Cardboard Box City

How to turn a box into a cardboard city for play

The children and I spent a glorious afternoon creating this cardboard box city.  It cost me all of…nothing, was mess free and is still going strong! Keep this in mind next time you have a big box lying around, or you can even ask places like Bunnings or The Good Guys if they have any boxes you can use. Failing that, boxes can be purchased for a few dollars from packing places. I’ll detail below how we put this city together.

How to turn a box into a cardboard city for play


  • Tea Chest Size packing box larger (the bigger the box, the better!)
    • (I have many packing boxes around from our last move but you can buy them (cheap) from Officeworks, Bunnings or packing suppliers)
  • Packing tape
  • Drawing materials
  • Matchbox cars


1. Prepare the box for decoration

How to turn a box into a cardboard city for play

  • Tape the sides shut well
  • Then cut as shown with the dotted red line so one side is opened up, and the rest of the box stays in tact.

2. Draw in roads

I drew in the roads with permanent marker before the kids decorated the box. 

How to turn a box into a cardboard city for play

3. Decorate

In the spaces in between the roads, draw in details with texters and pencils. Also use the back, verticle side of the box to draw in  buildings, trees or anything else you like.   Each one of my children contributed something.

These are some of the details we added.

  • Homes
  • Bushes
  • Grass
  • Ponds
  • Trees
  • Birds
  • Walking path
  • Bike path
  • Fruit market
  • Car park
  • Farm
  • Flowers
  • Houses
  • Playground
  • Highrise buildings

Vertical Buildings

How to turn a box into a cardboard city for play

Oval and playground

cardboard box city with roads and matchbox cars

Carpark & fruit market

cardboard box play scene -- roads


cardboard box play scene -- trees and buildings

4. Add Extras

Depending on how engaged the kids are, you can extend this activity and add lots of other details over days or weeks. Below are some examples:

3D Buildings

Collect empty medicine boxes (like panadol boxes), cover in white paper and paint them to become 3D buildings.

How to turn a box into a cardboard city for play

Street signs

Make cute street signs with by drawing on milk bottle lids and propping them up with blu tack and a paddle pop stick. 

  • Draw symbol or words on the inside of the milk bottle lid
  • Glue paddle pop stick on the back of the milk bottle lid
  • Once dry, use blu-tack as a stand on the cardboard road

milk bottle lid street signs


Add clouds to the backdrop at the back of the box.

  • Cotton wool balls
  • Glue

5. Play

Matchbox cars, Lego and animal figures are examples of the toys you can add to this play scene.  The box can be used outside on the grass in the late afternoon, on a patio or deck and inside too.

cardboard box city

More Cardboard Box Craft

Cardboard box castle

Cereal Box Race Ramp

Mini Library

Dollhouse Style Box Cubby

Turn a box into a play kitchen 

Barbie bed

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