A 3D Nature Suncatcher from a Cardboard Box

Make A Magical 3D Nature Suncatcher From A Cardboard Box

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A 3D Nature Suncatcher horizontal Facebook
It’s hard to keep track of the changing trends and fads with toys, which is why I love the simplicity of objects that are timeless hits with kids. Take the cardboard box — the possibilities for creativity are endless, even a 3D nature suncatcher!

If you haven’t already, check out the beautiful book Not A Box, by Antoinette Portis. It cleverly shows that a box is never just a box in a child’s mind. Not a Box book

Boxes are brilliant excuses to get creative, so when we were invited to collaborate in TinkerLab’s box challenge, we turned to two favorite sources of inspiration—art and nature.

I have to say that after Maia, her friend Stella, and Daphne finished crafting this 3D nature suncatcher, a humble corrugated cardboard box never looked so magical and elegant!

Just like the box it started with, our resulting creation isn’t limited to one description. It’s a 3D nature suncatcher, a flower petal art box, or a flower house for fairies and fireflies. It’s also a 3D stained-glass viewer and potentially a lamp shade or shadow box. By the end of the day, it had even become an enchanting light-filled stable for Maia’s toy horse.

Here’s how we made this 3D nature suncatcher from a cardboard box, as well as some simple flower petal stained glass windows from the leftover cardboard. While I did the prep that involved the sharp x-acto knife and applying the sticky contact paper, the girls completed the rest of the project.

A 3D Nature Suncatcher square flowers view

How To Make A 3D Nature Suncatcher

MATERIALS

  • A cardboard box
  • Transparent contact paper* (also called sticky back plastic)
  • Nature items such as flowers, leaves, and ferns
  • Scissors and x-acto knife
  • Packaging tape (optional)

*You can also find contact paper with the shelf-lining paper in grocery stores, drug stores, and places like Target and Walmart.

INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1 :: I started with a simple cardboard box. It was relatively small so I taped the flaps up using packaging tape. Then, with an x-acto knife, I cut rectangles out of each side, leaving an inch or two of cardboard “frame” around each opening.

3D nature suncatcher box frame

Step 2 :: Then I cut pieces of transparent contact paper to cover each of the framed openings. I applied the contact paper to the inside of box with the sticky side facing out.

3D nature suncatcher box and paper
Note for younger kids: The cardboard that might normally be discarded is especially useful for occupying the youngest kids. For example, I turned the rectangles that I cut out from the box into frames themselves, with contact paper attached, for 2D suncatchers. Meanwhile, Daphne enjoyed drawing on the centers of those frames as I finished setting up the project.

Step 3 :: The girls collected flowers, leaves, and ferns from around the garden for the 3D nature suncatchers.

3D nature suncatcher gathering flowers

Step 4 :: We piled their collections in the center of the kitchen table. The kids went to work attaching them to the sticky contact paper on the box and within the frames.

3D Nature Suncatchers kids and materials

The girls experimented with what worked and what didn’t. Maia applied whole flowers but discovered that they didn’t stick as well as individual petals.

3D Nature Suncatchers putting petals on box

Stella used her scissors to cut flower petals and leaves into smaller pieces to apply to her framed triptych.

3D nature suncatchers cutting flower

Daphne added flower petals then took them back off, added them, took them back off…

3D nature suncatchers toddler with frame

Step 5 :: Finally, we added another sheet of contact paper over the top of the flower petals to seal the panels.

View Your 3D Nature Suncatcher With Various Light Sources

1. First, we held the nature suncatchers up to the windows to see the light shine behind the colorful, translucent flower petals. The colors and shapes were so vibrant!

3D nature suncatcher flower petal frame

2. Then we temporarily replaced a lamp shade by holding the 3D nature suncatcher over the bulb to see how it looked with a light source inside. Very cool!

3D nature suncatcher lightbox
It would be fun to rig up something with wire to hold it safely in place over a low-wattage lamp more permanently. Or, simply place a no-flame battery operated candle inside the cardboard box.

3. We also went outside and looked up through the box towards the sun, to see how it looked with the light source coming from above instead of from inside. Also beautiful!

3D nature suncatcher outside view

Finally, the cardboard box nature suncatcher became a light-filled stable for Maia’s little horse figure.

3D nature Suncatcher Box porch

This 3D nature suncatcher was such a fun project to do on so many levels! It inspired the girls to explore and appreciate nature, make artistic arrangements, and consider different light sources.

3D nature suncatcher inside view

If you want to create a more permanent version, you could press and dry the flowers and leaves first. If you do make your own cardboard box suncatcher, whether with fresh or dried flowers and leaves, please share a photo in the comments below. I’d love to see what you come up with!

