Play to Go: Dinosaurs and Other Portable Play Box Ideas

DIY Dinosaur portable play box tutorial

The thought of keeping my two year old entertained while his sister does a 40 minute gymnastics class seriously brings on my anxiety. It’s a high-pressure situation, any sniff of boredom and he is bolting for the trampoline.

I have never been one for huge baby bags full of toys and colouring books but there are some situations that I like to be prepared for and Thursday afternoon gym is one of them.

I’m not worried about next week though (okay, well I’m still a little worried) because I have a not-so-secret weapon: a brand new portable play box complete with a printed game mat, dinosaur toys and little trees for the dinos to eat. 

This handy little box, contains all the bits and pieces little people need to create a mini dinosaur land that can easily be set up and played with anywhere you happen to be. This portable play station (of the very best kind) is waiting by the front door with the shoes, ready to go. Can we just take a moment to appreciate that last sentence? This may be the highest level of parental organisation I have ever reached.

The trick will be not letting the kids play with the box any old time, keeping the allure strong for when I produce it at gymnastics.

We all have our own painful places, so let me show you how we made this little box of fun. Hopefully it will come in handy for whatever your ‘gymnastics’ moment happens to be.Dinosaur portable play box DIY 1


  • a printer
  • a small box, we used a toddler shoe box
  • coloured paper
  • washi tape
  • glue stick
  • stickers and whatever else you want to decorate with
  • laminator
  • dinosaur toys (ours came with our Dinosaur & Friends book from DeAgostini)
  • a dice
  • these three free printables: 3D trees, mountains and trees, dinosaur stomp game (click on the number to download and print)

Step one - Dinosaur portable play box

Step 1: Decorate the outside of the box. We covered the top in paper and used washi tape around the side then added stickers. If my daughter had her way it would have been covered in glitter but this is for portable play and while leaving glitter everywhere you go is a fantastic metaphor, it’s rather an obnoxious reality.

Step two - Dinosaur portable play box

Step 2: Cut out the mountain and tree printable (click to download and print) to decorate the inside the box. We also added a little pond with blue cardboard and some green tape to make a floor.

Step three - Dinosaur portable play box

Step 3: Now for the 3D trees (click to download and print). The page of eight tree outlines will make you four 3D trees, so just print them on paper, get the kids to colour them in, stick them to cardboard with a glue stick and cut them out.

After they were cut out I laminated them but they really didn’t need it. I just wanted to play with my new laminator. Next cut along the dotted line on each tree and slide them together. I found that cutting one of the lines from each pair a bit thicker worked best for me.

Step four - Dinosaur portable play box

Step 4: Contact or laminate the Dinosaur Stomp game page (click to download and print) so it can be used as a play mat for smaller kids or as a mini game for older ones.

How to play the Dinosaur Stomp game

My two year old enjoyed making the dinosaur stomp around whilst yelling random numbers and pretending to eat the trees. The five year old, with the addition of a dice, played it like a board game; taking steps for every number she rolled to try to get the dinosaur to the forest. The goal is to roll the exact number that lands the dinosaur in the trees and if you roll too large a number you have to travel backwards. So if the dinosaur is on number seven and you roll a six you would move forward four steps to the forest and back two steps to the eight. This game could keep giving for hours…

Dinosaur portable play box DIY 2

Step 5: Pop the trees, dinosaur toys, play mat and a dice in the box and leave it somewhere handy so you can grab it when you’re running out the door.

Dinosaur portable play box DIY

Other play tubs you could create

Portable Doll House

Decorate a box like a doll’s house and include:

  • some little figurines or dolls
  • tiny furniture items, maybe a bed
  • little play food and cups
  • a napkin sized blanket

Portable Train Station

Decorate a box like a train station and include:

Portable Craft Box

Cover the box in plain paper and include:

  • stickers
  • crayons or markers
  • a little note pad
  • some washi tape

Portable Farm

Decorate the box to look like a barn and include:

So there you have it. I hope you have fun creating your own portable play boxes. Remember, these are to be produced only when you’re out and about; if the kids have free reign over them at home then they will be no help to you when you need them most.

This post was sponsored by DeAgostini ‘Dinosaur & Friends’

More fun ideas for dinosaur play:

Images: Barbara O’Reilly