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Making a Shoebox Diorama

Updated on April 14, 2016

For a School Project or Just for Fun

The classic shoebox diorama is a childhood rite of passage. Although it can be used for schoolwork, your children may enjoy making them just for fun. Make one with your child today using this step-by-step tutorial.

All you need is a box of some type, some paper, scissors, glue, and basic art supplies such as markers or crayons.

Step One: Create a Base

The base can be anything— the traditional shoebox is only one option. We tend to use tissue boxes because we always have those on hand.

Look around your house and especially the kitchen for any kind of reusable container— cardboard, plastic, or tin. Think creatively! Odd things such as a cookie tin, a juice can, or a plastic ice cream bucket could make for an original diorama. Look at this one using a paper plate! Almost anything can be used.

Step Two: Create the Background

The simplest background could be colored paper— green for grass, blue for sky, brown for earth, blue for water, etc. Or get creative with patterned papers or draw your own.

If you need a little help, try these image files at Brownielocks. Each is a watercolor painting that might be just what you need for a background— a river with grass, an autumn tree, a winter scene, or a fence and wildflowers.

Step Three: Make and Place Your Figures

Use coloring pages printed from the Internet to make figures for your diorama. Search for "[your topic] coloring pages" in your favorite search engine.

Here are two really nice sites: Edupics and Kids Coloring Pages.

Color your images and consider how you want to mount them to the diorama. Below is an example of a coloring page I printed for free from Coloring Castle. I drew in tabs based on where I wanted my figures to be located.

If you want to mount a figure to the bottom (which is where I want the flower to be), then leave a one inch tab at the bottom of the picture when you cut it out. Fold back the tab, and glue it to the bottom of the diorama.

If you want it to hang from the top, add a one inch tab to the top.

Another variation is to use string, yarn, or ribbon to suspend objects from the top of the box. In this way, they will swing and give more of a dynamic effect.

And of course, if you want a figure to come out from the side, leave a tab on the side of the image.

You can also use three dimensional paper models in your dioramas. Here are some wonderful free resources for those:

Or look in your toy chest for small figurines that would suit. Or build something from Lego blocks or Sculpey clay if you don't have quite what you need.

Plan your placement of the figures. Once you're sure of the placement, glue them on. I like to use rubber cement so that if something is not quite right, it can be repositioned.

If all of your figures are inside the box, you may want to cover the opening with plastic wrap. For underwater scenes, this makes a more realistic finish.

The Word "Diorama"

comes from Greek roots di (through) + orama (that which is seen, a sight).

Its use, meaning "a small-scale replica of a scene," dates back to 1902.

Uses and Applications for Dioramas

  1. a tool for story telling

  2. a book report

  3. a snapshot of history

  4. a 3D science model

  5. a fun playtime activity

  6. a creative alternative to a birthday, anniversary, or get well card

  7. a 3D scrapbooking project to memorialize a trip or other important event

  8. a gift

Dover Cut and Assemble Dioramas - Paper Models to Cut Out and Assemble

Dover's cut-and-assemble models are make dioramas easy. Just cut out the full color shapes which are printed on cardstock. Follow the assembly directions to create your 3D models.

When You Don't Have a Box

These variations don't require a box at all. Large sheets of paper, folded into 3D shapes, are all that's required.

Reproducible Books with Diorama Patterns

The images are photos of projects here were taken from Scholastic Books, which have such neat papercrafts, and they are so easy! Just copy the templates, color them in, cut them out, and assemble them. The books are meant to be photocopied rather than consumed, so you can use this book over and over.

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    • profile image

      AJ Brown 3 months ago

      Thanks for the tutorial! I plan on sharing this page with my readers.

    • profile image

      Vivy1234567 8 months ago

      Great idea! I think I will try it.

    • chrisilouwho profile image

      chrisilouwho 3 years ago

      neat!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Very creative idea. Good for kids.

    • profile image

      tonyleather 3 years ago

      fascinating lens, full of ideas! Thanks!

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 3 years ago

      What fantastic ideas and resources - a great tool for children to have fun and learn at the same time!

