For Children

Cardboard Box Educational Activities

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What can you do with all those leftover boxes? I’ve got a list of cardboard box educational activities that turn clutter into learning fun.

So I’ve encouraged you all to check out the Prime Day deals and before you know it, we’ll be shopping for the holidays.

So now what are you going to do with all those boxes? Here’s a round-up of cardboard box educational activities.

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Pumpkin Patch Cardboard Box

Our first cardboard box educational activity works those little finger muscles.

Grab a cardboard box. Cut one flap out and make a pumpkin patch!

I drew a vine with a green marker, but your child could also paint it. You could have your child use a paintbrush or a q-tip.

Use a pompom dipped in orange paint to make the pumpkins.  Your child can stamp as many as they want.

I love this activity because it causes a good pencil grip. Your child has to isolate the thumb and index finger.

This is a great time to extend the activity with a read-aloud about the pumpkin life cycleWe like the Book From Seed to PumpkinI used it when I taught 2nd grade and it was great to read with my children.

Reading this post when it’s not pumpkin season? Try ornaments for Christmas, snowballs in the winter, or make flowers in the spring.

Make a Tens Frame from a Cardboard Box

Our second cardboard box educational activity was making a Tens Frame.

Just cut a rectangle or use a flap.  Then grab a thick sharpie and make two rows of five.

I grabbed our counting bears and Uno cards.

My preschooler matched the color of the Uno cards to the correct color of bears. Then he placed the correct number in the Tens Frame.

There is so much learning in this little activity.  Preschoolers need to learn to count and they need to understand one-to-one correspondence, or that each item they count has the value of one.

But we level up counting by developing number sense. This is a deep conceptual understanding of numbers and their value and relationship.

By placing the bears in the Tens Frame, your preschooler (or early elementary child) develops their visual memory around the numbers.

This intuitive sense helps when they start addition, especially multi-digit addition. I had lots of 2nd grade students struggle because while they could rattle off the math facts, they didn’t have a sense about the value of the numbers.

Using a Tens Frame, they develop a sense that helps them spot inaccuracies and improves estimation.

So this little activity packs a big punch!

Build Number Towers

For our next cardboard box educational activity, we build number towers.  While this is another simple activity, we continue to build deep conceptual knowledge about numbers (number sense) as the towers grow.

So cut up your box and write numbers from 1-10 on a piece of narrow piece.  Then build a tower for each number.

We used Learning Resources linking cubes. You can also use Megabloks or Duplos.

As my preschooler build his towers. he explained counted the cubes and the relationship he was seeing as the towers grew.

This little cardboard box activity is powerful for making numbers meaningful.

Clothes Pin Math Facts

Anytime I can sneak fine motor into an academic area, I do it! Enter Clothes Pin Math Facts, our next cardboard box educational activity.

We reused this cardboard number board from the activity above. I quickly made and printed some addition math facts but you can use any flashcards.

As my daughter flipped through the cards, she would use the clothespin to clip the correct fact.

I noticed she was using her thumb and all four fingers to squeeze. This builds hand strength.

In the future, though, we’ll try the OT trick of having her tuck a pompom in her ring and picky finger and hold it against her palm. This will isolate the fingers she needs for pencil grasp.

You can also write out the numerals from 11-20 on another piece of cardboard to practice sums greater than 10.

Write on a Vertical Surface

Our next cardboard box educational activity is creating a letter easel.  Writing lowercase letters can be really tricky and this is a fun way to practice.

I took a piece of cardboard that would easily fold into thirds and taped it at the top. Tada! Instant easel!

On this easel, I printed three lowercase letter Os for my daughter and then drew a black dot to prompt her where to start for the fourth and fifth time.

Then she used a q-tip and washable paint to trace the letters. We allowed it dry and then painted again with another color until we made rainbow Os.

Does your child need practice with lowercase letters? This will help!

Writing on a vertical surface helps children with hand and core strength and puts the hand and wrist in better alignment.

This activity also requires bilateral coordination – using both hands in different ways to accomplish a task.

Trace Lines with a Q-tip

Even though I love printables, I’m not a fan of commercial workbooks and their teeny tiny tracing pages. So for our next cardboard box educational activity, my preschooler traced lines with a q-tip.

This activity is powerful for two reasons:

  1. Learning to trace lines or form letters is a separate skill from writing in a small space.
  2. Most preschoolers aren’t ready to hold a pencil yet.

Forcing them to do tasks they aren’t ready for promotes a poor pencil grasp and those habits can be hard to break.

So to practice tracing: make the lines big and use a q-tip.  The short length of the q-tip forces children to use a better grip.

I drew lines for my son to trace with a black marker on part of a box. You can make any types of lines, but I made the diagonal and horizontal lines he needs to print the letter A.

I put stickers at the top to help with visual discrimination. Then I gave him a q-tip and paint.

Now you could totally do this with paper but here’s why I love the box:

We let the orange paint dry, then we painted again in green!

One material prep session can lead to multiple repetitions. And repetition leads to mastery.

Bead Hair

One of my favorite kids’ activity bloggers, Kristina over at Toddler Approved, created this fun cardboard box educational activity.  Make crazy beaded rainbow hair with a cardboard box face.

All you need to do is cut a circle from one of your cardboard boxes.  I let my daughter draw the face.

Then use your hole punch to make 6 holes. Thread pipe cleaners through the holes.  Then have your child thread beads on the pipe cleaners.

This is such a great activity to use a tripod pencil grasp.

Play Shape Hop with a Cardboard Box

Listening to directions is hard for children. So we play Shape Hop for our last cardboard box educational activity.

Open up big box and draw the outlines of different colored shapes.  Invite your children to help you color them in.

Then give your child directions like “hop to the red triangle.”

Work your way to a two-step and then a three-step direction:

  • Hop to the orange circle.  Then hop to the blue square.
  • Start at the blue triangle. Hop to the orange circle. Then go to the red triangle.

Children need to process your language and store in their working memory.  This helps develop the pathways in the brain for listening to and following directions.

Conclusion

It’s simple to upcycle a cardboard box into an educational activity.  Grab your scissors and box to play and learn.

Do you have favorite uses for a cardboard box?

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