Are your children’s eyes too often glued to a picture box? Do you want to ignite their imagination and help them create their own business? Give them another type of box: an empty shoebox. It’s (almost) everything you’ll need to entertain your children. In this new article, you will discover 10 quick and inexpensive ways to do a manual activity with a shoebox. With all of this fun and quirky DIY shoebox ideas, you’re sure to find something your kids will enjoy making with a shoebox!
Why do a shoebox manual activity?
Shoe boxes are a perfect size. They’re big enough to inspire the imagination, yet small enough to make a manageable and easily stored project at the end of the day. You can even use a shoebox to store a project. Play games, build things…
A shoebox adventure is multi-dimensional, whether you’re planning a mini-theater, zoo, aquarium, or something your kids haven’t yet imagined. You and your kids can create characters and turn a shoebox into a “house” where they can come to life and enter your fantasy world over and over again for hours of fun and creative play.
When you work on a project as a family, it helps you focus not only on what you’re doing but also on the conversations you’re having. Talk with your children, share ideas and enjoy each other’s creativity and achievements. The following shoebox crafts differ in complexity and time required to complete them, take your pick.
All of these 10 activities start with a shoebox and end with a lot of fun, so don’t throw away your old shoeboxes. Set them aside for a creative day!
Material for a manual activity with a shoebox
For most projects, you’ll need these, plus a few more:
A shoebox and/or a lid
Felt-tip pens, markers, paint, or wrapping paper to decorate the box
Other items (specific to the activity)
Preparation time for a DIY shoebox: 5-10 minutes
Manual activity time with shoebox: 10-30 minutes +
1. Puppet theater with a shoebox
All children love to put on a puppet show! Create a theater with a shoebox, the setting is ideal for “interpreting” beloved tales or making up your own stories.
You will also need: magazines or old greeting cards to cut out cutout figures straws, ice cream sticks or skewers and a thick black felt for details.
Draw theater curtains on the lid. If you need inspiration, search on Google. Cut out the inside of the lid around the curtain shapes, so the stage is open.
Be sure to keep the lid intact, as this strengthens the box. Younger children may need help cutting. Draw contour lines with the black marker to make the curtains look more realistic. Add embellishments (stars, etc.), if desired.
Set the lid aside and take the shoebox. Cut two rectangles from the short sides of the shoebox. These will allow the puppets to access the stage.
Decorate your theater background or leave it blank.
Another option: measure and cut rectangles that fit the shoebox to create custom backgrounds. Cut a half-inch slit along the longest side of the shoebox, so you can lay down scenery during your shows.
Once your theater is ready, search for pictures to create puppets. Search for photos with a story in mind or create one based on the images you find.
Look for pictures in magazines or online, sort through your old greeting cards, or have your kids draw their pictures. Cut out the figures and attach them to straws or skewers with tape so they can move around your theater.
Once you have your stage and characters, step into it. For added effect, shine a flashlight on the stage as the performance unfolds.
Make a play based on a story your kids love or create something using input from all family members.
When the game is over, store the puppets inside the theater for next time.
If you want to use finger puppets instead of cutout figures, cut out access to the bottom of the shoebox rather than the sides. You can even make your finger puppets by cutting fingers out of a pair of rubber gloves: I invite you to see my article super easy finger puppets made with rubber gloves. Find all my ideas and activities around puppets on the children’s puppets page (games, ideas, activities).
Don’t have any puppets? No problem. Make plasticine characters or use what you have to create your cast: LEGO characters, dinosaurs, or your fingers themselves. (a little finger paint gives you 10 tiny actors instantly!).
2. Manual activity with shoebox: the play of the senses
This hands-on shoebox activity aims to create a sensory game where players will have to guess what is in the box using only their senses of touch and smell.
You make a game of the senses with a shoebox you also need:
A variety of items found around the house
A bag for each family member to hide items before they are used in play
A pen and paper (optional)
The preparation of this game is simple. Turn a shoebox on one of its small ends and cut a hole that corresponds to the participants’ largest hand (this is now the top).
If you have small children, cut the hole in one of the long sides of the box so they can reach the side rather than the top.
Before starting the game, decide how many things to guess. Five is usually a good number to start with. Set ground rules, like “no perishable food” or “everything you use, must fit in the box and be identifiable by touch and/or smell”. A toy car is good; A can of vegetables is not. A bar of soap is good; A bowl of laundry is not.
