DIY Box Cars

Combine imagination with engineering in this preschool science project

What you’ll learn:

How to add an axle and wheels onto a recycled box car

Key takeaways:

Engineering and art both require creative thinking and problem solving.

There are all sorts of engineering projects that kids can partake in. Some engineering projects are more like challenges, like our egg drop challenge, while others are meant to engage kids in science while also experiencing art in action. This project fits into the latter.

There isn’t a challenge to this engineering project, just the idea that we will take an afternoon to build and create. Kids can use recycled materials, and in particular, all those random boxes in your bin, to create a little box car. This will give a very basic idea of a wheel and axle car, allow them to build something new, and also express their artistic side.

Even though these aren’t necessarily “train” type box cars, I still love the connection between this project and the Boxcar Children book series. If you have a reluctant reader this may get them interested in reading the books. If you have a reluctant engineer that loves the books it could be the perfect gateway to science.

Project Ingredients:

How to make a DIY boxcar

The first step to creating your box car, after choosing the box(es), is to attach the wheels.

To attach the wheels tape two straw pieces along the bottom of the box. These will serve as your wheel axle.

The wheels themselves can be made of bottle caps, wood rounds, tennis balls, CDs, golf balls, etc. In fact, different sizes, shapes, and weights of the wheels will affect how fast your car will move – allowing an opening to another science project if you so desire.

Once you have chosen your wheels you will need to attach one wheel to the end of a wooden skewer. This can be done either by poking a small hole in the wheel or designing some sort of base to make this possible.

Thread the other end of the wood skewer through the straw, cut to the desired length and attach the other wheel.

Your box car base is complete!

Now you can decorate your box car. If you need help getting started on what to add to your box car here is a list of some ideas:

  • Add doors or windows
  • Create driver and passenger seats
  • Create a door handle that will keep the door closed
  • Make a retractable roof
  • Add a trailer to pull something like a boat or camper
  • Add in a headlight(s)
  • Create little passengers for your vehicle