Make a Barn for Toy Animals From a Piece of Recycled Plywood (or Cardboard Boxes)




Introduction: Make a Barn for Toy Animals From a Piece of Recycled Plywood (or Cardboard Boxes)

The barn can be constructed using these plans in cardboard or plywood. I made an initial prototype using two large cardboard boxes and then made a sturdier version using some recycled wood. Of you have older children, it may be fun for them to cut out and assemble the cardboard version themselves for a rainy day activity. I have designed it so that you don't need any glue or fasteners (though the former might be nice if you don't want to reassemble or measure your cuts for nice tight joints).

Bill of Materials

  • 4' sheet 4mm plywood (this is easy to find as recycled - I have four sheets that I've gathered from home renovations (this is often underneath carpets that get torn out and converted to hardwoods) OR two large cardboard boxes
  • 1 sheet each of 60 / 120 grit sandpaper


  • Saw (table saw, electric jigsaw, or handsaw with fine teeth will suffice) or scissors / box cutter for cardboard version
  • Sanding block
  • Long ruler or straightedge (at least 24" long)

Step 1: Measure Out Pieces

You can deviate from the plans provided in a number of areas if you'd like, for example, a larger barn but I wouldn't make the barn any higher as it is essential for little arms to be able to reach inside without any discomfort. The other important dimension is the side doors: these need to allow for a hungry wooden cow to walk through comfortably (6" tall)

I have designed these to minimise waste and make cutting efficient. You should be able to make it from a 14" x 9" and 30" x 10" piece of wood or cardboard.

Pieces are shown in the photo below, and dimensions that I used for them are as follows:

  • Piece A1 (14" x 6”): Short outer side 1 [garage door cut out is centered, 6” wide by 3 1/2” tall]
  • Piece B (14" x 2”): Interior divider 1 (garage)
  • Piece C (14" x 1”): Interior divider 2 (animal stalls front)
  • Piece(s) D (10" x 6”): Interior dividers (animal stall sides) [diagonal cut is from 6" down to 2”]. Note: these can be cut from a longer 14" long piece of plywood, or along with the two long walls which are 10" tall (as they are 10" wide)
  • Piece A2 (14" x 6”): Short outer side 2 with slots for stall walls cut. Note: the piece here as shown is upside down, this is important to know because you need to cut slots on intersecting walls from opposite ends!
  • Piece(s) E (24” x 10”) Long outer sides [door cut outs for animals are 3“ wide x 6” tall]

*Note: the long outer wall pieces should be cut diagonally from the middle at a height of 10" down to 6" at the ends to make a roofline and the stall dividers will be cut diagonally so that they taper from 6" at the wall to 2"

Step 2: Cut Out Pieces

Following the dimensions measured above, cut the pieces out from your one/two boards or cardboard pieces. It is worth using a fine-toothed blade on your table saw or a fine-toothed handsaw as the pieces will fray. Also make sure you measure an allowance for your saw-blade, particularly if you use a table saw (which I did).

Step 3: Cut Out Slots and Doors

If you're using cardboard this is easy, just use strong scissors to make a cut at the appropriate intervals.

With plywood, this is a bit more work as you need to make proper 4mm slots which aren't too tight / loose. This can be simplified slightly by clamping together several pieces that need to have similar slots. With this in mind, I recommend cutting these in the following order. Be sure to cut them to be slightly less than the thickness of your boards so you can sand them to perfection.

  1. Clamp together all four walls (A1, A2, E) and cut out first four outside corners with a 3" cut approximately 0.5" in from the ends on all four outside wall pieces (A1, A2, & E) stacked together. Repeat for opposite corners. Note: you will flip one set of walls (i.e. both long or short wall pieces) before you do any other slot or door cutting as it is very important that the slots for intersecting pieces are coming from the opposite direction, this is because you will slot them onto one another from opposite directions.
  2. Clamp together the three stall dividers (D) and then cut out 3" tall slots approximately 0.5" in from the ends for the intersect with short outer side 2 (A2)
  3. Clamp these the stall dividers (D) together with the long wall pieces (E) and cut out a 0.5" slot on the other end of stall dividers (D), also approximately 0.5" in from that end for the intersection with the interior divider (C).
  4. Take piece A2 and cut out 3" tall slots at equal intervals (every 3" measured from the existing slots that are 1" in from the end, so at 4", 7", & 10") for three stall dividers.
  5. Take piece C and cut 0.5" slots at the same intervals (at 4", 7", & 10").
  6. Take piece B and cut 1" slots at approximately 0.5" from each end.
  7. Clamp together the two long sides (E) and cut slots tor the two interior dividers (B and C). These should be 0.5" deep for C and 1" deep for B

Once the slots are all done, you can add some doors and the roof!

  1. Take piece A1 and cut a garage door, approximately 6” wide by 3 1/2” tall
  2. Take pieces E and (this is probably easier with a jigsaw individually) cut a door for animals (3“ wide x 6” tall)
  3. Clamp together pieces E and cut the slope for the roofline, this will be two cuts, both measured from the middle to slope down to 6"
  4. Clamp together pieces D and cut a diagonal slope to run from 6" down to 1" at the end

Step 4: Sand, Sand, Sand

If you've made your barn out of wood, sanding is really essential. There are a number of sharp edges that will provide endless amounts of sob-inducing splinters. I rounded every edge and corner with 60 grit on a sanding block and cleaned out the insides of each slot with 120 grit sandpaper.

Step 5: Build the Barn!

This is the easy part. Once you've cut out all the pieces and sanded down the edges, corners and insides of the slot cut-outs, put the pieces together. Make a note at this point of pieces that fit too tightly and sand down so that they fit tightly but can still slide apart without too much effort. Ideally, you will want a barn that you can lift by holding two of the sides or interior walls without it coming all apart.

Once you've built your barn, bring in the inhabitants!

Step 6: Add Extras and Decorations

Use your imagination to expand the barn out into the room! We cut our a small patch of green felt for grazing animals and have a blue silk handkerchief that made a perfect pond for small wooden fowl. Inside the barn we placed small wooden bowls for feeding troughs for each animal in their stall and using yarn and yellow felt made small hay bundles for food. Finally, I've made movable fencing for chickens or horses to run about outside.

Step 7: Play!

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    4 Discussions


    4 years ago

    This fits great for a tradition in Colombia's Christmas: to build a pesebre (nativity)!


    4 years ago

    What a cutie!


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks! Let me know how it goes if you make one. I'm hoping to put up some pictures of the cardboard version soon.