Easy Ways to Up-Cycle Cardboard: DIY Crafts at Home

If you’ve got kids, you know the incredible need for keeping busy and coming up with fun activities – and the best ones are those that don’t break the bank! 

Today, I’m going to share 5 different ways to upcycle materials you likely have on hand so your kiddos can be entertained in a sustainable way (both environmentally & financially speaking) 😉 

5 Ways to Upcycle Cardboard into Fun, Eco-Friendly Crafts! 

Unless you’re going the 100% paper-free route when it comes to your home bathroom, you’re likely tossing/recycling a bunch of cardboard toilet paper tubes frequently. Maybe even paper towel tubes, too!

But these materials can serve another purpose and provide endless fun in a sustainable way! Check out the ideas below, and if you’re looking for more ways to raise a family that cares for both the earth AND your wallet, be sure to look into my 4-Part Video Course: “Caring for the Earth & Kids”.

little polar bear craft made from up-cycled cardboard tube

1. Puppets / Little Creatures

One fun way to upcycle your cardboard is to use the tubes as “bodies” and decorate them accordingly – with googly eyes, pipe cleaners, or even simply construction paper, you’ll be able to make a fun little toy in no time! 

Materials Needed: cardboard tubes, googly eyes (or hand-draw to save on plastic), pipe cleaners, markers, colorful paper, glue/tape, scissors, and popsicle sticks (if using as puppets!) 

cardboard binoculars

2. Binoculars / Telescopes

For this fun craft, simply connect 2 tubes side-by-side using some glue/tape if making binoculars, or keep the 1 tube if creating a telescope, and then add some string/ribbon to each side so that they can be worn around the neck. Add whatever decorations you’d like (drawing, painting, or gluing paper is easy!) and voila – your kiddo is ready for a safari!

Materials Needed: cardboard tubes, string/ribbon, colorful paper, markers, glue/tape, scissors

marble run using cardboard tubes taped onto wall

3. Marble Run

This one has been a fun activity I recently began with my own toddler – and we’re continuing to add to it! You’ll want some painter’s tape to keep your walls safe, and then simply tape the cardboard tubes to a designated wall in zig-zag patterns, angled so that a marble could be dropped and run through each until exiting on the ground (or in a basket). You can continue adding more tubes up/along the wall as you slowly collect more! 

Materials Needed: cardboard tubes, painter’s tape, scissors, marble/s

kids' bracelet made from cut cardboard tube

4. Bracelets

For little ones, these cardboard tubes can fit onto their arms like bracelets! Just cut the tubes to a smaller length and enjoy decorating them with colors, stickers, etc. Then they’re ready to slip onto the wrist and show them off! 

Materials Needed: cardboard tubes, markers, optional stickers, scissors

miniature city made from up-cycled cardboard tubes

5. Miniature City

Older kids might enjoy this one most – use your tubes of varying lengths and stand them up to create a miniature city! You could even glue/tape the bottoms of each tube onto a flat surface (like a cut-side of an Amazon box) to keep your city together. Decorate each tube like towers, skyscrapers, and other fun buildings, then position them around to form a tiny town – perfect for little Lego explorers. 😉 

Materials Needed: cardboard tubes, glue/tape, large flat piece of cardboard, markers, optional stickers, scissors

craft supplies

Ready to Craft!

There you have it – 5 simple ways to upcycle your commonly found cardboard into new sources of entertainment! 

The options are really endless, and there’s so many more I can think of already (race cars, kaleidoscopes, robots & more)… How will you give your cardboard tubes another life?? Let us know in the comments below and we can continue gaining new ideas from each other! 🙂 


If you want weekly inspiration for living more sustainably (with or without kids), be sure to sign up for my email list and you’ll be added to our project: “Sustainable Sundays”.

You can also follow me on Instagram and/or check out our podcast, “All Things Sustainable”, for even more tangible steps you can take to save money and the earth. 

OH! And there’s a bunch of video courses ready to guide you at your own pace through your journey of living a more sustainable lifestyle – check them out!


Until next time, I’m sending you all my best,

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