How to Build with Box Rivets

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Today we’re joined by TinkerLab reader and friend, Aricha Gilpatrick Drury who’s offered to show us how to build with box rivets. Aricha is a mom to four children and has a knack for tinkering. When she shared this uber-tinkering activity on our Facebook wall, we asked Aricha if she’d be so kind to share with us today. Lucky us, she said, “yes!”

If you’ve never built with box rivets before (we haven’t), you’re in for a treat. They’re simple plastic connectors that enable you build almost anything you can think of from cardboard: castles, theater sets, play structures, and more.

How to build with rivets and cardboard boxes | TinkerLab.com

About a year ago, my father sent the kids a package of Mr. McGroovy’s Cardboard Rivets (Amazon), which took up residence, half-forgotten on a shelf. My kids all love building with cardboard boxes, but I’d assumed the rivets would require a great deal of adult help and I was hesitant to introduce them. I was pleasantly surprised to be proved wrong when I finally got them out on a recent snow day.

Supplies: Build a Box with Rivets

My 9-year-old and I gathered our supplies:

Mr. McGroovy's Rivets | Tinkerlab.com

How the Rivets Work

After a quick safety review for the punch (to avoid punching directly into one’s hand), we checked out the rivets to see how they worked. Two rivets are positioned on either side of the cardboard with the prongs at a 90-degree angle from one another. When the rivets are pressed together, the ridged prongs click securely and hold the two layers of cardboard together.

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I demonstrated once, showing my son how to punch through two layers of cardboard then press the rivet together through the punched hole. Once he had the idea, which only took one demonstration, I turned him loose to design and build.

Build with Rivets and Cardboard

He started out by gathering all the boxes together and then arranged them into the general shape of the playhouse that he wanted to make. After getting a rough idea of where each box would go, he figured out which sides needed to be cut open and how to overlap the joints to secure the boxes together. For the most part, he was able to punch the holes and line up the rivets himself, though he needed an extra hand (or a longer arm) for some spots.

Creative Problem Solving

In a few places, the cardboard didn’t overlap and we used packing tape to join the pieces. When that proved to be far less reliable than riveting, he discovered that an extra piece of cardboard could be placed over both edges and riveted together, creating a much more stable joint.

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He also discovered that he needed to do some pre-planning in a few places by securing the harder-to-reach rivets first and leaving the ones close to the edge for last.

His final touch was a door, which I cut for him using the box cutter. He designed a handle with a strip of leftover cardboard and riveted it on.

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Once the house was complete, we carried it out for the rest of the children to explore. After an initial peek inside, they furnished it with pillows and blankets. Over the next couple days it became a play house, a castle, and a place to be alone. After a week in child care (including being moved by small children), the house is still standing solid.

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Resources

Mr. McGroovy’s website has designs for using the rivets to create projects from your own cardboard boxes, as well as ideas from customers and tips for acquiring large appliance boxes.

Mr. McGroovy’s rivets on Amazon

Note: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience


Aricha Gilpatrick Drury on How to build with rivets and cardboard boxes | TinkerLab.comAricha Gilpatrick Drury is an early childhood consultant and mother of four. She comes from a long line of fixers and tinkerers and hopes to pass on a tinkering mindset to her children. She likes to test out her open-ended art and tinkering invitations in her husband’s in-home childcare program.

Glittery Pine Cones

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Beautiful, right? These gorgeous old redwoods shade our neighborhood park and make me fall in love with that park time and time again. After our ritual slide run and swing toss we like to set up snack or lunch in the shade of these trees, practice “climbing” them (which is really just climbing thought the gap between their close-growing bases), and occasionally harvest their little 1″ pine cones for mysterious who-knows-whats.

While my husband and I busied ourselves with countless chores this morning, my daughter called out, “I’m ready for an art project! I’m sitting at my table and NEED an art project!!” So demanding! Forget that she’s got a sweet little self-service area all set up where she can access paper, markers, scissors (yes, that’s right…scissors…lucky kid!), glue, and glitter glue. But she wants MORE! So, my brain starts cranking a little faster, and I hustle to pull this pine cone glitter bonanza together for her.

N chose the paint colors, brushes, and glitter colors, and we spent a good deal of time mixing up a batch of “magenta” paint with red, purple, and white. It didn’t really turn out looking like magenta in the end, but at least we could name the strange, emerging color something other than red, which it was clearly not.

And this was not just for my daughter…my husband and I jumped in the fun, too. (Thanks, Susie, for the gorgeous bronzy glitter. Scott made some good looking pine cones way sparkly with it today!).

Excess glitter found its way into this baggie, and my husband showed N how she could cover a glue+paint coated pine cone with glitter by dropping it in and shaking it about.

A tray full of mini pine cones. Isn’t it surprising that the world’s largest tree should bear such a tiny cone?

We really can’t seem to get enough of the sparkly stuff. Anyone else have a child who’s nutso for glitter?

Extension ideas

  • You don’t have mini pinecones to paint? Try big pine cones, leaves, sweetgum balls, rocks, or sticks.
  • Bring a basket on a neighborhood walk and provoke your child with a question like, “Let’s collect items to paint/glitter/decorate/etc. What could we collect?”
  • Add glue to your paint mixture to ensure that the glitter sticks to the pine cones

Happy New Year!!!