Projects with Dad: Creating Cardboard Castles

As father’s day fast approaches I have found myself reminiscing about all the fun things I did with my dad as a child. My absolute favorite were the projects; whether it was building a pillow fort or making wooden swords, I loved spending time with my Dad while we worked on some project or another. As the modern world seems to get busier and busier it can be hard for parents to find time to spend with their child. It is even harder to spend quality time when you are competing with video games and tv programs for your child’s attention.

In case anyone doubted, recent studies have proven the importance of imagination in a child’s development. It is not just playing, imagination actually helps them learn how to understand their world and empathise with others. So, why not suggest a project that you and your child can do together? Why not choose something that will help kick start their imagination and allow you to spend time with them as they develop? Why not suggest building a cardboard castle large enough to play in or a Cardboard Color House? A cardboard castle can be easy, fast and cheap to build. Your child can let their imagination run wild in a cardboard castle whether they decide to take care of their horses there, become a princess, a knight, a cook, or all of them by turn. Castles are an ideal setting for imaginative play because they allow so many possibilities while instantly transporting the inhabitants to another time and place. Here are a few ideas for starting your cardboard castle project.

Gathering Supplies

With the right attitude, hunting down loads of cardboard can be an adventure, a treasure hunt, or a mission. You can use any and all of your old cardboard boxes but you will probably need more. You can probably ask your neighbours for cardboard and if you check some businesses and universities may be willing to give you their cardboard rather than recycle it. You will need a fast-setting glue that is safe to handle. Tape will likely be useful as well. If you are planning on painting your castle walls a nice grey stone colour you will need paint, but you can then use any type of tape you wish. If you plan to leave your walls unpainted you may want to use clear packing tape in places it will be visible. Knives are the easiest tools for cutting cardboard but if you want to let your children help you may want to give them scissors. All other accessories can be made out of cardboard or an imaginative appropriation of objects for different uses.

Designing is Key

The amount of work you are willing to put into the project and your imagination are really the only limits to your design. Let your child help you design the castle. See where their imagination takes them and how much of it is really feasible. Problem solve with them. Can you tape things to the walls in your room, or proposed building site? Is rearranging the furniture an option? Teach them how to work within limitations. You may be amazed at how much fun even the design process can be.

If you have a room with closets and low-hanging air-ducts that create a narrow entryway to the room you could build a castle façade there before the room widens out beyond it. This way the door to the room can open onto the moat. You can enter the rest of the room through a door in your castle and the whole room can now be your castle interior. If your building site does not have such an entryway, you can create one artificially with some furniture that you build your façade between, or you can build a free standing castle. Your castle can have three walls and be pushed against a walls or piece of furniture or it can have four and be completely self-contained. It is your castle it is up to you.

Castle Walls

 Layering at least two layers of cardboard together will produce the sturdiest castle walls. When you are constructing your walls pay attention to where the old bends in the cardboard are. For instance, if you glue two pieces of cardboard together that bend in the same exact place your walls will have a tendency to flop over. Making sure you reinforce your walls properly could involve cutting. Allow your child to help you layout and cut the pieces as well as glue. If you are making walls that involve you to piece to together large sections of cardboard, try to overlap them to make them sturdy.

If you are building a castle façade for an entryway you have several options. You can tape it to the walls, or furniture, or barring that, you can build it small side walls to make it stand on its own. In order to attach side walls there are probably a number of ways that would work. One method you could use is to cut strips of cardboard and put one bend in them. Then you can use them like L-brackets and glue your walls together that way. Another idea is to cut notches into one wall and attach tabs to another and piece your walls together like an over-sized dovetail. This would allow you to take the castle down and put it back up.

Lastly, your walls will need some crenellation. This will give them a nice castle effect and it wouldn’t really be a castle without a few hints at its defensive purpose. You can cut crenellation into long pieces of cardboard or use individual blocks. Simply attach them to the top of your walls for effect.

Decorating Your Castle

Now that you have a castle it needs decorating. Let your child decide how to decorate their new castle. Should it have pointed gothic windows or cross-shaped arrow slits? You can use small pieces of left over cardboard to provide trim for your windows and doors. Should the castle be painted or left as brown cardboard. If you are artistically inclined you can paint details such as fireplaces or tapestries on the castle walls. You can also let your child decorate the castle walls with their own drawings.

If you have lots of extra cardboard after creating an entryway façade castle, you could even panel the entire room with it. Then the whole room can be the castle and can be decorated and drawn on. Of course, you may want to remind your child that the walls in the rest of the house are still not to be drawn on.

Sit down with your child and design your own individual devices to go on cardboard crests. Pick symbols and things that are meaningful to you and then hang them proudly on the castle walls. If your castle walls are large enough you can create cardboard brackets and hang foam, or even cardboard swords from them. Use up extra cardboard by creating shields for you and your child to defend the castle with against foes and dragons. You could even stage mock battles with your child, or create defense strategies.

Luxurious Castle Accessories

Speaking of defense, no castle is complete without a moat, and moats must be crossed by drawbridges. You can always imagine one or use a long rug for one, but if you are so inclined, you can create a working drawbridge out of cardboard. To do this you would attach strings, or cords or what-have-you, to the top edge of the drawbridge. These will be the strings that raise and lower the drawbridge and will need to be run through holes at the top edge of your castle walls. You should have at least a narrow flap at the edge of your drawbridge that you can stand on, or tape to the floor if that is an option. This will prevent the drawbridge from sliding when you pull on the strings to raise and lower it.

In case you are very worried about your castle’s defense you can go even further and add wooden blinds to your doorway to act as a portcullis. Simply put two holes on either side of the castle doorway and run strings through them to tie the blinds to your castle wall. You will need to make sure the walls are sturdy enough to support the weight first. Make sure that you also supervise play and ensure you child is old enough to use blinds properly without danger.

Torches can be made out of empty toilet paper rolls. For flames a bit of computer paper coloured with reds and oranges can be crumpled up for texture and then glued to the top of the toilet roll. For torch holders you can colour some cardboard strips black to look like iron and glue them together to form a metal basket for your castle wall.

Any castle worth its salt must have a moat. You can simply add a bit of wavy blue paper to the bottom of your castle walls to suggest its presence, or you can go all out. A blue sheet or large towel spread underneath the drawbridge, or lots of blue paper, will create a marvelous effect. You can even add moat monsters. Discuss with your child what sorts of monsters are needed to make the castle completely secure. Draw some of them on computer paper or extra cardboard and place them in your moat, or maybe at the bottom of the castle’s wall. Good thing you built a drawbridge, Dad!

The decoration of your castle can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. You can always do the decorating in stages of projects. The beautiful thing about building a cardboard castle is that it is cheap. If it gets destroyed in a siege you can repair it with some more pieces of cardboard or you can simply recycle it. So, grab your child and some cardboard and start having fun creating things together!



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