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Things to make & do... with Cardboard

This is the first in a series of blog posts in which I'll share fun, accessible & open-ended creative activities to help inspire making at home during the Covid-19 lockdown. These are all activities I have created & delivered for art galleries & organisations, & are intended for children aged 2 - 12. This post focuses on corrugated card - something I hope you'll have access to! Its a material I love to use. I suspect once you've tried these you'll never discard corrugated card again!

Activity 1 - Carved Mask Making

The materials we used:

  • Corrugated card, scissors & some sort of stick to create a mask shape

  • Oil pastels to apply colour - wax crayons would work too

  • forks, knives (no sharps!), pencils & improvised tools to carve into our mask

The process we used:

  • we cut out a shape - young children may need help with this step

  • we used our tools to make marks, patterns & draw features

  • we applied colour - using our crayons on their sides - dragging over the surface of the card - so the colour picks up with marks we scratched into our masks

We were inspired by - Huma Bhabha's sculpture, which was installed in Wakefield city centre as a part of Yorkshire Sculpture International.

Here are some mask made by children at The Hepworth Wakefield, for Halloween! If you use sticker or tape - add these before your crayon, they don't stick to waxy surfaces.

Activity 2 - Textural Collage Paintings

Corrugated card is a great support for children to paint onto, especially for toddlers! It can handle a lot more paint than none specialist papers & is easy to move - no floppy mushy messes dripping paint on the carpet!

In this activity we explored the idea of working in layers & what it is like to paint onto different surfaces. Children seemed to really enjoy the freedom this activity gave them to create abstract art. We provided a range of materials with different textures - part of your activity could be to look for & collect materials together around the house. Don't assume certain things won't be suitable! We used sand paper :-) you could tearing open corrugated card to reveal its bumpy insides,

The materials we used:

  • corrugated card

  • rag paper, sandpaper, foil card, fabric, other forms of card & paper - alternatively you could use coloured paper to create your collage

  • oil pastel, paint, brushes & mark making tools

The process we used:

  • Children first looked at paintings by artists Alan Davie & David Hockney in the exhibition

  • We encouraged children to think about shape & composition - not to aim for a picture - but to enjoy creating & arranging shapes

  • Children & adults worked together to cut shapes from a variety of textural materials

  • We used PVA or glue stick to apply these to our cardboard

  • We applied oil pastel in places exploring what marks we could make

  • We applied paint - lots of children applied paint within the boundaries of their collaged shapes, but remind them the paint can make shapes of its own, on top of these shapes

  • We used a range of tools - including sponge dabbers

Activity 3 - Cardboard Sculpture Play

This workshop stands out as one of my favourite activities I've designed & led. It engaged children & adults of all ages. It provoked *so*much*play* between groups of children, siblings & families. It generated stories, worlds & inventions. It showed me the play potential of pegs (honestly - seriously playful provocation!) & I would run it again at the drop of a hat!

We were responding to the super size sculpture of Phyllida Barlow for The Hepworth Sculpture Prize & exploring connections between drawing & sculpture (her drawings are wonderful).

We used large pieces of card to create a set of sculpture shapes (& I spent hours spray painting them so they'd be a range of bold colours). These shapes had slits cut into their edges at various intervals. Families explored how to assemble these shapes to construct stable sculptures. Other materials were used to add to this base. Like Phyllida, we offered none-art materials, that were child friendly - plastic hoops, pegs & ropes, as well as cardboard strips & wicker frames.

These additions were either used as details - becoming, in the children's imaginations staircases, pianos, gardens, controls, levers etc or as formal elements in their sculptural compositions.

As you can see, we were lucky to have spacious studios & access to some BIG bits of card - but I urge you to give this a go with smaller card - whatever size you've got! Simply create a range of shapes - as many as you can think of & simply explore ways to combine them. Do not worry about having an idea - forget all about it! Explore what your materials can do - who knows, maybe they will give you an idea along the way!


Since running this workshop I've discovered a set of tools for children which make working with corrugated card so much easier. None of that struggle with scissors, scruffy edges & asking for help! Honestly, I bought my nephews these & they love them. They are a wonderful invention. I would only recommend them if I believed they could transform a child's creative experience! More information here: (also available on UK sites)

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