Make a cardboard construction set for kids to build and play with, using sturdy cardboard pieces from your recycle bin. Great STEM activity for toddlers and preschoolers.
Building and constructing with recycled materials is a lot of fun. It gets kids using their fine-motor and critical thinking skills and it’s a super way to repurpose materials from your recycle bin. We love using everyday house-hold materials for arts, crafts and homemade toys here in my daycare. It’s good for the environment and the pocket book.
In the past, we’ve made cardboard structures, and styrofoam structures. Last week, when I was organizing my craft cupboards I noticed we had an abundance of sturdy cardboard so I thought I’d make a little something for the hooligans with it.
Knowing how much my hooligans are obsessed with all things construction at the moment, I thought they’d enjoy playing with these pieces to construct some structures of their own.
You’re going to love this idea! It’s so simple to make and it won’t cost you a dime!
How to make a homemade cardboard construction set:
You’ll need some sturdy cardboard – stronger than a cereal box so it doesn’t bend or rip easily.
Now, simply cut your cardboard up into squares.
Then along the edges or at the corners, cut some very narrow V-shaped slits. Like this:
That’s all there is to it!
I placed the pieces in a basket and presented them to the hooligans, and they played with them on and off all day long!
These boys love a good building project!
The pieces became structures, animals and vehicles, and they thought that some of the pieces looked like letters.
Fine motor development, creative thinking and imaginative play all rolled into one very simple DIY activity!
Gotta love that! 🙂
More homemade structure activities for preschoolers:
Structures with Styrofoam Produce Trays
Stacking and Spreading with Shaving Cream
Icy Frozen Fractals Structures
And here’s another collection of activities for kids who like to build: Make your own catapults – Kids Activities Blog.
Click the following link for more easy and inexpensive homemade toys and gifts for kids.
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Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.
Kristina @ SchoolTimeSnippets
We bought a set like this from lakshore learning a couple years ago. Great idea to make your own! They are fun to play with!
They are, Kristina! I was surprised at how popular they were here!
Love the idea of just making a set for play. I may have to whip up a set for our class to keep at school!
Thanks, Deborah! And I love the idea of making a set to paint and take home! 🙂 I think we’ll have to do that later this month as we explore structures.
I was just looking at some cardboard wondering how to use it! Now I know!!! Thank you. My kids will love to do this 🙂
Perfect! You’re in for some fun, Tiffany! Isn’t it great when we can re-use what we already have?
What a fabulous idea- I’ve been saving a bunch of cardboard pieces like this (from scrapbooking kits) and didn’t know what I’d do with them…..this is perfect! I think my 3-4 year olds will love it. Also wanting to make the Geoboard, but not sure how to get a piece of wood like that.
Woohoo! You’re in luck! Have fun!
Great story! We loved our cardboard slotted sculpture set! I need to do this with my high school students!
Great idea, Melissa! I think “kids” of all ages would enjoy it. I love doing stuff like this myself!
Oh, my, I love this idea!! We will definitely have to give this a try! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!
Thanks, Carrie! I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for featuring us this week too! I couldn’t leave a comment on your post this morning, but wanted to let you know that I’m thrilled that you’re featuring our activity!
Trisha @ Inspiration Laboratories
I think my son would love to build with cardboard! I wanted to let you know that I’ll be featuring this tomorrow on the Sunday Showcase.
Thanks so much for featuring us, Trisha! Glad you liked it so much!
Genny @ In Lieu of Preschool
Thanks for sharing on Tuesday Tots last week! I’m featuring your post this week on In Lieu of Preschool: http://www.inlieuofpreschool.com/rainy-day-activities/ Please feel free to stop by and grab a featured button. Off to pin! Thanks again for sharing! 🙂 ~Genny
THanks so much, Genny! I’m so glad you liked it. I’ll pop over today. 🙂
What kind if cardboad did you used?
I don’t know where it came from, Lorena. It had been in my craft cupboard for quite some time. Any sturdy thin cardboard would work. Mine was sturdier than a cereal box, but you COULD use a cereal box. It just might not hold up as long as sturdier cardboard would.
Love this idea! Happy to find you on BonBon break! (I’ll have a post up there later this week)
This is one of the coolest home-made toys/things I have ever seen! Great idea!
I wonder how complicated you can make it with adding extra cuts?
Thanks, Tutorista! Good question! And that’s what I love about a homemade activity like this – there’s no limit to what you can do with it!
This is so clever!Thanks so much for sharing at Discover & Explore. I’m featuring you today. http://www.fantasticfunandlearning.com/invitations-to-create-for-little-engineers.html
Thank you so much for featuring our posts, Shaunna!
Great idea! And these would be great for a trip – they’d pack easy. Thanks for linking up at Discover & Explore – we’re featuring you this week too: http://www.kcedventures.com/blog/materials-for-building-kids-and-construction
Thanks, Jacquie! So glad you liked it! Thanks so much for featuring us!
Great idea! My son has been begging for a set like this in the store, but it’s expensive, and he already has so many Legos…. It’s great that we could make this, from TRASH!
I pinned this and put a link to it in my big list of ways to reuse things.
You have the BEST ideas! Thank you for sharing them!
We made a large version of this from big cardboard boxes for our outside construction. The children loved it and add to it all the time. Will try the small version inside!
I think that mat board (like is used to mat photos or artwork) would be perfect for this. I get free scraps from a college photo dept., but maybe someplace that frames pictures would give them away too.
I have three children 7 and under and was just wondering if there were a certain number of each piece that you cut or if it was just a random number of each piece.
No, it was all just random. Cut as many as you like in whatever fashion you wish. 🙂
As a former preschool teacher and home school mom I am always on the look out for great ideas that I can use with our grandchildren. We have the privilege of babysitting several times a week and your ideas are a real blessing! This one I will be doing in the coming days. thanks for the post
Hi! I know this post has been up forever but I hope you’ll answer my question. I would love to make this for my nephew-in-law’s second birthday. I think he’s past the phase where he puts everything in his mouth, but he’s about to get a little brother this fall who might still do that. Do you think this technique would also work with thin balsawood? Or do you need the ‘stretchiness’ of cardboard for it to work?
Oh, good question. I’m not really sure what balsawood is. You could give it a try as long as there’s no risk of splintering if someone were to put it in their mouth.