We are grateful to have been invited by TinkerLabs to design this cardboard box beauty. If you’d like to check out the clever ideas that 23 other participants came up with, take a look at the TinkerLab’s box challenge.

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Making Nature Suncatchers with Cardboard Frames

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51 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachelle @ tinkerlab
    May 6, 2011 at 5:09 am

    WOW! Jean, you girls are SO creative. I love that you used the entire box, that there was a separate age-appropriate activity for Daphne (how thoughtful!), and that Maia’s dress looks like it took inspiration from the project. :) The colors are striking and it looks like so much fun. We will definitely do this one day this summer.Thanks for being part of this project, and for the ongoing inspiration!

  • Reply
    maggy, red ted art
    May 6, 2011 at 5:56 am

    Oh my! That is BEAUTIFUL!!! AMAZING!
    Maggy

  • Reply
    Kidspartyheaven
    May 6, 2011 at 6:02 am

    This is just pure magic.
    Consider yourself a fairy charmer, bringing fairy magic to earth.
    ( I wish I’d had a mum like you…)

  • Reply
    MaryLea @ pink and green mama
    May 6, 2011 at 7:10 am

    Jean this is great!! I would pick up one of those half dome “touch lights” at Walmart (I think you can use them in a closet or as a kid bedside light (just batteries, no cords) to light up your box!! : )
    Fabulous!
    xoxo
    MaryLea

  • Reply
    gretchen
    May 6, 2011 at 7:14 am

    lovely! can’t wait to try this!

  • Reply
    Darcy Troutman
    May 6, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I love this idea!

  • Reply
    Melissa @ the chocolate muffin tree
    May 6, 2011 at 8:26 am

    This is SO AMAZING! You always have a great surprise up your sleeves! We just did a couple Contact Paper Nature Collages inspired by you!!! This box tops our idea!
    Thanks for your inspiration as always!!! I look back from a year ago and so many things I have done with my daughter were inspired by you!!! Thanks!!
    http://thechocolatemuffintree.blogspot.com/2011/05/contact-paper-nature-collage.html
    http://thechocolatemuffintree.blogspot.com/2011/05/mothers-day-sun-catcher.html

  • Reply
    Deborah
    May 6, 2011 at 8:40 am

    This is awesome – I would love to make one like this to set out on our preschool playground! You always inspire me:)

  • Reply
    Rachel
    May 6, 2011 at 8:52 am

    wow that is super fun and beautiful!!!

  • Reply
    Regina @ Chalk In My Pocket
    May 6, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Jean this is so gorgeous! I would love to have a lampshade like this, there is an IKEA lamp that mounts to the wall with a real low voltage bulb that might work perfectly…hmmmmm…

  • Reply
    Anna
    May 6, 2011 at 9:23 am

    BEAUTIFUL!! would love to try something like this, thank you!

  • Reply
    maggy, red ted art
    May 6, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Ah yes… there I am.. Making so many “mistakes” today… don’t know *where* my head is!!!!
    I do love your box though. Pretty special!
    Maggy

  • Reply
    Phyllis All Things Beautiful
    May 6, 2011 at 10:14 am

    How beautiful!

  • Reply
    Maureen
    May 6, 2011 at 10:18 am

    WOW!! Beautiful! Wonderful use of a cardboard box – I’ve done it before with the cardboard frame (http://strongstart.blogspot.com/2010/04/nature-art.html) but the whole box would allow it to be a communal effort.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Roopa (Putti amma)
    May 6, 2011 at 6:41 am

    Absolutely beautiful, like most of your projects !! And its so simple too…Love it, will have to make one with my daughter:)

  • Reply
    jen at paintcutpaste.com
    May 6, 2011 at 11:17 am

    wow! this is so lovely! i’m always inspired by your use of light with your suncatchers, and this brings that sort of glow into the night! i love how it matches the skirt you and maia made. amazing art, as always! xo & happy mothers’ day weekend to you, jean!

  • Reply
    Rachele
    May 6, 2011 at 11:37 am

    That is soooooo beautiful! I loved when the kids lit it up with artificial light. Just gorgeous!

  • Reply
    Shelley D
    May 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    So now you have to try this one:
    First you gather the flowers and ferns leaves (they work especially well). Attach individual FLATTENED petals or whole flowers and whole leaves with masking tape to a white or almost white t-shirt. Cover the entire flower/leaf with pieces of masking tape so none is exposed. Then you hammer the entire leaf/flower masking tape shape on a hard surface like your driveway. When you take the tape off, the flower will be history but a permanent implant is on the shirt. Certain flowers work better than others. AND the cool part, it should be permanent…at least the fern leaves are. We have t-shirts we did years ago that still have the fern leaves on them…really big ones. It’s so cool. Works on small pieces of fabric as wellthat we made into a banner. Sorry, I don’t have any pics. Try it!!!

