how to build a reading cubby house out of a cardboard box

Every kid’s room begs for a quiet corner, right? How about transforming that old dishwasher box into a reading cubby or a playhouse or a fort?!

little boy reading books in a reading cubby house


It’s the middle of summer here… which also means the middle of rainy season.

That means we have to get creative with our indoor play.

This weekend I got a dishwasher box that someone was throwing away…

A few dollars and a of couple hours later, we had this:

diy reading cubby house or quiet corner

Here are five quick tips for making your own reading cubby or fort out of a cardboard box:

1) Draw windows and doors on your cardboard box with a marker before cutting with a stanley knife.

2) Cut the windows out, making sure to leave plenty of box “in tact” so it won’t compromise the structure or end up flimsy.

3) Paint the box! You can skip this step if you want, but I found that a simple coat of paint or two transforms the whole thing. We had some leftover white paint in the garage from another project and it did the job perfectly.

4) Decorate the box by trimming the windows, drawing or painting on it (or let the kids do it themselves!), or adding names or words.

5) Make it cozy inside with few stuffed animals, a small container of books, a pillow, and a flashlight.

There you have it – an easy-peasy little cubby house or quiet corner that your kids will love!

little boy in a reading cubby house

Bonus tips for making your cubby house:

1) I wanted to use fun shapes for the windows so I used a star, diamond, square, heart, and circle. The corners of the star and the rounded heart and circle were harder to trim than the others for obvious reasons. To keep it even simpler, stick with squares and diamonds and rectangles.

cardboard cubby house

2) Cut in the base of the door above the floor (as pictured). If you cut it all the way through to the ground, the box will be much less sturdy.

3) Decide if you want to be able to join the kids or not. I purposely made the door just big enough so that I could squeeze in, but not big enough for my husband to fit. Haha, that sounds really bad! But actually he’s not very flexible so it would be torture for him to curl up in there. Making the door a bit too small for him gives him a good excuse to not go inside. (“Sorry sweets, daddy’s too big!”)

4) Think about the space it will live in. (In our case, the boys’ bedroom.) I was going to decorate the cubby with some pages from a vintage children’s book I have, but decided that since the room is so small (and already quite full!) I had better keep it very simple and clean-looking. I wanted it to blend into the room as much as possible, and not add to the clutter. (Well… blend as much as a massive cardboard box can!)

Dear friends, did you have a cardboard box cubby house when you were a kid? I sure did! I hope you and your littles can make a fun reading cubby or quiet corner together sometime soon.  Tell me, will you stick with a house-type cubby? Or will you get adventurous and build a ship or rocket or another fun cubby?


About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Katherine
    7 February 2012 at 10:32 pm

    When we got our dishwasher this fall the kids played with that box for hours and hours. They would sit in the bottom of it and we would spin them around, or crawl in their “cave” to hide, or just bring toys in to play. We had it in the corner of our living room for about three months before it finally kicked it. Great entertainment!
    Katherine recently posted..The Battle of LaundryMy Profile

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      9 February 2012 at 2:03 pm

      i had a massive refrigerator box in my room for a long time as a kid. i had it decorated as a “house” and i LOVED it. i think that was my first ever home decorating project. haha.

      love that kids can have so much fun with something so simple!
      Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos recently posted..who taught my two-year-old THAT??!My Profile

  • Jessica
    11 February 2012 at 11:12 am

    I love this idea, Adriel! So clever!

  • […] How to build a reading cubby house. This is a great idea if you’ve got an old box lying around and want to involve the little ones in creating a cool cardboard reading cubby house. […]

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