Painted Box Cake Activity – Busy Toddler

Three kids are outside painting a cardboard box wedding cake. One child is laughing, one is reaching up, and one is putting more paint on their brush.


An outside-the-box painting activity that uses literal boxes – and it’s a 10/10. If you’re looking for an interesting art project for kids, try this painted box cake activity. It’s the perfect outdoor activity for kids to try alone or in a group.

Three kids are outside painting a cardboard box wedding cake. One child is laughing, one is reaching up, and one is putting more paint on their brush.

What is a painted box cake?

Years ago, I was thumbing through an amazing kids art book called Cardboard Creations by Barbara Rucci aka the fabulous Art Bar Blog. One of the activities, a painted box cake, stuck with me for years… finally, I had to do it.

All the credit for this activity goes to Barbara Rucci and her Cardboard Creations book. I never could have come up with something this artistic. I’m not that kind of parent (wink).

Nope, this isn’t a sponsored post. I just really loved this idea, the book is fantastic, and especially right now with all the cardboard being delivered each day… this is a handy book to have.

RELATED: Looking for more easy activities for kids? Check out my favorite list!

A child is painting a stack of boxes with turquoise, purple, and pink paint.


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You’ll note my paint is in a muffin tin. I do that all the time. It keeps the paint in one space, separated for use, easier to manage. It’s my favorite painting trick.

RELATED: Having a stash of supplies makes like easier. Here’s a list of supplies I keep on hand.

Three kids are outside painting a six tier box wedding cake. The kids are 3, 5, and 7 years old.

The painted box cake is surprisingly easy to create

One day, I suddenly realized that my garage looked like the Amazon distribution center…


So I decided that was my sign to finally make the painted cake activity that I’d been carrying in my heart for all those years.

I grabbed a bunch of boxes, closed the lids, taped them shut and started stacking.

I put a little tape under each one to hook it to the next and our cake kept getting higher.

Most impressive was the tiny cardboard piece that I made for the top. It’s a band of cardboard from inside one of the boxes and it worked perfectly.

RELATED: Interested in more outside-the-box ways to paint with kids? Try this post on unique was for kids to paint.

A child paints the top piece of a box wedding cake. He is using turquoise paint on cardboard.

My kids’ thoughts on this activity

My kids thought this was fantastic. Here’s what they loved:

The large scale – it was as tall as my 7 year old.

That it was 3D – they could walk around the art, reach over it, and move with it. It was so much different than painting on a 2D piece of paper.

Together, my kids painted this for THREE DAYS. Yes, THREE DAYS. This lived outside and I just kept adding more paint to our beloved cupcake tin.

Actually, the kids called it “remodeling.” They said they were “remodeling” their box cake. I love that kind of imaginary play and creativity.

Three kids are painting a box cake outside. The cake has six tiers. They are using paint from a muffin tin which is sitting on grass.

Tip – How to keep the colors from turning muddy

I also followed Art Bar‘s advice on color combinations and gave my kids analogous colors so they couldn’t make muddy gray paint.

We used pinks, turquoise, blue, and purple. No mud color in sight!

I’ll keep this tip in my back pocket – I hope you do too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does washable paint stain clothing?

Yes, but use this trick: It’s ironic that washable paint doesn’t always feel super washable. If washable paint gets on your child’s clothing, try this: rinse it with warm water and apply hand soap. Rub the fabric against itself to activate the soap. Add a little more and soap, then let it sit for about 15 minutes. Rinse and repeat until the stain comes out before you ever toss it in the wash.

How old do kids need to be to start painting?

Whenever you are ready and feel like they’re enjoy the experience AND it won’t become an all you can eat, non-toxic paint buffet. My best advice, though: try. Don’t wait. Give it a go on a small scale. This is like a food exposure. Little by little, let them grow and learn how to use paint.

Can toddlers do this activity?

Yes! But have them do a much smaller version if they are working alone. We want art to be size appropriate and manageable, not giant and overwhelming. Go smaller for smaller kids.

Susie Allison, M. Ed

Owner, Creator

Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.


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