  • Reply
    Virginia
    May 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Una preciosidad, divertido, bonito, y práctico.Mis felicitaciones.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 6, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Thanks for inviting me to join! And yes, Maia’s skirt does look like the box! Ha. We made that last year with leaf prints: http://artfulparent.typepad.com/artfulparent/2010/05/new-clothes-for-maia.html

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 6, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Here’s your comment, Maggy! It made it just fine!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 6, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Aw, thanks!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 6, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Thanks!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 6, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Oh, I’ll have to look for one of those! Thanks for the idea!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 6, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Fun! Yes, we love contact paper nature collages too!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 6, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Ooh, yeah! it would be a perfect joint project on a preschool playground!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 6, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Hmm, we have an Ikea wall-mounted moon lamp. Maybe if we take the moon off and hang the box over the bulb?

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 6, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Sure!

  • Reply
    [email protected] Art
    May 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I think the previous people have all said exactly how I feel, it’s beautiful!!!

  • Reply
    Catherine
    May 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    This is simply brilliant! I love the way it can be explored at anytime of the day in any light – just fab! Can’t wait to have a go at creating one soon – thank you.

  • Reply
    megwrites
    May 6, 2011 at 11:56 am

    This is so lovely and magical. What a fantastic idea!

  • Reply
    Camille
    May 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Yes, I thought lampshade too!!!!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    May 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Jean, this is absolutely gorgeous. One can see the joy on the kids’ faces…
    There’s so much for them here – connection with nature, observation, artful arrangement..
    You are an amazingly creative mamma…

  • Reply
    alfarascha
    May 6, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Such a great idea!I think this is the type of craft the kids will never forget. I will definitely try it with my kids! thank you!
    sarah

  • Reply
    Stacy @ {share&remember.blogspot.com}
    May 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I love this, great idea!

  • Reply
    Jillian
    May 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    What an impressive use of a box. I love that none of the cardboard went to waste. Contact paper is one of my favorite materials. I can’t wait to make our own flower box.

  • Reply
    Ms. Maria
    May 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    How beautiful! I’m curious about how well the contact paper stuck to the box while the flowers were being applied. I imagine frustration happening if it came unstuck…?

  • Reply
    Marlas
    May 7, 2011 at 1:14 am

    What a GREAT project! I think I love your blog even more after this post…and I didn’t think that was possible ;)

  • Reply
    Kate @ An Amazing Child
    May 7, 2011 at 1:24 am

    Jean, this is beautiful. There are so many wonderful processes here. Just collecting the flowers would have been a wonderful afternoon outdoors and then to make this beautiful box, just perfect.

  • Reply
    Meg
    May 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Stunning, Jean!!!

  • Reply
    Marnee
    May 8, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Beautiful this is delightful and definatley on my to do list…you are so clever. What lucky girls

  • Reply
    Rachel
    May 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Wow! This is really stunning and looks like it was an absolute blast to put together! Thanks so much for the how-to, I’ll be linking.

  • Reply
    Pumpkinbear
    May 13, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I LOVE the idea of the cardboard frames! I’ve been looking for a way to let the girls make contact paper art that allows for a more permanent display, and I think this idea is is!

  • Reply
    Jocelyn
    May 20, 2011 at 12:13 am

    This is such a great idea! I’ll have to try this with my girls. My 2 year old is obsessed with flowers right now, so it would be so much fun.

  • Reply
    Darcey
    May 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    I love this idea! It’s so creative and came out really pretty and it looks like the girls had fun making it. I’ve linked up to your post here: http://play2grow.blogspot.com/2011/05/weekly-favorites-for-may-22-2011.html

  • Reply
    Jaz
    August 8, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Nice idea for activities! I’ll be sharing this.

  • Reply
    Affordable Medical Insurance
    September 29, 2011 at 5:21 am

    GREAT project! I think I love your blog even more after this post…and I didn’t think that was possible.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    April 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    This is so pretty! I love it and want to try. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Dianna
    June 12, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Absolutely awesometastic- my kids will adore doing this (as will I) and it will be a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon together that all can participate in, from the smallest to the tallest, Thank you so much for sharing such a creative and fun idea!

  • Reply
    Carolyn
    February 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    How awesome! Great idea.

  • Reply
    Lili Shang
    April 13, 2018 at 10:54 am

    You arts and crafts ideas rock! I love them and am inspired to do more with the kids in my life. Thanks every so much for terrific kid pleasing idea.

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