How to Make a Shoebox House School Project

Create and construct an architecture art project.

From two-story colonials to level ranches, our homes are easy-to-spot everyday reminders of architectural engineering. Classroom teachers can help their students design and create their own unique house constructions using a simple shoebox and everyday art materials. Teachers can adapt the lesson plans for a shoebox house project depending on the students' ages and developmental levels/abilities. Beginning students can try a more simplistic version, using basic shapes and artistic techniques, while older and advanced learners can tackle a more in-depth architectural exploration.

Draw a blueprint for the shoebox house. Use colored pencils (preferably blue) and a ruler on 8-by-10-inch or larger white drawing paper. Measure and draw a rectangle to represent the shoebox's shape. The rectangle should be at least 4-by-6 inches in size. Divide the space into room sections using the pencil and ruler.

Cover the exterior of the shoebox and lid with cut construction paper. Choose a color that matches your house style. For example, use brown paper for a wooden house or red paper for a brick structure. Cut the paper to fit each side (excluding the bottom). Glue the cut paper directly onto the box and lid.

Re-create the rooms from the blueprint in the interior of the box by drawing lines on the bottom or floor. Lay the shoebox with the cover off on a flat work surface with the opening facing up toward you. Draw the room divisions with markers and a ruler.

Make 3-D furniture using small pieces of modeling clay and/or construction paper. Mold the clay into tables, chairs or a bed and glue to the bottom of the box. As an alternative, create pop-up furniture by cutting small (two-by-three-inch) rectangles from construction paper. Fold approximately 1/4 inch of the paper underneath itself to create a tab. Draw the furniture item onto the larger (non-tab) part. Glue the tab to the bottom of the box.

Create decorative windows and doors on the exterior of the shoebox house. Use markers or tempera paint and a thin brush to add color.

Leave the lid as is for a flat roof or construct a pitched rood using card stock or another similar thick paper. Choose a size of paper that, when folded in half, will cover the entire lid. The size will be based on the specific shoebox that you are using. Fold the paper and attach to the lid with glue. Place a thin line of glue along the two long edges of the box. Press the paper gently onto the glue.

  • Always use non-toxic, child-friendly art materials that are appropriate-age graded.
  • Supervise students during all aspects of the house-making process.
  • Add architectural details and decorative touches with modeling clay. Mold your chosen feature and glue the item to the box.
  • Create a skylight for a view into the box without lifting the lid. Cut a rectangle or square shaped hole in the lid of the box and cover with clear plastic wrap.
  • Make a yard or outdoor area for your shoebox house by gluing the model to a large piece of cardboard. Add construction paper and tissue paper trees for a natural look.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.