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Make A Magical 3D Nature Suncatcher From A Cardboard Box

by Jean Van't Hul
May 6, 2011

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


  • 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.


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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