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Summer Fun: How to Make a Refrigerator-Carton Playhouse

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Family Activities & Crafts

Here is a great idea for fun this summer for your preschool or elementary-age child that costs no money: make a playhouse out of the carton a refrigerator came in. Here’s how:

First, find an empty carton. Ask your local appliance store. In my area, one warehouse had a dumpster full of these and even offered a helpful guy to pick one out. I got six!

Second, cut out windows and a door. I used a long serrated knife from the kitchen but you could use a razor blade or saw. Get the kids to draw in where these should go. Bigger kids can do the cutting themselves. You can make the roof come to a point if you like, using strong tape or just leave it flat like the top of the box. But leave at least three of the bottom flaps on the box. You might need those later (see below).

Third, paint. Use left-over acrylic paints from your household projects or ask the neighbors if they have any old paint. Don’t use paint intended for exterior use, because that contains chemicals that aren’t good for kids. You’ll need full sized paint brushes and trash bags or old shirts to cover the kids’ clothes. Painting the roof will help make the house rain-resistant.

Fourth, position the house in a cozy corner of the yard. If you can find one, a pallet (the wooden platform that construction materials come on) makes a good base and keeps the house up off the grass. Cover the pallet with a piece of old cardboard or linoleum or carpet to make a smooth floor for the house. You can nail the bottom flaps of the box onto the pallet, which will keep the house from tipping over or blowing over in the wind.

Fifth, add a doorknob of some sort, curtains at the windows, a pillow to sit on and some books, stuffed animals and snacks. Maybe a flashlight.

If you have more than one child make more than one of these, since two costs no more than one and it’s fun to go visiting someone else’s playhouse. Put them in different spots in the yard and you’ve got a village. Put two together to make a two-room house. Once your kids get started, let imagination take over!

These houses hold up amazingly well through an entire summer, so get started now!

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.