Cardboard, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. In the hands of a master crafter like Estefi Machado, a simple cardboard box destined for the recycling bin can be transformed into inspiring, interesting, and nostalgia-inducing creations that will keep kids playing for hours with cardboard toys ranging from a DIY fairy house to a a TV set. Combining simple (although sometimes time-consuming) cardboard construction and a ton of whimsical creativity, Machado's playful cardboard masterpieces speak to the kid in all of us. We think our kids and yours are going to have a blast playing with them as well as making them.
One of her most recent creations is a functional PAC-MAN game console. Machado’s version is perfectly kid-sized. She forms the table-like structure using cardboard pieces then adds a stand to which an iPad can be added. Another piece of cardboard frames the iPad and makes it look arcade-ready. Knobs, buttons, and cheery paint decorations make the game look even more authentic.
Machado also made a cardboard boom box that doesn’t even require paint. Kids can decorate it as they like, but Machado’s version, which features black markings to denote play and stop buttons as well as speakers is simply perfect. Whether you add an iPod or phone to play music or you encourage your tot to play rock star herself, this project is a fun one. Perhaps one of her playmates or siblings can film her performing on a Super 8 recording camera.
We also love some of her screen-free options for younger kids. Using a discarded fruit box, Machado made an adorable fairy “cottage”; one side is left uncovered to keep play open-ended. Machado even attached a string on top so that little ones can tote around their little house or even mount it like art on a playroom or bedroom wall. Little details, such as a handmade ladder fashioned out of striped straws and a flower planter made from a spool of thread, make this play space irresistible and invite tots to contribute their own crafted creations.
Play kitchens are creative play areas that often get a LOT of use. Machado’s toaster oven would be an awesome addition. Toast can actually pop out of it! While you’re in creative crafting mode, consider making your own play kitchen out of cardboard, like this mom from the Philippines did, and then add a cardboard washer to accomplish another domestic duty.
Even a shoe box is not just a shoe box once Machado gets ahold of it. This camper looks so cozy, we want to move in. Using bits of excess cardboard, patterned papers (using remnant pieces would make it even more eco-friendly), and lids, she turns a plain old box into a serious hang pad. Check out the framed art and the awesome reclining chair!
In addition to her creative cardboard work, Machado is also a blogger, photographer, mom, and illustrator. Her blog is in Portugese but can be translated to English.
All images © Estefi Machado