I think that if I could only pick two toys to entertain a child on a desert island, it would have to be duct tape and cardboard. It’s not really a question of what you can make out of duct tape and cardboard, because as far as I know there isn’t anything that you can’t make out of duct tape and cardboard.
Our current duct tape and cardboard jag began with my nephew making this enormous pirate ship. As it developed, it eventually also came to incorporate balsa wood, paper plates, and pipe cleaners, but these are really optional extras. The heart of the project is the duct tape and cardboard. This project kept him engaged for hours and hours, as he kept returning to it and expanding upon it for several weeks. Then he declared it “broken” and began work on another one.
Because he’s especially fond of all modes of transportation, my nephew has also made innumerable other cardboard and duct tape vehicles. He made this rocket ship and liked it so much that he made another one to give to a friend as a birthday present. Note that he insisted that we use colorful cardboard (in this case from a case of diapers for his little brother) so I recommend keeping the particularly brightly colored boxes around for crafting purposes.
Remember that cardboard comes in all shapes and sizes. This Diet Coke box was first pressed into service as a car for Baby Tiger (the most beloved stuffed animal) and later developed into a spaceship, complete with a cupcake liner used as a rocket booster.
One of my personal favorite duct tape and cardboard projects is this little baby swing that he made for Baby Tiger.
Duct tape and cardboard also work really well as prototyping materials. This is a mock-up of a house for – you guessed it – Baby Tiger, which we later built out of wood.
There’s a little adult involvement required, because my nephew has a lot of trouble ripping the duct tape himself and I also do a lot of the cardboard cutting
(though you could easily do that in advance and just give them a pile of various sized cardboard chunks), but the results are completely worth it.