Little Rock Ghost Town

For a year now I’ve wanted to create a handmade Christmas village for my kids. My mom has a store-bought version at their house and Lucy and Owen adore playing with it.  And making one from recycled items seemed like the way to go.  The problem I kept running into was was how to create the little people to go with the village.  Make them out of clothespins?  Wood?  I couldn’t come up with the right solution….

…until this picture popped up on my instagram (@danamadeit).  Thanks Annie!  And it all came together.   The project wasn’t meant to be a Christmas village…but a Ghost Town! YES.

So we churned a bunch of cardboard and paint together, made a bowl of village ghosts, and with our bats and moon as the backdrop had the perfect Halloween hangout.  Welcome to Little Rock Ghost Town!

And when you’re done, check out our UPDATED GHOST TOWN post a few years later.  The kids keep adding more and more buildings:

how-to-make-a-little-rock-ghost-town-1 how-to-make-a-little-rock-ghost-town-2
The idea is self-explanatory.
Take a bunch of old stuff and turn them into spooky houses and haunted hotels.
Endless possibilities!
But this wasn’t just a fun project.
I. Loved. It.
(maybe more than the kids.)

It was pretty much like carving pumpkins….but even better!  Less messy, more options!   If we had done this growing up I would have been at the table for hours, cutting, gluing, pruning, tweaking.  And my siblings would have been right there with me.  I love this stuff!
The excitement is legit.

Here are a few notes…
• Grab whatever recyclables you have on-hand: cereal boxes, other food boxes, diaper boxes, oatmeal cans, kleenex boxes, etc.
• Let the kids draw their design on the box (like carving a pumpkin) and then let mom and dad cut out the design with a knife or scissors.
• Cut out the back wall of the house so that it’s open and easy for playtime.
• Use a hotglue gun to glue everything together. 
• Be as creative and crazy as you want!  Add a chimney with a hole in top for ghosts to slide down.  Create stairs?  Make a railing around the balcony.

When your houses are ready, paint them with whatever you have on-hand.  I always have a range of spray paints in the garage but you can also use wall paint and a brush, or markers, or you could cover the whole thing with colorful paper.  Just talking about this makes me want build a few more houses…

We sprayed the inside of the houses one color, let them dry, taped the windows shut, then sprayed the outside of the houses a different color.  Some of the cereal box words still show through under the paint but no biggie.  I did two coats of paint on each house.

And look! You’ve got some haunted buildings!  They just need a few more touches….

Use sharpies to outline all the windows, doors, trims, and roofs, and to add texture and trees.  Then write words on the side of the hotel, etc.  This step makes a huge difference.  The silver sharpie on black paint is my favorite.

And there you go!

Now for some spooky inhabitants: ROCK GHOSTS.

I can’t take credit for this cool idea. The little rock ghosts come from Annily Green.  Isn’t she genius?  Pet rocks turned to Ghost rocks!  Love it.  The hardest part was finding rocks that were flat on the bottom and would stand up.

But the kids had fun searching for them down by the river.  Then we sprayed them with white paint, drew Sharpie faces, and created a whole new family with all the usual suspects….pirate, overly happy ghost, girly hair-bow ghost, grumpy ghost.  Oooooooo.

The total payoff of the project was how much the kids LOVED playing with these things!  I finished decorating the houses and ghosts at night while they were in bed, then I set them up on our half-wall.

In the morning you would have thought it was Christmas.  No joke.  They woke up before us and I could hear them in the hallway whispering and squealing about the different ghost faces, and the tree on the house, and the names of the hotels, and how fun it looked when you shined your flashlight in the window.

Then they gave names to every ghost and came up with a “Boo Boo Inn” song.  They played with those things for 3 days straight.

Best Halloween project yet.
Yay for recycled family fun, both day and night!

  1. That is too cute! And I love your title because I live in Little Rock, AR. Get it? I’m gonna have to do this with the kids now.

  2. 2) Jackie

    That is Halloween at it’s best. I would love to do something like this with my kids, maybe next year, time is running out this year. So much fun Dana!

  3. Wow wow wow. Its soooo cool and so many handy materials are used which we always dispose in the garbage. Can’t wait for my girl to be old enough to do something like this with her.

  4. Wow – so cool! And I bet the kids loved it!

  5. 5) Fabi

    Cool so cool

  6. Genius idea Dana! It turned out amazing! Must try this with the kiddos.

  7. This is great! Something I might actually make! Love it all lit up ….

  8. 9) Marci

    I love it! I wish we would’ve done this over Fall break….looks like a weekend project for sure!

  9. 11) RebeccaB

    Untill I read down the post I thought you had made the ghosts out of salt clay dough that you dried in the oven. If no smooth rocks are easily findable in your area, I bet clay or salt dough would work too. Come to think of it, I may make some ghosts to haunt my daughters mini doll house. She would love it. She will probably make the ghosts the dolls’ pets, or something.

