Cardboard Kid’s Chair Makeover

Cardboard Kid's chair remake by The Cardboard Collective

The Japanese book with the pattern for making these chairs is available in my Etsy shop.

Our beloved cardboard kid’s chairs are almost 3 years old. They’ve been in desperate need of a makeover for a while now, and I thought those of you who read the blog would be interested in seeing how cardboard furniture wears over time.

These chairs are regularly used as vaulting boxes by my two little ones so I can’t imagine a better stress test.

Cardboard Kid's chair remake by The Cardboard Collective

I started by addressing the corners that had worn, and cut small strips of cardboard to use as shims.

I glued them into the worn areas to give the chair corner rigidity again and reshape the edge.

Cardboard Kid's chair remake by The Cardboard Collective

Next I trimmed off any loose cardboard and traced the different pieces of the chair one at a time onto (new) post consumer cardboard and cut the pieces out. After some gluing and clamping, this is what we got:

Cardboard Kid's chair remake by The Cardboard Collective

Not bad huh? Almost as good as new……and the chairs will be even more smashing after we treat their exteriors to a new look:

…..catch that in my next post.


Stackable Cardboard Dressers for Kids


Stackable dressers

My daughters are young and their needs are always changing. They wear a pair of shoes for 6 months then need a new pair.

They use a little chair, or a booster seat for a year or a month or 2 and then we have to replace it and either throw out the old one, find a friend who happens to need the same thing at the same moment we want to get rid of it, or put it on Craig’s List. (We have no charity shops here in Tokyo and limited recycling opportunities for large items.)

I find this kind of turnover exhausting. I wanted to create a dresser system for the girls that accomplished 3 things:

stackable dressers

  1. Recyclable so that we could recycle the whole thing, or just parts of it as the girls’ needs changed. I didn’t want the guilt of throwing away something that was perfectly good and I didn’t want the extra work of finding someone to take on our old stuff.
  2. Facilitates Independence. I wanted a piece of furniture that was easy to use and functional so the girls could easily pick out their own clothes and put them away starting from an early age (about 18 months-2 years ).
  3. Beautiful. I believe that the things in our life should be beautiful and functional. I want my daughters to value beauty, design, the arts, and momma moxie, so we tried to accomplish all of those things when we made the dressers. If you like hot pink and pattern as much as I do I hope you agree on our definition of beautiful….

The Cardboard Collective

To make the dressers, we collected kiwi boxes over the course of a few weeks, as well as beautiful papers; a mix of washi papers, origami paper, paper bags and Gallery Opening flyers.

I then decoupaged the papers onto the fronts of the boxes with water and white glue. I made a door in each box by cutting two sides about a ruler’s width from the edges of the box, and and then scored the bottom to create the door opening.

The doors of the dressers always stay shut and close easily. In a year and a half of using these boxes, the doors have never flopped open or gotten flimsy.

stackable dressers

The girls can easily open and close the drawers. By decorating each box differently they quickly have memorized what kind of clothing each box holds. (Only Dad is still struggling with this.)

Another benefit of these dressers is that they are not a hazard if they fall over in the event of an earthquake – an important consideration living here in Japan.

stackable dressers

If you’re wondering where you can get kiwi boxes, check out your local produce department. This past summer I wrote a post about how to find free cardboard here. We also use these boxes for storing our toys, puzzles, and art supplies. Yes, kiwi boxes are a definite favorite here in our apartment.


A Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Note to readers: Washi tape has since been removed from the toolbox (only to be rein-listed with parental supervision (full focus parental supervision)).

As a family of makers, a kids’ cardboard toolbox was next up on our cardboard making list. I found a smaller box with smaller handholds for the toolbox with real tools, real nuts and bolts and other real stuff, for real cardboard projects…

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Child sized tools: embellishment hammer, round tipped serrated cutting blade, spackling blade, screwdriver and safety scissors

The Cardboard Collective

Assorted screws, bolts, nuts and washers

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Here’s a peek at our first project. I originally saw this idea in what I believe was a February 2012 issue of Family Fun Magazine. They used dry wall screws and a rock for pounding, which would work too.

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

We enjoyed the opportunity to do some parallel “making”. It was great to all be focused on different cardboard projects while we pounded, sawed and glued to our heart’s content.

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

The accordion cardboard drop cloth is a great addition to this ensemble. I blogged about it last fall here.

The Cardboard Collective

Cardboard Toolbox for Kids

Do you have a cardboard tool kit or set of tools for your kids? I’d love to hear how others are making cardboard construction play accessible for kids of all ages…


Cardboard Finger Puppet Book

The Cardboard Collective

This Christmas present  was a team project. I got lots of guidance while I was sewing the facial features on “wiggle worm.” My daughter also wrote the story for the book, which strangely enough changes every time you read it… you can catch the “text” below.

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

Stitch your wiggle worm together from a fabric scrap.

The Cardboard Collective

Cut holes in the middle of the pages of a cardboard book. Cardboard book how to here. Tape your worm in place.

The Cardboard Collective

Glue a cardboard page over top, to secure the “wiggle worm.”

The Cardboard CollectiveMERA

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

Looking a little smug after the photo shoot isn’t he?

Tokyo Maker Faire 2012

Sunday was the last day of Tokyo’s first ever Maker Faire.

It’s safe to say I was pretty blown away by the whole event. Imagine squeezing shoulder to shoulder step by step through a space as big as a football field, chock a bloc with little tables, thousands of people, and tons of blinking, flashing, gyrating electronic gizmos.

