Kids Craft Idea: How to Build a Cardboard City from Recyclables


Now more than ever, I am looking for kids craft ideas that are 1) not overly complicated, 2) require no special materials, and 3) will keep my child entertained for a decent amount of time. Building a Cardboard City checked all of those boxes (pun intended!)!! This craft is both fun to assemble AND fun to play with afterward.

Let’s Make It! Build a Cardboard City

Does anyone else out there have a ton of cardboard boxes at home right now? Let’s put those empty Amazon and Target boxes to good use! Read on to see what other supplies you can use for this kids’ craft project.

Supplies from Your Recycling Bin:

  • one large flat piece of cardboard for the base
  • small boxes/cardboard milk containers of various shapes and sizes
  • empty toilet paper and paper towel tubes
  • egg cartons
  • additional cardboard of any size for cutting out shapes
  • empty drink cans

Supplies from Your Crafting Bin:

  • crayons, markers, or paints
  • pipe cleaners
  • pom pom balls
  • colored noodles
  • beads
  • scissors and glue

One thing I love about this craft is that the supplies list is really just a recommendation. Let your imagination run wild here! Don’t have one of the supplies listed? Brainstorm with your child about a good substitute. Need to restock your crafting supplies? Don’t forget to check out my post 10 Essential Kids Craft Supplies for a few of the items that we ALWAYS have on hand!

Kids Craft Directions:

Step 1: Create the base.

You will need one large flat piece of cardboard to act as your base. We deconstructed a medium-sized box, but feel free to go bigger for older kids or smaller for younger kids!

Step 2: Think about the layout.

Grab small boxes that can become “buildings.” Step 2 is all about city planning. Where should buildings be placed? Once decided, glue the buildings to the cardboard base.

Step 3: Add architectural detail.

Use additional materials to add architectural detail to the buildings. We had a lot of fun cutting up empty egg carton crates, which made the detail at the top of this building (pictured below). I also cut out cardboard squares for my son to glue on to give this building windows. Two rectangular pieces of cardboard made great doors and two wooden beads became doorknobs!

Step 4: Make room for vehicles.

Use crayons, markers, or paints to create the city’s roads and parking lots.

Step 5: Create some green space!

My son decided that our city would also benefit from a few parks. These are super fun to create! For instance, reimagine empty toilet paper tube rolls as tree trunks with pipe cleaner branches. Cut small slits into the rolls to secure the pipe cleaner ends. Additionally, green pom-poms make perfect bushes. Glue them around the bases of your trees.

After that, my son decided that our park could benefit from a fountain! First, he grabbed a clear plastic cup and filled it with scrunched up blue and white tissue paper (see image below). Then, we added blue pipe cleaners to create the fountain spray. Finally, we made two park benches by cutting out the rim of a plastic cup (about 2-3 inches wide). These rounded semicircular pieces made perfect benches when glued down to our cardboard.

Kids Craft Tip:

As you work on this project, it’s fun to ask if there are different ways to make the same things. For example, is there more than one way to make a “tree?” We made a second kind of tree out of an aluminum drinking can (see image below). In this instance, a section of egg carton glued on top becomes the perfect base for green macaroni noodle leaves.

Step 6: Playtime!!

Have your child grab all of their toy vehicles and toy figures. Who is visiting the city today? Is there heavy traffic? What happens inside each of the buildings? Are people enjoying the parks? The possibilities are endless in a busy city!

If you are looking for MORE exciting activities to try with your kids, don’t forget to check out these additional fantastic ideas: