How to reinforce a cardboard box to use as seating for toddlers?
January 16, 2020 10:05 AM   Subscribe

How do I take a regular cardboard box and reinforce the interior so that it can support the weight of a toddler as a seat? The toddlers will be somewhere between 25-35lbs.

My daughter is turning 3 next month and we're having 4 of her friends over for a small birthday party. We have a long coffee table that's about the height of most tables for toddlers and would be the perfect place for my daughter and her friends to eat/do crafty things for her party. I want to make some seats for them to sit on as the coffee table is just a little too high to be comfortable for the children to solely sit on the ground.

What I would like to do is buy five, 8" cardboard boxes and use them as seats for the kiddos. I want to make sure that the boxes don't cave in and are structurally sound. The kids range from about 25-35lbs. I'd like to do the minimum amount of work to make the boxes sturdy. I can cover them in fabric to make them cuter.

My googling is coming up with options that would require me to custom cut boxes into specific shapes and honestly, I'd rather put the effort into other parts of the party.

Some additional background for anyone curious: The reason we don't just buy some foot stools or extra children size chairs is because we live in an apartment and don't have space to store them. Boxes can be broken down and used. And the party won't be more than about 2 hours max, so not looking to spend a lot of time/money on seating for 2 hours. Buying 5 pillows/poufs is also not an option again, because of space/storage.

posted by tealeaf522 to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My mother actually did something very much like this for my niece when she was little and needed a booster seat at the kitchen table. She cut two pieces of cardboard out of a different box that were long enough to cross the diagonal and high enough to fill the box then cut a slit halfway through the middle of each piece so that they could slip past each other and form an X. That and using a reasonable strong box to begin with was enough.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:09 AM on January 16, 2020 [12 favorites]

Foam peanuts? Plastic bottles fished out of the neighbors' recycling bin and crushed to an appropriate size before capping?
posted by eotvos at 10:15 AM on January 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

This shouldn't require much in the way of engineering. Moving boxes with little to nothing in them can take the weight of multiple filled moving boxes on top of them. It's the sides of the boxes doing the support, so the important part is that the butt goes on something resting on the sides and that something can handle that much weight in the center. For small bodies, a double-ply cardboard square slightly larger than the box would probably do it. Maybe triple for extra certainty.

I own multiple flat-pack storage ottomans that operate on the same principle, and they hold 300+ pounds. Given that they fold flat enough to be pushed under a sofa or bed for storage (or you can just give them away to a shelter or school or the party guests) you might just buy those instead and barely spend more than you will in supplies and time to make cardboard look nice.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:33 AM on January 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

The X shape mentioned above would be fine as long as the top is obvious and the reinforcement is vertical - a wine rack style reinforcement would be plenty as long as it is tight in the box and doesn't allow flex. Thick walled, moving style boxes would obviously be better and the reinforcements the same. Make sure you tape the boxes securely with parcel tape to prevent any movement when sitting/moving them around.

Alternatively, inflate a garbage bag inside each box before taping shut. As long as the cardboard box doesn't deform or crease it would remain strong.
posted by Brockles at 10:33 AM on January 16, 2020

Like jacquilynne's suggestion, only lazier - get empty wine cartons from the liquor store/grocery (what wine bottles are shipped in). They have the interior grid already done for you.
posted by cfraenkel at 10:35 AM on January 16, 2020 [13 favorites]

Yes, use liquor boxes. (Wrap them in wrapping paper if you aren't a fan of that look.) If they're not the right height, you can cut down both the boxes and the inserts.
posted by metasarah at 10:48 AM on January 16, 2020

Would plastic milk crates work? You can find them in the parking lot behind your local grocery store and return them the next day.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:05 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Could you try full paper towel rolls?

Take 4 and tie them together into a stool shape. Cover with a pillow case. If the ends of the paper towel rolls are uncomfortable to sit on, you can cut up a cheap yoga mat and lay a square over the top of the stool before you put on the pillow case.

I know this sounds weird but I recall a friend sitting on a pack of paper towels when he moved and was waiting for his furniture to be delivered.

If you wanted to do the box thing you mentioned, you can fill them with full paper towel rolls.
posted by jraz at 12:10 PM on January 16, 2020

the interior grid thing is the way to go, whether you use an X or a # pattern.

if you have a jigsaw, you can actually make the vertical cuts in several pieces at once.
posted by sixswitch at 12:26 PM on January 16, 2020

Plastic milk crates would work but you might want to put a piece of cardboard over the top for comfort.

I get excellent use from flat-pack storage cubes for this sort of occasional use; the rest of the time they serve as perfectly good storage, but if I didn't have room, hey, flat-pack. Although they're not crazy expensive, perhaps more than you're willing to spend, but if you anticipate many play-dates, etc., in the future, it might be worth it. I got mine on sale from the Container Store (more colors) but the Amazon options look fine.
posted by praemunire at 12:32 PM on January 16, 2020

These cardboard stools are meant to seat grown-ups up to 200kg (440 pounds) and have the same cardboard X inside that jacquilynne mentions above. A smaller DIY version should work just fine for toddlers!
posted by amf at 1:15 PM on January 16, 2020

Do you, or friends/family, drink any canned beverages? Growing up, our booster seats were always just duct-taped packs of "empties."
posted by wg at 1:21 PM on January 16, 2020

Yeah, I'd buy/borrow milk crate file boxes -- the new kind that you can get at Walmart or Staples. They're stackable, cheap, come in bright kid-friendly colors, and you can use them for storage (even for hanging files, for which they're designed).
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 1:29 PM on January 16, 2020

Came for the X inside the box. You can use a few of those and make an emergency bed for full grown human.

If it floats your boat, I'd just get a couple of boxes and a plank of wood to lay over the top and make a bench.

You could also get little mop buckets and turn them upside down, then give them away at christmas. Or go and borrow them from neighbors.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:05 PM on January 16, 2020

Depending on your ethical position, you could just buy kid-sized chairs at Target or whatever & then return them the next day...
posted by tivalasvegas at 2:06 PM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fill them with books, printer paper, magazines or other stacks of paper, or fill them with canned goods. The right sized cooking pot, one without a long handle such as a dutch oven or stew pot would possibly fill one. Given the kids' size and weights DVD's in their cases might work. Walk around your house and look. What have you got that is solid enough that it wouldn't sink under the weight of your child?

Folded clothes or towels will work if they are bursting out of the box and you have to press them down hard to tape it closed.

Cat sand is another option, if you have a cat.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:54 PM on January 16, 2020

With the X shaped reinforcement gluing it in place makes it significantly more sturdy. Regular white paper craft glue or hot glue is all that is needed.
posted by Mitheral at 12:11 AM on January 17, 2020

Thank you everyone for all of your suggestions! The "X" seems like the way to go as the least expensive with minimal amount of work. While I did like the idea of the flat pack, wine boxes and milk crates, most of those are at least a foot tall and the seat can't be much more than about 7-8" tall otherwise the sitting height of kiddos will be disproportionate to the coffee table. I think I may actually weigh them down a little with some cans in between the "X" so they don't topple over too easily. Thank you again!
posted by tealeaf522 at 6:54 AM on January 17, 2020

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