Cardboard Animals for Small World Play

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

Cardboard animals - Preschool Toolkit

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Kids love using their imaginations. This can include everything from dressing up in a cape and glittering crown to live in a castle, or creating a shoe box barn for small world play.

Small world play provides exciting opportunities to engage fine motor and language skills along with the creative play. 

These cardboard animals are fun to make with recycled cardboard. 

Once you cut out the basic pattern, you can add details to create a variety of animals.


How to make cardboard animals


Cardboard animals steps collage

The letter H is the secret to making cardboard animals for small world play.



The basic steps are shown in the photo collage above. Complete instructions follow below.

You can adjust the length and width for any animal you want to make.


Cardboard animals for small world play - Preschool Toolkit


Instructions for making a horse

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

2. Cut out a piece of the body on either side to form the legs. The cut-out legs in the photo measure .5 x 1.5 in. (1.25 x 4 cm).

3. Snip partway into the neck and the body. Slide the head into the body to join them together.


Cardboard animals for small world play - Preschool Toolkit

4. Fray the end of a piece of burlap. Cut a small piece, enough to roll up like a tube, to tape to the underside of the animal for the tail.


Cardboard animals for small world play - Preschool Toolkit


6. Add a bit of burlap fringe to the head for a mane.

7. Glue craft eyes to the head.

Cardboard animals for small world play - Preschool Toolkit


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.

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

 Add your horses and other animals to a shoe box barn.


Provide more opportunities for open-ended play with blocks or paint.


 Visit our Pretend Play on Pinterest.


 Find this craft shared on

The Mama Workshop 50 Earth Day Crafts

with other recycled crafts!


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