How to build cardboard rocket ships

Rocket ships have been a favourite childhood toy for generations. They ignite the imagination, whether they are big enough for the child to crawl into or small enough for them to fly through space with their hands. Designing and making their own rocket ships from cardboard, with your help, is a great lesson in math, design and art. The result is a durable toy that can be played with for hours of fun.

Large rocket ship

Open a large rectangular cardboard box so it is flat with four sides, leaving the seam that held the box together intact. Use a craft knife to remove the top flaps. The cardboard piece should have four large rectangular panels, with smaller rectangular flaps on the bottom and a narrow seam of cardboard along one long edge.

Use a metre rule to find the centre of the top of each large rectangular section. Mark the centre of each with a pencil. Use the rule to help draw diagonal lines from the centre marks to the sides of each panel, making points. Use a craft knife to cut along these lines on the first and third panels.

Draw diagonal lines 5 cm (2 inches) from the point lines on the second and fourth panels, making points with blunted tips. Cut along these lines with a craft knife. Cut halfway through the original lines on the back of the cardboard, scoring them. Fold the cardboard back at the scored lines. Score across the bottoms of each pair of diagonal lines on the inside of the box so that the points can be folded inward later, forming the roof of the rocket ship.

Decorate the box so that it resembles a rocket ship. Cut windows and a door with the craft knife. Use paint or markers to draw symbols, colour in the box or decorate it as desired.

Refold the box so that the bottom flaps form the floor of the rocket ship. Use duct tape to secure the side seam and the bottom flaps. Fold the top points together and use duct tape to secure them. Details, such as tail fins, can be cut from additional cardboard, decorated and taped into place.

Small rocket ship

Cover the outside of an empty cardboard cylindrical container, such as a cereal box, with construction paper. Use a glue stick or hot glue to hold the paper in place.

Cut a circle of construction paper that is 2.5 cm (1 inch) larger in diameter than the top of the cylinder. Cut a straight line from the edge of the circle to its centre. Wrap the paper circle into a cone shape. The bottom of the cone should be the same diameter as the top of the cylinder. Use a glue stick to secure the cone's edges.

Cut two equally-sized triangles of construction paper with bottoms that are 2.5 cm (1 inch) longer than the diameter of the cylinder's top. Cut a slit from the top point to the centre of one triangle, and from the centre of the base to the centre of the other. Fit the slits together, forming a three-dimensional triangle.

Cut four equally-spaced slits, each 6.2 cm (2.5 inches) long, around the top of the cylinder. Turn the cylinder upside down and fit the slits over the four sides of the triangle. The edges of the triangle will show, making the rocket ship's fins. Glue the cone to the top of the rocket ship. Let your child decorate it as desired.

Things You'll Need

  • Large Rocket Ship:
  • Large cardboard box
  • Craft knife
  • Metre rule
  • Paint or markers
  • Duct tape
  • Small Rocket Ship:
  • Cardboard cylindrical container, such as for oatmeal
  • Construction paper
  • Glue sticks
  • Glue gun and hot glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • Markers or crayons
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About the Author

Shaunta Alburger has been a professional writer for 15 years. She's worked on staff at both major Las Vegas newspapers, as well as a rural Nevada weekly. Her first novel was published in 2014.