Introduction: Empathetic Designing: Indoor Funhouse!!!!!!

About this project:

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting millions of people around the world, people have been forced to stay in their homes for self-quarantine for their safety. Since the virus has taken to affect where I currently live, my family and I have been spending our days at home. The majority of the time is spent working online, schooling/homework, or cooking and cleaning. The stress of going through our daily routines and chores can be physically and mentally exhausting for us since we are sitting in front of our computers for hours; this leaves us drained for the rest of the day and we spend the rest of our time alone resting or relaxing. So, with this in mind, I wanted to create a simple cardboard funhouse for my family to go through and enjoy after a long day of working on the computer. The idea of this funhouse is for family bonding time, a stress reliever, and some activity that keeps them active at home. Moreover, fun houses bring back nostalgic memories of when I was a toddler since I used to have one and I loved the small journey of being able to crawl/explore through the tunnels and seeing different things at each end. Also, one of my coping mechanisms for stress is arts and crafts because it’s one of my favorite hobbies. So, being busy and constructing this funhouse not only brings back nostalgia but a good way for families to spend time together, have fun and be active all at once while staying at home during this period of time.


Materials List:

For the tunnels:

  • (Exterior) 8 ea 20” x 20” x 15” cardboard boxes (
  • 1 roll Packaging tape
  • Box cutter or an X-acto knife

For the tunnels: (Interior)

  • Family photos
  • Simple writings (paper and sharpie)
  • Masking tape (blue tape)
  • Christmas tree lights

For the tunnels: (Exterior)

  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes of your choice
  • Christmas lights (related to interior)

Relaxation zone:

  • 4-5 beach towels
  • Pillows of your choice
  • Electronics (for music or entertainment)

Family bonding zone:

  • Board games
  • Pillows
  • Snacks
  • Electronics (for movies or TV shows)
  • Printer paper, pencils, other art supplies

Exercise/Activity zone:

  • Workout DVDs or videos
  • Dumbbells (if you have)
  • Yoga mats
  • Exercise ball
  • Timer (can use a phone)
  • Electronics: phone or television (for music and workout videos)
  • Optional: treadmill

Step 1: Empathetic Research

Before I started designing and building my funhouse, I wanted to get a better understanding of where my family is coming from on a personal level being at home and ask them what I can do in my project to meet their needs to make the project successful. This step is known as “empathy.” What empathy means to me is where you build a connection with your client when you put yourself into their shoes and understand the situation they are going through. Being able to empathize with my family members is very important when designing/creating this funhouse because I would like to know how they all personally feel towards being at home for a long period of time.

How the use of empathy when talking to my family has led me to this project is that I’ve seen my mom, sister, and uncle work every day and when they finish their tasks, they are extremely exhausted and only watch the television or play games on their iPad. There isn’t much social interaction or family bonding; in my eyes, it is obvious to me that they are extremely tired and stressed trying to adjust to the changes these past few months. This sense of understanding has led my ideas for this project to a funhouse to bring my family closer at times like this and to relax and destress themselves after a long day of work or whenever they have the need to do so.

Step 2: Planning Your Funhouse:

Before constructing the funhouse, creating a blueprint of what kind of shape you want is important. To do so, grab a sheet of graphing paper. Along with a pencil and or pen to sketch out the type of design you desire with your funhouse. You do not have to follow the design I decided to make for my funhouse.

Each square that's drawn represents the boxes and I drew the extra flaps for boxes that will have openings to them. Also, the small shaded rectangles show the connecting parts of the flaps to join the boxes together.

Step 3: Preparing Your Boxes:

After you've created your funhouse plan/blueprint, grab one of your flat cardboard 20" x 20" x 15" cardboard box and open it as shown on the screen. When you have unflattened your box, take the top flap and crease it down fully to keep the box's shape stable. (Images of what it should look like is provided)

Please do this for all 8 boxes!!

Step 4: Creating Cutouts for Sky View:

Refer back to your written plan and if you have sky view cutouts like mine, grab the number of boxes you plan on cutting out. Then, take on of your boxes and flatten it out to draw a cutout shaped like a square or a rectangle. This design is 2.5" away from the edges and creases of the box. Once you've finished drawing out your cutout shapes, revert the box back to its open formation with the cutout drawing on the top.

Step 5: Assembling Your Parts (Visual):

This step is not your final product but to see how your design will look like after all the boxes are placed together.

Take one of your boxes and slide it towards the opening of another box. When placing the boxes together, make sure the flaps on each side are overlapping the box when sliding it in so it fits. Also, make sure that the bottom flap of the box overlaps as well. Otherwise, the boxes will not connect well.

Step 6: Creating Curve Tunnel (Going in a Different Direction):

Creating different direction tunnels might be challenging so please watch the video if the images aren't clear.

For this step, you want to take another one of your boxes and face it towards the direction of where you want your box to go out (ex: the opening of the box will face out to the right or left). Then, bend the flap outward that's nearest to the box it will connect to and slide the box towards the other box. make sure that the flap you bent is overlapping the box you're joining it with as well as the bottom flap of your box that's touching the ground.

Step 7: Assembly View Pt.2

After assembling your boxes to your desired shape or look, label your boxes with a sharpie an individual number in order to keep your boxes organized for the final assembly. Then, mark the flaps with a symbol that will be on the outside of your structure. Once you've completed labeling your boxes, flatten them out and prepare to cut your sky view scenery.

