Recycled milk carton truck tutorial

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the highlights of our children's Japanese kindergarten was the annual "play store" (omiseyasan gokko) where the oldest children would create beautiful handmade toys, origami sweets and vegetables, jewelry, sushi, and other such things for the younger ones. One of the things our boys learned to make there were trucks and vehicles like these, with real working wheels.

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These are very easy to make from recyclables. 

Assemble your materials first:

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You'll need straws, bamboo skewers, water bottle caps, and milk or juice cartons.

Tools you will need are a paper or box cutter (for adult use only!), scissors and tape and decorative paper, and glue.

The first step, putting holes in the bottle cap wheels, is for adults only, and if you have impatient little ones, it might be best for you to do this before making the trucks. In fact, if you prepare a whole bunch of these in advance you can set up a little vehicle factory. Your children could also get to work decorating their cartons while you do this part.

Take the box cutter (or a small knife) and make a small hole in the center of each bottle cap. I found that the easiest way to do this was to place the bottle cap on a folded washcloth on a table, place just the tip of the box cutter in the center, and press down while twisting the bottle cap around (by turning the washcloth, thus avoiding having to touch the bottle cap with your fingers and getting too close to that blade!). Definitely do put the bottle cap on some sort of surface to provide traction while cutting.

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Next, cut your straws to size – just a bit bigger than the width of the carton.

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Start assembling the wheels and axles. First, stick the end of a skewer into one of the holes. Add a dab of glue if you'd like. 

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You can actually stick the skewer in the bottle cap the other way which might be easier for kids because it's more stable and less frustrating. 

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Next, add the straws.

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Once the straw is in place, trim the skewer down with scissors (another adult-only job), and stick the skewer through another bottle cap.

Now you can tape these onto the bottom of a carton and your vehicle is done, aside from decoration, which is what your children will have the most fun with. 

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If your children want to make a dump truck or cut out windows and/or doors, they should do that before you put the wheels on. Making a dump truck is very easy – you just cut out part of the side and bottom of the milk carton and then stick it back in the other way, attaching with tape. It really works! Fire engines were popular in our house too as were buses and passenger cars.

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Once you have the wheels and axles down pat you can stick them onto anything, really, like water bottles or small boxes. If you want to make trains, connect the train cars with the bit of straw you cut off the axles (this is especially great if you use bendy straws).  

Here are some photos from Japanese children's craft books for more ideas! I especially love the corrugated cardboard around the wheels in the last photo. 

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26 thoughts on “Recycled milk carton truck tutorial

  1. debbie

    WOW! This is so fantastic I can’t even find words to express my excitement. Too bad my son is only 3–I’ll have to wait a year or 2 before he can do this. Right?

    Reply
  2. Amy Hanson

    Those are the cutest things I have ever seen! I love them!…You’re always full of the best ideas…:o) Thank you for sharing all this sweetness from Japan.

    Reply
  3. zakka life

    I really like the milk carton truck, it’s a great tutorial. And I love the train in the craft book. Very clever.
    You’re featured on Facebook Fan Fridays today.

    Reply
  4. LiEr

    It’s me again!
    Just wanted to say I love this milk carton truck. I am a sucker for cardboard toys and this is so fun. I starred this link in google reader (from One Crafty Place) and found it again tonight. Then said, “hey, I just emailed this lovely person like two hours ago!” Thank you for the really fun idea!

    Reply
  5. Kitten Muffin

    Hello! I’ve only just found your blog via the crafty crow and this post just rocked my world. This is exactly the kind of thing that my kids and their little freinds will get an amazing kick out of! Thank you for posting about it! We make a lot of stuff from recycling, but I tend to get those honking gallon milk jugs rather than the paper cartons, so we’ll have to try a variation with other stuff we have around. The skewers and straws for axles are just fab though! So much fun to be had! And hey, I see LiEr just above me! This post has become a gathering place for the cardboard obsessed mums of blogland it seems 😉

    Reply
  6. Christine - Origami Mommy

    thanks everyone who came here via crafty crow (and everyone else too!). I’m so glad you like this tutorial. The wheels and axles can definitely be used on anything – milk jugs, plastic water bottles, little boxes, any other recyclables you have around. Children love how the wheels really move.
    If your child is younger, you can just glue on circles of paper and pretend they are wheels – that’s perfectly satisfying for toddlers and a milk carton would easily slide along on the floor.

    Reply
  7. Willow

    What a cute idea! Thanks for the idea on the bottle cap wheels. If you could please share the titles and/or ISBN numbers of some books with recycled craft things, such as those pictured, I’d appreciate it. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Ingrid

    I have often read blog posts about crafts parents can do with their kids, but this is the first one that I felt I could do in a reasonable amount of time and I already had all the necessary supplies. My son had a blast helping me decorate the truck and he’s been using it to haul Duplo blocks all over the living room. This was perfect. Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Taylor

    I have to make this toy car for a project at school. Inside I have to insert a parellel circuit so it would have headlights that light-up. How can I do that?

    Reply
  10. Stephanie

    I love this craft idea!! I wonder if you could poke the skewer through the carton instead of fastening to the underside?
    Thanks so much for sharing this.

    Reply
  11. nice idea

    love every idea here i needed help attaching the wheels until i came to this nice website.Thank you very much for posting.

    Reply

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