Cardboard Box Challenge

TinkerLab is one today!

To help me celebrate a year of exploration, tinkering, creativity, and experimentation, I’ve invited some of my favorite arts and education bloggers to join me in today’s Cardboard Box Challenge as a gift to each of YOU. My blogging journey was originally inspired by the fabulous Jean of The Artful Parent and Jen of Paint Cut Paste. And I’m absolutely thrilled that they’re each part of today’s collaboration.

Like many of you, I love reading posts that inspire me to try something new, and each of my collaborators has inspired me in one way or another. They’re smart, creative, funny, generous, and they each do an amazing job at honoring the children that they work and/or live with. I asked them (and their children!) to create anything they like using at least one cardboard box. The project would be executed by children, but grown-ups were welcome to facilitate and/or collaborate if the mood struck. Links to my twenty-four collaborators can be found at the end of this post, and I’d encourage you to do a little blog hopping today (or save this for when you have some time) and bookmark those posts that inspire YOU.

Cardboard Box Marble Run

Here’s what we did with our humble box…

To spark our creativity I cut a side off of the box, just to make it look a little different. It looked a like a house to me and I could easily imagine a rough version of an architectural model. But I asked N what she imagined and she said, “Let’s make a marble run!!” Just like that. The exclamation points really are necessary.

cardboard box challengeI bent a rectangular piece and asked her what we could do with it. She saw it as a ramp, and it became the base of our marble run. She cut tape and played the role of director while I secured the pieces together and acted as her general contractor.

cardboard box challenge


  • Deconstructed box left over from our Cardboard Box Splat Painting project
  • Full box of cardboard recyclables
  • Scissors
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Exacto Knife (for me — it made my job so much easier!)

cardboard box challenge

She tested out an idea about running tape across the the top of her ramp, but abandoned it when we noticed it created too much tension on the ramp’s walls.

cardboard box challenge

She decided when it was done and we selected a bowl for the ramp to fit into…

cardboard box challenge

Test run…

cardboard box challenge

It worked!!

cardboard box challenge

Good thing we have so many marbles! She gave me specific instructions that the skinny tunnel that feeds into the big ramp should “be closed up and dark so you can’t see the marbles,” and seemed to be fascinated by the mystery of that part of the structure.

Cardboard Box Challenge Participants

What would you (and your kids) make with a cardboard box? If you have a cardboard box project that you’d like to share, please add your link to the blog hop or comment section below. And feel free grab the button or copy the text into your HTML. cardboard box challenge

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  1. Happy, happy blogiversary! I love N’s marble run! I know Maia would have fun making something similar so we may follow your lead. Thanks for including me in the cardboard box challenge! We had a blast!

    • Thank you! I’m so glad you were able to join us.

  2. Happy 1st Birthday!!! Love your and N’s marble run too! J LOVES marble runs. Most days without fail he will ask for marbles. He runs them down any sloping surface. I’m constantly finding marbles! Good thing they only cost $1 for a bag of 50 🙂

    This challenge was great. November is Recycling Month down this way. I was thinking we should do a ‘Junk’ play challenge. What do you think??

    • Thank you Kate! With a pre-crawler in the house, we have to watch out for fly-away marbles too. We’re always making things from junk, and I’d love to be part of a junk challenge 🙂

    • Umm when was this made like a week after I was born? March 6 2011?

  3. Happy first blogiversary !! Love the marble run 🙂 Thanks so much for the challenge, we had lots of fun playing.

    • Thanks, Roopa. I’m so glad you had fun too!

  4. Happy 1st Birthday!!! You have a Wonderful Blog! Thanks for the inspiration! The marble run is Awesome and something I know C would enjoy! This will be on our list of things to do! There is never an excuse to be bored when you are in such a Great Community of Bloggers to inspire you each day!!! Thanks to everyone! What Great Cardboard Box ideas for this challenge!!! Thanks for inviting me to be involved—-I am honored!

    • Thank you Melissa! And to think that our little collaboration inspired all of this cardboard madness 🙂 Can’t wait to do it again!

  5. Happy Blogiversary and thanks for inviting us! I’ve instituted “Field Trip Fridays” with my youngest so I have lunches to pack before we head to the zoo, but I’ll be back later on to look more closely at everybody else’s posts.

    G also loves our marble run! N did such a great job creating hers!