    • ikeephouse profile image

      ikeephouse 3 years ago

      Love the 3-D pyramid. We'll have to try that. We always end up doing animal scenes.

    • Jimmy Oliver profile image

      Jimmy J Oliver 3 years ago

      Hi nice lens you got there and ranking well. My grandson Callum is going to be real busy on Tuesday when he comes visiting

      Have given you a squidlike.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      I like these

    • profile image

      RANADEEP 3 years ago

      Very woderful and creative idea,gret work.You have done a very hard work,I think!athank you very much for sharing this great ideas!!

    • socialcx1 profile image

      socialcx1 4 years ago

      Our grandkids love this stuff and I suspect so does granny.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      These are wonderful projects for children to do during the summer months. Parents could use them to keep children engaged in reading and them making the story into a diorama to keep them focused on their reading skills.

    • Sara2901 profile image

      Sara2901 4 years ago

      I used to do these for my kids summer reading projects. You have some good ideas here.

    • imagelist lm profile image

      imagelist lm 4 years ago

      A really helpful lens...

    • profile image

      gelrunningshoes 4 years ago

      Awesome lens! I passed it along to my kids to use some of your creative ideas for school:) Thanks!

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      This is a wonder, creative idea for kids. Your pictures truly add a great deal to this article. Enjoyed.

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 4 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I just stumbled upon this lens at the perfect time! My son is preparing to do his first ever diorama for school! Thanks for the great tips.

    • EzLoanLookUp LM profile image

      EzLoanLookUp LM 4 years ago

      Ha, quick simple way to make one of these. I used to use play-dough for them too, just to add to the realism.

    • PinkstonePictures profile image

      PinkstonePictures 4 years ago from Miami Beach, FL

      I used to love making these when I was younger. Thanks for the memory

    • Find-Online profile image

      Find-Online 4 years ago

      You gave lots of great ideas here. It looks like a lot of fun!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      cute and simple! :)

    • knitstricken profile image

      knitstricken 4 years ago

      Jimmie, Jimmie, Jimmie. Your lenses make me smile! Someday I hope to do a dioramma lens as well. Just wanted to stop in and say Hello and thank you for all of your good works!

    • chiptuning profile image

      chiptuning 4 years ago

      Thanks, good ideas for the next school project of my son...

    • profile image

      laurenrich 4 years ago

      This is an excellent lens on making diorama. It has great instructions amd pictures to help. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      angharad 4 years ago

      Oh, I love these! I used to make dioramas when I was a kid.

    • jcalbon lm profile image

      jcalbon lm 4 years ago

      What fabulous tips for making dioramas! They were always such a fun project for school.

    • daisychainsaw lm profile image

      daisychainsaw lm 4 years ago

      What a great lens! Some great ideas here, thanks!

    • carocwn profile image

      carocwn 4 years ago

      I remember making these at school long ago. Nice lens.

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 4 years ago

      Fun project. Kids enjoy making these.

    • profile image

      DecoratingMom411 4 years ago

      A shoe box diorama let students showcase their creative skills. I wonder why school teachers never ask their students to have this project nowadays.

    • profile image

      dellgirl 4 years ago

      Thanks for the directions on how to Make a Shoebox Diorama, itâs very helpful!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Brilliant ideas! Thanks!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

      second visit to take another look, this time can leave you a blessing. Great lens. As an artist this gives me lots of ideas for 3-D paper sculptures/models.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      My daughter needs to make a solar system diorama. Was looking for inspiration and found your site. Got some useful tips off here but would be great if you had some cut outs or something else on the solar system. Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks! I'm sending this link to the parents of my second graders, so they can get some ideas. Your information is simple, and interesting. We're making animal dioramas, and if I can figure out how to do it, I'll send you a couple of photos!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      awesome ideas

    • profile image

      BarrettCoffen 4 years ago

      Cool idea! :)

    • profile image

      mouse1996 lm 5 years ago

      I remember doing these in school. They were so much fun.

    • profile image

      Echo Phoenix 5 years ago

      I met a university student from Germany who made very elaborate dioramas as an artform, they were quite spectacular! I enjoyed your lens on this subject, I am looking for Squidtastic ideas to share with my granddaughter:) thanx!

