Last Updated on August 17, 2019 by Bryan Fiveash
Are you looking for a fun playtime idea that your kids will love and will encourage imaginative thinking? Look no further! And the great news is that this cardboard box spaceship project is easy with minimal cost.
My main focus during the build was how to create maximum fun… not accurate design. Don’t worry if your ship doesn’t look like something NASA would use as soon as they saw it. I wanted to build just enough of a spaceship and let my kid’s imagination handle the rest.
Cardboard Box Spaceship Materials:
- Two large appliance-size cardboard boxes
- Hot glue gun with glue sticks
- Extension cord
- Razor knife
Obviously the most important component is a cardboard box large enough for your kids to fit in. I wanted one large enough for me and my four kids to fit in to so I could play along. Though likely you don’t have a massive box just lying around the house. No problem!
Rather than try to hunt around town looking for trash boxes and hoping you’ll find one decent enough to work, just go to the source: a store that sells appliances. We have a local Sears store, so I gave them a call, let them know what I was doing, and asked if they happened to have any extra boxes lying around. As it turns out, they had at least two large floor freezer boxes that I ended up using for this article. The folks at Sears were very nice, and I’m sure they appreciated me taking care of boxes that they would normally have to dispose of themselves.
I used one box for the main base of the ship, and the other box for the wings, tail and miscellaneous parts. Since I didn’t need the second box to be in box form, I simply picked it up from Sears already broken down. It was easier to transport that way as well.
You’ll notice in the above picture that the box isn’t cut exactly perfect. There are dips in the cut line here and there, and there are places where it is caved in. That’s ok. Again, we aren’t looking for visual perfection… just function.
First, I climbed in and got to work on drawing the cockpit gauges, buttons and equipment. I just used my imagination here… nothing too artistic or realistic. Just enough to stir up the imagination in my kids. Then I cut out large rectangular holes with a razor knife for outside viewing and ventilation. One in the front, one in back, and two on each side. Please use caution while using a razor knife!
For the door, simply draw a three-sided vertical rectangle with your marker, then cut with the knife. I made a hole large enough so I could get in and out too. You’ll cut out the top, bottom, and one side of the door. The fourth side should remain uncut; that’s how the door will pivot open and closed. I also cut out a small hole where a handle would be to allow for a finger to slip through for easier access.
For the steering wheel, start off by cutting off about a third of a cardboard toilet paper tube, then glue it to wherever you want the wheel to hang. Next, use one of the window pieces that you cut out and draw up a wheel and cut it out. The wheel can look like however you want it to be. Cut a hole in the middle of the wheel and slip it up on the tube that you just glued on. Don’t glue the wheel in place so your kids can turn it. Then glue a cardboard cap over the opening of the tube large enough so the wheel can’t slip off.
Here’s where the main use of the second appliance box comes into play. I wanted the sides of this box to be the same width as the top of the first box. Cut the cardboard so that there’s three sides that are attached together.
Then, place it on top of the main box… the middle section covering the opening, and the two sides hanging over the sides of the main box. Climb inside the box and glue the top to the base at several points to prevent it from coming off.
Lift up one of the wings, and at the front of the bottom box, draw a line diagonal to the rear of the wing. To make this easier and for a more accurate cut as I want to reuse the piece I’m cutting off, I used a long level. Then cut on the line. Repeat this on the other wing.
Now, as our spaceship has an 8′ wingspan, I wanted to be able to break the wings down so the entire ship could fit through doorways in the house. I found an easy way to do this. You’ll use the triangle pieces that you cut off the wings to prop them up.
First, hold a wing out so it is horizontal. Then, place a triangle at the side of the bottom box, longest end of the triangle horizontally flush with the back of the box. Tip the triangle over at the top about a foot from the top side of the box. Cut a slot in the wing at that point so the top of the triangle can slip though the wing. The wing will then rest on the triangle. Repeat these steps on the other wing.
Do not glue anything during these steps. If you want to break the wings down for transport, simply remove the triangles. The wings will fall to the sides of the ship.
There should be one big section of cardboard left from the second appliance box. We can use it for the tail of the spaceship. Stand the section up horizontally on the top of the ship. Draw a diagonal line from the top of the tail to the bottom, then cut the tail out with your knife.
Glue the tail to the center rear of the top of the ship. Then glue a small rectangular piece of cardboard from each side of the tail to the ship to hold the tail upright.
My kids couldn’t wait to play with their new cardboard box spaceship! Equally fun for them is decorating the outside of the ship as it offers tons of opportunity for artwork, so I’ll let them handle that.
Let me know if you have built your own spaceship! Feel free to send me pictures at firstname.lastname@example.org
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