I recently made the rash and excellent decision to turn our dining room into a play room. It had previously kind of been a half and half space but never really functioned as either. Homes are funny things, you really have to live in them for a while to find out how they work, and more often as not it is not how you initially imagined.

By removing the dining table and dedicating the room to the very important business of playing, we rediscovered the toy kitchen that has been untouched for years and have been finding all sorts of new ways to play with old toys.

This super simple cardboard shop sign can be made from basic materials you are likely to have on hand, and has provided us with hours of fun. It is amazing how such a simple prompt can be all that is needed to launch into some serious imaginary play. Kids love the fact that the symbols can be swapped around to change the type of shop, and older kids can use the blackboard to practice writing too!

It's more of a project to make for kids instead of by kids although a child about 7+ could probably manage it.

what you need

  • 1 x piece of cardboard about 35cm x 15cm (approx)
  • 3 x pieces of cardboard 8cm x 8cm (approx)
  • 1 x piece of cardboard 18 x 10cm (approx)
  • Velcro (the type you can stick on is best)
  • Blackboard paint
  • Some string
  • A sheet of white paper
  • A bead (optional)
  • Black pen
  • Hole punch
  • Chalk


1. Cut your cardboard to size. I chose to make mine with fancy corners so I drew on the shape first with pencil then trimmed it. You could just make it a rectangle though, I'm sure the kids wouldn't care!

2. Paint with blackboard paint and leave to dry.

3. Decide what kind of shops you want. We choose a pet store, cafe and doctors surgery because we already had plenty of those toys. Draw a simple icon for each of these shops on a square of paper 8cm x 8cm. I searched for simple drawings on Google image and then did my best to copy them. You could also just print some out if drawing is not your thing.

4. Glue the drawings to the 3 pieces of cardboard cut to the same size.

5. Attach a small square of Velcro to the back of each piece

6. Punch a hole on either side of the top of your painted sign. Attach a length of string or ribbon.

7. Add a small piece of Velcro to one side of the sign. Remember to use the opposite piece of Velcro to that which you have used on the small squares.

8. On a separate, smaller piece of cardboard, write OPEN on one side, and CLOSED on the other. We used white cardboard for this but just use whatever you have.

9. Attach it to the main sign by punching some holes and tying together with string. I added a bead to mine just to give it a bit of weight which helps it to stay on the side you want it to when hung.

10. To finish, Add a three more squares of Velcro to the back of the sign, again remember to use the opposite side to that which you used on the picture squares. Now you can store the pictures you aren't using on the back so they don't get lost!

ALL DONE!!! What will you play first?