Sailing Indoors


Cardboard is a wonderful resource for children to create with and is easy to collect year around. With the increase of online shopping and shipping there is a glut of cardboard to be recycled. Children use cardboard frequently to create and express all types of ideas. A few months ago, the children gained access to large furniture boxes. The children were excited to work with the boxes, as they were much larger than the cardboard normally available for project work.

Fancy and expensive materials are not required to run a successful and enriching program for school age children. Simple materials like paper, glue, cardboard, tape, markers, sharpies, and a host of recycled materials motivate children to explore their imagination and create freely. Children love testing their ideas and employing finished creations into their play world of make believe and wonder.

The children started repurposing the furniture boxes working in small groups to create different types of boats. The children used packing tape, string, and masking tape to fashion their boat ideas. Each boat looked different depending on the age of the building group.

Groups of children like to come together and work on a shared idea. The energy of these encounters is both creative and competitive with ideas flying fast a furious until some consensus is reached and the actual work begins. Just like a rowboat, the children’s boat work started moving forward when their ideas began moving in a similar direction.

As the work progressed, interesting features were added to the initial boat structures. Some boats featured interior doors and other boats had secret compartments for storing special items. A few boats had storage compartments located on the outside of the craft. Color was added to the cardboard exterior of the boats and crews created drawings and lettering on the outside and inside of their boats with markers and sharpies. One group used paper to create original drawings that were glued to the floor of their boat. The same group created a flag out of paper and a flagpole out of cardboard that required much experimentation to keep from falling to the ground.

The children used a combination of ideas, from experience and imagination, to create the type of boat they wanted. The actual construction was a process of trial and error. As the children created items and attached them to the boats, the crewmembers were giving feedback and items were then moved or adjusted to help create the boat each group envisioned. This type of collaboration is beneficial in building the learning community, as children learn how to work together and share ideas and see the ideas come to life in the work.

Work continued each day. One boat builder and crew started creating new interior accessories for their craft. The group added a TV and remote using metal sheets as the screen. The crewmembers created an image for the screen with marker and paper and attached it to the screen.

When children create their own work they look forward to revisiting it each day. This creative energy embraces new ideas that come to the surface and the children are eager to express them through their work. This type of work is enjoyable for the children and their joy is displayed through the verbal expressions shared as they work and later when the work is shared with the learning community.

Another crew converted their boat to a house after adding many parts to the inside of the craft and deciding that it was more house than boat. They explained the transformation and then told me proudly, “This is a house not a boat.” I learned through my house tour that the house contained a garage, lamps, and fireplace all created from recycled materials. The same crew also created a furnace for the house out of cardboard. The cardboard house crew was adding to their house again the next day. They were collecting recycled pieces for the work and when I asked them what additions they were adding to the house I was told, “We need to work on the kitchen.” By the end of the day a microwave, bathroom, clock, and sink were added to the house kitchen construction.

Through experimentation and collaboration this group of children realized that what they thought of as a boat actually was taking shape into another work. Through play the children decided that a house would better fit their needs and started the transformation. The group was not concerned about going along a different path. The crew wanted to fill their vision and not feel limited to the original idea. This is the beauty of cardboard and having the freedom to explore a material with infinite possibilities.