Here’s a fun craft and engineering challenge that is SO fun for kids! Challenge kids to design and build their own cardboard carnival games that really work.

This is fun to do on a rainy day at home, and it would also be fun to try with a group or class. Kids will have a blast building their own cardboard carnival games and then trying out the games built by others!

This project is part arts and crafts and part engineering. Kids will need to think about creating an attractive design, and also about how the game will function. Great skills for real life! This is what toy and game designers do.

We had a fun time doing this Cardboard Carnival Games Challenge as a family. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday!

We can’t wait to show you the games we built!

Getting Ready for the Challenge

Setting up this building challenge is quite easy. Just raid your recycling bin and craft closet for some basic supplies! Here are some suggestions, but truly you can use whatever you have.

  • Cardboard boxes, like shipping boxes
  • Cereal boxes
  • Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
  • Craft sticks
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Paper cups
  • Index cards
  • String
  • Hot glue
  • Clear tape
  • Duct tape
  • Paint/markers
  • Ping pong balls or similar
  • Felt

Here’s what we created:

Ping Pong Basketball

We cut the bottom off of a plastic cup to make the basket.

The post for the basket is a cardboard tube that came from a package of plastic wrap. The backboard is a piece of cardboard from a food package.

To play, either toss the ball into the basket, or bounce it off the table and into the basket. We liked both ways equally well.

Plinko Game

This will take you right back to memories of The Price is Right, haha!

This game is so easy to build. We glued small paper cups to a cardboard box that we brought home on our most recent Costco trip.

We cut an opening in the top of the box so there is space to drop in the ping pong ball.

And then we used the cardboard that we cut off the top of the box to make compartments for the ball to land in at the bottom.

This project has some good engineering considerations for kids to think through. How far apart do the cups need to be so that the ping pong ball can bounce down, but not get stuck? How many rows of cups do you need in order for the game to last long enough to be fun? In which compartment is the ball most likely to land?

Prize Spinner

My 12 year old built this almost entirely by himself! And it spins so well.

We used cardboard, a bamboo skewer, and a couple of paper towel rolls. And paint and hot glue. And that was it!

Here’s an angle that shows the construction of this game. The two paper towel rolls are glued together at the top of the lower roll. We also put glue around the skewer just behind the upper paper towel roll to keep it from coming off.

My son made sure that all of the pieces worked together before gluing anything. He could tell that we were going to need something to keep the spinner from spinning right off the bamboo skewer. I helped him cut a small circle of cardboard to glue on the skewer that would stay in place and keep the spinner on.

The other main engineering consideration with this project was to figure out how to add an arrow for the spinner. We decided to add a second paper towel roll with a cardboard arrow on top of that. The bamboo skewer runs through both, and then we added some glue to keep the second paper towel roll upright.

Ball Toss Game

This one was built by my 9 year old. He did a great job!

Again, with this game you can either toss the ball into the cups or bounce it on the table first.

Kids will need to determine how to space the cups so that the game is fun and the ball doesn’t get stuck between the cups.

Bean Bag Toss

This is a great game for younger kids to build! My 7 year old made this one with some help from Dad. She wanted a corn hole style bean bag game.

We made this game from a cardboard box. My husband cut the top off and then used hot glue to attach another piece of cardboard at an angle. Then he cut the holes with an X-Acto knife (adult job!) and Janie painted it.

We made some easy and cute no-sew bean bags from felt and hot glue.

Janie traced a small plastic cup to get a nice round shape out of felt. She cut out two circles of each color.

Then I helped her assemble the bean bags by hot gluing the edges. We filled them with rice.

So fun! Be sure to match the size of your bean bags to the size of your holes, or vice versa. Then have fun playing!

Have fun designing and creating cardboard carnival games! Here are some other game ideas that might be fun to try.

  • Ring toss
  • Nerf target games
  • Skee ball

Need more easy STEM challenges?

Head over to see 30+ Engineering Challenges with Simple Materials!


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  1. Viv Groves Sep 9, 2021

    Love these ideas, thank you, the boys school I work at the boys love crating, great for holidays coming up.

  2. Bam Jan 21, 2022

    These look great, my son wants an engineering theme for his 7th birthday party, so these ideas are perfect!

  3. Lucille Yellowman Jun 20, 2022

    they look very interesting and fun to create.

  4. Lori Sep 4, 2022

    Sharing these with our cub scout den, since they are responsible for putting on a fall carnival for our whole scout pack. Great inspiration!

  5. Joann Apr 14, 2023

    We have a carnival every year at after school program . They make their games and ticket amounts


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