    • Thank you, Amy! Field Trip Fridays sounds like a great way to spend the day. I’m so glad that you and the kids were part of this collaboration.

  6. Hello! Sorry, I think I totally got everything back to front this morning and “just linked my cardboard box crafts up”… which as they are no longer there, makes me think I did it all wrong! Sorry!

    I did add the blog hop to said links. Mmmh anyway. I would love to take part in future (just tell me the “rules”)… and here are said links:

    Our castle: https://www.redtedart.com/2011/03/02/kids-get-crafty-castles-loo-roll-men/
    Our robots: https://www.redtedart.com/2010/12/01/kids-get-crafty-robots/

    Many thanks


  7. This looks like a great time!!!! I will definitely have to try this when they squeeze too many in the boat and it springs a leak! hahaha!!!

  8. Love the ramp idea – so simple yet promotes some higher level thinking and play! Thank you for all your hard work and happy blogiversary!

    • Thanks so much! Hard work comes with so many rewards, like collaborating with brilliant educators like you 🙂

  9. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! What a fun challenge. I am so glad our boxes are still in tact now that we have so many new projects to try! As always you and N are a very inspiring pair. Congrats on you 1 year.

    • And thank YOU for being a big part of the fun. Can’t wait to see what else you and the “M’s” come up with.

  10. Happy 1st birthday Tinkerlab! How lovely to see all those inspiring cardboard box projects!

    Have you heard of Patten Beard’s (great name, eh) The Jolly Book of Boxcraft of 1918? I recently came across it at the museum where I work. And although it’s maybe a bit twee for us hardened 21st century types, it talks of the ‘fairy art of boxcraft’. I thought it might be appropriate to mention it here – on your cardboard box creative challenge day.

    The three fairies Happy Thought, Nimblefingers and Play have so much magic that they can ‘change children’s dull days to happy ones’ by working together to make toys from nothing at all but cardboard boxes.

    I’ve got the text of the introduction photographed and a couple of illustrations from the book too. Thought you might care to have a look!

    • Julia: this is brilliant!! I’ve never heard of this, and now very much wish for a copy. I’ll have to poke around and see if one can be procured. It does sounds perfect for this challenge! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  11. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! And what a fun celebration it has been! please can we keep it going? No need to change materials- a box might keep us all going forever!
    I love the marble run and would love to make one for my two. C is really into real marble runs at the moment and I’d love to try making one before buying one. Thanks!

    • Thanks Anna! So, shall we all just focus on cardboard box activities for the rest of the year? 🙂 N has a plastic marble run that we bought at a children’s museum, and it’s one of her favorite toys. Good idea to make one before investing in a toy that may just collect dust. Or, if they love the ones you make, you may not even want to bother buying one.

  12. happy birthday!!! You’ve grown so much in one year. We are so proud of you!

  13. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you… Happy birthday dear Tinker Lab, Happy Birthday to you! And what an amazing way to celebrate! Congrats on making such an amazing space in such a short time :).

    • Thank you Steph, and thank you for all that you do to promote blogs like mine!

  14. this marble run is awesome, rachelle! you and N did an amazing job – i want to play with it! happy first trip around the sun, and here’s to many more for tinkerlab! thank you for including us in this challenge and for the ultra kind mention in this blog. you inspire me! (as an aside: i also love the cherry print fabric on your chair!)

    • Thanks, Jen! You girls will have to come over and make marble runs with us one of these days. And happy ten trips around the sun to your personal blog — maybe I’ll be able to say the same thing about TinkerLab one day!

  15. I love your marble run! I need to do something like this with my son. I’d think he’d really be into it. And thank you for including me in your challenge! Happy Anniversary!

    • Thanks, Rachele! It’s been such a fun day.

    • Aww, thank you Tricia. I’m so glad you’re here!

  16. you could add paint at the top or somewhere in between and the marbles run through it(maybe taping some paper within the ramps) to make a picture? hmmm… once again inspired i think we’ll try this soon… where can i get inexpensive marbles?

    • Funny you should say this…I was thinking the same thing, but with rolling balls down a slide! Wouldn’t that be amazing? I picked up some inexpensive marbles at our neighborhood toy store for about two dollars. And maybe a dollar store would carry them?

