Best Train for Kids to Make with Recyclables

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

train cars craft made with recyclables


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Playing with trains is often a favorite activity for kids.

It might be an electric train that wobbles along the narrow track. It might be a toy locomotive your preschooler chug chug chugs along a homemade track.   Or it might be a DIY train you and the kids design yourselves! 

These train cars and train engine are made with recyclables and some craft paint. While the paint dries, create a small world scene with a train station and train tracks

Pretend play is so much fun with a train craft.


Train craft

Train play is largely child-led. Just a few props inspire pretend play that benefits early developmental skills such as language and creativity.


Train craft materials


Supplies list

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

  • small 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. 

Substitute the tomato tray with any rectangular packaging the size of the water bottle. 


Kids train craft


How to make the train cars

Step 1. Cut out the top portion of the small boxes. Place them inside the tomato trays. 

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

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


Recycled craft train cars


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

Step 5. Link the train cars together with twist ties.


Instructions for the train engine


Train locomotive craft


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

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

Step 3. Paint a spool or bottle cap for a smokestack. Glue to the engine.

Step 4. Make the cabin with a rectangle of black paper. Glue a square of yellow paper to the side of the black rectangle for a window. Fold the the rectangle 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 craft 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.


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Train cars craft



More train props from kid bloggers

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

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

                       DIY Kids' Train Table - Mini Monets and Mommies                            

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