Make a group of caves using ingredients and supplies that are probably in the garage or around the house. Kids will get a thrill at watching the trains or trucks rolling through these homemade caverns. Within a couple of days, mostly for drying time, expect a quick family project that even little hands can enjoy. All you need are torn strips of newspaper, some starchy glue, a paper mache mould and a little paint. This craft is family friendly and there's no wrong way to apply the strips of paper.
Set up a work space and place some plastic over the top of a table or counter. Use some of the masking tape to keep the plastic in place. Rip the newspaper into strips of 1 to 2 inches wide by 12 inches long. Stack them to the side and keep them dry. Cut the toilet paper rolls to make 1- and 2-inch thick rings.
Cut both ends out of the shoebox using a half-circle pattern to allow a train to pass through the box. Attach three of the rings onto the top of the shoebox with masking tape, one in the middle and one on each end. Secure the small trees to the shoebox by the wire stem with masking tape. Round out the corners of the shoebox by adding a ring to each corner and taping the ring in place.
Open the paper mache starch and pour approximately 2 cups into a large bowl. Dip one of the paper strips into the paste until saturated. Lightly squeeze off excess paste with your fingers over the bowl. Place wet newspaper over the toilet paper rings on the corners of the box to add more realistic quality to the cave. Form the wet paper over the toilet paper rolls to add height and an uneven top to the cave.
Put the slips of paper mache around the trees and the wire stem of the tree to secure it in place. Cover the entire cave with wet layers of newspaper in all directions and overlapping. Allow to dry overnight in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area. Apply a total of three layers over that many days and allow for 24-hour drying time in between. Repeat this process with every cave.
Paint the cave with brown, semigloss, latex paint. Avoid painting the trees. Add a bit of white or black paint to add shadows to make the cave look realistic. Allow the paint to dry.
A jug of liquid starch is inexpensive and will work well with paper mache projects for kids. Add a little cinnamon to the mix to take away the starchy smell. To make two or more caves, use a variety of shoeboxes. Cut out the sides of a clean, empty gallon ice cream carton can make an excellent cave for small cars, trucks and trains. Semi-gloss paint allows for easy cleanup with soap and water.