How to Make a Cave Diorama

A diorama is a three-dimensional art form in which the artist creates a depiction of a themed scene. This can be a full scale (i.e., life sized) representation such as a wildlife diorama that includes taxidermied animals in a museum of natural history or a small or miniature version. Students can create a miniature cave diorama with features such as stalagmites and stalactites, using a shoebox and basic art materials.

Place an open shoebox (with no lid) on its side lengthwise (horizontally). Sketch a cave background on the interior of the shoebox, using a pencil. Include rock formations and cave dwelling animals such as bats on the back and water features on the bottom (floor).

Paint the interior of the box, using the tempera paints and a fine-bristled paintbrush. Distinguish specific rock formations and geologic features by mixing paint colours such a brown, yellow and white to form a variety of shades and hues.

Draw at least five stalagmites and stalactites onto the brown and tan construction paper, using a pencil.

Cut out the stalagmites and stalactites using scissors. Bend back the top to create a flap that can then be glued onto the top or the bottom of the shoebox.

Mold the modelling clay into different sized spheres to form rocks and boulders. Glue these to the bottom (floor) of the shoebox.

Drip glue down the construction paper stalactites and stalagmites. Sprinkle glitter over the glue to create a sparkling water effect.


Stalagmites grow from the ground up, and stalactites grow down from the roof of the cave. Note the difference between the two formations while creating the diorama. If you are trying to create a more polished look, cover the exterior in a layer of construction paper with glue. For a more realistic effect, add in real rocks, minerals and stones.


Never allow a child to create this (or any other) arts and crafts project alone. Adult supervision is always required. Only use materials that are clearly labelled as non-toxic and safe for a child to use. Check age guidelines as stated on the manufacturer's label for all arts and crafts products used.

Things You'll Need

  • Shoebox
  • Brown and tan construction paper
  • Clear drying, non-toxic glue
  • Clear tape
  • Brown, black and tan modelling clay
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Tempera paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Glitter
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About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.