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Create These Awesome Mini Worlds With Shoebox Dioramas for Kids

by Danielle Falk
July 30, 2019

Shoebox dioramas are an old favorite. Choose a theme or leave it open ended to create a mini world with an upcycled shoebox! Post and project by Danielle Falk of Little Ginger Studio.

Colorful underwater scene with fish

We’ve probably all made a diorama at some point in our childhood. So why not revisit this classic art & craft activity?

Kids really enjoy creating their own mini worlds and you will too.

The beauty of dioramas is that you can either leave them as a completely open-ended activity and let children’s imagination take them in wild directions OR they can be themed (remember “under the sea” dioramas in nursery school?).

Six themed shoebox dioramas for kids

Is it Art, or is it Craft? – It’s both!

The other great thing about dioramas is that they can actually encompass all sorts of artistic skills and crafts, anything from painting to needlework.

The sky is the limit! They can include smaller crafts and artworks such as clay figures, weavings, paper sculptures or even natural materials.

Trees, flowers, and rocks in shoebox diorama for kids

These can be placed inside to create an imaginary world and can be added to over many weeks.

With that said, the dioramas I will show you are simple to make, use limited materials and were all made in one sitting.

Girl holding shoebox diorama and standing in front of spin art heart wall

Shoebox Dioramas for Kids

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Drawing with painted outdoor scene and paper tree element in foreground

1. Paint a scene for the shoebox dioramas

Once you or your child have decided on the theme or setting of your diorama, it’s time to create an eye-catching backdrop.

Grab a piece of white paper, and use the box to trace what will become the “back” of your shoebox diorama. Trim your paper so that it neatly fits along all three walls. (The back wall and two side walls will all form part of your scene / landscape / interior).

Underwater themed shoebox diorama with shark and fish

Paint your scene. It can be as simple as a sunset or more complex.

I love seeing what children come up with at this stage and enjoy hearing about their plans for imagined worlds.

Set it aside to dry for a bit.

Fish and seaweed hanging inside shoebox diorama

2. Cover the exterior of your diorama

It’s a nice idea to cover any writing on the outside of the diorama to make it look a bit cleaner.  I used the brown packing tape for this purpose, or you could use paper if the box is white.

You might like to add a theatrical look and decorate the diorama in rich colors and fancy trims (curtains!), as if it were a stage!

Fish, seaweed, rocks make up a colorful underwater shoebox dioramam

3. Add in the paper elements

Start by carefully gluing in the painted background. Simply run the glue stick along the ends and press firmly so it’s attached to the side walls. Let it curve gently across the back corners of the box.

Painted scene with hanging paper elements with rainbow and trees in background

Create some elements of your scene that will hang down (such as a canopy in a forest, clouds, flying birds or a lampshade) OR stand up (trees, furniture).

We drew and cut ours out of leftover artwork and colored paper but you can use any cardstock or heavy paper.

Add a little fold to the top or bottom of your shape, then add glue to this and stick it to the “ceiling” or “floor” of your box. For things that hang lower, you can use florist’s wire & tape or a paper strip.

Older kids might like to try and get fancy and imagine their diorama as a stage with “sets” in the middle and foreground. This really adds to the 3D effect. Younger kids will place their elements anywhere at all.

Trees, flowers, and rocks in shoebox diorama for kids

4. Finish with other materials and decorations

This is the fun bit! You can use any craft materials you like to finish off your diorama.

Add ribbons or streamers hanging down from the “ceiling” to create pretend seaweed, add natural elements such as shells, stones, leaves, pom poms or other recycled materials.

There really is no right or wrong here, but it is a good idea to glue things down and we used a little bit of hot glue for this purpose.

Child smiling while holding shoebox diorama

Have fun!

Pin It For Later

Imaginary mini worlds are so fun to create with these awesome shoebox dioramas for kids. Pick a theme or keep it open-ended. Works great as a multi-day project to keep adding to! #artsandcrafts #kidscrafts #craftsforkids #preschoolers #toddlers #kidsactivities #cardboard #recycledcraft #upcycled

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