Make: A 3D Cardboard Reindeer

My first December in Minnesota has me embracing my Scandinavian roots in a major way. Norwegian traditions like lefse-making, putting up straw ornaments, and watching for the nisse have always been a part of our family’s holiday celebration, but this year I’ve found Christmas inspiration in other places…

Taking style cues from petroglyphs in the Alta Fjord, I designed a simple cardboard reindeer out of basic shapes – similar to the stylized art made way, way, waaaay back in 4200 B.C.

Our 3D cardboard reindeer sitting in the snow in front of a snow-covered bush

The bold and bright decoration is influenced by the colorful styles of Scandinavia’s Sámi – the only indigenous people of Scandinavia. The Sámi have a long tradition of herding reindeer – helping them navigate their migration paths every year and protecting them (throughout all seasons) from an ever-growing list of dangers

Let Håkan introduce you to a true northern reindeer…

This artful project is a fun way for kids to decorate their own reindeer (and a great way to recycle a cereal box!) but it’s also sprinkled with nods to the cultures that have given these natural beauties the recognition and protection they deserve throughout the centuries. One of the BEST ways we can help reindeer now is to learn more about them and support the people who have spent generations watching over these majestic mammals.

Smitten with this stylin’ reindeer? Save this template set to make fawns, does, or bucks for any season! Visit our cereal box deer tutorial to see how we reused this concept to make a little fawn covered in fresh spring blooms.

For your own DIY 3D cardboard reindeer:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*



  • Scrap paper, felt, washi tape, etc.
  • Jingle bells, feathers, or other decorative supplies
  • Acrylic or tempera paint and brushes
  • Markers, ink, or chalk pens (this is the white chalk marker I use)

DIY 3D Cardboard Reindeer Instructions:

  1. Cut out your cereal box sides and reindeer template pieces

    Cut two large sides of a cereal box. Download, print & cut out our large free reindeer template pieces. 1 set will make a reindeer standing up tall, the other will make a reindeer bending down to hunt for lichen. Cut two large sides of a cereal box and cut out our reindeer template pieces

  2. Trace each templates onto a folded cereal box side

    Fold both cereal box sides in half with the printed side facing OUT. Line the long edge of each template piece up at the fold in your box sides and trace each reindeer template piece onto each side.
    Fold the cereal box sides in half and trace each reindeer template piece onto each side.

  3. Cut out your reindeer cereal box pieces

    Cut out your cereal box pieces along the traced lines, but DON’T cut at the fold.
    Cut out your cereal box pieces and glue your reindeer head piece together.
    With your cereal box pieces cut, open up, and fold to the reverse so the brown cardboard side faces toward you. We’ll leave the body piece open, but glue the head piece together with craft glue so it’s flat.

  4. Decorate!

    Decorate your reindeer with art and craft supplies! I used black washi tape, strips of colorful foam sheets, and scrap paper, but you can use nature supplies, office label stickers, holiday wrapping supplies – anything you happen to have around.
    Decorate your reindeer with art and craft supplies!
    You can use paper scraps, paint, or a marker to make an eye and nose. Use cereal box scraps to cut simple ears and a tail.

  5. Cut a short line at the top of the main reindeer body piece

    Cut a short line at the fold in your body piece. This is where we’ll insert the neck of the headpiece and glue shortly.
    Cut a short line at the fold in your body piece to insert the neck of the head piece.

  6. Add stick legs with a glue gun

    Using four sticks that are equal in length (an adult might need to help trim them up) add two to one side of your reindeer body. These will be the legs! Try to make sure the bottom of your sticks are evenly aligned – this will keep your reindeer standing steady.
    Hot glue sticks of equal size to both sides of the reindeer body for legs.
    Once dry, flip over and add your other two legs. Again, you’ll want to make sure the bottom of the legs lines up with the first two so your reindeer stands up.

  7. Insert the head piece and glue to secure

    Slide the “neck” of your reindeer into the cut at the top fold of the body and secure with a little craft glue or hot glue.
    Insert the head piece and glue

  8. Add twig antlers!

    This is the step that truly turns your cereal box assemblage into a reindeer! Use a hot glue gun to glue a twig or two to the top of your reindeer’s head.

Truly a MAGNIFICENT cardboard reindeer. The combination of graphic and natural elements makes for a unique handmade addition to any winter windowsill, holiday tablescape, or other spots your reindeer might like to stop and pose for the paparazzi.

Our 3D cardboard reindeer standing in front of a white background

Looking to use up some cardboard scraps? For more hip holiday and winter art projects, check out our modern mini cardboard holiday village or make a merry and bright cardboard Christmas tree!

A close-up picture of the head of our 3D cardboard reindeer

*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

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Amanda E.

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.


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