    • Go-Modern profile image

      Go-Modern 5 years ago

      OMG Id forgotten these even existed! Lovely idea for my neice & I to do together.

    • Caromite profile image

      Caromite 5 years ago

      I loved to make dioramas when I was a child. Your lens is very inspiring to try it out again :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Many moons ago, when I was a little kid of elementary-school age, I attended a Vacation Bible School at a local neighborhood church. We made shoebox dioramas and I chose to copy a scene of Washington DC with the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument. It was fun and educational. I'm almost age 60, and I still never made it to Washington DC, but at least my diorama taught me some history!

    • profile image

      Rhizza18 5 years ago

      I used to do diorama when I was a kid specially when I'm in primary school as part of my project. But I oftentimes do it now but to share my knowledge about it, I used teach and help my little brother, sisters and the kids on kindergarten school here in our place.

    • rallo-smith profile image

      rallo-smith 5 years ago

      Been along time since I've seen one of these.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      Boy this sure brought back memories of making these in school. Thanks for the very nice instructions and resources. Blessed by a joyful angel.

    • profile image

      greatlegs 5 years ago

      Yay for homeschooling! We do the same with our children. Great crafts!

    • profile image

      anna-smith02 5 years ago

      omg I made these and school and totally forgot about them! thanks for reminding me about a project i had so much fun at and the great ideas!

    • FantasticVoyages profile image

      Fantastic Voyages 5 years ago from Texas

      I remember making these when I was a child. Nice article!

    • profile image

      KabbalArt 5 years ago

      Some fantastic ideas. Well done.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi nice shoe box craft,look like fun for the whole family.

    • PoeticChristian profile image

      PoeticChristian 5 years ago

      Very interesting, I bet it helps them learn more. wish we had stuff like that then. Great lens. Blessings

    • ottoblotto profile image

      ottoblotto 5 years ago

      My children and I love doing dioramas!

    • Tradeshowhobo profile image

      Tradeshowhobo 5 years ago

      Good memories of making a dinosaur diorama in a shoebox.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Making dioramas are fun, but are so pressuring if it is for school...

    • profile image

      CharlieHawks 5 years ago

      I'm always looking for different things to do with the kids. Great idea, thanks for sharing.

    • SimilarSam profile image

      Sam 5 years ago from Australia

      A great tutorial. Wonderful lens.

    • kevingomes13 lm profile image

      kevingomes13 lm 5 years ago

      This was fun when we had to do it for school.

    • Scotties-Rock profile image

      Clairissa 5 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      Wow! I wish this lens was around when I was busy helping my kids with those. :) Great and very helpful lens.

    • teristazko profile image

      teristazko 5 years ago

      I have done my share of dioramas. Helpful lense!

    • Jadelynx-HP profile image

      Tracey Boyer 5 years ago from Michigan

      A wonderful activity for parents and children to do together. Well done !

    • solicitorsdubli profile image

      solicitorsdubli 5 years ago

      This is one comprehensive lens-I will let my little girl know about it

    • profile image

      jtbmetaldesigns 5 years ago

      Thank you for another activity to engage in with my daughter. Need to ask her what

      She wants to make.

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      I remember doing these in middle school as a kid. Technically, that's a tissue box!

    • profile image

      nelsonkana 5 years ago

      Wow, this is great. Just wandering how to reproduce these in real life.

    • freewallpapers4 profile image

      freewallpapers4 5 years ago

      great ideas, so cool

    • Rebeljohn profile image

      Rebeljohn 5 years ago

      This really looks like something my grand kids would love to do thank for the info

    • profile image

      azD40x 5 years ago

      woaa! this bring back to my childhood days! Love it.. (maybe I'll do these projects quietly in my bedroom later! ) Great lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I know I did one of these as a kid but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. My daughter, who attends a Waldorf school, will be doing one in the 4th grade. Thanks for a great lens!

    • greenmind profile image

      greenmind 5 years ago

      so cool. I made these in school 40 years ago!

