DIY : What Can You Do with a Box? – Find Wonder

How to Cultivate a Maker’s Mindset with Coding & Robotics

Mommy friends of mine often say that their little kids get more excited about the packaging of a gift than the toy itself inside the box! And it’s true — a cardboard box holds so many possibilities!

(Biased photo of my nephew playing in a box.)

Nowadays, when we talk about the 4Cs in learning: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, we often tout a design-thinking mindset or a “maker mindset,” which encourages learners, young and old alike to tinker, iterate, and fail forward. Part of the design thinking process is to prototype one’s idea — bring it to life quickly in a low-res fashion with DIY materials. Stanford professor Carol Dweck emphasizes this forward-thinking behavior in her research on having a growth mindset (watch her TED Talk). These mindsets combine the best thinking around the importance of play and the value of reflection. One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

At a recent educator training in the Los Angeles Unified School District, we were talking about how to gather prototyping materials in a cart, thus creating a DIY mobile makerspace, as a way to best store and share Dash & Dot robots (see examples of such carts in our blog article). Then seeing the stacks of boxes containing the teachers new resources got me thinking about cardboard … lots of cardboard!

Boxes of product at LAUSD… how might they be used to turn a simple painters’ tape maze into a more elaborate obstacle course?

We began to talk about ways to use painter’s tape and paper cups to create obstacle courses for the robots in the style of the popular TV show, American Ninja Warrior. We discussed having students create baskets and targets to aim for using Dash’s Launcher out of the plethora of cardboard boxes they were about to have from their robots’ order. And I quickly recommended to everyone that they should watch the inspiring video, Caine’s Arcade (fun to share with students too!):

What a child’s imagination can do!

You can kickoff your own classroom or home cardboard challenge with this popular children’s book, Not a Box. Then check out the ideas shared by the global cardboard challenge from

One of my favorite read alouds (with very few words) by Antoinette Portis.

What makes a “maker mindset”? Why is a maker’s mindset valuable for one’s development and for future job opportunities? And who doesn’t want to be a creative problem solver? Check out this EdSurge’s article, 6 Must-Haves for Developing a Maker Mindset, and read more about maker mindsets from Dale Dougherty, founder of Make Magazine. The (which is not a “school”) at Stanford University, wrote their mindsets in true Silicon Valley style on a paper napkin. A fun activity for your students or family to is to come up with your own napkin mindsets or mantra!

A creation of founders George Kembel and David Kelley.

And summer is the perfect time to encourage both online and offline activities that! We are promoting such with our Summer of Wonder program — 12 weeks of printable activities for Dash and Cue. Sign up to access these free downloadable packets, and you’ll also find special summer savings. Lot of creativity ideas for kids of all ages. Start saving those cardboard boxes!

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