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Have Fun Building

How much fun is it to make a building? Just a building, maybe not so much fun. But how about a superhero headquarters, a garage, a space station, a cottage, a stable, or a fashion doll house? By using recycled materials from around the house, and a few craft supplies, you can design your own toys exactly the way you want them.

Before You Begin

Check with your grownup before starting projects that use sharp, pointy things like scissors. They may want to help you with your project. If that's the case, try to be a kind and patient boss to them.

How Do You Make a House?

A basic house has four walls and a roof, and you can design your own. You -can- cut and glue together your own walls of whatever size you want. But for starters, keep it simple. Look for cardboard boxes which are the right size for your project. Your cardboard can be fairly thick, as a grocery box, or thinner like a shoe box. Use a ruler and a pencil to mark out squares and rectangles for doors and windows. Then cut the cardboard along the lines.

If you want to have a working door, only cut the bottom, top, and one side of that rectangle and neatly fold the door both inward and outward.

One way to make a roof is to use another piece of cardboard. Make sure it is big enough so that it overhangs the roof properly. You can put a shingle design on it if you like. There's no need to attach the roof permanently. Leaving it unattached will let you play with the inside of your structure easily. If you chose to work with a shoe box, your roof is ready to go and just needs decorating.

Thinking Big

If you can get your hands on a big appliance box, you can use these same methods to make an indoor playhouse for yourself or your younger family members.

What Else to Use?

Besides cardboard boxes, other possibilities are used and cleaned frozen juice cylinders-perfect for castle towers, domed soda lids for futuristic buildings, and paper towel cylinders for space station elevators and walkways. Important tip: for flimsier pieces, don't glue heavier materials onto them or wet them with too much paint.

You can try to use regular poster paints on cardboard, but the truth is that cardboard is very absorbent. The paint will probably soak in and come out darker than you expected. For another solution try gluing wrapping paper of a color you like onto the box before you cut it. This works really well for a fashion doll house where a nice pattern glued inside can double as wall paper. Another possibility is to take the whole thing outside and, with a grownup's help, use spray paint for an even color.

Spray paint works even better if you cut your pieces from thin foam board found at most large craft stores.

From Sandwich Bag to Window Glass

After you cut out your windows, try cutting out pieces of sandwich bags just a bit larger than the openings. Then, glue them on to the "frames" from the inside of the building.

Make Them Realistic

Gather sand, small pebbles, old-fashioned glue, cardboard to make stone walls and stone houses. You can also buy sandpaper in brown or red to use for brick. Just use your ruler and draw off horizontal lines, about a centimeter apart for a small house, with chalk. Then draw vertical lines about every 3 centimeters between the horizontal lines. You will need to cut the sandpaper in flat sheets and glue it on the house before trying this.

For lots of other building ideas, check out our Making Toy Buildings list of books and Web sites.