Drive In Movie Theater Party, Part 2: How to Make Cardboard Cars

by ilene on January 20, 2016 · 3 comments

in party, Zoey's 3rd birthday



In my last post, I shared the details of Zoey’s 3rd birthday party, a drive in movie theater.  In this post, I’ll share how I put together the cardboard cars for the drive in.  The cars made the whole theme come together.drivin_title2


To make the cardboard cars, I searched everywhere to find the perfect affordable cardboard boxes that were the right size and in the right quantities.  Boxes can be pricey and I needed 18 of them.  I also wanted them without any logos on them in case it would show through the paint.  Originally, I bought the medium size moving boxes from Lowes but found them to be too deep. When Zoey sat in it, she couldn’t see out of the box!  Taking measurements, I found that the boxes couldn’t be taller than 14 inches for an average height 3 year old toddler sitting down.  I ended up finding the perfect size and quantity of cardboard boxes on Amazon.  They were 20″ long, 16″ wide and 14″ tall. And a steal at only $1.63 a box.  They ended up being great quality and really sturdy.

Originally I wasn’t planning on painting the boxes because, seriously, who has the time to paint almost 20 boxes?   I’m really glad I did though because the paint really transformed the cars from ordinary cardboard boxes to adorable little cars.  I used huge bottles of regular acrylic paint and used the largest foam brushes that I could find:


I needed a lot of paint since the cardboard really soaked it up. I timed myself and each box took about 10 minutes to paint. The yellow boxes needed two coats so those took 20 minutes each. Every night, I would try to paint 3-4 boxes after I put both kids to bed. Jeff thought I was nuts. Especially because I was trying to hide what I was doing from Zoey so I had to wait and make sure she was sound asleep before I took out all the supplies, laid out all the tarps and then cleaned it all up before the kids woke up the next morning.  We live in a small condo in the city with very little space so I  strategically stacked each box to dry in our kitchen:



After the paint dried, I used colored duct tape to make racing stripes down the front of each car:cardboardbox1

You can now buy colored duct tape at Michaels, Target and even Lowe’s.  Such an awesome product.

To assemble the cars, I folded three sides of the box flaps down and left one side up for the “hood”. The hood is held up by two pieces of tape underneath.  For the wheels and steering wheel, I used 7 inch plastic plates that were hot glued on:


Each car was personalized with the guest’s name on a license plate. I drew these license plates  in photoshop and downloaded this license plate font. I printed them out on full page sticker labels so that I could just peel them off and stick them on the back:licenseplate

Here are all the mini cars all lined up  for their little drivers:


Before the movie started, kids could decorate their cars. Each kid got a little red and white striped popcorn box with stickers and markers. This is how the birthday girl decorated her car:


Because our home is small, I kept all the cars folded up until the party.  We transported all the boxes while they were flat and stacked and then assembled them at the venue.  My friends S and A were rock stars and worked frantically before the party to get the cars ready to go. They used painters tape to tape the hoods up and and hot glue to adhere the wheels and steering wheel. Big thanks to S and A for getting these cars assembled in time!

Because we used painters tape to tape the cars, the tape was easy to pull off and guests were able to collapse their cars easily and take them home with them.

Here is Zoey and her friends enjoying the movie:


Whew! That was a lot of info! Hopefully this is helpful to someone out there!




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1 Hotricia January 20, 2016 at 11:10 am

I love this so much! What a fabulous idea! So creative and I’m sure Zoey and the kids LOVED it!

2 Alia July 9, 2016 at 3:55 pm

LOVE this! I wanted to do this idea for my son’s 5th and came across your post. I love your idea to let them decorate their cars at the beginning! I am totally going to copy 😉 Thanks for the inspiration! Totally pinning.

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