How to Make an Airplane Out of Cardboard Boxes

Updated February 21, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Things You'll 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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About the Author

Grahame Turner has worked as a freelance writer since 2009 and a freelance reporter since 2010 for Wellesley Patch and Jamaica Plain Patch in Massachusetts. He also works part-time as a bookseller at the Northeastern University bookstore. He is a Northeastern University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English.