Backdrop Ideas for Kids to Create Using Cardboard

By Erica Loop
Add scenery to your child's play with a backdrop.
Add scenery to your child's play with a backdrop.

Help your child jazz up the school play or her at-home dramatic venture with a creative cardboard backdrop. Show your young artist how she can tell a story via background scenery on stage. As a bonus, you can use this activity as a lesson in environmentalism by emphasizing that she reuse household sources of cardboard such as the old jumbo electronics box in your basement or the leftover moving boxes in your garage.

Architectural Backdrops

Kids can create architecturally inspired backdrops that can complement stories that feature towns, castles or cities. Turn a large-sized cardboard box into one building or stack a few to make a towering skyscraper. For example, your child can create a castle by opening up a cube-shaped cardboard box and cutting notches along the top. He can paint the box the color of stone and add rounded windows and an arched doorway. To make a larger building, stack two or three boxes on top of each other, and then tape or glue them together to make a super-tall structure. Add windows and a doorway with markers or bright crayons.

Movable Mural

Make a movable mural that your child can swap in and out of different scenes. Your child, and her friends, can create a crafty mural project using flattened cardboard boxes. Open two or three large-sized boxes and bind them together at the seams with clear packing tape. Your child can use markers to draw on scenery that matches the storyline of the play that she is working on. For example, if she is in a theatrical rendition of "The Three Little Pigs," she can draw one of the houses on the cardboard along with the sky and a tree or two. She can add color to the backdrop mural with non-toxic craft paints. Prop or tape the backdrop to the wall during the play.

Free-Standing Backdrops

Instead of making a 2-D backdrop that stays flat against a wall, try having the kids create a free-standing version that features dimensions and depth. For example, create background palm trees or a beach scene by helping your child to draw a long, thin trunk onto a flat sheet of cardboard, making the tree at least four to five feet tall. Cut a notch six inches up the truck, starting at the bottom center. Create a base to stand the tree trunk in with another piece of cardboard. Have your child draw and cut out a semi-circle that is twice as wide as the trunk. Create a six-inch notch in the base, starting at the center of the curved part. Fit the notch of the trunk into the semi-circle's notch to make the tree stand up. Your child can add long, thin green leaves by gluing or taping cut pieces of tissue paper to the top of the trunk. Use the base and notch technique to make other types of free-standing backdrops that fit your scene.

Simple Backdrop

Your young actor's cardboard backdrop does not always have to have a complicated design or a busy picture. Kids can construct simple backdrops that add a touch of color or an abstract pattern to almost any play. Your child can create a simple seasonal backdrop such as a sunny blue sky for a summer scene or a dotted snow-filled version for a winter play by painting on flattened cardboard boxes. Another option is to go with a pain color or a pattern. These types of backgrounds can serve as a painted wall or wallpaper hanging on the interior of a house.

About the Author

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.