We decided against putting up a real Christmas Tree this year, but we still wanted something to decorate as a family. So, I made a simple Christmas tree from a cardboard box. Really easy, only required a minimal amount of materials, and our 2 yo son had a ton of fun painting it and helping set it up. Enjoy!
Step 1: Bill of Materials
1 large white cardboard box (the sturdier the better).
Scissors or utility knife.
Some white glue or wood glue.
1 string of Christmas lights.
Pocket knife or Phillips screwdriver (as hole punch).
Step 2: Prepare Materials
Remove four flaps from the box. If your box is square, the four flaps on top work fine; if not, take the equally sized flaps from the top and the bottom of the box.
Step 3: Scallop the Edges
Scallop one of the long edges of each box flap. To do this, make a short cut (1/2" to 3/4") every 2-3 inches along the clean edge of each flap, then cut small wedges at each incision point to form a notch. Then use your scissors to round off each notch so that you get a nice smooth edge. Doesn't need to be perfect.
Step 4: Lay Out the Tree Design.
Set the prepared cardboard pieces out on the floor, overlapping slightly (I had about 2-3" of overlap on mine, but adjust until it looks about right to you). Then, using some scrap cardboard or whatever you have laying around that you can use as a straight edge, score a line from the top of your tree to the bottom corner on each side, making a simple wedge shape. Be careful to hold the pieces in place while you're scoring them, but not to press so hard as to mash the cardboard.
(In this version, I left about 1" to either side of dead center for the top of the tree. I could have angled it to a point at the top, but I figured that point would just get bent somewhere in production, so I went with a slightly wider top.)
Step 5: Cut and Glue
Cut along the lines you scored to form the body of your tree. Dry fit the pieces back together to make sure everything lines up, and clean up any odd cuts as needed. Glue the panels together with whatever glue you have around (I used wood glue; white glue presumably would work as well). Press and hold the pieces together to ensure a good fit. Let dry. (I used some of the scrap board to prop up the "tip" of the tree while it dried.)
Step 6: Decorate! (Optional.)
Once dry, you have a simple white cardboard Christmas tree ready to go! We "decorated" ours by painting it alongside our 2-year old using poster paint, then adding lights after it dried by punching holes through the cardboard and poking the lights through the back.
For the lights, lay the tree on the ground face down, grab a string of lights, and mark where you want the lights to go. (Be careful to leave a little slack between each light; it makes it easier to string them up.) Use a pocket knife or a phillips screwdriver to punch a hole through at each pencil mark, then push the lights through. Plug the lights in, and you're good to go.
A NOTE ON FIRE HAZARDS: it is probably a fire hazard to put Christmas lights in cardboard. I used a thermal scanner after running the lights for 2 hours and had nothing register hotter than 89 Fahrenheit, but still, to be safe, don't leave the 'tree' unattended, and unplug the lights when they don't 'need' to be on.