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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Build a YouthShaped cardboard city

Bring your ideas to life by making cardboard city scape.

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You’ll need

  • Pens or pencils
  • Scrap paper
  • Camera or phone
  • Sticky tape
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Maps
  • Clean differently sized and shapes cardboard boxes
  • Clean, upcycled fabrics, such as bed sheets and old t-shirts
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Tables and chairs
  • Clean, dry recyclable materials, such as tin cans, plastic bottles and yoghurt pots, egg cartons
  • Newspaper
  • Pop-up play tents and tunnels
  • Tin foil
  • Bubble wrap
  • Neutral roleplay items and fancy dress, such as household objects

Before you begin

·       Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.

·     Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Contribution to the YouShape Award

This activity may contribute towards the Lead section of the YouShape Award, depending on the Scouts section you’re in. If this session completes the requirement for an individual or a group, you may want to hand the ‘Lead’ badge out at the end of the session.

Setting up this activity

  • Gather materials to use for the session. You could ask young people to bring in things they find at home or outside, but remember not everyone may be able to do this, so it’s good to have items that everyone can use.
  • Make sure equipment and materials are age appropriate. Supervise the activity closely to make sure small objects are not put in mouths, ears and noses. Remind young people not to put anything in their mouth and wash hands regularly.
  • Remind responsible adults and young leaders that they should closely supervise the activity, helping young people to build, carry and check the stability of what’s being made.
  • You may want to run this session over several weeks, with one week to plan, one week to build and one week to play in your city. Make sure to take photos of what the city looks like if you need to break it down and store it between weeks.
  • You could share the materials in this activity with the Deconstructed Roleplay activity or run both activities at a similar time.
  • You may want to run this activity outside, depending on the weather. Before running this session, you might want to run a session collecting the items on a YouthShaped Nature Walk.

Run the activity

  1. Gather everyone together and tell them they’re going to make their own city, using their plans. Give everyone their plans from the ‘Plan a YouthShaped cardboard city’ activity.
  2. Now, tell everyone they’re going to make some parts of their city. They may want to work in pairs or small groups, but everyone should work together to create a city everyone will enjoy and have fun building. It’s OK if there’s more than one of each type of building too.
  3. Ask everyone what to look at their maps and think about what they included in their own city. People could work together to make the same building that they’ve both added to their maps. What will people be building? However, remind everyone you can have more than one type of each building, such as more than one shop, more than one school and so on, so people can make their own version.
  4.  Look at all the building materials. Let people take time to decide what materials they want to turn into what aspects of the city.
  5. Now, start building the city. If young people want any help, such as support taping things together, a volunteer or young leader help them to create their vision. Remember to check any building structures are sturdy and safe, especially in their height.
  6.  Let people continue creating until the city is ready. An adult should have a paper and pens to note down the plans, ideas and what people are doing or building.
  7. When the city is ready, tell people you're now going to play in the city. If you’ve any props or fancy dress, you should bring them out for people to use.
  8. Give everyone plenty of time to play and roleplay in what they create.
  9. Take photos of the city to help you remember it.
  10. Gather everyone together. Ask everyone what they think of the city. What’s their favourite part? What do they like? Is it missing anything? What things do you need next to take the roleplay further? For example, if there’s a hospital, you might need a stethoscope, medicine and bandages, as well as doctors, nurses and patients.
  11. Discuss the places they want to create and what people will be needed to operate those places. People could suggest job titles and roles, as well as things they’d do in the city, such as going swimming or walking their dog. Remember to write these things down.
  12. Ask everyone what they’d like to know more about or learn about in their city to continue exploring for their YouShape award. Listen and note down what everyone says, remembering to ask more questions to develop ideas. For example, if someone wanted to learn more about the hairdressers, you could ask ‘How strong do you think hair is?’ or ‘Where does all the hair from a hairdressers go?’ For their YouShape award, they might then want to grow their hair for charity, learn about different hairstyles, design their own haircut or test the strength of hair.


This activity was all about playing, imagination and creativity. What was it like building a city? Did you include anything from your map? What was your favourite thing?

There were lots of objects for us to use. How did you decide what to use? What objects were your favourites, or what did you like the best? Did any objects surprise you or did you use them in an unusual way?

This activity was also about communication, teamwork and sharing. How did you tell other people what you were building or playing with? Did you make sure everyone could help build? How did you share the objects and made sure other people got to create building from their maps? Did anyone build the same thing or have the same job?

Thinking about what you built or what things you pretended to do, can you think of one thing you want to learn about, get better at or know more about? What would you like to do or learn at Scouts?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Phones and cameras

Make sure parents and carers are aware and have given consent for photography.

Heavy and awkward objects

Never lift or move heavy or awkward items alone. Ask for help or, if possible, break them down into smaller parts.

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.

  • To make it easier, you could simplify the number of different materials and see if people need more once they're playing.
  • To make it easier, you could set up a ‘building’ (such as a blanket fort), ‘a train’ (such as some cardboard boxes together in a row) or a 'library’ (a ladder with books on), before you start, so people understand what’s expected of them or how they can think differently to use items in other ways.
  • People could also work with a partner or in a small group, so they can help each other. For example, someone could help someone else put a crown on their head or do up some buttons.
  • You could use different objects for people interact with, so there’s a range of items for people to be able to grip and hold. If anyone struggles with fine motor skills, they could use larger materials. You could swap out the items for something easier to handle. 
  • People who struggle with making choices could find all the options a bit overwhelming, so they might need extra support. They might want to work with a friend, young leader or volunteer to be able to help be creative. 

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

You can run this session again and incorporate our Deconstructed Roleplay activity and other YouShape goals or ideas. If some people planned for or built a hospital in the first session, then for the next session you could give them ‘props’ for their hospital, such as bandages, plasters, doctor’s fancy dress, clipboards, chairs, toy first aid kits and teddies or people as patients. You could also add more details to the cardboard box, such as painting a red cross on it, windows and an entrance.

Make sure you pay attention and note down the ideas each person generated. You can ask them questions about what they've made, experienced or shared. You might choose to do this individually, towards the end, or during a closing circle time.