It’s no secret that art teachers LOVE cardboard, but it wasn’t until lockdown during the early stage of the pandemic that I ended up somewhat depending on cardboard for my sanity! If you or someone you know has small children during this pandemic, then you know how hard it has been to juggle both work and child care issues. So I really began to lean into using blank cardboard boxes as a prompt for my son and then setting him free to work. Often times we would build together and sometimes I would just merely get him started and step back and let him create on his own. Here are a few of the cardboard creations that my son (and my students) have created over the last few years.
1. Cardboard Jet / Airplane
Using a sharpie, crayons, and my favorite cardboard cutting tool- the Canary corrugated cardboard cutter- he and I created this open seating jet or him to fly around in. I drew the main details but he enjoyed coloring them in and also designing the cockpit on the inside!
2. Cardboard House/ School/ Building
Ok, what kid isn’t into creating their dream house out of cardboard? The key is scoring a box that’s big enough for them to actually go inside! If you talk to my husband you would know I kind of have a problem with hoarding “the perfect cardboard boxes”. If we ever get a large delivery you can bet that I am saving that box for the perfect opportunity to create something grand. This was one of them. While home on maternity leave, my son and I started to work on this cardboard house- little did I know we would put about 12 hours into it! But when you are a mom on maternity leave, in the dead of winter in Pittsburgh- you got nothing but time! I mapped in the details on the outside (I may or may not have tried to make my dreams of living in an english cottage come to life) and situated Ro on the inside with a cup of his own paint and let him go to town. We of course laid down drop clothes first, and used only washable tempera paint- so if there was a bit of a mess it came right out. It was so much fun to make together and watching him use it as his secret hideout for weeks (months) later was the cherry on top! Since this house we have made several other buildings, but have created a school, police station, fire station and what not. I also created a modified version of these houses with my adapted art students, you can find that blog here.
3. Open-ended Egg Carton/ Cardboard Tube Painting
This super simple idea comes from the queen of cardboard creations, the magical Bar Rucci! By the way, if you don't have Bar's books you absolutely need to add them to your collection. Using Jack Richeson fluorescent tempera cakes, I provided my son with all kinds of small cardboard items (egg cartons, tp tubes, misc scraps) to paint with these fluorescent paints and he went to town! The paint dries bright and opaque on the cardboard and kept him entertained for hours! When dry, he then cut up the egg carton pieces and created stacked sculptures, buildings, you name it! So much opportunity for opened ended and creative play! Thanks again Bar for this idea!
4. Cardboard Clock
Over quarantine, my then 4-year-old started to ask a lot of questions about time (maybe because we had so much of it) and became curious about clocks. So I decided it would be fun to make our own clock out of cardboard. Tracing a large circle template and then cutting it out, I divided the clock into sections with swirly lines and had my son use crayons to draw different patterns inside of each section. Once the patterns were drawn, he used fluorescent tempera cakes to paint over the patterns, creating a wax resist. The paint stuck to the cardboard but allowed the patterns to still shine through. Once dry, we made a large and a small hand and used a screw to hold the hands in place while allowing the hands to move. I used packing tape to secure the screw in from the back. If you had a brad at your house, that would be more ideal- but a screw was all we had at the time.
5. Rainbow Houses Inspired by The German Crew & Favela Painting
Have you ever seen the gorgeous, vibrantly painted homes of Palmitas in Mexico? Orchestrated by street artists that go by the name The German Crew, they not only painted the homes but they got the local residents and community members involved. A similar project was done in Rio by Favela Painting- a repainting over 30 homes of a gorgeous rainbow. Inspired by my friend, @art_with_mia I decided to have my adapted art class each make their own rainbow building to be displayed together in the hallway. When painting on cardboard, the key is to add a bit of white to all of your tempera paints to make them opaque enough. I also choose to use only fluorescent paint to make them extra vibrant. My students loved this project and the other students in the school enjoyed seeing our collaborative display in the hallways.
These are just some of my favorite cardboard creations we have made, but with cardboard the possibilities are endless! What's your favorite thing to build from cardboard? I'd love to see your creations! If you make anything fun, be sure to tag me on Instagram so I can see!