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Your social buddy from cardboard

With Maatje, children can build their own toy from cardboard boxes. The possibilites are limitless!
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A personal buddy

Maatje is a kit that offers an activity that lets children create their own buddy that accommodates to their personal social needs. Children develop at different paces. Some children are lagging behind in their socio-emotional development compared to their peers. Get to know their social needs and values better together through the activity of building a Maatje.

Needs and Values

Translate social needs into a tangible buddy


Craft something personal that fits the values


Present why the buddy is meaningful

Carefully developed

for children with needs

Supports expressing social needs and values. Aimed at children of 5-15 years old, Maatje can be fun for anyone. Maatje is developed for care farms and special education, but could be meaningful for any child with social needs.

Open-ended, sustainable &


Through carefully designed cardboard boxes, reusable assembly material and ambiguous decoration, a buddy can be made for every child, either by themselves of with the aid of a caretaker. The Maatje toolkit comes with enough materials to give up to four children their personalized buddy.

How does it work

1. Creating

Your Maatje starts with creating. The Maatje kit allows children to translate their social needs and values into a tangible buddy, on their own or with the aid of a caretaker.

2. Presenting

After building their Maatje, children present what they have made to you, the caretaker. This can provide valuable insight and helps the children think about why such a buddy is meaningful to them.

3. Bonding

The best thing about a fully customized buddy that fits your wishes? You can take it home! Maatje allows children to whisper their secrets, put letters in its belly or to play with it. Maatje is there for them to talk to at home when they do not have another friend around.


A good initiative, the children were happy with the result.

– Jeanet, Caretaker at a care farm, Noord-Holland

It's a friend for when I can't sleep at night

– Lucas, 8 years

I know some of the kids can use this at home.

– Caretaker at a care farm, Twente

I can whisper secrets in its ears. Look, the ears can move!

– Sarah, 9 years

Open source

All materials of the Maatje kit are freely available for personal and educational use. Start planning your activity by requesting access to the files below!

The Maatje kit

Note that this kit is not commercially available. However, all necessary files are freely available as part of the Maatje Open Source Project.


This guide will explain what you need to make your own Maatje kit. Including instructions, tips and tricks, an overview of the Maatje-kit and inspiration for your own Maatje.


The Maatje kit contains five boxes for every child. One of each type, and two of the smallest one. The different shapes allow for a wide variety of combinations, and the draft angles add extra dynamics. You can build houses, vehicles, animals or fantasy creatures – you name it! 

Punchers & screws

To tightly connect the boxes together, the kit contains plenty screws and hole punchers. Simply punch a hole at the right spots in a box, insert a single- or double-threaded screw and connect the boxes! 

The elliptical screw head with ribbing makes screwdrivers reductant: any child can simply secure the screw in place with their bare hands. 


To refine the rough shape of the boxes, 2D cardboard shapes are used. These shapes are purposely being abstract and ambiguous, in order to stimulate creativity and allow them to be used for different purposes. Each kit contains four sheets with 2D shapes – enough to cover your buddy in fancy details!  


To decorate the buddies after being assembled, the Maatje kit contains various decorative elements, including crayons, straws, colored paper and a permanent marker. In case these can not be attached with the screws, glue is provided as well. 

Although the kit can be used on its own, it is more fun to add your own decorative materials to it! 

Having trouble?

No access to a laser cutter or a 3D printer? Our boxes, screws and shapes are designed for creating a large variety of Maatje in a sustainable way, but the activity can be executed with any cardboard boxes using glue as a connection.

Keep in touch!

Any questions about Maatje? Or do you want the files to host your own Maatje activity? Leave us a message!