  17. What a wonderful play-based idea, Rachelle! N did a fabulous job as a “director” and you as a “contractor”. Haha..I like your humour, too!

    I am sure Pari will love this. We have to borrow this idea from here…

    And, congratulations for 1 full year of the sweet, heady and successful journey of blogging. Your blog has grown so much in such a short period of time…
    Thank you for giving us all this wonderful opportunity to connect…

    • Thank you so much, Rashmie. I really appreciate the support, and I’m so glad you were part of the celebration.

    • Objects can be much more meaningful when we have a hand in creating them. Thanks for the comment, Heather 🙂

  18. Love this challenge! A few weeks ago, we to were playing with boxes in Australia during our school holidays. We built a treehouse (amongst other things) but if you truly want to be inspired by what you can do with a cardboard box head over to http://makedo.com.au/creations – just incredible!

    • Oh my goodness — look at that box/robot/costume! How fun. And thank you for the link: incredible is an understatement, and it looks like people can add photos of their cardboard creations to their site as well.

  19. I loved visiting some other blogs to see amazing cardboard creations. Our best cardboard project was a puppet theater

    • thanks for the comment, natalie 🙂

  20. Happy Birthday Tinkerlab! I love how you’ve chosen to celebrate Rachelle! Nothing like a cardboard box to inspire creativity and innovation.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Maya! It means a lot.

  21. Such a great idea here!
    I’ll have to work on something like this with my children. There’s so much play value for children in something they’ve thought of and made themselves.
    Thanks Rachelle!

    • Thank you, Brenda. And thank you for all of the wonderful comments that you’ve shared on my site — it really helps keep me going!

  22. Oops, I forgot to say Happy 1 year in blogging!!! You’ve inspired me with all your creative ideas.
    It’s always a pleasure to look in here!

  23. Happy 1 year blogiversary Rachelle! Your blog is full of amazing creativity and inspiration. I always look forward to seeing what you’ve been up to.

    • Thank you, Jill. Hopefully you’re free to join us on the next challenge!

  24. Hi everyone!
    Am i too late for challenge, right?

    I have a few cardboard of toys for you. They are all made out of one box of pampers.
    1. Cardboard train – http://playandgrow.blogspot.com/2011/05/cardboard-train.html
    2. Throne for the little princess – http://playandgrow.blogspot.com/2011/05/throne-for-little-princess.html
    3. a la Montessori module – http://playandgrow.blogspot.com/2011/04/la-montessori-module.html
    4. Funny steamship – http://playandgrow.blogspot.com/2011/04/funny-steamship.html
    5. Developmental toy – http://playandgrow.blogspot.com/2011/03/developmental-toy_26.html
    6. Rolling balls – http://playandgrow.blogspot.com/2011/03/rolling-balls.html

    • Thanks for sharing all these gorgeous projects!! If you’d like, you can add them to the Blog Hop found at the bottom of the post.

  25. Boosten the kid’s appetite for art is a really good way of raising them.
    Never had it this good!

  26. Hi zusammen! bin auf diesemfür mich neuem Weg auf der Suche nacheiner “Freundschaft”. Ganz nach der Devise Alles kann, nichts muss! Vielleicht wird was Längeres draus, vielleicht auch nicht – lass es uns einfach mal antesten. Diesen Sommer möchte ich alles richtig machen, losflirten, mich wieder verlieben… Ich bin übrigens 26 und habe blonde Haare Mit den Richtlinien in diesem Forum bin ich nicht wirklich vetraut und mir nichtmal sicher, ob ich hier überhaupt so etwas posten darf… deswegen hab ich hier einfach einen Text gepostet, dort kann man mir auch direkt nicht öffentlich via Mail antworten: http://www.bravopost.net
    Es ist natürlich völlig für lau. Ja, das hat mich auch gewundert. Abends ab 18 Uhr erreichst Du mich dort fast immer. Bin ehrlich gesagt, auch schon ziemlich auf der Suche nach Mr. Right
    Bis vielleicht bald?

    Liebe Gruesse

  27. Teaching our kids to create their own toy is a perfect idea. Because it can come out  their creativity and I think it was fun for them.

  28. This looks like so much fun :). Thanks for the linky love!!!! I can’t wait to see what everyone is up to tomorrow!!!
    Boxomania Play house

  29. When was this made? Umm this is 2020 COVID?

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