Making for Kids

How to Make a Cardboard House (or castle!) Two Ways

Written by: Hannah Kimmel

We’re continuing our upcycling series with a new project for you:

A few weeks ago I came across a post on Instagram about making cardboard houses for your kids. The post was by herding_the_hos and I was instantly taken by the charming design. It was relatively simple in nature, but it was quite clever the way the pieces fit together.

The houses could be configured in many different ways for multiple playing strategies. The mom who designed it used sharpie to make siding, windows, and other decorations.

It was adorable.

Once I saw that I wanted to try it with our kids too! I contacted my sister-in-law and told her I thought it’d be a fun project for the cousins to do together. There are eleven kids on my side of the family, so she decided to get to work before we met. She had the cardboard so she got out her exact-o-knife and started cutting.

How to Make a Cardboard House (First Way)

The first way I’m going to show you is how to do it without any electronic equipment.

Things you’ll need:
  • Cardboard
  • Cutting mat or cutting board
  • Exact-o-knife
  • Scissors
  • Ruler

Markers or paint to decorate the houses

To get started, you’ll want to think of your design. I’ll show you the basic set up here, but the possibilities are endless. The basic idea can be transferred to all sorts of project ideas.

This is one of the side pieces.

We used a simple design to make things easier. My sister-in-law cut out four sides to the house. Two side pieces, a front, and a back.

The front and back pieces she measured 10″ high by 6″ wide.

The side pieces she measured 5″ high by 8″ wide.

She used her ruler to cut angles for the roof and cut out a door. We chose not to include windows because we had a lot of cardboard houses to make, but you could certainly add windows to the sides, back or front if you wanted to!

The next step is to cut slits into the cardboard. The slits should be half the height of the shortest piece.
For instance, when you cut into the side pieces your slits should reach the half-way point of the cardboard. However, the tall front and back pieces should only be cut equal length to the cuts you made in the side pieces.

When these pieces are slid together, they will form your building. If you cut the slits too short or too long, they won’t form flush.

You’ll also want to keep your cuts equidistance from the edge of the cardboard. This will keep everything uniform so your house won’t be wonky when you put it together.

We found that it worked well to use the exact-o-knife to score the slits, but to use scissors to cut them out.

*As always, be careful when using anything sharp. I felt like I needed to use a lot of force when I was using the exact-o-knife and there’s always a chance it will slip once you reach the end of your cardboard.*

Once the pieces were all cut out, we let the kids decorate them any way they chose!


How to Make a Cardboard House or Castle (Second Way)

Our friends Nancy and Will were inspired by this design and decided to take this idea to the next level.

Will has a laser cutter and access to the finest cardboard in the county through his work. They sent me pictures of Will’s final product and I was blown away.

Will’s design is next level.

I had to know how he made his designs so they graciously invited us over to check things out.

Things you’ll need:

  • Laser Cutting Machine
  • Software like Inkscape
  • Cardboard
  • Markers or paint to decorate houses

Will had been collecting this fine quality cardboard from work. It’s extra thick and it had been used to separate pallets that were shipped. This translates to uniform cardboard with no writing on it. Score!

Will took us to his workshop and explained how his laser cutter works. He had his laser cutter designed and shipped from China. It was cheaper than the American made Glowforge, but he also had to wait 45 days for it to come! Will’s cardboard house design was structured a little differently. Instead of sliding to cut slits together, he created tabs that slid into little cut outs in the other side of the cardboard.

He used a program called Inkscape to create the cutout design. Will said to make the houses and castles he searched Google for images of a castle or house outlines.

Here’s an example of an outline search on Google:

You can choose a free image to save to your computer. Once you’ve done this, you will need to turn it into a vector image. The beauty of a vector image is no matter how big or small you make it, you won’t mess up the image. It’s not going to become blurry when you enlarge it.

After the image is a vector, you can take it into the Inkscape program. In Inkscape, you can manipulate in any way you need. You can add tabs to the side and create cutouts in the side pieces. Remember that you have to remove any lines on the image that you don’t want to be cut out on the laser cutter.


The laser cutter cardboard castles and houses were used at their daughter’s birthday parties and they were a huge hit!


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