[slideshow_deploy id=’3058′]

I came knowing nothing about Arduinos, Rasberry piis, and flying drones, and left knowing nothing more … sadly, I was way too intimidated to ask a programmer to explain basic coding and circuitry to me in Japanese.

I did however, do a lot of googling when I got home, and learned enough to have a semi intelligent conversation (in English) with someone next time I need to, which could be quite soon considering I’m now planning on building one these to do my grocery shopping for me…

This is a giant cardboard giraffe robot that was designed and built by kids using a program developed by MIT called Scratch.

[vimeo 54844455 w=620&h=400]

The folks at a design group here in Tokyo called Otomo held a series of workshops for kids earlier this year where this noble beast was conceived and built.

The giraffe has a camera in it’s head and a controller in it’s tail. As the giraffe’s head “looks” around, video streams to an old school, Wizard of Oz-style monitor nearby.

I don’t think I could have dreamed of something that would have captured my imagination more than this amazing cardboard safari creature.

I basically had to pick my jaw up off the floor, and embarrassingly said “This is so cool” way too many times while talking to the couple from Otomo. I had one of those moments when a tiny little seed gets planted…..

Cardboard Tinkering Toy Series: Egg Carton Gondola

As Christmas marketing campaigns and expensive toy lists begin appearing on the internet, I wanted to start this series to remind parents and gift givers everywhere about  simple, low cost, recycled toys that kids will wrench out of your hands and say, “Let me try!”

In case you haven’t heard about the creativity crisis that’s being heralded by lots of important people, I just want to leave you with this simple thought. As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher. They are constantly watching you to find out what you think, what you like to do, and how you handle a challenge. While we don’t need to teach our children how to play, we do need to positively model for them the joy of learning, experimenting, creating and doing.

How do you do that? You can let your child see you make things, solve problems, fix what’s broken….. be resourceful. There are a million ways to do it, but if you want a place to start, here’s one:

To make an egg carton gondola:

1. Use the nail clippers to cut notches on both sides of the spindles in the middle of the egg carton. Measure down about 1 cm to 1 inch to make the cuts.

2. Cut a slit down the entire length of the tube. You will need a tube thicker than a standard paper towel tube. A tube that has three or four layers makes a gondola that’s quite strong and will hold up to lots of play.

3. Slide the tube unto the egg carton where you’ve made the notches so that the tube grips the egg carton when you put gentle pressure on it.

4. Puncture a hole in one end of the tube and tie a long string or piece of yarn to the gondola for moving it back and forth.

5. Thread an even longer second string through the tube for the gondola to travel on. Anchor this string in two places with a slight decline so that gravity will help the gondola to travel on its own.

And one more thing. I’m challenging everyone who reads this blog to make a handmade toy for a child they love for Christmas. It’s not an official challenge as I don’t have the energy for another one after the Cardboard Costume Challenge, but I just want to give you permission to make something quick and homey, and even ugly, that you can play with together on Christmas day. I promise your child will never forget it.

Cardboard Mermaid Costume: Sneak Peak

I finally started my daughter’s mermaid costume after lots of mental gymnastics thinking about how to get started. I’m not going to give it all away, but you can see the beginning here:

And a little of the inspiration here:


I’m also thinking about how I can keep a mermaid warm during colder Halloween temperatures. Hmm….

How to make cardboard bug eyes

These cardboard apple box liners have so much potential. I love their color and texture which works perfectly for insect or reptilian costumes. I’ve seen these liners in pink, yellow, purple, white and brown. Ask the stockist at your grocery store’s produce department if you can take a few home.

This a costume component easily made by any child who can handle scissors, so a perfect start for a kid’s first self made costume.

How great would these be for a bed bug costume?

Weaving a Cardboard Gathering Basket

After trying this cardboard basket out around our house and garden, I realized it’s just the right size for a lot of things we do: picking flowers for an arrangement, gathering herbs from the garden, driftwood at the beach, and of course summer berry picking.

It’s a cardboard replica of this old market basket that I came across this summer while we were clearing an out building at my parent’s place.

Looking at the wood that the basket is constructed from I realized that it was similar to cardboard in weight and strength, and cardboard might make a really great basket too.

I also thought this would be a great project for experimenting with weaving cardboard. I have to say I was really excited about how beautiful the cardboard looked woven and also by how strong it was! I used Ikat Bag‘s suggestion of working with cardboard pallet liners and they were perfect for this project.

(Note: You can see in the picture that the middle woven piece has been taken out. I have since modified the directions below to make the basket stronger and the handle more sturdy. You want that middle piece to wrap up and around the sides to make the handle and then staple it together.)

You will need to cut:

3 pieces  2″ x 26″

4 pieces  2″ x  21″

1 piece   2″ x  30″

1 piece 5″ x 44″ or 2 pieces  5″ x  22 ” stapled together

Align your pieces.

Crease on the 21″ and the 26 ” pieces 7″ from the edge. (Weave the strips together as pictured above to form the base (the 2″ x 30″ piece is the middle strip that forms the handle. Crease the piece 11.5″ from both ends.))

Fold the 5″ x 44″ piece so that it forms a 7″ x 12″ rectangle and staple it together where it overlaps.

Weave the strips from the base through your rectangle. Binder clips are handy here to help you keep everything together.

When you’re done, staple the 2 handle pieces together, and then fold the side pieces up and over (or tuck them in) and staple them to the basket.

All right then………hopefully the “”picking up blocks basket” catches on.