How to Build a Cardboard Boat

Three Methods:Easy cardboard box boatLarge boat for a crew of kidsMiniature cardboard boat

Cardboard boats are a fun modeling project. You can make boats that are small for displaying or large ones for children to play in the garden or even for parties. In this article, you'll find a simple play boat made from a box; a more involved play boat made from a very large box and extra cardboard, suitable for party play; and a miniature cardboard box suitable for small figures such as dolls or miniature toy figures.

Method 1
Easy cardboard box boat

  1. 1
    Let the imagination take most of the credit for this very easy boat made from a box.
  2. 2
    Find a decent grocery box. It must be large enough for the child to sit in it and sturdy.
  3. 3
    Cut out a large semi-circle from each of the two long sides. This will give the simple cardboard box a curved look.
  4. 4
    Cover the box. Either paint the box or add plain paper to it. If painting, choose a good color for a boat, and paint on some portholes, an anchor and the boat's name. If covering in paper, use markers to decorate it with.
    • Consider adding some blue waves at the base of the box. This will give the impression of being at sea.
    • Allow to dry if painting.
    • Decorative elements such as glitter, stickers, etc. can be attached to the boat too.
  5. 5
    Add a sail. This is optional. Keep it simple - glue a long cardboard roll to the front center of the box. Attach a white paper triangle to the roll. One simple sail!
    • You might like to add a flag as well.
  6. 6
    Set sail. Have your child choose where to launch the boat and let your child sail the carpet or hardwood seas.

Method 2
Large boat for a crew of kids

  1. 1
    Find a very large box. This needs to be the size that holds furniture or large items when moving. If you don't have any at home, call a furniture store to see what they might have to spare.
  2. 2
    Open the box right out. Lay it flat on the work surface.
  3. 3
    Bring up the sides of the boat and what will be the back end. Tape the end piece to the side pieces. This end is very simple, just straight, so this part should be easy.
    • It can help to prop up the sides while doing this step, so that they don't fall and tear the tape away.
  4. 4
    Mold the front end of the boat. Aim to shape the front flaps in a triangle or pitched roof shape. This may take a little fiddling and cutting but you should be able to bend the cardboard to shape. Tape in place.
    • Have an extra set of hands to help with this part; it will be easier than trying to do this on your own.
  5. 5
    Make the sail post. Find a small but sturdy box for the post. Glue it to the base of the boat, at the point where the triangle part and the rest of the boat join. This becomes the "post piece".
  6. 6
    Use sheets of corrugated cardboard to fit across the boat width over the top of the post. This might come from another box, or from scrap pieces.
    • Cut the corrugated cardboard to the width of the boat. Cut two lengths. Keep the width of the lengths proportionate to the size of the box; there should be plenty of space behind and in front of the sail post.
    • Glue or tape the first length across the post piece, gluing or taping to each side of the boat.
    • Add a small box the same width as the post piece on top of the post piece, sitting directly over the corrugated cardboard length you just added. This forms a continuation of the post piece.
    • Glue or tape the second length across the second post piece, attaching to both the post piece and the sides of the boat.
    • The end result should appear like a "T" with gaps in the crossbar of the "T".
  7. 7
    Paint the whole boat. Paint it one color. You can add features once it has been painted.
  8. 8
    Add the sail. Stick one broomstick vertically into the sail post you've just created. Place the other broomstick horizontally, about 5cm/2 inches above the insertion point in the post. Wind duct tape around the join to keep it stuck to the vertical broomstick. Wind twine or rope around this to hide the duct tape and to make it stronger (it also looks more realistic).
    • Keep the vertical sail in place by using a plastic or metal ring just slightly larger than the pole, to prevent it from lurching about. Glue this into place before securing the two poles together.
  9. 9
    Paint the sail sticks. These can be same color as the boat, or a different color. Allow to dry fully.
  10. 10
    Add the sail. Tie a small fabric or plastic tablecloth triangle to one side and a large triangle piece to the other side. Tie with strong knots; you can add glue or tape if this helps to keep the sails in place.
    • A flag can be added to the top of the vertical pole. Attach the flag to a stick and glue or tape the stick to the top of the vertical pole.
  11. 11
    Finish up by adding lengths of string to the top of the pole, running down the boat sides. Pierce holes through the sides of the boat and knot around these holes to hold the base of the string lengths in place.
  12. 12
    Paint the boat's name on. You can add waves to the base or any other features you like too, although keeping it simple is best.
  13. 13
    Finish by painting with a suitable sealant. This will protect the boat if used outdoors on the grass or concrete, as well as giving it more durability for play.
  14. 14
    Finished. Have the children take the boat out to the yard or playroom for a test sail. Ahoy mateys!

Method 3
Miniature cardboard boat

This one is ideal when you need a boat in a hurry for the miniature figures to cross the lake and get to Treasure Island.

  1. 1
    Find two small boxes. The miniature one-serve variety cereal packages are ideal.
  2. 2
    Make up the boat:
    • Tape up the end of one of the two miniature cereal boxes. On this one, cut out the panel on one of the large sides. This becomes the top box.
    • Place the uncut side of the cut top box onto one side of the uncut base box. Glue together.
  3. 3
    Paint if wished. To make the whole craft seem more uniform, paint the whole boat in one uniform color. Paint on portholes, an anchor shape and the name of the boat too, if wished.
    • You can skip painting it, and just get on with playing. Otherwise, be sure to let the boat dry before proceeding.
  4. 4
    Add the sail pole. Tape a straw into the base of the top box. This forms the sail pole.
    • The sail pole can be taped either to one end or in the center of the boat.
  5. 5
    Add the sail. Pierce a piece of printer paper with a small hole. Slide onto the straw. Then pierce another hole near the top of the paper and slide onto the straw to complete the sail.
    • If you want a design on the paper, draw this before adding the sail.
  6. 6
    Place a treasure chest or cargo in the base box. Open one end and slip the goods inside before the sailors set sail. This can either remain an open flap, or you can devise a small closing mechanism if preferred, such as a piece of tape or poster tack.
  7. 7
    Add the miniature figures. Set sail for that island to unearth the treasure.


  • Flags can be made from construction paper or fabric. You can even buy a flag from the dollar store, if you prefer.
  • Make sure to ask for the things needed to do this craft.

Things You'll Need

Method 1:

  • Grocery box
  • Tape or glue
  • Paint or paper
  • Paintbrush
  • Cardboard roll
  • White paper triangle for sail
  • Markers
  • Decorative elements such as glitter

Method 2:

  • Large cardboard box
  • Small box in post shape, plus a smaller one in the same width but shorter
  • Extra cardboard
  • Heavy duty tape, such as duct tape
  • Strong glue
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • 2 broomsticks or broom handles
  • Plastic or metallic ring, just bigger than the broomsticks (look in the hardware store)
  • Fabric or plastic tablecloth for the sail

Method 3:

  • 2 small miniature cereal or similar boxes
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Straw
  • Piece of printer paper
  • Paint (optional)
  • Markers (optional)
  • Miniature figures
  • Cargo or treasure chest

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Kids' Crafts