Monday, 15 October 2012

Episode Two: Cardboard City

Here’s a great rainy day activity that doesn’t cost a lot and will get both you and your children thinking. It may take a bit of preparation on a sunny day but it will keep your children entertained for hours. My kids and I call this one ‘Cardboard City’.

All you need is a pencil, a permanent marker, coloured felt tip pens, a ruler, a craft or stanley knife and a fridge box. Most appliance stores are happy to give you big fridge boxes - but remember to ask permission before you start rifling through the recycle bin. Also, it’s a good idea to get your fridge box on a sunny day, often times the recycle bins are uncovered and on a rainy day, soggy boxes will disintegrate in the car boot before you get them home.

You’re basically making a cardboard mat, so at home, using the craft knife, carefully cut through one corner of the box, so you’re able to flatten it out on floor. Once you’ve got your cardboard flat and you’ve put your craft knife somewhere safe, it’s time to start planning your city. I typically measure out roads using a two match box cars side-by-side for the width of the roads. I create blocks of empty sections and draw streets dividing the sections. You may be thinking; “Big whoop, I can buy a play mat with roads printed on it” but, while those types of mats are great, they don’t encourage the sort of interaction and discussion you’ll have with your children.

Drawing your own city on this blank canvas will provoke the ultimate question: What does our town need? Don’t be surprised if the first ideas are along the lines of toy store, lolly shop, amusement park. To us, these might not be the most important features of a city but they’re fantastic and valid suggestions. Decide which suggestions are going into which section and label them in pencil. Once you’ve got the initial suggestions drawn in, get your children thinking about their world around them. What does the real life city you live in need to exist? Houses, police station, dentists etc. Get them thinking about the places they go in their lives - they might like visiting the library. Get them to decide where the library goes. You’ll be amazed at what they know about the world around them. This awareness and what makes a town, and a community is a fantastic thing to encourage in your children.

Once the roads have been drawn in, the empty sections have been designated and labelled, get them to draw the details of their own house or the aquarium they work at. What colour is the roof? How many car parks do they need? Having this sort of say and control over their own little world is a dream come true.

Your cardboard city is a work in progress, try not to fill in all the sections straight away, you’ll find you and your children think of other ideas well after you’ve folded the city up and put it away in the cupboard. If you do finish your town and think of more ideas, all it takes is another piece of flatten cardboard and you’re away laughing.

My boys love our cardboard city and get a lot of play out of it on rainy days. In our cardboard city my house has a six car garage and is only five minutes walk to my job at the Chocolate Fish Factory.

Have fun!


  1. Very cool and funnily enough my partner did this a couple years ago with our son. Will remind him so he can do it again with both our kids :)

    1. That's the great thing about this idea, you can throw away your city and start again.