Give everyone a bag, match younger kids with older ones, and send them around the house to collect secret items to put in the box. Small objects, such as a piece of fruit, a spoon, or a sock. Make sure they are small enough to fit in the box!
Choose a “hider” who secretly places one of the small objects he has found in the box. Cover the other side of the box with the lid to hide the object. Ask participants to put a hand through the hole in the box and guess what the object is just by touching it.
Continue in a circle until someone guesses it correctly. The person who guesses correctly is the next one to hide an object.
You can also take turns touching the item and everyone writes their answer on an individual sheet. This way everyone has a chance to guess. Or just have players whisper the name of the object to the opponent and the player can write down the score.
Variation: For more challenges, place more than one thing in the box at a time and ask the person to guess the names of the objects, as well as what it reminds them of. For example, shells and windy sand make you think of a day at the beach. Older children can imagine a country, a season, a holiday, or even a book title by putting relevant clues in the box. For example, a sock, a pinecone, and a piece of wrapping paper equal Christmas.
3. Make a farm or zoo out of a shoebox
Children are generally very fond of animals. Create your own pet house with this shoebox craft for lots of imaginative and creative role play.
For this manual activity with a shoebox, you will also need:
Straws or lollipop sticks
Cardboard tubes and other craft materials
Small play figures, such as animals, to populate your space
Or modeling clay to create your animals (optional)
Cut the two corners of the lid, so that one of its long sides will be glued to be able to open or close the box. Put the lid back on the box and glue that side to the box.
Place the box on its side and open it, lid side down, to create a barn, cage, cave, or forest (inside the box) and an outdoor area or pen (outside the box). inside the lid) for your farm or zoo. It is a manual activity with a very nice shoebox.
Color or paint a backdrop at the base of the shoebox. Then, complete the space according to your theme. Use the straws to create fences and cardboard tubes or small boxes for animal houses. Recycle what you have at home: yogurt pots, etc.
Take your toy characters and animals or make them out of modeling clay: easy-to-model models are available HERE. Now let the children’s imagination do the rest!
Other options: For a moonscape, paint the inside black and add aluminum foil stars. Then decorate a cardboard egg carton for the craters. For a mini dollhouse, decorate a room inside. Then use the lid section as a garden.
4. Make a monster mask with a shoebox
How about turning your DIY shoebox into a monstrous activity. A monster can have any form. Recycle the packaging from your house and sculpt it into a monster mask with a shoebox. Better yet, make a monster family with your kids.
In addition to the box, you will also need:
Toilet paper rolls
Cardboard egg cartons
Other various packagings available
Monsters can come in all shapes and sizes. Get started in this manual activity with a shoebox as a family and make several masks!
Here are instructions based on the monster mask above. Adapt as needed.
Take a shoebox base for the main part of the head. Paint it over, cover it with paper, or leave it natural. Fold the short ends of the shoebox lid to form a triangle. Attach it to the top of the head. Cut out paper ears and attach them to the head.
Draw eyes on cardboard or paper, cut them out, and glue them. Place cardboard tubes on the head to make nostrils. Put red, yellow, and orange stained glass paper inside to act as a fire like a fire-breathing dragon. Use part of a cardboard egg carton for the mouth.
This dragon is just one example of a mask you can make when crafting with a shoebox. Your creations will be based on the recycling you do in your home.
For your mask, look at the shoebox and imagine what your monster might look like. What is her color? What is his size? What do his eyes look like? His mouth? Does it have fangs? Then grab your scraps and bring your monster mask to life to match your vision. And don’t forget to give your monster a name!
5. Make a desk organizer out of a shoebox
Girls will love this shoebox craft because a shoebox desk organizer can be customized for jewelry, art materials, and so on.
For this manual activity with a shoebox, you will also need:
Egg cartons or other small cardboard boxes
Stickers, ribbon, or pieces of fabric to personalize
Cover the shoebox inside and out with paint, colored paper, or wrapping paper. Next, take each of the boxes and tubes you selected and cover them in either the same colors or contrasting colors. Finally, organize these different boxes in the base of your shoebox, glue them together and start organizing.
Here are other variations: use it as a treasure box. Just color the box and lid. Then decorate it with gold paint and plastic jewelry. You can also decorate the lid of the shoebox with photographs in a theme and turn it into a keepsake box. Create the box around an event, person, or pet.
