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Dancing Boxes

Dancing Boxes
Dancing Boxes

Transform an ordinary cardboard box into a dancing toy! In this activity, playfully explore 4 bar linkages by taking advantage of the shape and structure of a thin cardboard box. 

This activity comes to us by way of artist Noga Elhassid and toy inventor Arvind Gupta




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You'll only need a few materials for this activity. Try to gather them in advance so that you're ready to focus on tinkering! 

Thin cardboard packaging: Collect at least one thin cardboard box of any size. You might look for packaging that's colorful or patterned to inspire your construction.  

Scissors: You'll need a pair of scissors that can cut through thin cardboard. 

Drawing supplies: Collect colored pencils, markers, and other drawing materials to transform your box into a character. 

Optional: Consider introducing tape, brads, and craft supplies. 


Get Started

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Start by slicing your box.

Open up the flaps of your box at both ends and flatten it out. Cut across the width of the box to that you're left with a cross-section. In this example, we cut a straight slice. But what happens if you make a thicker vs. thinner slice, or cut at a diagonal? Will you incorporate the box's flaps into your design? 

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Test out the movement

Poke, prod, and move your box slice.

Does the way it wiggles remind you of an animal or a scene? Can you anchor one end to a table with tape so that it stands up? 

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Add some personality!

Use drawing supplies, spare cardboard from your original box, tape, and craft materials to turn your imagination into reality. 

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Take it further.

Now that you have the basic motion down, what are other ways you can add movement to a cardboard box? Check out our movement library below for some ideas, or invent your own! 


Movement Library

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Bend (Taped)

Use tape to create a hinge! We used masking tape in this example, but experiment with different types of tape and how tight you make the joint. 

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Bend (Folded)

Take advantage of existing folds or creases in cardboard, or create your own fold to make a bending movement. 


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Create a swinging joint using a brad so your creature can wag its tail or wave hello! Use a hole puncher to make a hole in both pieces of cardboard and connect them with a brad. 

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To create a wiggle, slice a box (like you've already done in this activity) or cut a strip of cardboard, fold it into a rectangle, and use tape or glue to hold the shape. 




Artist Inspiration

Noga Elhassid

Noga Elhassid is an Israeli artist who creates workshops designed to teach kids basic physical phenomena and mechanical principles through play. Noga led us in this activity during her residency with the Tinkering Studio. Check out how she uses the dancing box technique to create a moving guitar player (left). 





Arvind Gupta

This activity was inspired by Arvind Gupta's "Fido Dido Clown." Toy inventor Arvind Gupta transforms a small box into an enchanting dancing toy.