DIY: A Frugal Project with a Twist! Come meet our bus!

by on May 7, 2012 in Personal Experiences

Guess what we did this weekend? We built a bus!

Yes…built it. My Hubby got a HUGE cardboard box from work a few weeks ago, and it was the perfect thing for an idea I had to make a fun, frugal DIY toy for the kids. Check this puppy out:

I shopped for supplies at Walmart. To create the bus, I used:

  • Hubby’s salvaged cardboard printer box
  • 1 quart Sunflower yellow Exterior flat paint
  • 1 package of Elmer’s Painters Paint Markers
  • 1 paint pad and 2 small foam brushes
  • 1 clearance box of Elmer’s foam numbers
  • 5 pre-painted wooden animals
  • 2 “teacher’s” signs
  • 2 small bottles of acrylic paint in red and black
  • pencils, rulers, box cutters, hot glue and my imagination!

The whole thing only cost about $38.00! I’d say that this bus is totally worth that price, and will be loved by my kids much more than a toy from the store that would cost twice that much!

I’ve posted a photo album on my Facebook page for you to see the whole process of “Making the Bus”. Click here to see it.

Two of the the most crucial supplies were the paint to make the box yellow, and the Elmer’s Painters Paint Markers to outline and decorate the exterior of the bus.

I chose an Exterior paint for the bus, because it’s more durable. With a 2 year old and an 11-month old this bus will probably take a beating. I used a paint pad to apply the Sunflower yellow paint (perfect bus color, by the way!), because I read that brushes and rollers can apply paint too heavily and can make cardboard warp and pucker. Two coats and all the decals and writing were covered up.

The Elmer’s Painters Paint Markers were wonderful for the decorations on the bus. I originally thought I would color in the wheels, lights and stop sign with the markers, but half way through one tire I realized an acrylic paint and brush would do a better job. Plus, I’m sure I would have ran out of paint in my marker!

I did color in the white head lights with the white Painters Paint Marker, but after letting it dry I was not pleased with the effect. The solution was a simple fix, though. I simply pressed the tip of the paint marker down multiple times, allowing the paint to flow out and puddle a small amount. Then, I spread it around with my finger! It was perfect!

The Painters Paint Markers were so helpful in making sure everything looked clean, crisp and recognizable. I was able to use stencils we printed off the internet to outline the wheels, stop sign and lights. Tracing with the paint markers was a breeze, and it was very easy to use the markers with a yard stick for the long lines of the bus. I could not have done this with a paint brush, and a regular pen would not have had the coverage that the paint markers did.

Walmart also had single Painters Paint Markers for $1.97 each (you can see them in my Making the Bus photo album), but I chose to get a whole pack. The single paint markers would be nice if you wanted specific colors or specific tip sizes. I used medium for my bus decorations and it was perfect!

Even though the main force behind making the bus was to create something fun and affordable for the kids, I also wanted to infuse something educational into the project. I knew I wanted decorations on the bus in addition to the features that made it look like a real bus.

While shopping for supplies I found some Elmer’s foam numbers on clearance, and lucked into some pre-painted wooden animals figures that I was able to pair with a set of 50 cent “teacher’s signs” to make each side of the bus into a possible activity and conversation starter with the kids.

I removed the sticks from the teacher’s signs and hot glued one onto the bottom of each side of the bus. First, I glued the wooden animals on the side with the sign that said “Look and Listen” so we could practice making animal sounds. Then, I used the Elmer’s foam number (which were adhesive!) on the side that had the “Please Line Up!” sign so that we could practice counting and doing things in order.

We cut out a doorway in the back of the bus for easy entry to the inside, and added a sun roof for our daughter who is taller than the bus. Red lights and a large “EXIT” sign on the back along with their names on the top of the bus finished off the project.

We did all of the work for the bus on two evenings after the kids went to bed and during two afternoon nap times. Once it was all done, we added our daughter’s bear and set it up for the kids to “Meet the Bus”.

I have a whole photo album of the kids Meeting the Bus on my Facebook page. Click here to see it.


My daughter is the one who’s nuts about buses right now, so we got her up first and let her check everything out. She had a total ball, except for a couple minutes right at the beginning when she was a little too excited and a little too unsure about what to do. After Daddy got in the bus, she was ready to explore. Then, we let Brother get up and Meet the Bus, too. He had so much fun!

There are so many awesome pictures of the kids checking it all out, so click here to view the whole album. Here are a couple of my favorites:

I am so glad that we took the time to make this toy for our children. I know it’s tempting to go to the store and just buy things, but the feeling I had when I looked at the end result of our hard work made the whole project worth it. It was only $38.00 of supplies and my time. The joy on their faces as the kids interacted with it made it worth every bit of that and more!

I would love to know if any of you have ever done a DIY project like this for your family! We did our project partly out of the desire to make a really cool toy, but also because we knew we couldn’t afford anything this grand that was sold in a store.

The Painters Paint Markers and foam letters that I found on clearance were made by Elmer’s. Their website, twitter feed and Facebook page have lots of information about products that can help you with DIY projects. If you need ideas, they also have those, too!

Feel free to share about your projects in the comments below, on one of the Facebook albums I posted, or on my Facebook page. I’d love to see your frugal DIY creativity!

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop/project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™. #CBias #SocialFabric Thank you so much for the opportunity to create something so fun & so frugal for my family! #ExpressYourself

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