Build-it-Yourself Paper Toys

Today we’re super excited to be sharing a really amazing new line of paper toys – Cardkits! These beautiful build-it-yourself paper structures are designed to form mini neighborhoods and towns. Cardkits were inspired by the paper toy worlds that designer Anther Kiley built as a child. We’ve fallen in love with these kits for so many reasons, but especially because of their encouragement of creativity and imaginative play.

Each Cardkit comes as a set of beautifully printed and pre-cut card stock parts with illustrated assembly instructions. The kits are quicker and simpler to assemble than traditional paper toys and don’t involve cutting or scoring although they do require glue.

Once built, Cardkits are full of interactive moments that invite play. Each kit comes with a colorful fish character that fits inside vehicles and buildings and interacts with accessories. You can arrange furniture inside buildings, move trains along track, even change the foliage of trees!


And guess what else – Cardkits are ethically and environmentally responsible toys! They will be produced locally, in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, using sustainably sourced paper, and are recyclable.

Pre-order your own kits through the Kickstarter campaign! Plus, there are some really neat rewards including all 27 of these original Cardkits, assembled prototypes, and fish figure art pieces!

We had a chance to chat with Anther Kiley, the designer behind Cardkits. Keep reading to hear more about everything that went into Cardkits behind-the-scenes, what inspires Anther, and some tips for encouraging creative play!

What inspired you as a child? What inspires you today?

I grew up in an artistic family without TV and without many commercial toys, so my inspiration always came from the world around me. I was fascinated by pretty much anything in my physical environment, but particularly by infrastructure and transportation. My parents would take me to construction sites or airports and I would watch, in rapturous concentration, for hours on end. Later, this interest expanded to architecture, urban spaces, and the less visible systems that make the world tick, like trade and politics.

My outlet for all these interests were paper constructions, which eventually came together to form an entire miniature world. There were cities, railways, shipping lanes, a political structure, even a currency! This childhood world was the main inspiration for Cardkits.

Like many children’s toys, my childhood world functioned as a safe, bounded space where I could freely explore aspects of the world that fascinated me. Building and playing in it was the formative experience of my childhood, and empowered me to engage with the world around me in more creative ways; I’m hoping Cardkits can serve a similar function for other children!

What is the first thing you remember building out of paper?

I started by making household objects out of paper, probably when I was around 7. I remember making a coffee grinder and some pots and pans, of all things!

When I was 9, I went on a business trip with my mother, a sculptor and children’s book illustrator, to the Chattanooga aquarium, where she had done a commission. It was my first flight, and my first visit to an aquarium, and the result was a miniature paper airport for my new collection of toy fish! This was the start of “Fishworld”, a miniature toy world that eventually took over several rooms of my parents’ house and became a consuming childhood pursuit.

What has been your favorite part of designing and developing Cardkits?

I’m a graphic designer and educator (I teach at the Rhode Island School of Design) and developing Cardkits has brought together both of these aspects of my practice. It has involved pretty much every area of design—from 3d product design, to packaging, branding, web, and motion design—and also a lot of work refining the experience of building the toys, and shaping them to function in healthy and educational ways for children.

I’ve enjoyed every part of this process, but the highlights have been the workshops I’ve run with children. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the way that kids engage with the toys; their enthusiasm is infectious!

Do you have any tips or advice for kids, parents, and families about creativity and creative play?

My main advice is to allow time and space—a lot of time and space!—for creative play. I was raised pre-internet, with no TV, and strict limits on commercial toys. My creativity grew out of a lot of unstructured time—out of boredom, really! Being left to my own devices and forced to entertain myself cultivated focus, concentration, and creativity, all qualities that are now embattled—in me and in everyone—by constant access to the internet, social media, Netflix, etc. The Cardkits vision is of a kind of play that is grounded in the real and physical, and is empowering and inspiring. 

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