How to Make an Airplane Out of Cardboard Boxes

Written by grahame turner
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How to Make an Airplane Out of Cardboard Boxes
Use a cardboard box to make an aeroplane. (cardboard box image by MAXFX from

Using your imagination and some household materials, you can turn an empty cardboard box into a playing structure that will soon send your kids off on adventures in the sky. Creating an aeroplane out of a cardboard box can be done as a family craft project, providing an afternoon's worth of building and playing for everyone involved.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Paper
  • Crayons
  • Large cardboard box
  • Smaller cardboard boxes
  • Marker
  • Utility knife
  • Hot glue gun and sticks
  • Margarine tub (optional)
  • Long bolt and nut (optional)
  • Packing or cloth-backed adhesive tape
  • Paint
  • Electrical tape

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  1. 1

    Plan out the aeroplane with your kids. Have them sketch some ideas for how they want the plane to actually look. Their ideas may come across with a little artistic license but for the most part, try to incorporate some of their ideas.

  2. 2

    Lay out the cardboard box and mark the locations where the wings will eventually stick out. Also mark a spot for the tail section as well as the propeller if you plan to add one.

  3. 3

    Trace a wing design onto some spare cardboard. Leave enough space that you can make a mirror image of the wing against one of the edges and so that you can cut the wing out and fold it in half to increase rigidity. Repeat to make a second wing.

  4. 4

    Fold the double-wing pieces in half and glue them together so they form a strong, rigid wing. Repeat with the other wing.

  5. 5

    Cut out two rectangles that are 1-foot long by the width of the wing.

  6. 6

    Fold each rectangle into a right-angled triangle, and glue and tape them to the underside of both wings, along the flat edge that meets the body of the plane. This should form a flat surface to attach the wing to the plane.

  7. 7

    Glue and tape the wings to the sides of the plane. Use a lot of tape and glue to keep the wing tightly against the body of the plane.

  8. 8

    Trace out a tail section. You need a tail fin and two tail wings. Depending on the length of the box, you may also want to make a piece to extend the tail toward the fuselage, or body of the plane. Because these wings are smaller, making a double-wing is optional.

  9. 9

    Attach the tail section to the aeroplane with glue and tape. It may help to make right-angled triangles, as you did with the wing sections.

  1. 1

    Trace or freehand draw a propeller if you want to add one to the plane. Include a hole in the centre, which is about as wide as your bolt.

  2. 2

    Cut a hole in the centre of the bottom of a margarine tub. Make this hole as wide as the bolt.

  3. 3

    Punch the bolt through the nose of the aeroplane, and slide the margarine tub over it so that mouth of the tub meets the body of the plane.

  4. 4

    Slide the propeller on the end of the bolt, and screw a nut on the end. Don't screw too tightly or you may break the tub and squash the propeller. The propeller should turn freely on the end.

  1. 1

    Cut a hole out of the top of the aeroplane for your pilots to sit in. If you're using a smaller box, you can also cut leg holes out of the bottom and attach tape straps so your kids can wear the aeroplane.

  2. 2

    Paint the entire box your desired colour. This will not only give it a great look, but it will also protect the cardboard somewhat from the elements and your children.

  3. 3

    Paint other details, like windows or decals, on the side. You can also use coloured electrical tape to make thin, straight lines along the plane.

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