  10. 12) abby

    That looks like fun. I bet rocks could turn into abstract snowmen…in a winter scene.

    It’s good to have you back!

  11. This looks like so much fun! I want to play!!! 🙂

  12. Saw the ghosts on instagram and thought that was cute. this is SO awesome! My kids would flip! Pinning now and doing tomorrow!

  13. 16) Julie

    Too creative! And cute 😉 I take offense to “Bats Motel” tho…my last name is BATES! You can buy battery operated tea lights at the dollar store if a candle behind paper is worrisome. Thanks for sharing! You should submit to Family Fun magazine.

  14. 18) Amanda

    I need kids so I can do all your cute projects with them!!!!! 🙁 It might be weird if I make a bunch of rock ghosts for myself.

  15. My kids are CONSTANTLY pulling out cardboard from the recycling and making things. They would LOVE this! Once recently, my 7 year old daughter asked me to go to the cardboard store when I was on my way to run errands. I came home from Costco with a box and she was super excited. I can’t wait to show her this project!

  16. 20) Rebekah

    Brilliant!! You are so inspiring and you make everything look so simple!! I will definitely try this craft. I’m so glad your kids have been enjoying it so much!

  17. 21) Lisa P.

    That. Is. Awesome. You are sooo crafty! I’ve got to try this with my gang. James and Isabel would go nuts for it! I think even Wyatt would get a kick out of the ghost rocks. Great project!

  18. BATS MOTEL! awesome. halloween crafts are the most fun crafts, i think. how fun that the kids got so excited about it, too!

  19. Seriously adorable(!)- especially at night!

  20. 25) Megan

    I love your ghost town. We made “spooky” rocks this year too. The Halloween city might be something to try next year. Love it.

  21. This ghost village is AWESOME!!! I love love love it! I am tempted to go look for rocks right now, but I better go to bed :). Thanks for sharing!

  22. 27) Emily

    SOOO cute!!! I am definitely going to do this with my kiddos 🙂 They will LOVE it. I couldn’t help noticing the cardboard you spray painted on- making some puzzles from Popsicle sticks? That’s what I’m working on for my daughter’s class party…

  23. 28) Paige W

    I love this! Especially that your kids loved it so much too!

  24. 29) Laurie

    Oh. My. Word. I may have a stroke. This is freaking awesome. It totally scratches my itch to get into Halloween even more!

  25. Oh I love this so much it hurts!! We live on the New England coast, and all of our beaches are covered in granite rocks of all shapes and sizes, so any sort of rock painting craft is immediately plowed to the top of our list!

    thank you Thank You THANK YOU for helping with my weekend fun activity with the kids!!

  26. 32) Mary Kay

    I LOVE IT!!

  27. So much fun! I love all the details. I definitely need to do this with the kids!

  28. Wooooowwwww… thats cool!
    Love it.
    Liebe Grüsse aus Berlin

  29. This is the cutest thing I have ever seen! I know that even my 4th grader would even enjoy this. Thanks for a great idea. Happy Halloween!

  30. Best halloween craft yet! Can’t wait to make one with the kids.

  31. 38) Emra

    This is the best idea and so kid friendly! I love everything about it. I don’t need a shopping list or to go anywhere, except the garage and craft room. If something doesn’t survive, it’s ok, it’s recyclable & getting a second chance-yeah. Great repurpose.

  32. Oh! I love projects like this! The ghost town is adorable.

  33. 42) RebeccaB

    Did this with my 4 and 6 year old today. We had a fabulous time creating “Spooky Town” together on this cold, rainy day in Oregon. Thank you for the inspiration and for a great opportunity to spend quality time with my kiddies:) Keep amazing me!

  34. Superbe!… J’adore!…. merci pour l’idée!…

  35. Love it! I’ve been saving up cereal boxes, tissue boxes, paper towel rolls and anything else so we can do the same but as a Christmas village. I love painting the ceramic houses and the kids want to do their own as well, so I can’t wait to get started with them! Ah! Your enthusiasm has me ready to start NOW!

  36. 46) kathy

    Love it! Awesome! Genial (in french)!

  37. I’m seeing this too late to do for Halloween but I think it could easily be converted to a winter/North Pole scene. The rocks could be stacked and made into snowmen. Super cute idea! Thanks for sharing!

  38. Dana, this is seriously SO cute. Any kid would die to have this. I love it. 🙂

  39. 50) katie chaffee

    We had so much fun making this project!

  40. 51) Ann

    This is so wonderful…and inspiring!! 🙂

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  42. 53) Lisa // Cucicucicoo: Eco Sewing and Crafting

    Oh my gracious, that is such a fun idea! One of the things my kids love most about Christmas is playing with the figures in our huge nativity setup that’s typical where I live. They would go totally bonkers over this idea! Definitely something to keep in mind for next year! 🙂 Lisa

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