Find a simple tutorial to make a stunning yet easy DIY cardboard rocket ship for spacey, imaginative fun for your kids. I’ve also got some great space book recommendations for kids, and 15 out of this world ideas for space-themed play!
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Generating Your Child’s Interest in Space
My 10 year old son, Onetime is completely infatuated with just about anything space related and it started when he was only 3 years old!
She seemed really surprised, but I wasn’t at all. It had figured prominently in our nighttime stories for several months, along with the Kennedy Space Center.
I’m pretty sure that what sparked his intense interest was a few awesome space books that I read to him (see below for our favourites over the years). He latched onto a couple of ideas, and the interest began to grow!
Fantastic Space Books for Children
Roaring Rockets is part of the fun transportation series by Tony Mitten. It has rhyming text, colourful pictures and we love the animal characters! Ages 2-6.
Touchdown Mars! is an alphabetic futuristic journey to Mars that can be read as an engaging story to kids as young as 2, but provides tons of real facts and information about the red planet for enthusiasts of all ages. Ages 2-8.
The Darkest Dark is a fabulous story about the childhood of famous Canadian astronaut and musician, and former mission commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield. In this story, it is revealed that Chris was once frightened by the dark as a child, and we learn how his passion about space helps him overcome his fear! Ages 4-8.
Field Trip to the Moon is a really unique wordless picture book that follows a class of futuristic students as they take a trip to the moon. A single child gets separated from the group and hilariously encounters some resident aliens leading to a funny ending when he reunites with his class. Ages 2-10.
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 is an incredibly detailed and illustrated book that tells the story of the flight of Apollo 11 which was the first manned mission to land on the moon. It tells the story of the flight, landing and return in easy to read text, but also provides enough detailed information and diagrams of the spaceship and rocket to please future space engineers and astronauts. Ages 6 to adult.
Creating the DIY Cardboard Rocket Ship
When he was young, one of my son’s favourite things to do was to go to Home Depot and pick up a large cardboard moving box.
This time – it was a rocket ship.
Every construction we’ve made is super simple and achieved with pretty much only scissors and duct tape.
Sometimes we decorated them and sometimes we didn’t. It never seemed to matter. These creations were always the favourite toys for the month.
This rocket ship project took us under 15 minutes to make but was a playtime hit for weeks!
- 2 large cardboard moving boxes
- Scissors (we prefer using cardboard scissors to make cutting easier, but any strong pair will do!)
- Duct tape (we used Duck Silver Duct Tape which looks amazing!)
- Silver glitter contact paper for decorative cutouts
- Optional: Markers to decorate interior
How to Make the Cardboard Rocket
Step 1: Create the Ship Body
To make the rocket ship, first open the box at both ends, extending all the flaps open. This makes the shape as vertically tall as possible.
At one end, the end that will become the bottom, reinforce all 4 corners on the inside using duct tape to keep the flaps open.
Step 2: Shape the Rocket Top
Next, create the top by trimming two of the opposite side flaps (which will be the front and back of the rocket), into trapezoidal shapes. Attach these front and back flaps to the side flaps with duct tape to create the top of the rocket.
We preferred to keep the top/ceiling open to allow for “stargazing.” 😉 But it also allowed for a less constricted feel when inside. If you wanted a closed top, you could just cut the front and back flaps into triangles instead of trapezoids.
Step 3: Add Windows and a Door
Cut a few circular windows in the sides of the ship. We put one on the side of the rocket at eye level and another in the back, and one in the side of the top. Reinforce the edges with tape.
Cut the door out with a rounded top. Bend the door along the side to create a hinge. Reinforce the edges with tape on the inside and outside.
Add a cardboard handle to make it easy to open and close. Just cut out a long rectangle of cardboard and bend the middle of it into a handle shape and tape down the ends.
Step 4: Add Wings
To make the wings, cut out large right angle triangles from a second box and tape them to the sides of the ship. Use tape to reinforce where the wings attach, as well as around the edges to look nice!
Step 5: Decorate and Play
Get out the markers and allow your child to decorate the interior and/or exterior of the ship.
You can also cut out silver panels and star shapes out of the contact paper.
On a play date with a 4 and 6 year old, all 3 boys were crammed in there blasting off and exploring alien worlds for close to 45 minutes!
After all the reading and rocket play, Onetime’s interest in space exploded and I started looking for even more learning activities to do with him. I’ve rounded some of our favourites up to share with you – just in case you have a budding astronaut as well!
Fantastic Flying Saucer Frisbees: Onetimethrough
Space Scene Play Mat: Mom Inspired Life
DIY Kids Jetpack: Cowboy’s Life Blog
Under the Stars Gross Motor Activity: Growing Book by Book
Kid Made Night Sky Art: My Nearest and Dearest
Universe Playdough: A Little Pinch of Perfect
Spacey Science, Technology, and Math
Light-Up Rocket Thaumatrope Toy: Onetimethrough
Cardboard Box Lid Space Maze: Onetimethrough
Film Canister Rocket: Science Kiddo
How to Make Your Own Robot: Brain Power Boy
Coolest Space App
We even found this amazing free App called SkyView Free which lets you see the location of different stars, the moon, satellites, planets and the International Space Station when you point your device at the sky!
Hope you found a fun space idea to inspire your kids today!