DIY | Crafts

Unforgettable Cardboard DIY Projects: Light-Up Playhouse

Kids should all get to experience the imaginative fun of playing in a big cardboard box (in my humble opinion). Don’t we all remember those times ourselves? My husband and I were just talking about cardboard DIY projects and how big boxes are sometimes just as much fun for kids as their toys. Playing in a cardboard box clubhouse inspires great creativity and it is often one of the most memorable playtime experiences kids get to enjoy. (If you ask me, houses made from cardboard boxes are also a big step away from too much screen time!)

If you can get your hands on a sizable cardboard box, your kids are in for a treat. An even better one, I might add, if you can score some battery powered led lights. In this article I am going to tell you how to create a light up cardboard box clubhouse, also referred to as a “twinkle box” or “fairy house.”

Light-Up DIY Fairy House

We first learned of this neat light-up playhouse project when visiting my brother-in-law, his wife, and our niece in their new home. They had a cute cardboard box with multicolored Christmas lights peeking in from the top. Our niece and our daughter really loved playing in it together. Of course, it took me months to acquire the right box and the motivation to set up one here, but truthfully, it doesn’t take long at all to craft houses made from cardboard boxes and the materials are very inexpensive.

DIY Cardboard Fairy House

We crafted our “rain forest” themed cardboard box clubhouse for about $10 to $12. We fortunately acquired a large cardboard box when our second daughter’s baby furniture arrived. The box from her dresser was the perfect size to make a cool clubhouse for our older daughter, Natalie. In fact, the furniture delivery men more than earned their keep when they cut doors and windows and even a door handle into the box for Natalie. I’m pretty sure they spent at least 10 minutes futzing with the cardboard boxes (we originally had two) to make them into a house.

Versatile DIY Cardboard Houses

Natalie loved playing in the cardboard houses. She pretended it was a snack shop, an ice cream cart, a bakery, a house, and I think even a hospital or doctor’s office when her favorite stuffed animal “wasn’t feeling well.” It’s really so much fun to have a big cardboard box around, and I so enjoyed watching this imaginative play develop. So, after a few weeks went by, I decided it was time to introduce the lights.

While Natalie was at gymnastics class with her grandparents, I went about my first of hopefully many cardboard DIY projects. I highly recommend doing this during your child’s nap, bedtime, or while they are away from the house so you can enjoy their surprised reactions. Natalie’s was priceless.

Here are the steps I used to create a light-up rain forest themed cardboard box clubhouse.

House made from cardboard box

Cardboard DIY Projects: Fairy House Materials

If you can get your hands on a giant furniture box, you’re all set for some awesome cardboard DIY projects! Firstly, the cardboard fairy house. Gather these materials…

  • Large Cardboard Box
  • Battery-Powered LED Lights*
  • Batteries for Lights
  • Scissors or Utility Knife

* I bought my lights at Dollar Tree in the springtime. Each strand only has about 10-12 lights or so. If you can’t find them there, Amazon has a pretty nice selection of shapes and colors, some even with 50 bulbs per set.

DIY Fairy House Steps

Follow these steps to create a fun light-up playhouse for your kids…

(Tip: You can also use cool fort kits in your cardboard DIY projects if you don’t have a large box!)

  1. Open and examine the LED light packages.
  2. Stretch out the strands of lights to see how much of the box you can cover.
  3. Lay out the lights roughly where you want them to go. (I chose to do an abstract pattern with a bit of a zigzag or a swirl here and there. You can go in a straight line, too, if you like.)
  4. If your lights have decorative caps – like dragonflies, leaves, and flowers like mine did – first remove the decorative caps if possible. This way you can more easily insert the bulbs into the holes. Skip to step 5 if your lights have only bulbs.Battery Powered LED lights for Cardboard House
  5. Taking the scissors or utility knife, poke holes in the top of the cardboard box and gently push each LED through a hole. Take your time doing this so you don’t end up with holes in the wrong places.How to make cardboard house light up
  6. If you removed decorative caps from your lights, go inside the box and begin attaching them to the bare bulbs.
    LED Leaf Light Caps
  7. Install the appropriate batteries in each pack.Battery Powered LED Playhouse
  8. Switch lights on to test them. Go inside the house to see the effect.
  9. When you are ready to show your child the new and improved clubhouse, get your little one to go inside first and then switch on the lights! The reaction is well worth the wait. Here is Natalie with her grandfather when she first saw the lights!
Cardboard Box Home with Lights
Fun Cardboard DIY projects!

Tips on Cardboard DIY Projects: Light-Up Houses 

  • If you can’t get your hands on one really big box, you can make a playhouse out of cardboard boxes of different sizes instead. Use packing tape or duct tape to connect it all together.
  • Check your work as you go and watch out for the inside flaps. Sometimes the way a box is made can obscure your lights if you insert them in the wrong places.
  • Come up with your own cardboard playhouse ideas based on the materials you have. Your kids will probably LOVE to decorate the playhouse with leftover birthday party supplies or other random craft items.

A few notes on safety… I recommend only using battery-powered lights on your houses made from cardboard boxes. This is the safest way and keeps your kids and their playthings away from electrical outlets. It also reduces the chances of things overheating. The LEDs should stay cool, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so be sure to check for temperature changes periodically. Also, remember to turn off the battery packs when the house is not in use so you can get the most juice out of your batteries.

This is one of the most fun cardboard DIY projects to make as a surprise, but your kids might also love helping you to build one!

Now all we need is a magical menu to go along with this fun and creative playhouse! Please share suggestions for more fun cardboard DIY projects and playhouse-friendly food ideas in our comments below.

If you decide to do this or other similar cardboard DIY projects, please post a picture to our Facebook page and we’ll add it into our album on fun kids’ projects.

If you liked this toddler-friendly project, stay tuned to our crafts page for more. (And if you enjoy craft projects for kids, be sure to check out our sister site, Craft Bunny Bear!

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