Step 8: Cutout for Sky View

As a safety precaution, please have a parent or guardian supervise you if you're a minor. You will be dealing with a sharp tool for this step!

First, make sure you have your ruler, box cutter, and flat cardboard or cutting surface. To prevent any unnecessary cut marks or holes on your box, slide the extra flat cardboard/cutting surface underneath the area you will be cutting. Make sure it's directly beneath the cutting area and not under the entire box! After you've placed your flat surface underneath, grab your ruler and box cutter to cut out the piece. Use the ruler as a guide/control for cutting along the straight line (cut all sides of your outline). Once you've cut all the sides to your outline take out your cut piece and take out the flat surface beneath your cut area.

Do this step for all boxes you've decided to have a sky view!

Step 9: Reminder: Keeping Your Boxes Safe!

When you are finished working on your project for the day, flatten your boxes and set them in a safe place where nothing can get to it.

Bugs or other animals in your house may damage the cardboard!

Step 10: Final Assembly:

Set all of your boxes back into its shape that you designed to decorate the interior and exterior of your tunnels.

(Image set above is final product)

Step 11: Cutting Extra Flaps:

Referring back to blueprint once again, I decided to have an open center in my design. To get this open center, take the extra flaps that hover over the section, bend it till it's 90 degrees facing up, cut along the dotted lines that indicate the creases on the flaps. Do this for all boxes that hover over the open center.

Step 12: Stabilizing Structure and Fixing Flaps:

To keep your boxes in place, use shipping tape to connect the flaps together. Take the flap on the side of the box and place your tape horizontally (as shown in the image). Then, press down on the tape so it connects the flap of the box that is at the top of the structure. Do this for both sides of the box and for all openings (ex: entrance and exits) in your design.

Step 13: Fixing the Interior:

For this step, you will have to crawl inside the tunnels to shift the flaps that block the pathways in your tunnels. To get an open pathway, you will need to tape any loose flaps on the ceiling of your tunnel. Then, for the pathway, bend the flap of your box towards you till it makes contact with another connected box. You will then tape that flap to the other box to keep the flap in place.

Do this for all extra flaps that block the pathway or hang from the ceiling of your funhouse.

Step 14: Part 1: Interior Decorations! (Photographs)

You can do anything you want for this step but for my project, I will be pasting family photos and small messages inside the walls of the tunnels. More so, I will be adding in Christmas lights but that will be for a later step. So, to place family photos inside your tunnel, it is recommended that you use blue masking tape since it won't damage the images in comparison to any other strong sticky tapes. Place the tape behind the photograph and stick it anywhere you want!

You've finally reached the decoration stage!! You're almost done with your funhouse so hang in there! When decorating the interior and exterior of your funhouse, get creative!

Step 15: Part 2: Interior Decorations (Small Messages)

Similar to the last step involving family photographs, use a sharpie and paper to write any messages you want. Then, tear out your messages and tape them to the walls of your funhouse.

Step 16: Part 1: Exterior Decorations (Painting)

For this part, you will need your paint and paintbrushes. Set aside a paper plate as a palette and place your paint inside to prepare for painting your boxes. It's optional but you can use stencils for decorations or you can go trigger happy on the paint and create different designs. In this design, I went with simple ombre strokes and patterns on my boxes.

Step 17: Part 2: Exterior/Interior Decorations (Christmas Lights)

The last step for decorating your tunnels, make a hole on the top of your funhouse to place your Christmas lights on the ceiling of your tunnels inside. Make a circle with your sharpie and cut it out with a X-acto knife (you will need to make several holes to evenly distribute the Christmas lights inside). Like sewing, alternate the placement of the Christmas lights by placing the lights from the outside to the inside. Them for the next hole, go from the inside of the funhouse to the outside of the funhouse. This also helps give the exterior of the funhouse some lights.

Make sure that the hole is large enough for the lights to fit through.

Step 18: Family Bonding Zone:

For the place you set your family bonding zone, you can set up a mini area that consists of games, movies/TV shows, and art supplies. Set it in a place where you and your family are comfortable and can enjoy your time together (ex: living room).

Step 19: Relaxation Zone:

For the relaxation zone, set up some towels, blankets, and pillows in an area where you can feel the most comfortable and give yourself some alone time.

Step 20: Exercise/Activity Zone:

Lastly, for the exercise and activity zone, set your equipment in a spacious area. When you've finished placing your equipment you can exercise and do different activities with your family!!

Congrats! You have completed your funhouse!

Step 21: What This Project Means to Me:

Overall, creating something that involves activity, relaxation, and family bonding is what I strived for. This project as a whole is something I see that will help bring my family together and get closer in general. At times like this while living through the COVID-19 pandemic, being with my family is important to me because each and every one of us rely on each other to keep each other healthy and safe. Moreover, with our daily routines being changed instantly, it was hard to adjust and we would all be left exhausted towards the end of the day. Realizing that we don't spend time together because of how tired we were. So, this project helps build a stronger relationship between myself and my family. Also, this activity helps relieve stress and bring back memories of the happy days in our lives. Demonstrating that during rough times like as of now, we can all find ways to make light of the situation and change it into cherishable memories.

First Time Author Contest

Participated in the
First Time Author Contest