6. Make a memory game with a shoebox
Memory Game is a great memory and observation challenge for kids and parents!
To carry out this manual activity with a shoebox, you will also need:
Paper and pen
Materials to decorate the box
For this manual shoebox activity, let your child decorate the box as they wish. For example, you can paint it white and let him draw on it…
When the box is ready, put 10 small objects in the shoebox. Use pasta, a small spoon, a cork, a spool of thread, or a pen. Now close the lid.
Give each player 30 seconds to look at everything in the box. Then put the lid back on. Now ask the player to make a list of everything in the box. The winner is the person who remembers the most objects. Pair a younger child with a bigger one. Or young children draw what they have seen instead of writing down each item.
Variation of this memory game: remove an object from the box without the participants seeing it, then discuss and see if they know which element is missing. Vary the duration of the display and the number of objects in the box to make the game more challenging for older participants.
7. Build a bug hotel with a shoebox
For kids (and adults) who love bugs and enjoy nature watching, turn a shoebox into a hotel with this hands-on shoebox activity.
You will also need leaves and twigs…
Decorate your box with drawings or pictures. Collect twigs, leaves, and anything else you can find to decorate your bug hotel. Tie them to the box or just place them around your shoebox when it’s in its place!
Make a few holes with the tip of a pencil on the short sides to create openings and make it easier for insects to access. The size of the holes depends on the size of insects you hope to attract. Place the box outside and close it, so it creates a good dark space. Regularly visit your hotel to see who is present. Quietly lift the box and look inside.
8. Create a frame with a shoebox
Make frames from shoebox lids and create your gallery at home. Each frame will be as unique as your child’s artwork.
In addition to shoebox lids, you’ll also need stickers, ribbons or scraps of fabric (optional), and artwork to frame!
Cover the lid with wrapping paper or decorative paper. If you wish, you can add a piece of white (or another color) paper inside the box. Add your drawing.
9. Manual activity with shoebox: aquarium
A shoebox makes an ideal base for an underwater scene…and therefore a fish tank. Children aged 5 and over will love this manual activity with a shoebox.
To carry out this manual activity with a shoebox, you will also need:
Aluminum foil or paint
Yarn or string
Cardboard to create your sea creatures
Ribbon, pebbles, and whatever else you want in your aquarium
Completely paint the shoebox. Next, cut two large rectangles from the long sides of the box: these are the windows to your wonderful aquatic world. If you prefer to use aluminum foil rather than paint, now is the time to cover your box.
Design, decorate, and cut items for your aquaria, such as seashells, treasures, and fish. You can also cut out pictures from magazines or print pictures you find online; Just make sure they are decorated on both sides.
Gather small beads to use for pebbles and ribbons as seaweed.
For sturdier sea creatures, glue your pictures or designs onto pieces of cardboard. If you do this, make sure your sea creatures are always double-sided. Make a hole in the top of each creature and tie a small piece of string.
Cover or paint the lid to match your tank. Then use a pencil to make six or eight small holes in the lid, one for each fish. Thread the other end of the string attached to your fish through a hole in the lid and tie it off.
An aquarium lends itself to a multitude of creative possibilities. Name your fish and write the stories, give them a personality. And add fish whenever you want.
10. Make a mailbox with a shoebox
Do you want to encourage your children to write and send letters? Create a mailbox from a shoebox. It is a manual activity with a playful and educational shoebox.
You will need a shoebox, pen, and paper.
Paint your shoebox or cover it with wrapping paper. Cover the box and the lid separately. Place the shoebox on one of its shorter edges, so it stands vertically. Cut a rectangular slot in the center. It should be big enough for the mail you want to send. Write “Post” on the front and add any additional decorations. Put the lid on the back to close the box. You can add decoration if you wish.
Once you have the mailbox, create a letter-writing program. Choose someone to write to once a week. Children can “send” their letters to the magic box. And receive answers from you or other family members: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends are involved in this adventure…
A few final thoughts on these shoebox crafts…
Once you’ve built these projects, they’re ready for creative play anytime. Make your shoebox adventures more or less complex, depending on the age and ability of your children. And get their input for other things to do with a shoebox.
Family time is precious, and it’s hard to find activities suitable for different ages and abilities. Luckily, the shoebox is “one size fits all.”
When you open the lines of communication and the creativity that comes with it, you can play and think endlessly.