Dramatic Play Time! Make a Pretend City with Paper Bags

Dramatic play is a great way to get kids engaged in their imagination and explore the world and social cues. And what better way to do this than with a pretend city made from paper bags!

This is a great activity for toddlers, preschoolers, even kindergarten kids. Younger kids can benefit from exploring pretend play, learning about the world, practicing socialization and social cues and independence with this fun dramatic play activity.

Make a Pretend City from Kids Activities Blog- A hospital and homes made from paper bags to looks like real life buildings with paint, and a little girl playing with toys like Cinderella and first responder cars.
Let’s create a paper city to enjoy some dramatic play!

How To Make Paper Bag Houses and City To Promote Dramatic Play

Young children learn by looking and listening. They closely watch what those around them do. In order to process all of the information they take in, children often imitate and act out similar stories through dramatic play.  

For example, kids like play kitchens with pretend food and little tool benches with plastic tools so they can be just like Mom and Dad.

We came up with an idea for making our own little play set that looks like a pretend city. Now my daughter can act out all of her creative stories in her own little personalized town.

Not to mention, they can practice social cues within their little city and this dramatic play activity also promotes independent play which is also important for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarten kids.

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Supplies Needed To Make Paper Bag Houses 

Here are the simple supplies you will need for your child to make a pretend city:

Supplies for making a pretend city with paper bags- paper bags, paintbrushes, markers, paint on a paper plate (pink, red, black, white, purple, maroon, gray), a black marker, newspaper, and a stapler
Gather all your supplies like: paper bags, paints, a palette, paintbrushes, markers, newspaper, and a stapler.

Instructions To Make a Pretend City And Paper Bag Houses

This project is so simple!

Painting paper bags to look like buildings in your town- the bag is being painted an aquamarine and sky blue with an orange paint brush.
Start painting your paper bags to look like buildings. Paint them to look like businesses, places of worship, houses, anything that is in your town!

Step 1

First, you color the bags to look like buildings and houses. We started with painting the bags two different colors to give the appearance of a roof line. My daughter loved helping with this part.

Tip: We first did this with markers but the colors seemed dull against our craft brown paper bags. So we used paint.

Painting your paper bag houses and paper bag city- paint the brown bag (show here is yellow) using acrylic paints.
Paint the bags your favorite colors! We are making a yellow house!

The paint was much more vibrant than the markers but had the terrible feature of requiring a small amount of drying time which is oh-so-challenging for a preschooler to understand.

Starting to paint your paper bag houses and city- use acrylic paints, (yellow is shown on the palette with a paintbrush in it) to make paper bag places like houses, a hospital, police station, a cafe.
Once you’ve painted the bags, add the details! Give them roofs, make signs, windows, doors, and more with a black marker.

Step 2

Now comes the fun part! Decorate the bags to look like buildings.  

Add:

  • flowers
  • windows
  • doors
  • shingles,
  • And more!

Let your child come up with some ideas of what they want in their city. There could be a school, hospital, fire station, etc.

Staple paper bags to make pretend city- fill the bag with newspaper and staple the buildings shut, this one is pink and purple house.
Fill the paper bags with newspaper so they can stand upright and then staple them shut!

Step 3

Then stuff the paper bags with a sheet of crumpled newspaper, fold the top edge over a few times and staple it closed.

dramatic play paper bag city craft and activity- a purple and pink cafe, a green and yellow house, a white and blue police station, a red and white hospital, a bright pink and polka dotted hotel.
And now we have finished our paper bag town! Complete with a house, cafe, police station, hotel, and hospital.

They make for such cute little buildings by themselves but really come to life when you line them up and add a few action figures to the scene.

Our Experience Making Paper Bag Houses and City

After I showed my daughter how to make a few of the buildings in her pretend city, I let her paint and decorate some buildings her own way.  

It was tempting for me to jump in and help her choose colors that went well together or help her see where the roof line would actually be.

Paint craft for preschool kids being done by themselves. I let my daughter paint a bag and she is painting it red, blue, black and white.
I let my little one do it on her own and she made the best paper bag city!

But I just sat there and watched her do her own thing.  I’m so glad I did.  She was much more creative than me and chose a more vibrant color palette.

But most importantly, she is so proud of her creations. Even though she had helped me paint the other buildings, they just weren’t as special to her as the buildings that she designed and created herself.

Now we have a sweet little city to act out her cute little stories in.

Dramatic Play Time! Make a Pretend City with Paper Bags

Dramatic Play Time! Make a Pretend City with Paper Bags

Dramatic play is a great way to get kids engaged in their imagination and explore the world and social cues. And what better way to do this than with a pretend city made from paper bags!

Materials

Instructions

  1. First, you color the bags to look like buildings and houses. We started with painting the bags two different colors to give the appearance of a roof line. My daughter loved helping with this part.
  2. Now comes the fun part! Decorate the bags to look like buildings. Add: flowers, windows, doors, shingles, and more!
  3. Then stuff the paper bags with a sheet of crumpled newspaper, fold the top edge over a few times and staple it closed.

More Dramatic Play Crafts and Activities From Kids Activities Blog:

THE BIG BOOK OF KIDS ACTIVITIES

This toilet paper roll train craft is one of the featured kids crafts in our newest book, The Big Book of Kids Activities has 500 projects that are the bestest, funnest ever! Written for kids ages 3-12 it is the compilation of bestselling kids activities books perfect for parents, grandparents and babysitters looking for new ways to entertain kids. This toilet paper roll craft is one of over 30 classic crafts that use materials you have on hand that are featured in this book!

This toilet paper rolls craft is one of several in our BIG BOOK of Kids Activities!

Oh! And grab The Big Book of Kids Activities printable play calendar for a year’s worth of playful fun.

How did your dramatic play paper bag city and houses turn out? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

15 Comments

  1. Julie Goetz says:

    Love this. My daughter will have a lot of fun with this. Pinning it for when she is a bit older.

  2. This village looks fantastic and adapts so well to children of different ages. Thanks for sharing with Afterschool!

  3. I love this! We have paints, but no paper bags… I will have to grab some from the dollar store next week! My 4 year old son would love this and the 7 and 9 year olds will really enjoy doing it along with him (which will be a help).

  4. Love this idea for making a pretend city. Creative all around. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This is adorable! We love this kind of play, we will be featuring your post this week in our Share It Saturday Features, thanks for linking up!

  6. Your village looks so beautiful. Thanks for sharing your techniques with Afterschool!

  7. Thank you for linking up this idea to ‘Share It Saturday’. I look forward to featuring another one of your ideas this weekend.

  8. What a cute way to make a city to learn about rural and urban settings while playing too. My daughter would love this!! Thank you for sharing and for linking up this week to the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop.

  9. In our house, we go to Dunkin’ Donuts a lot. And each time, we wind up with a like-new little brown paper bag. I had been folding them to use as litter bags in the car, but they’d also make dandy little houses, once painted!

  10. Great idea!!! What kind of paint did you use?

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