Oct 31, 2013

Create a Box City. Cutting practice and creativity for kids.

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With children that enjoy getting creative and doing arts and crafts, you can go through a lot of materials very quickly. This is why we try to use recycled materials as often as possible. 

My preschooler is very keen on cutting activities so I quickly whipped up this little activity to keep her entertained while her little brother napped and to help develop her cutting skills, creativity and imagination.

Ages: 2+
(Maddie was 4y/o here. See the bottom for Handy Tips to simplify or extend to suit your child.) 

Materials: Cardboard boxes, sheets of doors & windows (get the copy we used below), scissors, glue, paint/brush/water (Optional. For a completely mess free activity, cover the boxes with coloured paper instead)

I didn't have a lot of time to play around making fancy printable sheets so just made up a quick doc in Word using some clip art images and a couple of pics I found in a quick google image search.Unfortunately, I forgot to save it so I've made it up again with a few other designs as well for you to use if you'd like.

I thought a different variety of styles and sizes would encourage her creativity and maths skills as she inadvertently talked about the various sizes and styles of doors and windows in comparison to the various box sizes and colours.

Get a free copy of our Windows and Doors Printable here.
(To print, simply follow the link above and click the printer icon along the top left. To save to your computer to print at your leisure, follow the link, click "File" at the top left and then click "Download" from near the bottom of the drop down menu. It will download and prompt you to save it to your disk)

To cover the printing on the boxes, Maddie painted them using acrylic paints. Poster paints should be fine but depending on the colour you choose and the printing below, they may require 2 coats to get a really good finish. We weren't bothered with that.

Painting 3 dimensional objects poses it's own challenges, such as how and where to hold them as you cover the sides. We only painted the top, sides and front of the boxes, leaving the bottoms and backs unpainted.

Hint: to prevent the boxes falling down when they're painting them or when they're drying, stick a little piece of tape to the back of them and to the table. That should keep them in place.

When the boxes were painted and set aside to dry, Maddie got stuck into the cutting. She relished making "important decisions" such as which door she'd use on which box. This part took a lot of concentration and working those fine motor skills.

As many of the doors and windows were in nice straight lines across the page, we talked about if there was an easier and quicker way to cut them out instead of one at a time. There was!

Arrange the doors and windows on your boxes when they are dry and stick down. You can also try and stick the doors and windows to the wet paint if you have them precut. They should stay there when dry. 

This part involved some problem solving as she looked at all her cut out embellishment and decided where they would all go. She counted the amount of windows she had and how many she'd need per box. She was intent on finding the smallest windows and doors for the smallest boxes.

When the boxes were all dry, we set them up against the window ledge and added some of our other play things to help set the scene.

The smaller size of the boxes and the bright colours really looked delightful all set up and Maddie squealed in delight when she first stood back and looked at it all. Some boxes ready for the trash, a bit of paint and some paper had been transformed into a beautiful little city.

She ran off in search of some cars, little people figurines and anything else she could think of to play and utilise with her new play scene.

Now it's time for some imaginative play!

Handy Tips

Simplify this activity by providing the windows and doors already precut and ready for your little one to arrange and stick onto the boxes. If they are a little more developed with scissor skills you could cut the doors/windows into simple strips for them first and assist them to make single straight line cuts to separate the pictures.

Extend this activity by:
  • Having children design and draw their own windows and doors
  • Providing graph paper to make the windows and doors on
  • Including a ruler so that children can measure the different sizes of embellishments they will need to suit their box sizes
  • Encouraging children to think of other embellishments they could create to stick on the boxes. eg. mail boxes, street lights etc.
  • Providing other recycled materials for them to create 3D trees and other things to complete their small world scene.
Make it mess free by covering the boxes first with coloured paper instead of painting them. 

- Use descriptive language that goes with this experience to help develop your child's vocabulary. Eg "stick, arrange, small, medium, large, design, colour" etc.

Here are some of our other activities using Recycled Materials
(click on the picture to take you to the activity and click here for all our activities containing recycled goods)


recycled activities, recycling for kids, kids activities

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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  1. What a totally awesome printable and activity. My kids will love this to no end. Thanks Debs. xoxo P

    1. Thanks Pauline. So glad you liked it. My printable making skills don't extend much beyond clipart or free-hand I'm afraid, haha. This activity, however is just fine without fancy skills though, lol.

  2. These look so real. Oh my, this so awesome Deb!

  3. Debs, this is awesome! What a creative way to create gorgeous little cities. We will be giving your great idea a go - I'm sure my children will have lots of fun with this too. Elise @ Creative Play Central

    1. Thanks Elise. I can imagine your children making their own gorgeous little windows and doors. I'd love to see a city they created. It would be amazing I'm sure :)

  4. This is beyond awesome Debs! Thanks for sharing a printable.

  5. This is SO clever! I love your extensions and the valuable skills that they can develop without even knowing it. I'm pinning for later :)

  6. Wow I love the printable idea! We often just paint and use markers but gluing on already printed pictures opens a whole new world! My boys will love it.

    1. Thanks Chelsea. We've done it the other way before as well but it was fun to try it a different way and obviously made for a good cutting activity.

  7. I can imagine they'll have hours of fun playing with that! The end product looks great. My kids would love this activity :-)

    1. Thanks Kate. The smaller size boxes mean that they are easy to pack together into one larger box so they can be pulled out and reused.

  8. This is so awesome! My daughter will love this so much. I can't wait to do this!

  9. How awesome do those buildings look! I love the doors and windows you provided too. I have so many tissue boxes piling up that I don't have the heart to throw them away. I'm waiting for the inspiration and I think I've found it. Thank you!!!!

    1. Tissue boxes would be perfect for this! Thanks Kate :)

  10. Thanks so much. I'll be trialling this at work (preschool) next week. :)

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