As some of my other posts show, I have a strong love for cardboard. It’s easy to find, it’s free, it’s got a nice balance of flexibility and strength, fairly easy to manipulate, and it’s recyclable. I mean, with all those great characteristics, who wouldn’t love it?! I started just as many other parents, by providing the big box to the child, allowing their imagination to run wild. Since I love allowing my imagination to go wild, that only lasted so long for me. When we moved into our current house, I finally had the open space to run a little wild.
I made my first cardboard gingerbread house about 5 years ago. It stayed up well over a year before we took it down. My youngest spent many hours playing in that little house and why I recommend you make one of your very own if you’ve got the space. I hope my ideas help to inspire your own!
Now onto the Build
- Big and small cardboard boxes
- Paper towel rolls or wrapping paper rolls
- Contact paper
- Toilet paper roll
- Scissors and/or razor
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks (check out this link for a cordless hot glue gun, I know what I’m putting on my Christmas wish list!!!)
- Paint and paintbrushes
- Fake snow or whatever Christmas element you’d like to add
To start, it’s really up to the boxes you have on hand to determine your eventual house shape. Hot glue is a wonderfully quick and sturdy option to glue your pieces together. Thankfully, I had huge boxes from a refrigerator, a washer, dryer, and couches. I’ve found it’s quite easy to cut at the corners by running a razor down through it.
I painted the wrapping paper rolls with the candy cane strips before cutting them open in one straight line. This was to open them up for gluing on the corners of the house/box. I truly loved the effect. We made some peppermints out of other bits of cardboard and hot glued them onto the front. From there, it was just a matter of painting the house front as we desired.
The Front Door: the magical entrance to an imagination space
For the door, I cut out an open panel to let the girls have a spot to look through while in the house. To give it a personalized touch, I used contact paper so my girls could create a little winter scene. I sealed it with a backside of contact paper and glued it to the back of the door.
For the handle, I knew I wanted to make it able to turn and “lock” into position. Below is what I came up with based on what I had on hand. My motto is generally to use what I have rather than look to buy something. I used a toilet paper roll and two wooden dowels I had for cake stability or some other craft project. It was easy enough to cut the hole for the toilet paper roll and holes for the sticks that would keep the door in place. The problem was that the toilet paper roll wasn’t strong enough on the edge now to be crushed.
A bit of ingenuity
I came up with using an egg out of my fridge. I blew out the innards and then coated it in Mod Podge to seal it and give it some added strength. After that, I stuck the egg into the end of the toilet paper roll. Looking back, I admit it does seem rather odd, but it worked perfectly and lasted a really really long time. It wasn’t until we had some little boys over to play that one egg ended up crushed, cause, you know, BOYS.
For the chimney, I used a white square cardboard box. It was easy to cut the bottom at the angle of the roof. Then, my oldest daughter helped me to paint the stone look of it. I used some super hard corner cardboard pieces (the kind that comes with appliances or furniture) as the roof seam.
“He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,Clement Clarke Moore, The Night Before Christmas
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Stepping inside this Cardboard Gingerbread House
Obviously, a cozy Cardboard Gingerbread house isn’t much without a roaring stone fireplace. Using another super-stiff box, I cut it in half and then cut the front down the middle to be able to bend back for the fireplace shape. My oldest was then 7 and really enjoyed helping paint the stones. You can really see the concentration on her face here. Did you know crafting with kids can build their confidence? As they start to see the results of their work, it proves how much they can do just by trying.
With the fireplace in place, it was only a matter of rolling up some brown cardstock into sticks and cutting and gluing some tissue paper together to create the roaring fire. There were cut off corner pieces needing to be repurposed, so I glued them to the corners as shelves. In the below photo, you can hopefully see I used some bent cardboard as roof supports to keep it solidly in place. It was easy enough to then tuck the light strings into the open spots.
Just a few hours of crafting and engineering precision, created years of enjoyment for my three girls!
Upping the ante with Cardboard Gingerbread House #2
For my daughter’s 6th birthday, I made a Haunted Cardboard house for the birthday party. Since I’d put so much work into it, we weren’t about to take it down right afterward. Together, we spruced it up to turn it into another cardboard gingerbread house. Because I’m a bit of a hoarder, not really, just an avid “repurposer”, we were able to use the chimney and fireplace we’d created the first time around.
Join me on the Inside
Obviously, the square footage of this house was a great deal more than the previous one. The girls were able to go full-on Christmas on the inside. It was such a fun Christmas activity to get us in the spirit!
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the houseClement Clarke Moore, The Night Before Christmas
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…”
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