Up-cycled cardboard box pirate ship for dramatic play

A dragon soaring through the night skies. A pirate sailing free on the high seas. A butterfly flapping a storm off its wings. A wizard shooting sparks out of a wand. These are the worlds our children live in. Worlds where even the most common objects become magical inventions and every step is a new adventure.

Young children learn by imagining and doing. The process of pretending helps grow skills in many essential developmental areas. Social interaction at a young age is the basis of healthy relationship building. Cooperative play helps foster empathy and understanding of others feelings. Playing develops language skills; cognitive, creative and critical thinking abilities that will be useful in every aspect of their lives.

At MINI MAD THINGS we love to encourage imaginative and dramatic play not only with our range of IMAGINATIVE PLAY TOYS but also by up-cycling items from our household recycling to make fun props to play with. We particularly love creating things out of cardboard boxes! With a cardboard box and a few simple craft supplies you can go on any adventure, today we made 2 large boxes into a pirate ship!


  • 2 large cardboard boxes (we used 2 tea chest size moving boxes)
  • Sticky tape
  • Hot glue
  • Craft knife
  • Bamboo cane
  • Black and white paper
  • Glue


First I began with turning one of the boxes inside out and then taping it back together. This step isn't essential but by turning the box inside out you get a blank canvas to work with. I then cut a flap 3/4 the height of one side of the box. This box will become the cabin of your pirate ship.

How to make a cardboard box pirate ship for kids play

Flatten your other cardboard box and cut away one side, leaving 3 sides. The middle will become the base of your boat and the other flaps the sides. Cut the box as shown in the picture with a triangle shape in the middle and 2 wedge shapes each side.

Flat cardboard box cut to make a pirate ship

Fold over and glue or tape the sides of your boat.

How to build a kids pirate ship out of cardboard boxes

Fold up the sides and attach together with tape to form the front part of your boat.

Making a cardboard box pirate ship for kids play

Now attach the front to the back part of your boat with tape and glue.

play ship made from 2 cardboard boxes

Cut a port hole in the side of your cabin, we added a circle window frame to reinforce our port hole. We made an anchor for our ship using cardboard and rope. Our sail and pirate flag were made using a garden cane, paper and cardboard.

Now set sail on your magical adventure and find some treasure!

Children playing in a pirate ship made from cardboard boxes

My kids loved making and playing with this cardboard box pirate ship so much, that we decided to make a new version and include it in my first kids craft book UNBOXED: Adventures in cardboard. The book full of craft ideas all made with cardboard boxes and household recycling. Each of the project ideas in the book is something that you can make together with your little ones that they can then play with.

Find our more about our book and purchase online HERE >>>

child playing in a cardboard box pirate ship

Unboxed: Adventures in cardboard fun kids craft book