Activity Review


Cardboard engineering made super easy

It’s a long held view that every kid loves a cardboard box as they imaginatively transform this week’s recycling in to a gluey, taped cardboard racing one car, space rocket or castle.
What if the tricky bit – connecting cardboard together solidly and quickly – was removed.
That’s what MakeDo enables so superbly by providing clever tools and oversized fixings in each set.

The tools are essentially safer plastic versions of real world tools designed for smaller hands. Your mini-builders are guaranteed to be seriously excited at the look and feel of these, it won’t be long before they’re nagging you for a builder’s brew with four sugars -“Cheers love”.

The ‘Explore’ introductory set includes 3 tools (a saw, screwdriver and mini-tool), and 48 screws and would be sufficient for two kids to begin constructing in parallel. 

There are a variety of other sets which duplicate the tools (so more hands can join the fun), or boost your screw supply, as well as much larger sets for educators, party planners or people with a serious cardboard collection (he said enviously through gritted teeth).

All of the MakeDo components are excellently made of robust hardened plastic and feel comfortable to use. Certainly built to withstand the stresses and strains of a home building site.

First up – the saw – this wouldn’t be sharp enough to cut a loaf of bread or prune your shrubs, but it’s sharp enough to make light work of cardboard and definitely much safer and easier than young hands battling with scissors or a craft knife. Whilst it probably won’t draw blood (maybe some scratches at worst) younger kids should still be supervised to time limit the usual descent in to sword fights or lightsaber battles when handed anything vaguely weapon like!

The included screw driver is more akin to a plastic Allen key but will help provide an essential life skill for your mini-doozers in readiness for all those inevitable IKEA purchases in their twenties.

The mini tool functions identically to the screwdriver but in a smaller formfactor allowing the wielder to create pilot holes via the spike end, and screw with the other.

It also means sawing aside (as there’s only one saw in the ‘Explore’ set), two kids can simultaneously screw in and affix their cardboard monstrosities…er…creations, thus reducing arguments.
Two length of screws are provided – 36 x 20mm screws and 12 x 30mm screws. These robust turquoise fixings are quickly fitted providing a pilot hole is inserted via the spiked end of the tools to allow multiple layers of cardboard to be securely fixed.

We purchased some MakeDo sets a few years back when our kids were 7 and 9, and without fail a couple of times each year since, once we’ve amassed a sufficiently unhealthy quota of cardboard boxes, (or raided enough neighbourhood recycling bins) a construction frenzy commences!

Our kids tend to focus on building oversized dens replete with towers, dungeons, hatches and balconies to dominate the lounge and obscure the view of the TV from the sofa, but we easily get 2-3 days of imaginative play out of it each time, plus never-ending requests to spend the night in the den hunched up on an inferior cardboard mattress (but that’s mainly the wife).

If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out the hundreds of fabulous uploaded construction images on the website.

MakeDo is a superb STEM toy that fosters planning, communication, team work and creativity, as well as the dextrous physical side of construction.

You’ll literally be amazed with what your little Jimmy or Gemima invent as they explore cardboard pivots, flaps and reinforcing techniques.

Once they’ve got the hang of the tools we’ve found you can occasionally task them to pop up shelves, flat pack furniture or hang picture frames.  Unfortunately, there’s no plumbing MakeDo set yet, but I’m ever hopeful…

With the addition of other craft items – masking tape, string, paper fasteners, clothes pegs or bulldog clips and a few bed sheets for temporary tarpaulin roofs you’ll get several days of imaginative cardboard engineering from a single set.

With sufficient cardboard boxes hoarded multiple MakeDo sets (or a larger set) would facilitate a really cool and memorable birthday party for kids aged 5-10. You may be surprised how self-organised, cooperative and imaginative your kids can be (just be wary if they start unionising).

The only potential downside is when it comes to striking down the imaginative creations as you’ll no doubt want to reunite yourself with your newly acquired turquoise fittings, although, we have found the deconstruction can also be an equally fun activity.

It’s hard to believe giving cardboard destined for recycling a second lease of life could be this much fun!

Why Buy it?

Fantastic STEM toy that unleashes your child’s creativity. Makes den building and engineering giant models out of cardboard safe, easy and a lot of fun, providing you don’t run out of cardboard. Absolutely DO NOT run out of cardboard!

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