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We built this shoebox city

Let your imagination loose as you work together to create a city from boxes that would otherwise be thrown away.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • A4 paper
  • PVA glue
  • Clean items of recycling
  • A selection of boxes

Before you begin

  • You could ask parents and carers to help you collect boxes (and other recycling). Boxes such as shoeboxes and delivery boxes from online orders are perfect.

We built this city

  1. Everyone should decide together whether their city will be imaginary or based on their local area.
  1. Everyone should split into groups, and decide together which group will focus on different buildings or areas. 
  2. Everyone should start to choose the boxes (and other materials) their building may need. People could do this in their groups, depending on the amount of materials available.
  3. Everyone should use their boxes and other materials to make their building or area.
  4. Everyone should use black paint (or thick pens) to draw doors and windows on their building. They could also add other detail, for example, making trees out of cardboard tubes and scrunched up tissue paper or roads from black and white paper. 
  5. Everyone should work together to place the finished buildings, trees, and roads onto the floor or a table. It should map out just like a real city – think about where the roads need to go. If people chose to recreate their local area, they may want to look at a photograph or map to help them decide where to put the buildings. 
  6. Everyone should add toys, such as cars and people, and enjoy playing with their model city.


This activity was a chance to develop everyone’s constructions skills. How did everyone decide which bit of the city they’d like to make? Did some buildings work better than others? People may have found that some of the boxes were stronger than others, or that buildings fell over if they got too tall. Well done to everyone for working together to build a city and for learning more about the good and bad ways to build things.



Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people

Glue and solvents

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions which could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.