Rocketship Control Panel

Disclaimer: This page contains Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links, Habitot will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. 



Cardboard boxes are great for creative exploration and imaginative play. Reuse leftover holiday boxes to create a control panel for a rocketship, then embark on an exciting space adventure together! 

What We’re Learning & Skills We’re Building 

  • Dramatic play – pretending a decorated box is a control panel to act out real-world situations  
  • Creative reuse – reusing cardboard boxes and old electronics to create something new
  • Symbolism – using numbers, letters, and simple words as symbols on “functional” decorations
  • Tool use – using markers, scissors, and paper to build and decorate the control panel


Optional & Suggested Materials

  • Washable tempera paints and paintbrushes
  • Stickers, pom poms, biodegradable glitter, etc.
  • Old headphones, wires, remote controls, and other (safe) discarded electronics 
  • Toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, cans, jar lids, bottle caps, gift wrap, paper plates, paper bags, and other recyclable materials
  • Metal paper fasteners
  • Stuffed animals, toys, dolls, and figurines

Build & Decorate the Control Panel 

  1. Fold, cut, and arrange the cardboard box into a control panel shape. We cut the long side flaps off the box and folded the shorter side flaps outward. (Note: Your child can draw lines for where they’d like the box to be cut, but adults should do the cutting if a utility knife or sharper scissors are needed.) 
  2. Decorate the box! Draw and paint directly on the cardboard. Create paper decorations for buttons, dials, and knobs, then cut them out and glue them on. Or, use bendable, metal paper fasteners to attach paper decorations that can spin. Attach safe, discarded electronics (like headphones, wires, and remote controls) and recyclable materials (like bottle caps and toilet paper rolls) using tape. 
  3. Let any glue and/or paint dry before playing with the rocketship control panel or using it for an outer space mission.

Play & Explore Together

  • First, let your child play with the box creation without any structure or guidance. There’s no right or wrong way to engage in dramatic play! 
  • Introduce toys, stuffed animals, and other figurines to add to the dramatic play.
  • Take turns “pressing” the buttons and coming up with different sounds and commands. Ask, “What does each button do? What are their functions?” This is a good exercise in vocabulary and communication. 
  • Brainstorm missions and adventures you can embark on, and how you can use the controls on the panel to do so. Ask, “Where will we go? How will we get there? What will we see along the way?”
  • Create other spaceship and space-related items out of additional cardboard boxes. For example, a large box can become a rocketship, and a small box can be used as equipment inside it. 
  • If you and your child would like to get out of your rocketship and go for a spacewalk, here’s a Recycled Materials Jetpack you can make!