How to Build a Pirate Ship Playhouse Out of Cardboards

Written by araminta matthews
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How to Build a Pirate Ship Playhouse Out of Cardboards
No pirate ship playhouse is complete without the traditional Jolly Roger flag. (pirate flottant au vent image by rachid amrous-spleen from

Young children are drawn to adventure stories, and what could be more adventurous than historical pirates plundering ships on the high seas and burying treasure on remote islands? From Sir Francis Drake, a pirate commissioned by the Queen herself, Elizabeth I, to help replenish the coffers of England to the mutinous resistance to siege by the notorious female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, pirates offer up some great fodder for stories and party games. A pirate ship playhouse is the perfect prop for any child (or adult) with a penchant for pirates.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 1 refrigerator-sized cardboard box
  • 2 mid-sized appliance boxes
  • 2 to 3 rolls double-wide masking tape
  • Poster paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Permanent black marker
  • 1 dinner plate
  • Utility knife
  • Precision craft knife
  • Wooden plank (2-by-3 feet and about 1 and 1/2 inches thick)
  • 1 yard canvas
  • 1 Jolly Roger flag on a pole
  • 1 Wooden broom handle

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  1. 1

    Lay the refrigerator-sized box on one long side so the shorter sides are on your left and right. Use a utility knife to cut the top off the box, or to remove one full, long-side panel.

  2. 2

    Open the three remaining flaps on one side of the boat and adjust the two vertical flaps so the edges touch, creating a V-shape to form the bow of the boat. Tape a seam along the full-length of the flap edge with double-wide masking tape. Use the utilitiy knife to cut the edges off the bottom flap so it aligns with the v-shaped bow.

  3. 3

    Cut two slits in the middle of one side of the box 2 feet apart, each extending about halfway down the side of the box. Score the cardboard in a straight line connected the two slits and fold the cardboard down to create a plank.

  4. 4

    Cut the bottom flaps off both the mid-sized appliance boxes so each box has five remaining sides and one open side. Flip one box over and stack it on top of the other box so both open sides are facing each other and tape together on the inside and the outside of the box. Tape the top flaps of the stacked boxes to create a sealed roof.

  5. 5

    Cut a door along the bottom, top, and right side of the stacked boxes about half as wide as the box, 3/4 as tall as the stack, and centred on one side. Score the outside of the box vertically along the hinge of the door and fold along the score.

  6. 6

    Trace a dinner plate on the three remaining sides of the captain's quarters about one foot apart to create port holes. Use a precision craft knife to cut the circles out of the cardboard for windows. Repeat to create portholes along the edge of the refrigerator box.

  7. 7

    Trace the circumference of the broom handle on the roof of the captain's quarters in the centre along the opposite edge as the door. Put the stacked boxes in the stern end of the refrigerator-box-boat so the door faces the bow.

  8. 8

    Cut the canvas into a triangle and lay it on the floor. Place the broom handle parallel along one edge of the canvas so about three feet of handle extends beyond the canvas and tape down the length to create the sail. Slide the handle into the hole on the roof of the captain's quarters.

  9. 9

    Lay the wooden plank over the cardboard plank for stability.

  10. 10

    Paint horizontal lines along the ship to resemble wood grain. Paint blue waves along the bottom of the big box to resemble the sea.

  11. 11

    Tape the Jolly Roger flag pole to the bow of the ship.

Tips and warnings

  • Tie old rope together to make rope ladders and ship rigging and suspend it from either side of the mast for added effect.
  • Use thick cardboard for durability.

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