    • blue22d profile image

      blue22d 5 years ago

      What wonderful creations and so inexpensive. Excellent for school projects.

    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 5 years ago from Texas

      These are so neat. i made one for my niece when she graduated high school and filled it with some of her things I had saved from her child hood. Great explanation of how to do these.

    • Image Girl profile image

      Image Girl 5 years ago

      i wish i had done these as a child. Interesting, now though, I'm creating something similar as an adult. I hope I'll have some completed this year.

    • profile image

      tuneinabucket 5 years ago

      Did some of this when I was a kid. Brings back fond memories. I may start again. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Jeimuzu-san 5 years ago

      Never thought of doing this before!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hey, I love the tipi diorama! Glad I stopped by, and blessed again!

    • casquid profile image

      casquid 5 years ago

      My grandchildren love to work with me on projects. Thank You for offering ideas that will send us on another path of creation, together.

    • profile image

      Africanos 5 years ago

      Thank you for a great tutorial this would be perfect for a homemade gift

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      very cool indeed, enjoyed my visit this morning, thank you.

    • curious0927 profile image

      curious0927 5 years ago

      Great lens! I was not familiar with Diorama until I stumbled upon your lens. I think this activity is superb for children and their education. Something about building, coloring, and my favorite~creating an idea is practical and great for kids! Thanks for sharing it!

    • MamaRuth profile image

      MamaRuth 5 years ago

      Great ideas for the classroom. I think making a Christmas diorama with my granddaughters will be a fun project for this holiday season.

    • profile image

      Edutopia 5 years ago

      I was tasked with teaching at a winter camp at the last minute this break and I've been trying to come up with ideas for the kids. How fortuitous that I'd come across this lens! Thanks!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      I have used this project in my classroom for years. Kids love doing them and at the end of a unit we have a party with the parents to celebrate. Thanks for sharing this. You have provided many new ideas for the idea.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A great lens to share. Nice! Squid-liked!

    • profile image

      seo_optimisation 5 years ago

      Great ideas for the upcoming holidays with my kids, thanks!

    • manicnymph profile image

      manicnymph 5 years ago

      I remember doing these 'kleenex' dioramas as a child, thanks for the trip back in time! There is really no limit to the adorable miniature scenes that can be made in an old kleenex box, all you need is the creativity!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great article you've written and terrific set of resources. Dioramas are fun learning opportunities for kids!

      Several more dioramas at this link:

      http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/cut-outs.htm...

    • Julia Morais profile image

      Julia Morais 5 years ago

      Great lens with a creative idea. Pretty soon my nephew will be old enough to do these projects with me. :)

    • cwstocks lm profile image

      cwstocks lm 5 years ago

      Gosh, I forget all about these. Thanks for reminding me so I can do this with the grandkids.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Nostalgic Lens, bring me back in school, Thanks

    • fugeecat lm profile image

      fugeecat lm 5 years ago

      i remember making those for school. they are pretty cool to make.

    • profile image

      wiedruce 5 years ago

      fun and creative...great lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      brings me back to my childhood! i'll have to do these with my nephews :-) great lens!

    • profile image

      acejames 5 years ago

      I remember doing similar project in mt grade school days, thanks for bringing back such great memories.

    • profile image

      HuntAndFishGuides 5 years ago

      Definitely going to give this a go with my first grader; maybe we'll try something Thanksgiving / Christmas themed. :)

    • profile image

      camaster 5 years ago

      I second that, great lens! Really inspiring. Was for sure a lot of work. :-)

    • jnstewart profile image

      John Norman Stewart 5 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      A very unique lens. Enjoyed it...:)

    • profile image

      SIALicenceUK 5 years ago

      my kids are going to love this, thanks

    • Beadsnresin profile image

      Beadsnresin 5 years ago

      Brings back memories from primary school :-) thanks for the lens.

    • nbrandt123 profile image

      nbrandt123 5 years ago

      Very artistic ideas! I like how it is being presented on the lens. Two thumbs up!

    • efcruzarts profile image

      efcruzarts 5 years ago

      this lens is enjoyable to see crafting