How-To: Build a Toy Camera from Recycled Materials


CRAFT Summer Camp
By Jessica Wilson
If you have ever happened over to my Flickr page, you might notice that I like to take pictures…of everything. I am also quite smitten with cameras; all sorts of cameras. My mister however, is not a camera person, but he does have a fondness for Animal Crackers.
One day, I picked up a couple of boxes for him (I am a sucker for the boxes, they are kinda adorable) and I noticed that the little darlings are perfectly camera-sized. So, with a little paint, glue and vision, I came up with this quirky camera project your kiddos should have a blast doing. Hit up your local snack shop and find yourself a small camera-like box and get to creating. I have oodles more ideas for this project but here is the how-to for the scrumdilly-deluxe!


Small snack food box (e.g. animal crackers)
Cardboard tube (e.g. paper towel tube)
Tacky or other high tack glue
One or more buttons
Empty wooden thread spool
(at least 24″)
Hole punch
Acrylic paint in white and preferred color(s)
Large popsicle stick
Permanent marker
Unpainted miniature wooden furniture buttons
Two rubber bands


Step 1: Carefully open the box of treats and consume the goodness inside. Gently remove the wax paper bag from the inside and liberate the little strap (if there is one) using your scissors. Reach inside to tug out the knotted ends of the strap.
Step 2: Paint the outside of your box with white acrylic paint. This will act as your primer so that the type and box design won’t show through. If you are making this for yourself or another adult, you may wish to incorporate the awesome graphics into your finished camera. For the kiddos, however, hand them a paint brush and let them slather it on.
Step 3: Once paint is dry, add a coat of paint in a happy color. (I know you can see a strap on this box – I should have cut it off before I started painting). If you find the design still shows through, go ahead and give it two coats of primer then one coat of color.
Step 4: While box is drying, grab your cardboard tube (mine came from an empty roll of toilet paper) and measure 1 1/2″ from one end. Mark all the way around the tube and use your scissors to cut across it. You should now have a squat bit of tube-i-ness.
Step 5: Measure 1/2″ in from one side on your squat tube and mark it all the way around. Use a small pair of scissors to make a series of small clips from the edge in towards your measured marks.
Step 6: Gently crease the newly formed flaps on the tube and paint the entire piece the same color as your box. You can of course choose a different color, I’m not that bossy.
Step 7: Line up the newly painted and shortened tube to the bottom of the box so that one flap can be glued underneath, as shown here. Center the tube as you go – this will be the lens part of your camera. The flaps on either side of the bottom flap may overlap the front of the box to the bottom. Gently give them a crease as you fold them under the box and glue them in place. Add a dab of glue to each of the remaining flaps and glue them into place. I began with just the bottom flap and when that was secure, I added glue to the remaining flaps.
Step 8: Use scissors to snip off the inside flaps of the box. Use your scissors to trim the sides of the flap so they’re angled, like you see in the photo below.
Step 9: Paint the flap to match the body of the camera-to-be. Once dry, glue a button (I used a chipboard button I painted red) to the newly painted flap. Set aside to dry.
Step 10: While all that glue is drying, have your kiddo paint the popsicle stick in a color of their choice. Set aside to dry. Once dry, carefully write in a nifty name for the camera-to-be with a permanent marker.
Step 11: Glue the popsicle stick to the front and off towards the left of the box, above the lens. Use a couple of rubber bands to hold it in place until the glue dries.
Step 12: Grab another paint color and paint your wooden furniture buttons. (If you prefer, you can use small plastic buttons for this instead.) Add a dab of glue to the back and affix them to the front of your camera, to the right of the lens. You may need to hold them in place for a moment or two until the glue sticks. Encourage your kiddo to use less glue than they might like. Too much glue will just make the button slip and slide right off the face of the camera.
Step 13: Add a dab or two of glue to the backside and along the bottom edge of your painted and be-buttoned flap. Center this on the camera face above the popsicle stick nameplate. Use a clothespin to hold in place until the glue tacks up. You’re almost finished!
Step 14: Use a hole punch to punch out a hole on either side of your camera body. (There might be visible holes of sorts from where you removed the original handle. If so, just punch right over these holes.) Gather up your ribbon and poke each end through one side from the outside in, giving it a good knot at the end. You may also wish to add a dab of glue or even some scotch tape to keep it in place. No one will see it once the camera is finished.
Step 15: Add a series of glue dots to the front of the top flap and fold it back into the box as if sealing it off. Use a couple of rubber bands around the whole shebang to assist the glue in sticking.
Step 16: Once the camera is sealed up, add a dab of glue to the underside of a nifty button and place it on the left side of your camera. This will be the shutter button.
Step 17: For a little more oomph and vintage flair, add a dab of glue to the bottom of a small wooden spool and pop that bit of awesomeness on top of your camera on the right side. Viola! You now have a flash cube!
Step 18: Pop your nifty new camera over your head and go on a photographic adventure! Give your kiddo some trimmed index cards and have them paint and draw up some faux-photos. You can turn this into a nifty little traveling art box by NOT trimming off the inside flaps and gluing the whole thing shut. Instead, assemble your own bit of flappy-ness for Steps 9 & 10, and then store tiny pieces of paper and a handful of colored pencils, markers or crayons in the box for on the go art. There are all sorts of possibilities – have a grand summer!

About the Author:
Author Jessica Wilson 2
Jessica Wilson is most happily known as ‘jek in the box’ and spends most of her time crafting it up and taking pictures. She can often be found standing on benches over on Flickr and creating all sorts of kiddie crafts on her blog scrumdilly-do! She lives a life of scrumdillydilly and loves to share.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!


Ready to dive into the realm of hands-on innovation? This collection serves as your passport to an exhilarating journey of cutting-edge tinkering and technological marvels, encompassing 15 indispensable books tailored for budding creators.