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!

By |2011-05-05T23:56:30+00:00May 5th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Roopa (Putti amma) May 6, 2011 at 12:33 am - Reply

    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. May 6, 2011 at 10:30 am - Reply

      She would have had a bright and colorful building!

  2. Michelle May 6, 2011 at 12:41 am - Reply

    Awesome!! Love the flooring!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 6, 2011 at 10:31 am - Reply

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

  3. amy May 6, 2011 at 7:34 am - Reply

    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. May 6, 2011 at 10:32 am - Reply

      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.

  4. Jillian May 6, 2011 at 8:34 am - Reply

    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. May 6, 2011 at 10:33 am - Reply

      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.

  5. 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. May 6, 2011 at 10:34 am - Reply

      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:)

  6. Anna @ The Imagination Tree May 6, 2011 at 9:40 am - Reply

    I love this! What a perfect way to use the boxes and incorporate it into imaginative role play. He’s got a wonderful imagination!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 6, 2011 at 10:35 am - Reply

      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:)

  7. Love this! I’ve often seen boxes used in preschools, but this guy really went above and beyond any creations I’ve ever seen!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 6, 2011 at 7:42 pm - Reply

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

  8. Christie-Childhood 101 May 6, 2011 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    Once again you remind us that often the simplest “toy” is the best 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      Thank you Christie:)

  9. Rachelle @ tinkerlab May 6, 2011 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    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. May 7, 2011 at 8:42 am - Reply

      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.

  10. Kate @ An Amazing Child May 7, 2011 at 1:16 am - Reply

    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. May 7, 2011 at 8:41 am - Reply

      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.

  11. huana May 7, 2011 at 3:24 am - Reply

    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. May 7, 2011 at 8:43 am - Reply

      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.

  12. Rashmie @MommyLabs May 7, 2011 at 11:09 am - Reply

    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. May 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm - Reply

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

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