Creative challenge: The little box carpenter

It is my sincerest privilege to share this post along with 20+ fabulous bloggers who have collaborated together to present this creative challenge: creative ideas to do with a cardboard box.  This terrific blog linky was put together by the tireless efforts and leadership of Tinkerlab in honor of her 1 year anniversary.  Congratulations to Tinkerlab!

As I have mentioned before, I am really not all that creative so coming up with a box idea left me at a loss…

I brought these four big boxes home from preschool thinking I might be able to create something with them but they sat in my studio for two days while I still struggled with an idea.  So I finally sat down and started breaking them down and cutting off all the flaps until I ended up with them all in pieces…

After I cut the boxes apart, I asked my little friend Tristan, who was over playing in the sensory table, if he would like to play with the pieces and play he did!

He started off thinking small and then realized that he could use all the pieces and ended up building and designing just like a little carpenter…

Tristan was particularly concerned with making every thing “square” as he would put it….

I am not sure what he meant exactly but I think he wanted straight edges to match up with straight edge…

Once he had all his walls in place, Tristan began laying the flooring down…

Then he decided he wanted his walls taller. It took a bit of problem solving for Tristan to figure out how to get the walls taller…

He eventually discovered that if he stood some of the piece in between the boxes where they overlapped, the walls would stay standing…

Soon Tristan had his building designed to his personal satisfaction…

After all that work it was time to take a little rest and reflect on a job well done…

Here is another idea for what could be done with these boxes from Play Create Explore. Perhaps we will save the pieces for another day of building!

Be sure to check out each of the amazing bloggers below that are participating in this fun and innovative day of boxes!


If you have a box post you would like to share – head on over to Child Central Station and add you linky there!


  1. says

    Love it!! Its so wonderful to see how he explored it and then came up with a solution for his little problem, great thinking little minds:))
    My girl would have painted over all the big boxes:)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I thought the boxes ended up looking like real wood – I thought the flooring was a wonderful touch too:)

  2. says

    I think this is PERFECT. I don’t think it’s our role (as adults) to be the creative ones when it comes to children’s projects… I, too, presented my kids with boxes and left it up to them, with my job being to help them realize their vision if they needed me to (for instance, handling the utility knife). I think you provided Tristan with a wonderful open-ended experience with a different sort of building material than usual. Perfect!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I had to make it open ended because I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do! LOL! – But so glad I did – it turned out much better this way.

  3. says

    What a fun and simple idea! We have a few carpenters in our family. . .it looks to me like he knows exactly what he’s doing. Big M will love this one!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      If I had thought ahead of time a little more, I would have set out some carpenter tools too like a measuring tape and square. But on the other hand – just exploring the boxes was probably the best approach to start with.

  4. says

    This is WONDERFUL!!! Kids will always find ideas! Just give them the materials and they will always amaze you! SO many personalities to inspire and you definitely inspired this little boy and he inspired you to inspire others! There are always those “builder kids” who are not just happy sitting and drawing—he is one of many! We need older kid classrooms (not just preschool) that inspire this kind of play and learning!! GREAT POST!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I was so impressed by Tristan’s natural interest in building and how he was concerned with keeping things square. This definitely didn’t come from me:)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Thank you Ana – your Castle Story box is such a sweet idea too. I look forward to seeing all the ideas that were shared. I think I will be here all day trying to keep up:)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      As I watched him, I thought he really did look like a carpenter!

  5. says

    Deborah, this is simply wonderful…teaching through hands-on experience and exploration. I know you say that you didn’t know what to do, but children are full of big ideas and you did a beautiful job allowing Tristan the space to sort out his own big ideas. Thank you so much for being a part of this collaboration — you’ve been such an inspiration to me and a great support to so many parents and educators who care about early childhood education.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Thank you so much for including me in your challenge Rachelle – for me it really was a challenge but it was very rewarding in the. I learned something new and loved observing Tristan in the process.

  6. says

    Aren’t boys just wonderful! I have an amazing little boy and he always astounds me with his resourcefulness. I don’t know why people think boys are difficult to engage. Just give them a box :)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Haha – I raised a little girl so spending some one-on-one time with a little boy has really given me a new perspective. I am enjoying the opportunity right now.

  7. says

    We play a lot with cardboard but never like this.This is great idea,so I wouldn’t always have to play with my daughter,she coul explore and find her resolutions by her self.Tnx for sharing the idea!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Sometimes, we just need to give the tools for exploration and perhaps a little guidance or idea brainstorming in the process but then step back and see where they can take it.

  8. says

    Absolutely love this open-ended imaginative activity that Tristan chose to do. I love how he figured out a way to make the walls taller and how he did the flooring! Early childhood creativity is not just about art and painting, it’s about exploring the world around them through such skills and by using any and every material/tool around them. I am inspired for sure!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I just saw your cute little charms you made! I need to share them!