This is such an easy activity and (if you use sticky tape) a fairly mess free one too! All you need to do is collect all the packaging, boxes, cardboard tubes, jar lids, anything at all really. Then invest in a sticky tape dispenser. Put a selection of things out and then let the children come up with something.
When we've done this at home or at nursery I've noticed the following. Sometimes children like to work collaboratively and work on one large model together, sometimes they work alone on individual projects. Sometimes their model is abstract and other times they want to create something which represents another object.
The two examples I've got here were both done at nursery by Boy. Both are individual projects and both are vehicles although they were made a few weeks apart. The first was done with my wonderful colleague Sandra and is a train.
I remember when Sandra did this activity she sat closely with the children and made a model of her own alongside them. I'm not sure whether it was her or the children who suggested making a train but they all made their own versions of trains by joining some small boxes we had been given together in lines. The second model is a plane.
I worked with the children during this project. It was inspired by the children's own ideas about what to do with some long cardboard tubes. I chose not to make a model of my own but rather to assist from time to time from a bit of a distance. I helped from time to time with a couple of suggestions. Afterwards I began to wonder if I could use this as a springboard into some improvised storytelling. I began to ask the children questions about their planes. First I asked them to describe the different parts of the models but we quickly got onto talking about where the planes were going. One child told me 'Dya wanna hear the engines? Pshhh pshhh, see it's got fire at the back. Here's the pilot and they're going to Spain on holiday! To the beach, swimming and a theme park!'
So this simple activity enabled the children to use, demonstrate and further develop their skills in, hand eye co-ordination, construction, design, storytelling and communication and imagination.