How to Build an Ambulance With Cardboard


When studying a thematic unit on transportation or safety, creating a cardboard ambulance can add an interactive activity to your dramatic play learning center. A homemade ambulance made from a recycled box can also benefit children playing make-believe at home. Combine some art supplies with a large refrigerator box that may be gathered from a home improvement or appliance store for hours of enjoyment for your toddler, preschool or elementary-aged child.

Things You'll Need

  • Refrigerator box
  • Packaging tape
  • Pencil
  • Scissors or box cutter
  • plastic food wrap
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Black permanent marker
  • Construction paper
  • Glue
  • 5 paper plates
  • 5 brads
  • Lay a large refrigerator cardboard box on its side and secure the end flaps together using strong packaging tape. Sketch the outline of an ambulance on two opposing long sides of the box. Sketch an angled line drawn from the center of the left end of the long side to create the lower hood and windshield of the vehicle, stretching up to the top edge of the box.

  • Repeat the sketching of the ambulance outline on the opposing long edge of the box but in reverse. The angled line to create the hood and windshield begins in the center of the right edge of the long side of the box.

  • Connect the two angled lines on the taped end of the box to create a lowered hood and windshield. Cut out the top of the box down the angled lines and across the box front with a pair of sharp scissors or a box cutter. The box should be an outline of an ambulance. Save one of the horizontally-oriented flaps previously taped together in Step 1 after cutting it out.

  • Lay the removed cardboard flap over the angled cuts and tape it on the left, right and bottom edges using the strong packaging tape to create a vehicle hood. Tape a piece of clear plastic wrap on the remaining section of the angled cut above the hood to appear as a windshield.

  • Draw and cut out two front door windows, one on each side toward the front of the box. Ensure that at least a 3-inch strip of cardboard is left toward the windshield plastic wrap to keep it firm and sturdy. Tape plastic wrap over those windows as well.

  • Paint the entire outer section of the cardboard box on all four sides with white, nontoxic paint and allow to dry. Apply additional coats as needed until any writing on the outside of the cardboard box is no longer visible, allowing at least a two-hour drying time in between. Ensure that the paint is not tacky before applying another coat of paint.

  • Paint black lines with a smaller paintbrush or use a permanent black marker to outline driver and passenger side doors as well as a set of double doors on the back short side of the box.

  • Cut over three of the black lines created for the driver's side door, so that children may enter and exit the vehicle: at the top, right side and bottom edge. Avoid cutting the left black line and fold the door open and close it again to create a seam or "hinge." It is not recommended that more than one door is cut open to avoid the box falling apart during play.

  • Paint the outer rim of four common paper plates with black paint and the inner circle with silver paint. When dry, attach one paper plate to the long side of the truck, toward the lower edge on the left and right sides as vehicle wheels. Press a brad in the center of the plate and through the cardboard. Separate the brad prongs apart to secure it inside the box. Repeat the wheel attachment on the opposite long side of the box.

  • Cut letters to spell "Ambulance" from black construction paper and red paper rectangle vehicle lights to be glued to the box as decoration. Paint the fifth paper plate as a steering wheel and attach it inside the box with the last brad by pressing it through the plate and cardboard and separating the prongs.

  • Cut 3-inch red squares from construction paper and glue to each long side of the box to create a 2-rowed checkerboard pattern from the door to the end of the cardboard vehicle. The number of squares may differ depending on the box size.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
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