How to Make Cardboard Animals

These cardboard animals are so easy to make, using a letter of the alphabet as your guide. Add excitement to small world play with cardboard animals you and the kids can make together.

pretend play cardboard animal craft

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Kids don't need a lot of props or elaborate costumes to engage in pretend play.  They create their own fun simply by using their imaginations. 

The play can include everything from dressing up in a cape and glittering crown to role play a king, to making a mailbox for some awesome post office play.

Small world play is another valuable avenue for pretend play. Kids use mini characters and props, like these cardboard animals, to build scenes and role play events.

Cardboard animals provide lots of opportunities for fun pretend play with preschoolers. They inspire creative play with little prompting. They also provide opportunities to practice fine motor skills along with language skills.

These animals are easy to make with recycled cardboard. And you'll see a letter of the alphabet emerge as your guide to making the basic shape of the animal.

Related: Small world play with a cardboard box

Cardboard animals craft

I provide a basic template in this post that can easily be altered to make a variety of animals. Make the pattern larger or smaller, and add accessories and details to help create different animals.

This activity requires few materials. You'll need some cardboard and scissors, and whatever basic craft supplies you have on hand to complete the characters.   

The basic steps are shown in the photo collage below.                   


Cardboard animals easy to make for small world play


The letter H is the guide for making the body of the animal.

Bend the sides of a piece of cardboard, leaving a middle portion flat for the top of the body.

Lay the cardboard flat on the table. Cut out sections on either side of the fold lines to form the legs, staying below the crease lines.



Cardboard animals kids craft for pretend play


Instructions for making a horse craft.

Step 1. Make a body for the horse with a piece of cardboard 3 x 5 in. (7.5 x 12.5 cm).

Step 2. Cut out a piece of the body on either side to form the legs, the letter H in the collage above.

The legs created in the photo measure .5 x 1.5 in. (1.25 x 4 cm).

Step 3. Cut out a head from cardboard.

Step 4. Snip partway into the neck and then partway into the top portion of the body. Slide the head into the body to join them together.


Small world play with homemade cardboard animals

Step 5. Fray the end of a piece of burlap until you have a desirable length for the tail. Remove most of the portion above the frayed edge. Roll up like a tube. Tape to the underside of the animal to form the tail.


Make cardboard animals for preschool small world pretend play


Step 6. Glue a few strands of burlap fringe to the head for a mane.

Step 7. Glue craft eyes to the head.

Cardboard animals kids craft painting activity


There are so many possibilities for finishing your animal. I like the simplicity of the natural horse but the painted one is very cute too! 

I didn't have any brown paint so I added a bit of black paint to a nearly-empty bottle of orange paint, gave the bottle a shake, and voila! - this pretty shade of brown.


Cardboard horse preschool craft and activity


The yellow embroidery thread is perfect for a brightly colored mane and tail.

Use any craft supplies you have to finish the details on your small world horse.

Was the letter H helpful for making this craft? Make a few animals to inspire some fun small world play with your preschoolers.


Cardboard horse small world play preschool craft



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