How to Design & Make a Vehicle With a Cardboard Box

Written by christina riopelle
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How to Design & Make a Vehicle With a Cardboard Box
A cardboard box inspires a child's imagination. (carton image by Unclesam from

Young children, particularly children ages three to six, have incredibly active imaginations, and are prone to vivid flights of make believe. Crafting vehicles out of cardboard boxes allows children to make design choices, develop fine motor skills, as well as fulfil their dreams of engineering a train or driving a truck. A shoebox-sized truck for action figures or stuffed animals gives the child a new object with which to role play. Larger housewares or small appliance boxes seat a child, while large appliance boxes accommodate a child and several friends.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Cardboard box
  • Paint
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paper plates
  • Markers or crayons
  • Cardboard paper towel tubes
  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Tape
  • Box cutter

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  1. 1

    Collect empty boxes from your home. The size of the box you use will inspire the scope of the project. Cut the flaps off of the box top and save them to make other pieces of the vehicle.

    How to Design & Make a Vehicle With a Cardboard Box
    Hunt around the house for boxes. (woman packing/unpacking boxes during a relocation. image by T.Tulic from
  2. 2

    Brainstorm with the child for a vehicle concept. Make a vehicle features wish list, such as a periscope for a submarine, ladder for a fire truck, or wheels for a car.

  3. 3

    Cover the pictures and printing on the box. Place the box with the open side up. Supervise or help the child paint the box with the colour selected for the vehicle's body. If making an aeroplane, use the leftover box flaps as wings, and tape them to the box before painting. Alternatively, measure the sides of the box. Cut and paste large pieces of construction paper to the box to conceal the graphics. Allow the glue or paint to dry.

    How to Design & Make a Vehicle With a Cardboard Box
    Cover the sides of the box with paint. (child brushing a wall with colourful paint image by Cherry-Merry from
  4. 4

    Cut the shapes for headlights, windows, or portholes and tail lights out of construction paper. Glue them on the box at the appropriate places.

  5. 5

    Make the wheels. For a bus or truck, paper plates make suitable wheels. Draw spokes on them or colour the outside edge with magic marker to simulate tires and rims. Cut a circle of aluminium foil for hubcaps. For a shoebox vehicle, cut the ends of cardboard tubes and place them under the vehicle. The vehicle sits up on the tires. Juice lids also make suitable wheels.

    How to Design & Make a Vehicle With a Cardboard Box
    Use toilet paper tubes for truck wheels and submarine periscopes. (toilettenpapier image by victoria p. from
  6. 6

    Construct a periscope for a submarine. Tape several cardboard paper towel tubes together. Attach a toilet paper tube perpendicular to the other tubes at the top. Tape aluminium foil to the end to mimic shiny glass.

    How to Design & Make a Vehicle With a Cardboard Box
    A cardboard tube makes a real periscope in an active mind. (Submarine at port isolated image by TekinT from
  7. 7

    Cut holes in the bottom if the child wishes to "drive" the vehicle. An adult should use a box cutter on large boxes. Scissors will suffice for shoeboxes.

  8. 8

    Draw interior features as desired, such as dashboards and door handles. For a shoebox vehicle, use small gelatin and toiletry boxes for seats. Paint or cover them to match the vehicle.

Tips and warnings

  • A large box doubles as a toy box if the child prefers to push the vehicle along the carpet without holes.

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