The DIY Cardboard Sled: Make a Pretend-Play Ski Lodge at Home

Kids playing with sleigh

Want to add a little sparkle to a winter weekend spent at home? Transform your living room into a snow-lover’s paradise! With a little help from you, your children can turn a few big cardboard boxes into pretend play activities complete with skis and sleds for schussing around the living room, or they can create a roaring, construction-paper fire that’s perfect for story time. Whether the weather in your neighborhood is blustery or downright balmy, the cotton-ball snowball fights can last all afternoon.

Make DIY Snow

  • Cotton batting, cotton balls, crumpled white paper, white sheets, pillows, etc.

Spread or scatter “snow” on the floor and furniture, or create a wintry landscape by turning a few pillows into a snow pile.

mountain lodge set up

Cozy It up with a DIY Fireplace

  • 1 large cardboard box and 1 small one
  • Construction paper: orange, red, yellow, and brown
  • Glue or tape (double-sided tape can be helpful for the yule log)
  • Pens or crayons
  • Scissors

Most of the fun in this DIY pretend play activity is watching your child’s own special vision of a fireplace come to life, so don’t sweat it if your Yule logs are blue and covered in star stickers. Still, making a rectangular opening in one side of the cardboard box is a great place to start—this is where the fire will appear.

To make ours, we trimmed three box flaps to make the fireplace opening, and then fixed the remaining flap down across the top of the opening to create a mantel. Save the trimmed pieces to use for the skis and sled!

Older kids can help cut out the Yule logs and younger children can decorate them. Our kids loved building a “fire” by ripping up red, yellow, and orange construction paper. Together, we fixed construction paper pieces to the inside of the small box to mimic roaring flames and placed it all inside the large box.

child wearing DIY skis

Schuss Around the House with DIY Skis

  • The long strips of cardboard you trimmed when making the fireplace, plus extra cardboard for the bindings
  • Tape (duct tape is your best bet for holding cardboard in place)
  • Scissors
  • Decorations, such as glitter, stickers, pens or crayons, cotton balls, etc.

Simply cut rounded points into one end of your skis and bend the tips upward a bit. Make bindings from semi-circles of cardboard cut from any extra cardboard, taping them firmly in place. Children can then decorate with abandon!

Note: These cardboard skis will actually be pretty slippery on uncarpeted surfaces, so be sure to hold your child’s hand when they’re using them or stick to the rug. You can also add a bit of traction by sticking a length of tape along the bottom of the skis.

Kids playing with sleigh

Make a DIY Cardboard Sled

A sled can be almost anything—even a flat piece of cardboard will do. But our kids loved having one with a back so they could push each other around, and a front so that grown-ups could pull them! While you or another adult does the cutting, encourage your kids to decorate the sled. We cut out paper snowflakes to glue along the sides and lined our sled “runners” with pipe cleaners to maintain a cute curl.

Additional props for pretend play activities

  • Winter clothes for dressing up
  • Books to read and board games to play by the fire
  • Mugs for cocoa

Why Pretend Play Is Great for Learning

Pretend play helps children gain all kinds of important skills, including how to prepare them to read and write. Here’s why: As they pretend that a cotton ball represents a snowball, or a cardboard box represents a roaring fire, they are practicing something called symbolic reasoning.

In their imagination, the pretend play object stands in for the real thing, and they’ll use that same symbolic reasoning when they learn to read and write. They’ll see letters on a page, like S-N-O-W, and understand that those letters represent a real thing, like all that snow piled up in the front yard.

Pretty cool—and a ton of fun!

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