Invitation to Paint: Cardboard Box Castles

by Meghan

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Last week, I got rear-ended enroute to preschool drop-off at a red light.  It’s been a fun-filled two weeks since of replacing car seats, getting the damage appraised and now repaired.  But what do they say – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?  The car seat replacement left us with two giant boxes that provided the girls with 3 days worth of imaginative and creative play.  What began as reading caves on day 1, became cardboard box castles at Big M’s request on day 2, and got carried outside for day 3’s invitation to paint!

Invitation to Paint_

Invitation to Paint: Cardboard Box Castles

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you know I’m a huge fan of trash to crafting treasure… and a giant cardboard box is like hitting the craft lottery at our house.  So imagine the girls’ delight (and mine) when we were left with two, preschooler sized boxes after we had to replace both the car seats last week.  Did you know you are supposed to replace car seats after an accident?

I left the boxes inside to break them down, and before I got the chance, the Ms each claimed one as their own.  The first day, they laid them on their side and with a pillow off the couch, turned them into their own personal reading caves.  Then, inspired by the latest princess episode of Bubble Guppies, on day 2, Big M wanted me to turn hers into a castle.  And since anything Big M wants, Lil’ M wants “too, too!”, I turned two boxes into two castles with the aid of a serrated bread knife and some painter’s tape.  By day 3, they wanted to decorate their castles.


Large, cardboard boxes
Painter’s tape
Serrated bread knife (grown-ups only)
‘Invitation to paint’ tray
Washable Tempura Paint
Foam brushes

Cost: Less than $10
Prep Time: Less than 15 minutes (mostly to build castle)
Clean-Up Time: Less than 15 minutes

To make the castle itself, I taped the four top flaps of the box together at their corners, so that they stood up, adding extra height to the box.  Then, I cut the teeth, aka merlons, around the top of the box, to give it the classic castle look.  Last, I cut an arched opening in one side of the box, leaving it attached at the bottom, to create a door the girls could open and shut.  On Day 3, I also added an arch from a piece of another box to attach the two castles, with Big M quickly declared to be a rainbow!

The nice thing about warmer weather is we can take the messy fun outdoors, and I can let them go to town. I drug both the castles into the driveway, and set the girls up with an ‘invitation to paint’ tray, also known as a Dollar Tree separated dip tray.

Invitation to Paint (2)

I told them there were only two rules: one, painting was only allowed on the boxes – not the house or the garage; and two, use one brush for each color.  Lil’ M, aka my Destroyer, quickly threw Rule #2 out the window, which left Big M, my Neatnik, highly distraught, but we both quickly got over it.  I was actually shocked by how well they painted together, and how long they were engaged.

Invitation to Paint - Cardboard Box Castles

Lil’ M just went to town, chanting about how she was painting the whole time, slopping paint on her box and all over herself.  Big M was more meticulous, painting specific colors on her rainbow and decorating the sides of her box and the door with various shapes.  Occasionally, she would request some assistance with a specific shape.

She was also concerned that there was no purple paint for her rainbow, but I told her not to worry.  We could make some!  It also cracked me up how evident their distinct personalities are in just about everything they do – and they shine through in these pictures too!  Lil’ M, covered in paint from head to toe, and Big M without a drop on her, except for a few stray drips on her hands.

They painted for a full 90 minutes, and only stopped because all the paint was gone, and it was time to come inside for lunch.  Oh, and hosing everyone and everything down they found just as entertaining as the painting itself!

And after watching Lil’ M wield a brush, she will ONLY be painting outside for a long time to come…


Do your kids love to play with boxes as much as mine do?  What are their favorite imagined box creations?  Do you ever take messy play outdoors? For more great summer fun, you can find all our summer posts here, and even more great summer activities on our Summer board on Pinterest.

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Invitation to Paint

Get Green, Crafty & Creative for Earth Day

This post is part of our book, Green, Crafty & Creative. Featuring 70 family and environmentally-friendly tips, crafts and activities from 10 different contributors, it is full of awesome inspiration for Earth Day fun. Green, Crafty & Creative is available for purchase in e-book, paperback and Kindle formats, starting for as low as $4.99.

Want to see more from Green, Crafty & Creative?  Check out these posts also included from our fellow contributors!

Sorting Seashells – A Summer Math Activity | Playground Parkbench

Outdoor Nature Collage – Craftulate

Bubble Wrap Jellyfish – Crafty Kids at Home

Egg Carton Super Bees – Nemcsok Farms

Upcycled Shirt for a Stuffed Friend – Our Whimsical Days

Caring for the Earth: 12 Ways to Help Kids Get It | Rhythms of Play

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Melissa French, The More With Less Mom June 6, 2015 - 9:54 pm

It’s funny how different kids can be, even in the same family .Thanks for posting. Hello from Sharing Saturday.

My Bored Toddler June 4, 2015 - 7:48 am

Such fun! A good way to turn a mishap into a fun adventure! Thanks for sharing on #ToddlerFunFriday

Eleanor Prior June 1, 2015 - 4:42 pm

Meghan Thank you for linking out to “Fun Summer Kids Drink” :0) …

Have a wonderful week, I look forward to following your creative ideas to get out and play! – Eleanor


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