Friday, June 16, 2017


CARDBOARD today!!!!

I'm so excited I could scream.

One of unfortunate side-effects of my kids growing up is the decline of cardboard festivities around the house. So many of our cardboard creations in days gone by were inspired by my kids at play, or just wanting to build things with them with materials that were cheap (or free), and that could be manipulated by very little hands. Now that they’re older and so much busier with school and sports, we don’t get to play with cardboard nearly as much as we should. So I must find other ways to get my cardboard fix, and other kids to whom to introduce this miracle crafting material. 

This summer, for instance, I'm working on some craft projects with the kids at our church. Not all of these projects involved cardboard originally but I turned them into cardboard projects anyway. Because why not? Duh.

Now, one of these projects is a torch, which the preschoolers are making. 

Sometimes, preschoolers are relegated to crafts of the embellishment-only variety, because they’re younger, or because there is often a large group of them with not enough adult helpers to ensure everyone gets the help they need. This is very practical, by the way, as any one who’s had to facilitate a large group of young’uns in close proximity to colorful and messy craft supplies will attest to. But sometimes, people forget there’s cardboard. It's dreadfully tragic. Because cardboard levels out the playing field. And cardboard with simple electrics kicks up that playing field a notch. Whoo! 

The really interesting (at least to me) thing about today’s craft isn’t that it’s easy, or even that it involves batteries. I mainly want to share it for a very simple, no-glue technique that has many applications beyond this torch. 

First, let’s look at what we’re using to make the torch: a cardboard toilet roll and a battery-operated tea light. We want to somehow affix that tea-light to the top of the tube so it can shine out. 

Note that while the tea-light is small enough to fit within the tube, it’s too small to stay in place without falling all the way through to the bottom. 

We could stuff the tube with crushed paper, or glue a circle of cardboard close to the top to make a shallow chamber within which the tea-light can sit, like we did with Rapunzel’s Tower in this post.

Or we could use geometry and scissors. 

Here’s the geometry - first change the cross-sectional shape from a circle to a triangle by squishing the sides like so. 

The sides of the triangle now fit more snugly around the tea-light, albeit at the expense of newly-created hollow corners.  


We're going to use those hollow corners in the next step.

Now come the aforementioned scissors. On each of the folds that creates a corner of the triangle, cut two slits a little deeper than the size of those hollow corners. Mine were about 1/2” deep and 1/2’ apart. To accommodate the height of the tea-light, I positioned the upper slit about 3/4” below the top edge of the cardboard tube. 

Push inward between the slits to invert the cardboard bit like so. 

Do this on all three sides.   

You’ve created little corner props, like shelf brackets.

Now the tea-light will sit on these little props, in its chamber, without falling down in the tube. It’s still not wedged-tight but this is exactly what we want, because we’re going to add the fake flame now.

We used yellow and orange cellophane paper but tissue paper and even thin sheer fabric like chiffon would work just as well. 

Scrunch up the cellophane around the tea-light (we switched the tea-light on first)  

and wedge it into the chamber.

Finished torch. No glue, no mess. And if an adult were to cut all the slits beforehand, as well as the pieces of cellophane paper, all the kids would need to do is push the little cardboard props inward, wrap the tea-light with the cellophane paper and stuff it into the top of the tube.  

Incidentally, to switch the light on and off, we just lifted the whole tea-light-cellophane bundle out of the chamber and flicked the switch through the cellophane paper (no need to unwrap).

If, however, you enjoy the higher risk levels associated with small children and glue, you could wrap the outside of the roll with decorative paper as an additional step. 

I found some wood-grain paper for this. 

Voila - wooden torch that actually works.

Can also be diversified to lighthouses, fake candles, night lights, castle turrets . . . and the push-in cardboard prop technique has even more applications wherever you need a quick shelf support!


  1. I love this! They'd be great as party decorations, flaming pumpkins, and more. All your posts are great, IMO.

  2. Brilliant! I love the engineering aspect of this!! We recently made similar "campfires" with our Girl Scout troop (1st graders) though used small terra cotta pots as the base and red/orange/yellow tissue paper as the flames. I have been saving TP rolls for the last 2 years to use for various projects with the girls, but to date have only done 2 projects (made them into bees using the TP roll as the body, and stuffed their Christmas gift in a roll and wrapped it in tissue paper w/tied ends to look like candies).

    Do you have any other suggestions for the eleventy billion TP rolls I have stored in my bathroom closet?

    1. Try googling "craft with toilet paper roll". Click on view by pictures. About a million projects pop up, and you can scroll through the pictures until you find something you like.

  3. The push in support tabs are absolute genius. A friend and I were trying to figure out how to make floating Harry Potter candles with battery tea lights sitting in the top. This is so much easier than my solution.

  4. The beauty of cardboard! This is very clever.

  5. I love them! I'll save this post for a Halloween craft with my kids.


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