The cardboard washing machine

The best thing about making a cardboard washing machine is that no-one will have one like yours. Everyone’s will be different.DSC_0119 Age: 1 – 4 years old

Skills: sorting, imagination, opening and closing, twisting, pouring, pincer Grip, reading (if flashcards are labelled), learning names of clothes.

Time to make: About 30mins once you have all the items needed. It will also depend on how extravagant you make it.

What you will need:

  • A cardboard box
  • Strong tape (duck tape or parcel tape)
  • String
  • 3 milk bottle tops
  • Sharpie pen
  • A sheet of recycled plastic or cling film.
  • Blutack

How to make:

  1. Choose your box. Obviously every cardboard box will be different so you will have to tweak yours to get what you want. I used a Marks and Spencer flower delivery box. This was ideal as the boxes flaps were big enough to be doors and inside there is a piece of cardboard with a hole in it that can be the inner of your washing machine.
  2. Make the box the right size and shape, if it is not already. I had to cut the back off mine and remake the flaps.  
  3. The door. It may be that the flaps on your box do not cover the whole entrance so you will need to use spare bits of cardboard to make your door, either reuse any flaps that you cut off or find another box to chop up. Cut a circle in the centre of your door. Stick your plastic or cling film  to the back, securing with duck tape as it will hold better. Any recycled plastic will do as long as it does not have any writing on it. Tape the door to your box, use strong duck tape to hold it in place as it is going to be opened and closed a lot.
  4. Attach dials. Using your scissors make 3 holes in the top of the box where you would like your dials to be. Carefully use your scissors to poke a hole in the centre of each milk bottle top. Thread string through and tie a secure knot. Now thread the other end of the string through one hole in your box that you made earlier and knot underneath. I also added blutac to the bottom as my little girl managed to keep pulling them off.                                                                              DSC_0003
  5. Decide on your inside. Either leave it so that you have one big opening, or if using a flower delivery box slot in the cardboard insert. Tape securely at the front with duck tape. The insert in my box has 3 holes which I know a normal washing machine does not have but it makes for great sorting activity with your little one.                                                                      DSC_0001
  6. Add the detail. You will need a good sharpie for this, as some of your marking will be on the duck tape and other pens will smudge off. Draw on any details you like such as numbers on the dial, the washing machine logo and even an on light.
  7. Add accessories
  • Plastic tub – I also added a plastic tub which I cut a hole in the top of the box and then slotted in so my child could add pretend laundry powder.
  • Laundry basket – Use another small cardboard box or bucket to put the dirty clothes in.
  • Washing line – Using more string attach (best to make holes in the box again and knot the string) the box and laundry basket. Peg up dolls clothes or old newborn clothes.


  • Flashcards – use sticky velcro to attach clothes flashcards on the side or back of the box. For older toddlers (aged 2-3) why not also write on the names of the clothes. Find some flashcards to print off and laminate at Sparklebox 


  • Add an empty bottle of laundry liquid. My little girl loves to screw lids on and off. Wash out an old laundry bottle and let your child play with the lid. They will also enjoy pretending to pour in the liquid.

DSC_0007 If your box is big enough you could also be very inventive and insert an old washing basket inside the box like this. You could easily put this into the front of the box as well.


Some other ideas from Pinterest:



Once you have made your washing machine why not post a picture to our Facebook page and share any ideas with other people. Have fun making it and have even more playing with it.


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