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How to Make a Pirate Ship for Kids From a Box

by Rosenya Faith, studioD

Send your swashbuckling youngster sailing the high seas in search of gold and other buried treasures on his very own pirate ship. With a cardboard box and a big imagination, he might just get so wrapped up in his adventures that he doesn't realize he hasn't left the playroom. If you're hosting a play date or party for a group of kids, take a little time to make an extra large ship so all your guests can sail away in imaginative play together.

Lay the cardboard box down on its side. Shape the bow of the ship by cutting the top and bottom flaps to make the ends come to a point. Bend the side flaps around the curved top and bottom flaps and use masking tape to hold the ship's bow together.

Arrange the box in front of you lengthwise, with the short ends of the box to your left and to your right. Make a mark in the center of the box on the side facing upward.

Cut out the top side of the box, leaving three strips to hold the ship together. Each strip should be about 4 inches wide. Leave one strip near the left end of the box, one near the right end and one in the center. These strips will hold the box together, while cutting away the rest will provide the ship's deck. If the middle of the box seems a little flimsy afterwards, you can tape cardboard strips across it to add extra support.

Remove the two side flaps and the bottom flap from the other end of the box. Tape the bottom flap to the top flap to make a door that lifts open at the stern of the ship.

Paint the entire pirate ship. You can make the pirate ship blend in with a fleet by painting it brown, or make a ship that stands out on its voyages by painting the ship pink, blue, green or any other color you like. Make a golden pirate ship by painting the entire box with metallic gold paint. To make the box glow in the dark for luminous nighttime adventures, use a paint that contains luminous zinc sulfide. Paint in a well-ventilated area and allow the paint to dry thoroughly when you're finished.

Make a personalized Jolly Roger flag for the ship. Start with a sheet of poster board and draw the skull and bones or swords across the top half of the board. You can use stencils or trace the images from computer printouts. While the traditional pirate's flag is typically black and white, you can get as creative as you like. For example, make a pink flag with purple images, a black flag with metallic silver skull and bones or a neon green flag with bright orange decals.

Draw your child's name on the flag beneath the swords or bones. Glue the flag to an empty wrapping paper tube. Make a hole in the bow of the ship and slide the tube inside.

Make a sail for the ship from a large sheet of poster board in any color you like. Make a hole near the top and bottom of the sheet and slide an empty wrapping paper tube through both holes. Tape the sail to the stern of the ship.

Items you will need
  •  Cardboard box (refrigerator box or 2 large boxes)
  •  Heavy-duty scissors
  •  Masking tape
  •  Non-toxic paint
  •  Poster board
  •  Empty wrapping paper tubes


  • To make the pirate ship even bigger, cut the bow from one large box and the stern from another. Remove all of the other flaps on the boxes and slide the two boxes together. Secure with tape and now you have a cardboard pirate ship fort that can hold twice as many kids.


  • Only use non-toxic paint for the pirate ship that conforms to ASTM D-4236 guidelines.


  • Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun; Bobbi Conner

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images