Today we’re going to make a car using recycled materials! This car rolls and is fun to play with, and you will have the opportunity to challenge your kids to find ways to make the car move without pushing it! 


  • Small, short cardboard box (we used a macaroni and cheese box and a 1/2 gallon milk carton)
  • 2 straws
  • 2 wooden skewers
  • 4 round lids (we used lids from apple sauce pouches)
  • Hot glue gun


  1. Decorate a piece of paper, then wrap the paper around the cardboard box.

2. Measure and cut the straws to the same width as the cardboard box.

Measure twice…
Cut once

3. Adult: Measure and cut the skewers to the same length, plus 1” on each side for the wheels.

4. Optional Adult: If you’re using apple sauce lids like us, we found it worked better to cut off the little plastic pieces on the inside of the lid (see image below) before attaching it to the skewers.

5. Adult: Fill the center hole in the lid 3/4 full with hot glue, then push in the skewer and hold it vertical until it dries. Repeat with second skewer. Note: You’re only attaching the wheel to 1 end of the stick in this step!

6. Once the glue is dry, slide the straw onto the skewer and repeat attaching the wheel to the second side. Be sure to hold the straw up so it doesn’t stick in the wet glue.

6. Tape the straw to the cardboard box, placing it about 1” from each end. Try not to smash the straw down with the tape.

8. Your car is ready to drive! Push the car on the floor and watch it go! 

Expand this activity by challenging your kids to make the car go without pushing it. Here are 3 solutions we tried:

1. Make a ramp by stacking boxes in a 1/2 pyramid (1 box in front, 2 boxes behind, 3 boxes in the back), then lay a flat piece of cardboard on top and secure it to the stacked boxes with tape. We had a blast letting our cars take off down the ramp and measuring whose car drove the furthest. 

2. Blow up a balloon and seal it closed with your fingers or a clothespin. Tape the balloon to the top of the car. Release the air from the balloon and this should propel your car forward. We found this a little more difficult to get to work, but your kids may find they prefer this because the balloon can propel the car forward quickly (see my balloon rocket post for a similar concept).

3. Make a rubber band car! This required some major modifications to our original car design which justifies a separate post in the future with all the details. It was too advanced of a project for our 3 and 5 year old children, so my husband and I ended up building this car ourselves. Feel free to experiment and try it out on your own!

This modification was much more difficult
Our rubber band car


  • Engineering: Kids are learning to assemble the basic structure of a car: body, axel and wheels. The axel is in the straw so it can freely rotate the wheels. They also used their engineering design skills to think of ways to make the car go without pushing it. The ramp was the easiest solution, and also the most fun for my kids.
  • Art: Kids get express their creativity when they decorate their car. This makes their car more personal and they can see their art work every time they drive the car. 
We played with sending the cars down the ramp all day!

I know my kids will continue to play with these cars for a long time. They are sturdy, large, and roll well. Creating our own reusable STEAM toys is pretty cool, and easier than you might expect.

These kids love their homemade cars!

Have you ever made homemade cars with your kids? Will you try this activity after reading this post?


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