A fast favorite from our collection of Architecture and Engineering Books for Kids was Roberto, The Insect Architect. The girls made me read it every night for two weeks, taking turns over who got to take it to sleep with them at night… and it wasn’t long before they asked if we could ‘do a project just like Roberto.’ Thus, our kidmade cardboard city was born, the perfect Roberto, The Insect Architect Activity and this week’s activity for my Architecture and Engineering for Kids series.
Roberto, The Insect Architect Activity
Children’s books are an endless source of activity inspiration around here. Roberto, a termite, is not your typical architect. From an early age, he plays with his food, instead of eating his wood. Discouraged by the lack of support from his family, he leaves home to pursue his architectural dreams in the big city, only to discover everyone has problems and his really aren’t so big after all. He plots out a village and begins to build homes from scrap materials, which he gifts to his new found city friends who were struggling, finding his own architectural fame along the way.
Told entirely in rhyme, it is a great twist on the traditional tale of pursuing your dreams, no matter the odds. And provided awesome inspiration for my toddler and preschool architects!
Build a Cardboard City Activity
Crafting our cardboard city was a multi-afternoon creative adventure, and BONUS!, it now doubles as a village for princesses, creatures and other small toys for endless imaginative play. Building it required the most basic of craft supplies and recyclables.
Cardboard boxes, assorted sizes
Cost: Less than $5
Prep Time: Less than 5 minutes
Clean-up Time: Less than 15 minutes
For our boxes, I saved a bunch of packaging from our latest Costco run, a pasta box from dinner one night and some Beautycounter sample boxes! We put the boxes together with a few leftover paper towel rolls, using ruler patterned masking tape, which the girls thought was great. Then, we set them all up on our playroom craft table, which I covered with craft paper to protect the next step.
Painting the Houses
While I had planned on using newspaper and magazine clippings to add details to the cardboard city, the girls had other plans. They wanted to paint the houses… I let them choose the colors and they opted for purple, pink and sparkly purple!
They spent a full hour painting one afternoon. One of my favorite moments was when my preschooler painted the inside of these stacked sample boxes ‘so the kids could have a colored bedroom.’
Adding Architectural Details
Since Christmas, the girls have learned a lot about architecture and engineering. Referencing our Architectural Scavenger Hunt, I asked them what else we should add to our buildings and houses. Big M (age 4) wanted to turn the pasta box into a restaurant… and eventually realized we needed windows and doors too. We used construction paper and markers to make these, and I let her cut them out, and my toddler helped glue them on.
At first she wanted me to draw them all – but then she decided to try her hand at it as well. She also asked me to ‘make a window like in your bathroom’ (a big arched window) and a staircase. Her imagination is always entertaining!
This is the state of our Cardboard City after a few days of creativity – my husband keeps asking if he can throw it out, but the girls continue to add to it, playing with it and imagining more for it everyday, so for now, it lives to stand another day.
Let’s Build Up!
Want more great construction ideas for kids? Check out my latest collaborative ebook: Up! Featuring 30+ STEM challenge ideas to transform your child’s block play into an endless, hands-on learning center. Download your ebook today and get more than 100 pages of printables to go alongside the activities included. Get yours today from the Playground Parkbench store.
50+ Book Craft Ideas for Kids
This is our contribution to Emma Owl’s Read It, Make It book week! You can find over 50 book-inspired crafts and activities. Be sure to check them all out.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my complete Architecture and Engineering for Kids series. You can find this post, and all our book-inspired activities here, and on my Read! Read! Read! board on Pinterest.