How to Make a Giant Cardboard Box Pirate Ship


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Written by Stef Layton of StefMLayton.com .

It is always fun to incorporate models into our unit lessons. But when we can go big – we go big! This past Pirate Lesson we made a Giant Cardboard Box Pirate Ship. I made it incredibly easy since I am not the least bit crafty nor industrial. With just some time you can easily replicate this pirate ship, or make a better one for your next hands-on lesson!

How to Make a Giant Cardboard Box Pirate Ship

Supplies for Making a Cardboard Box Pirate Ship

  • 2 large moving boxes (We picked ours up at Lowe’s.
  • Duct tape
  • 1 can of spray paint
  • Box cutter or strong scissors
  • Optional: 2 short pvc pipes for cannons
how to build a ship from a cardboard box

How to Make a Giant Cardboard Box Pirate Ship

Step 1: Cut the box sides so you have one long cardboard panel. Do this to both of your boxes. The boxes will become the sides of the ship (there will be no bottom to the boat). Cut half of the box “flaps” off the top of the box, be sure to leave all of the bottom ones intact.

how to build a model pirate ship

Step 2: Duct tape the front two box panels together to form a point. This will become the bow of your boat. I did not try to hide the duct tape but taped right down the front of our ship.

Step 3: Tape the back two panels together to become the back of your boat. They will form somewhat of a square.

how to build a pretend pirate ship

Step 4: Cut out round windows and/or holes for cannons. If you are using the pvc pipe for cannons –  spray pain them black. We wrapped ours in duct tape and it took forever. The “cannons” will fit and stay in the box without gluing them. We added duct tape around them to look like cannon windows. Close up it looks pretty brutal but thankfully standing back you can’t see the tape seems.

Step 5: Spray paint your ship. {I did this first and there were many pieces of cardboard cut out later (windows, cannons, etc). I feel like I wasted spray paint}

Step 6: Play! Read fun books about pirates like, “You Wouldn’t Want to Explore with Sir Francis Drake”. Act out being a pirate. Learn the difference between pirate and privateer. My hands-on learners loved the opportunity to role play the English and Spanish during the Golden Age of Piracy. We learned about the Caribbean Sea and labelled all the islands. We found a few pirate items at a craft store for dress up fun.

how to build a pretend ship for kids

Helpful Tips:

  • Measure twice cut once.
  • Spray paint last, and spray paint in the grass not on your gray sneakers.
  • Cut a panel towards the back of the pirate ship for an easy entrance and exit point.
  • Cut an anchor out of the extra piece. Add a hole to the top and use yarn to throw out the anchor.
  • Fold the panels flat together in order to move the prate ship around easier.
  • I wish our mast lasted longer than the night, so unfortunately I have no great suggestion. I think a broom and pillow case would have worked better.

You might not be studying pirates, but you can always use the pirate ship for a navigation/navigators lesson or use the giant cardboard box pirate ship just for fun.

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One Comment

  1. We are moving this summer and will have a lot of cardboard boxes left over. I love the idea of making a pirate ship instead of a normal box fort. We might have enough to make a whole fleet by the time were done moving! Thanks for the tip to paint after so you don’t waste any on parts that will be cut out. Thanks for the inspiration!

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