Best Train for Kids to Make with Recyclables

This train is ready for some awesome pretend play! It's fun and easy to make using recyclables. Kids will love painting the engine and choosing cargo for the train cars.

Train cars craft

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Pretend play is so much fun with a train craft. The train cars and train engine are made with recyclables and lots of craft paint.

While the paint dries, create a small world scene with a train station and train tracks.



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Train craft

Playing with trains is often a favorite activity for kids growing up.

It might be an electric train set that wobbles along the track on its own.

It might be a homemade cardboard locomotive that prompts your child to move it along a homemade railroad track and make a chugging noise.

Train play is largely child-led and benefits early developmental skills such as language and creativity.

This craft and pretend play activity is perfect for supporting kids development. 

  • Kids use their fine motor and creative skills as they create the train cars, and language skills as they engage in pretend play. 


Train craft materials


  • water bottle
  • tomato tray
  • black and red kids paints
  • small cardboard boxes 

You can easily substitute materials as necessary.

  • Use a rectangular cracker box in place of a tomato tray.
  • Use solid foam packaging in place of wood blocks.

For this activity we used the box from a bar of soap. These little soap boxes are perfect for lots of different activities including stacking. 

Instructions for the train cars


Kids train craft


1. Cut out the tops of the small soap boxes and place them inside the tomato trays. These will be your train cars.

2. Fill the boxes with "cargo" such as marker tops, clothespins, and crayons.

3. Paint small blocks of wood with red paint to make the caboose.


Recycled craft train cars


4. Cut out wheels from black construction paper. Glue the wheels to the tomato tray.

5. Link the train cars together with twist ties.


Instructions for the engine


Train locomotive craft


1. Paint the water bottle black. When dry, place it in the tomato tray.

2. Cut wheels from black construction paper, one large wheel and two smaller wheels. Glue the wheels to the side of the tomato tray.

3. Paint a wood dowel or bottle cap. Glue to the engine for the smokestack.

4. Make the cabin.

  • Cut a rectangle from black paper.
  • Cut out a small square from yellow construction paper for a window. Glue the window onto the side of the black rectangle.
  • Fold the the rectangle to fit over the bottle at the back of the locomotive. Tape or glue in place.


Related: Locomotive made with a water bottle and a cracker box.


Train engine kids craft


These locomotives illustrate how creative kids can be with crafts projects. They are a fun alternative to the usual black paint color we see on locomotives.

And while we love Crayola products, we did have a little trouble with the blue finger paint flaking. The black paint we used is Melissa and Doug brand, and the pink is a combination of red and white acrylic craft paints.

Providing a variety of materials will encourage imagination and creativity, as well as observations of results (how products perform).

Who's on board with me for open-ended arts and crafts opportunities?


 Train engine and train cars


All aboard! This train craft is ready to pull into the station.


Find lots of crafts for preschoolers on our Crafts Board on Pinterest.


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Train crafts and activities from kid-friendly bloggers


DIY Engineer Paper Plate Hat Inspired by Pete the Cat - Crafty Mama in Me

Sponge Painted Train Craft Inspired by Freight Train - Buggy and Buddy

How to Make House Blocks for the Railroad - Adventure in a Box

Subway Train Coloring Page - What Do We Do All Day

                       DIY Kids' Train Table - Mini Monets and Mommies                            



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