Making cardboard box houses for Beanie Babies was one of my favorite activities as a child. I used to have an entire village that I would set up, with personalized homes for each Beanie Baby, and several community buildings like a town hall and a library (God bless my parents for agreeing to store the 20+ boxes for this town!)
I’ve made a few Beanie Baby houses in the past ten years or so for various classrooms that I’ve worked in. I use Beanie Babies instead of dolls because they’re durable and easy to clean (I ran my classroom set through the washer annually and dried them in the sun). They’re also little more gender-neutral than dolls so the boys will play with them too. The fact that they’re animals means that playing with them doesn’t become about dressing them up or doing their hair, and it invites new types of imaginative play.
You will notice that neither of these beanie houses looks super polished. I didn’t measure or use rulers to make straight lines. I cut everything free hand, painted without painter’s tape, and hand-wrote signs. However, despite being roughly put together, both of these houses were beloved by a ton of kids in my classrooms and used every day to inspire play. I feel like the roughness adds to their quirky fun, but if that’s not your style, feel free to take your time and make yours more precise!
You can easily make a house with just one room and still have a ton of fun, but if you want multiple rooms, there are two ways to do it. You can take a single large box and divide it like this;
I took the flaps that I’d cut off the top of the box and slotted them together but cutting up from the bottom on one flap and down from the top on the other.
This one is a different style: I took several boxes and glued them together with a piece of plywood for a base (you could probably just use a piece of cardboard for a base but this one included a chimney made of real rocks caulked together, so I needed something a little more sturdy.) The loft bed for this house was two clementine boxes, stacked together.
Once you’ve put together the layout of your house you get to paint! Acrylic is your best bet here. After you’ve painted you can cut doorways and windows. To make a door that opens and closes just leave one side attached and bend the cardboard. In the first house I cut a little window between the kitchen and the dining room and glued on a little bar counter.
Then comes the REALLY fun part; decorating! Making these houses is all about being creative and finding uses for the materials you have on hand. Hot glue is an awesome invention, and does an amazing job holding things together quickly (Obviously, if you’re doing this craft with your children you will want to handle the hot glue gun). Cardboard is versatile and easy to use and once it has a coat of paint on it it can be totally transformed! I try and use as many recycled materials as possible for the rest. How you decorate will depend on what you want your house to have and what you have on hand.
Here are some ideas;
-The curtains are pieces of fabric glued over a paper clip that I straightened out. I used part of a pipe cleaner to tie them back
-The rag rug is a braid made of scraps of fabric. I just coiled it on the floor, hot gluing as I went.
-The sofas are tea boxes with a piece of cardboard wrapped around three sides and cut to the appropriate shape
-The side table is a painted tin can. I used a battery powered tea light that I decorated with nail polish, and the vase for the flowers is two beads glued together.
-The pictures on the wall are cut out of the back of an old calendar .
-The table is a circle cut out of cardboard balanced on a rectangle that I curled into a cylinder. It’s all hot glued together and then painted. The bar stools are recycled boxes
-I hand-sewed little beanbag chairs to go around the table
This bookshelf is my favorite feature in the whole house. It was a box that held a bunch of chocolate bars. I glued some shelves in (a rectangle of cardboard, cut to the same depth but a little wider so there’s a tab to fold over and glue on either side). Then I glued a piece of ribbon across the front of each shelf to keep the books from constantly falling off.
-To make the books, I painted both sides of a piece of cereal box. I cut out rectangles and folded them in half, then glued on covers cut from a Scholastic book order catalog! You could always print out very small images of book covers that you’d like in your house, or draw them yourself if you don’t have access to a catalog, but I love how these came out! The kids were really excited to see that the beanie babies were reading the same books as them!
-The counter is just a large rectangle of cardboard that I cut to fit and folded, painted, then glued down.
-The cabinet doors are little beads. The oven handle is a pipe cleaner and the burners are drawn with silver sharpie. I cut out a circle for the sink and glued a seashell into the hole. The taps are molded out of aluminum foil.
-The fridge is a tea box. I drew the little pictures to go on it and stuck on some little adhesive gemstones as magnets. There’s also a thumbnail picture of our “save the date” magnet that came on a shutterfly coupon- I thought it was hilarious that the beanie babies were invited to our wedding!
And the bedroom;
-The bunk beds are made out of the tops of two egg cartons. I used rectangles of cardboard to make the corner posts. The ladder is some sticks glued together. I hand-sewed some little pillows but the blankets are just pieces of felt.
-The nightstand is the jar from a scented candle with another battery-powered tea light.
-There’s also a “toy box”, which is just another tea box. A coat of acrylic paint can really turn anything into anything!
-The rug is a scrap from an old sweater that I glued down. If you had a little piece of fleece or fake fur it would be even better!
That’s about it for house #1, but here are some additional ideas from the other house I made;
-This kitchen had some open shelving made out of cardboard. The plates are buttons and the bowls are the tops of water bottles. The “cans” are packing peanuts that I colored with sharpie, and I sewed little bags out of felt for sugar and flour.
-On the shelf to the right I had some meals in empty tealight tins, covered in saran wrap. I had “green beans” (pieces of green pipe cleaner) and “spaghetti” (a tangle of string with a dollop of red paint on top for the tomato sauce).
-The table is an old CD balanced on a plastic cup. I made a little window seat out of a tea-box with a couple of hand-sewn cushions. The other seat is another plastic cup with some cardboard glued around it to make a seat back.
-I made several board games for this house by printing out small images of the game boards and gluing them onto cardboard. I also printed out a tiny image of a keyboard and a screenshot from my computer, and glued them onto a rectangle of cardboard to make a little laptop!
-As I said earlier, I made the fireplace for this house using real stones I found outside and some caulk. It made the house a little heavy but was a very fun touch! The logs are an actual stick, cut apart and “split” with a hammer and a screwdriver.
-The chair and sofa were made of Styrofoam packaging; the couch has a piece of cardboard glued in the middle. I made this one shortly after Christmas so I had a lot of pieces of styrofoam available.
-these books are just folded pieces of cardboard that I colored with marker. Much less exciting than the other set.
-I made the plants by putting a little ball of play-dough in a bottle cap, gluing triangles of green felt onto pipe cleaners, and then sticking the ends into the play-dough. These are one of my favorite details in this house.
-This house was lucky enough to have a bathroom. Almost all of these fixtures are styrofoam packaging, I just got lucky with the shapes. To make the toilet bowl and the sink I glued in two halves of a plastic ball (the kind you’d get with a cheap toy from the little vending machines outside supermarkets… do those things still exist??)
-I used some dollar store glass gems for the bubbles (the kids really enjoyed piling them on top of bathing beanies). The bath’s tap is molded from tinfoil, the soap bottles are packing peanuts, and the sink’s tap is a piece of paper clip. I folded the rest of the paper clip into a u, wrapped some tissue around it, and glued it in place to make the toilet paper.
Last, but not least, my absolute favorite detail is this loft bed. As I said before, it’s two clementine boxes, stacked and glued together. I made a big mattress for it by gluing down three sides of a piece of fabric, then stuffing it with poly-fill and gluing down the end. It ended up being super squishy. I added some little pillows and a mini hand-sewn quilt. It was basically the coziest thing ever and I was actually pretty jealous of those beanie babies for getting to snuggle there. Who’s with me?
That’s all I’ve got, but as I said, these houses are all about your vision, recycled materials and having fun being creative!
What do you think? What would you add? What would you change? Please share your ideas in the comments!
Looking for other fun ideas for things you can do with a cardboard box? Check out our baby stargazing box here!
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