Paint a Cardboard Town

Art Projects
All Ages10 Comments

 Start upcycling some cardboard boxes, or just your cereal boxes, to make a whole town!
This is a wonderfully arty post written by Justine of The Lone Home Ranger.

Cardboard Box Town

I was not the crafting sort before I had kids. Even after my first daughter came along, I admittedly looked at art projects as a necessary evil. I would remind myself of the connection between art and high brain function as I sighed and pulled out the cotton balls and glitter. Perhaps part of my reluctance was a feeling of ineptitude. It seemed to me that all the other moms were out there sewing dolls out of recycled dress fabric they had saved since they were a little girl, or building complicated dollhouses that didn’t come out of a box with instructions. How could my paint-by-number projects measure up?

Then I read the post on the Power of Moms called Your Children Want You! I was struck by the author’s reminder that our kids don’t care if we don’t design rocket ships out of two-liter bottles the way all the Pinterest moms seem to do. Our kids want us to spend time with them and try our best, and that is as far as the desire goes. I was inspired to think of a project we would both enjoy and that wouldn’t feel daunting.

Then I remembered a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Jenny at {Dinner: A Love Story}, in which she discusses her feelings about craft projects and shares an idea for a project involving cereal boxes. I was so relieved to find a craft project with less fuss. I even had the cereal boxes we would need; since my daughter has started preschool, I save every piece of cardboard that passes through the house (egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, cereal and tissue boxes) because it seems they never can get enough. The rest of the materials I came by at craft and dollar stores.

Another reason the cardboard town idea appealed to me is that it fits with what I am learning about the Waldorf and Montessori methods of education. The Waldorf principle encourages toys to be made from “simple materials drawn from natural sources” (from Wikipedia) to facilitate growth of a child’s imagination. Both Waldorf and Montessori philosophies involve sensory play, and I knew this project would involve plenty of tactile objects to stimulate the senses. Montessori education focuses on building a child’s independence by removing limits set on what they can do, so I also did my best to follow my daughter’s creative direction and let her do as much of the project by herself as she safely could (e.g. paint yes, hot glue no).

I didn’t bother following any instructions. This is my kind of art project, in the sense that creativity reigns and there are no rules. We knocked it out in three sessions, and she has gotten hours of play out of it already since. Her creativity abounds, and she is coming up with ideas for how she wants to take the project further. I like that it can both feel finished quickly but also be added onto, meaning we don’t need to start a completely new project when we are looking for art time to fill up a rainy day.


Because my daughter is only four, I decided I should use the acrylics by myself, but I thought of ways she could help paint too. I started by whitewashing the boxes with white acrylic paint. When the boxes were dry, she used Crayola washable paint (affiliate link) and sponges to paint them the colors she wanted; it was fun to let her experiment by combining colors to see what new colors could be made.


My favorite elements of the town are the knickknacks we got from the dollar store, like little birds and butterflies and un-smelly potpourri that we used for rocks and leaves.



Justine Uhlenbrock is an urban homesteader, a minimalist mom, a writer, and a doula-in-training living with her husband and two young girls in Arlington, Massachusetts. She is passionate about sustainable living, health, frugality, and her quest for real food and family heirloom recipes. She blogs at The Lone Home Ranger

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  1. Rachelle | TinkerLab says

    Upcycling cardboard boxes into imaginative scenes and things is the best! My kids never get tired of hoarding boxes and turning them into something new. Great post!

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