How To Make A Light Up Shoebox Theater

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater (with working lights!)

Got an extra shoebox lying around? Recycle it into an arctic-themed puppet theater with working lights! It’s a blast to make and perfect for impromptu imaginative play, even after the lights go out.

Let’s get started…

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

Note: Because of small parts, this is a project best suited for children 3 years and older. Older children and adults can prepare the box. Young kids can draw, decorate, and play with the theater.

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

What You’ll Need

  • Shoebox with lid
  • 1 piece of cardboard, approximately A3 sized
  • 1 sheet of white copy paper
  • 2 sheets of dark and light blue A4-sized paper
  • 5 or 6 wooden skewers
  • 1 strand of LED Christmas lights (10 lights)
  • Small wooden beads
DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater


  • Ruler
  • Craft knife
  • Cutting mat
  • Scissors (kid-friendly)
  • Felt-tip pens, black and colored
  • Pencil
  • Scotch tape
  • Glue
  • Glue stick
DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

Step 1
Mark a frame on the bottom of the shoebox and cut it out as shown. Draw 3 or 4 lines on a long side of the shoebox. Cut the slots with your craft knife (make sure that they are wider than the wooden skewers).

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

Step 2
To make a platform, mark and cut the same lines as before on a slightly smaller piece of cardboard that should fit inside the box as shown. Cut two smaller pieces to fit between the two floors, so that the platform aligns with the bottom of the frame.

Important note: Try out the sticks at this point: They should move easily; if they don’t, cut the slots wider to accommodate them.

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

Step 3
Glue in the two separator pieces and the platform. Add glue to the holes of the beads and fit them on the sticks through the slots.

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

Step 4
Let’s decorate! Use the lid of the shoebox for the background. To create the arctic theme,  I used blue and white paper to create and arctic theme. Tear the white paper for the snowy parts. Cut three smaller cardboard pieces, then decorate and glue them between the lines on the floor for layered ice.

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

Step 5
It’s time to create your frosty thespians! Draw several penguins and a whale (children’s drawings make nice puppets). Color and cut out the puppets. Tape them to the wooden skewers.

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

Step 6
Make several holes in the background using a wooden skewer and fit in the LED. Tape the electric cord to the back of the lid.

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

It’s time to turn down the lights and start the play!

For another option, take away the blue paper to create a snowy forest. Add a fox, a squirrel, and other forest creatures as your main characters.

DIY Cardboard Shoebox Theater

Now look who’s stomping through the snow! Others are too afraid to join the dinosaur, so you’ll need to prepare a second shoebox for sure.

Have fun!


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