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.
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?).
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.
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.
Shoebox Dioramas for Kids
- a nice clean and sturdy shoebox – the less writing on it the better. I used brown boxes as I like the look of brown cardboard best
- writable brown packing tape
- cake watercolors
- 11×16 white paper
- glue stick
- thin “florist’s” wire
- Scotch tape (“sticky tape” here in Australia!)
- colored cardstock or even leftover artwork (this is what I used)
- pom poms, shells, pebbles, corks, ribbon, shiny streamers for decorating (whatever crafty item you have lying around!)
- hot glue gun for attaching craft materials
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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