I love a good collaborative art project. This shoebox mansion might be one of my favorites! It’s the kind of project that can span days, and even weeks. Children can keep adding to the rooms and then eventually they can use the structure in their imaginary play. And the best part is that is costs nothing! We made this completely with recycled materials.
Last week, on the last day of camp, I went to attic and collected a bunch of shoeboxes and small cardboard boxes. I moved the table out of the art space, pushing it and the couches all the way over across the room, and dumped the boxes onto the floor. The kids came in and saw this new, open space and all the boxes and were instantly curious and animated. I told them that we were going to create some sort of home and to start stacking them up against the wall. In no time at all they had the boxes assembled into a structure and were ready to decorate.
This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!
Supplies needed for a shoebox mansion:
~ Shoeboxes or small cardboard boxes (cut off lids and tops)
~ This box cutter saves me
~ I used a low-temp glue gun to attach the boxes, and then taped the top row to the wall
Suggested materials to decorate the mansion:
(I didn’t buy anything, I just put out materials from our shelves – use whatever you have!)
~ Cardboard (we have several containers filled with leftover pieces)
~ Colored paper, patterned paper, old art
~ Washi tape or colored tape
~ Craft sticks (jumbo and regular)
~ Tape, scissors, glue
~ Markers, black sharpies, paint sticks or creamy crayons
How to put the mansion together:
1. The building of the mansion happened very quickly. I didn’t have time to take any “in-progress” photos. The kids chose the biggest boxes and put them on the bottom, and then just stacked the rest on top. It wasn’t until after they stepped back that they decided to call it a mansion – which was a great catalyst for decorating the rooms.
2. After the boxes were stacked, I went in with a glue gun and stuck them all together. Then I used some clear packing tape to tape the top row to the wall.
3. Let the kids decorate. We began by wallpapering the rooms, then they just made furniture and people on their own.
This little straw guy was made by a five-year old. I love the minimalist rug and bed behind him.
The was a very fancy bed which became the standard bed that all the girls had to make.
This little girl made her bedroom very unique, with playdough pizza on the table and a string of art. I remember her working hard to get the table to stand. At first she had just two legs, but then realized it needed another leg in order to stand. I love the problem-solving that happens during these open-ended projects. There are so many opportunities to build and learn and communicate.
This was the playroom, with a cat on a shelf.
My personal favorite, the sewing room!
They were busy for a good hour and a half, until parents came to pick up. I wish we had made this cardboard mansion in the beginning of the week so they could have worked on it every day! I think I will leave it up for my next session and see if the new group will pick up where they left off.
If you want more cardboard-making ideas, go to my Pinterest board called Cardboard Creations. So much cool stuff!
Wow, this is so creative! I never would have thought about making a mansion out of shoeboxes. Thank you so much for sharing the idea and the details! =)
I love this! My daughter loves doll houses, but I’ve resisted buying one because I don’t like the idea of spending money on big new toys that she plays with for a week or two and then they just sit around the house and gather dust. This is such a great alternative- so much potential for creativity and learning!
no need to spend the money! my art students said this was the best dollhouse they had every played with. being able to make all their own furniture and decorating all the rooms themselves, it made it so much more interesting and fun. and less precious. they kept ripping out rooms and starting over, so it just was endless imaginary play! good luck! xx Bar
This cardboard mansion is the best!! Luv that kids can add and add to it
Lovely craft! I’m sure I would have loved to play around with this mansion when I was little… I mean, I’m still little, but you get the point x)