How to Make a Thunderstorm Diorama

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Things You'll Need

  • Shoebox

  • Construction paper

  • Tempera paint

  • Thin paintbrush

  • Clear-drying, non-toxic glue

  • Green tissue paper

  • Pencil

  • Cotton balls

  • Scissors

  • Small white beads

You can create your own thunderstorm.

A diorama is a three dimensional art work that provides a view into a themed scene. Dioramas can be full-sized, such as the nature-based wildlife dioramas found in museums of natural history, or they can be miniature doll house-style scenes. Children as young as six or seven (with adult assistance) can easily create small-scale, shoebox-sized dioramas that depict stories or scenes from nature such as a thunderstorm.


Crafting a Thunderstorm

Step 1

Take the lid off the box and turn the box lengthwise, so it is positioned horizontally with the opening facing toward you. Draw a background landscape on the interior of the box with a pencil. Start with a horizon line (the line that separates the ground from the sky). Your line should be positioned in the middle of the back section of the box and work its way around the sides. You can then choose to make a mountainous landscape, a water-dominated landscape, a flat prairie, or any other scene. Use your pencil to add trees or other natural features such as plants directly onto the back and sides of the box as part of the landscape.

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Step 2

Paint the landscape with realistic colors. Use shades of green for grass, browns and tans for rocky areas and mountains, and blues for water. During a thunderstorm, the sky is generally darker in color than normal. Mix a dark blue with black and purple paints to replicate the appearance of an ominous thunderstorm. Set the shoebox aside for the paint to dry. This should take approximately one to two hours depending on how thick the paint is applied.


Step 3

Create three-dimensional trees by cutting small pieces of construction paper. These will be placed in the middle of the diorama on the "floor" of the shoe box. You can cut brown paper into small rectangles to make tree trunks. Fold the bottom part of the paper under to form a tab. Glue this to the bottom of the shoe box. Cut circular shapes out of green tissue paper to represent the treetops. If you like, you can cut slits in the tissue paper or bend, fold, and crinkle it to give the impression that they are being buffeted by high winds. Now glue the treetops to the trunks.


Step 4

Cut squares, rectangles, and other shapes from the construction paper to represent buildings. You can use triangular shapes as roofs. Add features such as windows and doors by using a fine or thin paintbrush and tempera paints. Fold the bottom of the building down to make a tab, and glue the paper to the bottom of the shoe box. This will create a pop-up three-dimensional effect.


Step 5

Pull apart at least two cotton balls to create thunderclouds. Place several small dabs or circles of glue on the top of the box's interior, and gently press the cotton onto the glue. Stretch the cotton so the clouds appear to be hanging downward.

Step 6

Draw zigzag shapes onto yellow paper to create lightning bolts. Cut the lightning bolts out and glue them to appropriate spots inside the diorama, such as on the back of the box in the sky area, hanging from a cotton ball cloud, on a building, or on a tree.


Step 7

As a final touch, add hailstones by gluing small white craft beads to the bottom of the shoe box. Group some in small piles while spreading others out.


To save money on art materials and add a lesson on color theory, you can use only the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) plus white, instead of buying a rainbow of paints.

If you have difficulty painting the background onto the interior of the shoe box, move the box around or lay it on its back.

For a more finished look, cover the exterior of the shoe box in cut and glued construction paper.

As an alternative to paper lightning bolts, try making shiny foil ones out of cut or folded foil.


Never leave a young child alone while he or she is working on an arts and crafts activity. Parents or other adults should closely supervise the entire process.

Only use art materials that are clearly labeled non-toxic and safe for use by children.

Do not use the craft beads or other small materials with young children or any child who routinely puts non-food items in his or her mouth. These can become a choking hazard.


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