I am such a huge advocate for imaginative play. I think children need a good daily dose until at least 9 years of age. There is a developmental unfoldment of the imagination that provides the ground work for higher order thinking. Imaginative play provides nourishment for the frontal lobes. In reality, imaginative play is a very academic activity – we just don't see the results directly.
Here are a few things I found on the internet that I loved! So easy and cheap! I have noticed through the years that if I involve the children in the “transformation” of materials – there is a deep appreciation and engagement in the items constructed. These are a few ideas that the children could be in the process of making them. Obviously, they can not cut the cardboard but they could help design and paint the item.
From Parents.com – they have a series of ideas for what you can make out of a box! I loved, loved, loved making things out of boxes as a young girl!
link: cardboard crafts
Dress up play! Make costumes for your dramatic play center out of throw aways! Great idea from RealSimple. com!
Link: Brown Bag Costume