Where to Find Your Child a Giant Cardboard Box

Children love little playsets, but you don't have to pay hundreds of dollars for the molded plastic kind. Most kids are equally happy making a playhouse, a miniature kitchen, or a doctor's office out of a giant box instead. Giant boxes are one of life's most well-known toy-alternatives. Starting with a giant box, children between the ages of 2 and 11 can have an endless amount of fun in their tiny playhouse. No matter what they have painted or colored it to look like.

Getting your child a giant box is a great plan for any parent on a budget. Getting your hands on one is more challenging than it seems. These are the top five places where parents can get ahold of a steady supply of giant boxes to build into robots, theater sets, playhouses, and stair sleds:

Unbox A New Appliance

Sometimes, you just have to buy a new refrigerator, washing machine, or other large appliances. This may be a financial challenge for the family, but it's also a great opportunity for a free giant box. Timing an appliance purchase around your child's birthday or Christmas can add an enormous creative present to their experience at no additional cost to the family. But you don't have to make a big purchase to get a new cardboard box.

Your Local Food Pantry

Food pantries collect and distribute a lot of food, and often come into temporary possession of very large boxes. These just have to be broken down and recycled en-masse anyway so families are usually welcome to take one on their way through. This is also a great excuse to donate your old canned goods and maybe even spend a day volunteering as a family.

The Grocery Store

Grocery stories also deal with large boxes on a regular basis. Those huge cardboard boxes that hold pumpkins, for example, have to go somewhere when the pumpkins are sold or loaded onto a display. Try talking to the staff either out front or around back to see if they'll let you take a few of their large boxes before they are broken up and dropped into the recycle-dumpster.

Big Box Stores

Surprisingly, big box stores are more challenging to get a big box from than other sources. They tend to have very efficient box management and are more uptight about security because their products are worth a lot more than pumpkins. However, you might find a store with friendly employees who will show you where to grab boxes that have already been flattened and prepared for the recycle truck.

Sharing Economy Trading

You can also occasionally find a large box for swap or pick-up through the sharing economy. Apps like Freecycle allow you to find people in your area who might have a large box. And coming to pick it up is technically doing them a favor because you save them the trouble of having to break it down or haul it away.

Safety Tips for Building Cardboard Playhouses

  • Inspect every box before your child plays in it.
  • Clean boxes from clean stores are safest; watch out for insects and dirt on boxes from garages and sheds
  • Always be the one cutting the box windows and doors
  • Draw your openings before cutting them; remember not to cut the 'hinges'
  • Wrap cardboard in paper for best drawing or painting
  • Push pins are safer than staples, but be careful with both

Having a giant box to play with is one of the best creative experiences a child can have. And you don't have to buy a refrigerator to give your child an enormous free new toy to decorate and play with. Using these techniques, you can find a giant cardboard box and make a new playhouse at any time.