Build a Neighborhood

A fun project with just one child, or a whole classroom of children, is to create houses, then build roads, and street signs and more. Then use the town for on-going play with cars, dolls, and toy animals.

Creating Houses

There are several approaches to making the houses. Here’s a few ideas to get you started. For a class, I’d pick one style so you can assembly line the set-up. For a single family, I would encourage you to try one of each kind of house when building your neighborhood.

Paper Bag Houses

We got the idea from Kids Activities Blog, but we used white bags and markers and dot paints (bingo markers) instead of paint, so we didn’t have to wait for them to dry. You could also use stickers, as Inner Child Fun suggests. Take a white  paper bag, decorate it with windows, doors, and a roof. Open it up, put a little crumpled paper in the bottom to help it stand, fold over the top to close it, staple it if you’d like. Kindergarten Connection and Preschool Crafts add paper roofs, as did my co-teacher in her sample.

Cardboard Stand-Up Houses

Idea from Teach Preschool. Cut house shapes from cardboard, then have the children decorate. The houses have slits cut in the bottom so you can insert a crossbar that helps them to stand. In their example, they use cardboard that’s white one on one side. I wonder whether you could paint one side white or glue on white paper if you only had brown cardboard.

I made a house with the lid of a pizza box. I cut a roof and chimney shape. I folded in an taped the sides to make a base to stand on. I also cut a door, which when opened a little helped the house to stand. Then I colored it with markers and crayons.

Painted Boxes

These are harder to do in a class, because it takes a long time for paint to dry. But they work fine at home when you can spread the project out over a day. Take cereal boxes, cracker boxes, and Eggo boxes and turn them inside out so they were plain cardboard. (Tip: use a glue gun to re-glue the seams – faster and sturdier than tape!)  Then the kids paint them. You can use paint rollers with watered down paint (so it’s not so gloppy and so it dries faster), or you can use 1 – 2″ wide paintbrushes like you’d use for detail work when painting a room. (Another option would be to just wrap boxes in plain paper then decorate.)

Add paper roofs and glue on cut-out pictures of doors and windows. [We got this idea for this from Learn with Play at Home.]

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

You can build simple houses with graham crackers and royal icing, then decorate as much (or as little) as you want. If your children are 5 or under, you’ll want to assemble the house in advance and just let them decorate. Older kids can help with assembly. Here are instructions and recipes for a smaller house and a larger house.

Recipe for Royal Frosting:  1.5 – 2 egg whites (NO yolks) Whip eggs whites like making meringue. Mix 1 – 1.5 cups of Powdered Sugar with 1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar, then add that to the egg whites and whip on high speed in mixer until it’s very shiny and thick.

Build the Roads

You could cover a table in butcher paper and draw roads on it (picture above). You can use masking tape on the floor or on the table. You may have a rug with a road drawn on it. Or you can cut strips of black paper and draw lines down the center with white crayon (see picture above).

Extending the Learning

If your child is engaged, you can go as far with this as you want. Make street signs. Build stores and post offices to go with your town. Go for walks (or drives) around the neighborhood – notice all the different types of buildings and different houses, and see if you can re-create them.

Check out more ideas for activities related to Building a House.

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