Build an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole out of cardboard that will make the entrance to your Mad Hatter’s Tea Party even more magical.
This project was part of my daughter’s Alice in Wonderland Tea Party that you can read about here. The rabbit hole was part of the decorations for the party, but there was so much to tell about making a cardboard rabbit hole, that I decided it needed its own article.
We’ve learned that the entrance to a party is the most important part of the decorations. Where the guests enter the party sets the stage and the attitude for the rest of the event. Our best party entrance by far was a cardboard rabbit hole. It was so popular that the kids went through the rabbit hole over and over throughout the party. Definitely a success. Here’s how we made our cardboard rabbit hole.
First, I have to give a shout-out to our local Lowes. We contacted someone in the Shipping and Receiving Department of our Lowes a few years ago to try to get some appliance boxes to build a pirate ship for a party (that post is coming soon). They were awesome about giving us fridge boxes and washer boxes. We’ve asked them for cardboard several times since—for this rabbit hole, for another pirate ship, for a Percy Jackson Greek temple, for a hobbit hole, and for an entire cardboard village we built for our church Christmas party. We try to contact them early because sometimes they have cardboard and sometimes they don’t so we have to wait and try again later. Sometimes they’ve even had large 8 by 9-foot cardboard pieces with no printing! Those are the best to work with. Interestingly, other appliance stores we talked to were not able to give us any cardboard because of store policies, so talk to your local store and see what they can do!
Start at the End
We started the rabbit hole by making the doorway at the end. We took one of the appliance boxes and cut it along one corner so that it opened up to 4 connected panels. We folded back the top and bottom flaps to help hold it up and bent it to make three sides, with one side being 2 panels long. On the center panel we cut a door, leaving the left side connected so that the door could open and close. We’ve found that an electric kitchen knife is the easiest way to cut cardboard. Then we painted the whole thing white and the cardboard door blue.
To add more structure, and so it could withstand all of the guests squeezing through, we added a wood frame to the doorway and the bottom of the other panels. We cut some scrap wood we had to fit the doorway and then used a nail gun to connect all of the wood pieces together to make it structurally solid.
Then we used strong duct tape to attach the wood to the cardboard. Duct tape is great for making party decor because it’s durable but also easy to remove after the party.
The Door Knob
Since the Door Knob is a character in Alice in Wonderland, we wanted to make it look cool. Since we’ve made a lot of costumes using EVA foam, we knew it would be a good material to make the knob.
We traced the pattern out of foam and cut out circles for the eyes, the bolts, and part of the key opening with a copper tube. We glued the parts together with contact cement. If you want to learn more about working with foam, my post about making foam armor gives a lot more details and tips about creating with foam.
We used a wood cabinet pull that we happened to have as the actual knob. We painted the knob and the foam with gold spray paint then glued the foam to the cardboard door. Finally, we attached the knob with its screw through the cardboard and the foam. The screw held everything in place.
The Rest of the Tunnel
With the end piece finished and looking good, we used more appliance boxes to build the rest of the tunnel. Again, we cut one corner of each of the boxes and folded it back. We did not paint any more of the boxes—tunnel dirt and cardboard are both brown, just make sure any printing is on the outside where it won’t be seen. Instead of a door in the middle of each piece of cardboard, we cut an irregular shaped hole.
Putting the tunnel together is easy, but hard to explain. Let me try. The first cardboard (painted with a door) is U-shaped and painted white on the inside of the U. Take the second piece of card board and shape it into a U (with the flaps all folded out and back). Put the bottom of this U up to the top of the first U, so that you have to go through the irregular-shaped hole to get to the “room” with the door way. Then take the next cardboard box and make it a U-shape that fits up to the top of the last one. One the inside, it looks like a series of irregular-shaped holes you have to go through. On the outside it looks like this:
We duct-taped all of the boxes together. Kids can be a little crazy as they go through it. And we put black plastic over the top to make it a dark tunnel and used duct tape to hold the plastic on. The end of the tunnel, with the doorknob, was placed at the sliding door out of our family room (the party was in the backyard). And the tunnel went from the (inside) doorway to the family to the backyard. When it was finished, no one could see the family room at all, only the tunnel.
The front of the tunnel was just one of the cardboard pieces with an irregular hole cut out and some fake trees around it. (You can read here to see how I easily clean my fake plants to get them ready for the party.) We also had a little table set up near the entrance with a key for each guest, labeled with their name. My little son dressed up as the White Rabbit and showed his sister’s friends how to go through the rabbit hole.
Inside the Rabbit Hole
We added a few decorations inside the tunnel. We printed out some clock and card images from the internet and taped them onto the cardboard.
In the final “room” with the doorknob, I found some small gold frames and put up some pictures, including a photo of the birthday girl when she was little and dressed as Alice in Wonderland for Halloween (you can see more photos of those costumes here).
Just outside the rabbit hole were our Mome Raths. You could see them and the sign as you crawled out of the doorway. Make sure you read about our Alice in Wonderland birthday party to see how to make the Mome raths and all of the cool Mad Hatter Tea Party decorations.
Our Second Rabbit Hole
The Alice in Wonderland birthday party with the rabbit hole was such a huge success that my daughter used the same theme several years later with her high school friends. Of course, we made a new rabbit hole for the party. We got more cardboard this time and made the tunnel even longer.
This time, we also got one of those large, blank pieces of cardboard from Lowes so we added a larger opening and then made some cardboard branches to attach to the top.
We also added some fairy lights inside the tunnel to light the way and to show off the decorations. We just laid the fairy lights on top of the cardboard pieces right before we added the black plastic on the top.
At the entrance, our White Rabbit also handed out “eat me” cookies instead of keys because, yum.
I’m also working on a post to share all the things from my daughter’s second Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with everything more geared toward teenagers. Coming soon!