Lately my son has been so interested in all of the different places we go around town. We have just moved to a new city, which means lots of trips to the post office, bank, doctor’s office, and checking out our local fire and police stations. I decided to carry over that interest at home and make our own community out of recyclables! Since Labor Day is right around the corner, I thought now was the perfect time to teach him about helpers in the community.

DIY Cardboard Community street


Materials Needed: 

  • Larger cardboard box (cut to lay flat)
  • Black paper
  • White paint marker or chalk
  • Smaller cereal and cracker boxes covered with kraft paper
  • Colorful paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Toy cars, people, animals (optional)

DIY Cardboard Community supplies

Creating Buildings

When we do projects like this, I like to keep things open ended so kids can get really creative with their thought processes! In the classroom, you could look up images of different community buildings or even take virtual field trips.

DIY Cardboard Community glue

We looked up each community building online and tried to build it with our materials. Even though he can’t read yet, I labeled each building because he is able to pick up on the words based on the building. This is a great way to incorporate literacy into this activity. I love how they turned out!

DIY Cardboard Community hospital

To make the road, I cut the black paper into thirds and drew dotted lines in the center with my paint marker. I didn’t glue the road down so we could build different roadways as we played. For the trees, we used recycled paper tubes. Cut two slips at the top and insert the green paper cut into circles, triangles or cloud shapes to represent the trees.

DIY Cardboard Community trees

Once we were finished creating all the buildings and other pieces, I had my son help me “build” the city on the large box. His favorite parts were the roads and trees!

DIY Cardboard Community play time

We added our favorite toy cars, people, blocks and animals for additional props. I love seeing children use their imaginations deep in play. You can just see their wheels spinning and the learning taking place!

DIY Cardboard Community school

Learning Skills

This activity works on the following early learning skills:

-fine motor/cutting



-early literacy

-pretend play and language 

-critical thinking

DIY Cardboard Community buildings

This DIY cardboard city can be used again and again. We store the broken down box, buildings, trees, and roads in a larger box and keep it in the playroom to pull out anytime.

Save it for later!