’t have a set purpose or application.  It’s not particularly technical.  And it’s cheap. These three qualities–adaptability, simplicity, and economy, allow people to tinker and play with cardboard in a way that’s not possible with a lot of current educational or recreational products.

Of course, cardboard’s not the only material you can do this with.  Anything that is adaptable, simple and cheap will do.  I have a friend who said his greatest toy as a child was a stick.  That stick could do anything–be a wand, a support structure for a tent, or a tool to terrorize his younger brother.  Endless possibilities.  And check out the amazing things one child (and her mother) accomplished with cardboard’s cousin–paper.

@2sisters_angie, from

@2sisters_angie, from


We have more and more gadgets and super-duper-fancy toys today than ever before.  Looking at what all of these kids and adults have done makes me wonder if we need less of that stuff and more of the good-old-fashioned cardboard + imagination.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


A world of film, a house of stuff.

Literacy Changes Everything!

Teaching and Parenting as a Dedicated Reader and Writer

To Make a Prairie

A blog about reading, writing, teaching and the joys of a literate life

sunday cummins

Experience Nonfiction

Shanahan on Literacy

Literacy in Education


A meeting place for a world of reflective writers.

The Quick and the Ed

Literacy in Education

Shanker Blog


Free Technology for Teachers

Literacy in Education


Smarter Charts from Marjorie Martinelli & Kristine Mraz

%d bloggers like this: