Wednesday, May 6

How to Make a Cardboard Castle

Time to end the 10-day silence. New passport was received, oldest kid is off with grandparents having a grand time, Ken’s paper is edited and turned in (I shortened it from 101 pages to 83 while adding about 400 commas!), our Internet connection works again. I forgot my camera cord at my mom’s (needed to download pics to my laptop) but then couldn’t find the camera starting Sunday night anyway. Mentioned this to Sophie yesterday morning -- “Oh Lucy was playing with it” she says, walks off, and a minute later is back with my camera. And I borrowed a cord from a friend yesterday, so I’m back in business!

Remember how two weeks ago I said my cardboard category is severely lacking and I’d be posting about that “soon”?

Well, here’s the first one: our cardboard castle. Which has given us oodles of playtime mileage. And which is a lesson for me in letting go of perfectionism, using whatever is on hand, getting it done no matter what it looks like, and letting the kids help. Can you tell they helped?


It’s made from the box that our kid-sized table came in (thanks again, Ma and Pa Stiles for blessing us with the beautiful table and chairs!!!).  The “box” was really just two large sheets of cardboard with short flaps on all four sides. We fastened two of the end flaps together with what was handiest at the time: white curly ribbon from the gift wrap center in the guest room closet. Hey, it worked.

Anyway, that gave us a nice “hinge” in the middle, making it possible to set the castle up in whatever space the kids want to play in and then easily collapse it and hide it under a bed when I just need to get it out of sight for a while.

For the drawbridge,  we just cut out an arched door shape, then added a loop of yarn so it could be pulled shut. (How could we ever have abandoned the white ribbon? Too curly perhaps?) See photos for lacing example – there are two holes in the door and two above it. I think we made the yarn a little too long. It hangs down too much and regularly catches on people’s various limbs when they’re trying to crawl through. Or run past. It’s been this way for two years now already, but I really should fix it, make it less of a strangling/tripping hazard… Actually, I’m surprised it’s lasted this long; didn’t know yarn was that strong!


Since it was easy to push the door open again from the inside, but not so easy from the outside, we added a little “keyhole” so little fingers could reach in and have something to pull. Similarly, on the windows, we cut a little notch into a side so they can be pulled open or shut, instead of only pushed. Can you see them down below?


IMG_2346 Speaking of windows, only one of them is a cut-out square; the rest all have little doors (shutters?) that “hinge” open on an uncut, creased side. It’s easiest to make the creased side so it’s parallel with the corrugation. So in the large photo above, that’s why the window on the right opens downward; the crease is horizontal because the corrugation is horizontal. Make sense? (The window on the left opens sideways, but that’s just because we used a fold that was already in the cardboard.) You can crease things perpendicularly to the corrugation. In that case, I’d recommend first pressing a fold line into the cardboard. To do that, I hold a straight edge in place, then run a blunt object along it, like a capped pen. Then I keep the straight edge in place as I slowly bend the cardboard .

If this is way too wordy or confusing, my apologies; brain is still foggy and I’m not a coffee drinker…

Oh, and for cutting, I think some people use a craft knife, a.k.a. razor blade. But they seem so puny, especially when I’m cutting the two-ply stuff. Maybe mine is just too dull. I like to use a kitchen knife, the one in my set that has a really thick, strong blade (and doesn’t really get used for much else other than cutting cardboard anymore; the other knives in the set have all my food needs covered)...


Oh, and the turrets (or whatever they’re called). We just cut evenly spaced lines down, then cut across the bottom of every other one. In the photo below, they’re standing up nicely (I did that for the photo) – usually they’re more floppy because there was a crease already in the cardboard all along their base. I’ve considered gluing some reinforcement squares over the crease on each turret, but so far, no kid has come to me saying “Oh, I wish the turrets weren’t so floppy” so I’m just going to leave well enough alone.


OK, so you’ve seen the drawbridge, some of the windows, and the exotic wildlife menagerie (see turrets in above photo). Here’s a quick tour of some more of the castle:

Sophie’s chambers,IMG_2365

Mommy’s chambers (a tad more cramped than Sophie’s), IMG_2351

and the “dirty dungeon” (according to 4-year-old Soph).IMG_2354


Hmm, I think I might have some leftover grey paint in the garage. Maybe I’ll let the girls go at our “stately structure” with paint brushes this summer…   I’d be sad to see the dirty dungeon covered up, but wouldn’t mind losing sight of the paper-glued-on-using-an-entire-gluestick. (A few weeks ago, I also nixed the idea of barring entry to the castle by taping the drawbridge shut… but only after they had already used an entire roll of tape to do so! Are my kids the only ones with a deep and passionate love of sticky tape?)


  1. I've been staring at the drawing of the red-dressed woman for awhile, trying to figure it out. Is that mommy? And does she have big boobs and no head and a red scarf? Or is it one of those things where you're laughing your head off because I'm looking at it wrong?

  2. Yeah, it's so cramped in there, there's not even room for my head. No, the "scarf" is actually hair, drawn Sophie-style: uniformly thick with sides that hardly ever go straight down but rather fly out to each side.

    And I'm only laughing my head off because I nearly wrote "Those are sleeves, people. Big puffy sleeves!"

  3. oh, i love this!! my kids would have a blast with making one!!

    i saw on another blog, how with cardboard, they made cars, and then the kids sat in the cars and watched a movie! a drive in movie at home! i want to try that one too. :)

  4. This castle is great, I love that the drawbridge goes up and down and that it even folds up! We use kitchen knives to cut cardboard at our house too. And my kids love sticky tape - I have to keep it well hidden if I don't want it all over the house!

  5. Sticky tape trumps Barbie! Hurrah - I finally get to see the fabulous castle. Very nice! My favorite part is the dirty dungeon. Princesses who learn empathy by familiarizing themselves with dungeons make better queens, no?

  6. Kerri - the drive-in movie idea sounds so fun! Did each kid get their own car?

    MaryAnne - fold-up feature is my favorite. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" - isn't that what they say? When castle play wanes, I put it away. In a week or two, its reappearance is a joyous event!

    Jenny - see you over here soon! I'll have the castle out and ready.

    LiEr - you crack me up. thanks for the note!

  7. Karin,

    I'll only have Nora Joy. Gracie is at KK till 11:30. We'll stay until she needs to be picked up, OK? My mind is not working right these days. How could I forgot about preschool? She's only been attending all school year! :)

  8. yeah, they each had their own cardboard car!! i would sure have a lot to make with six kiddos!! :)



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