What is a Diorama?

I was first introduced to dioramas when my dad spoke to a veterans group about his service in World War II.

After his talk the veterans showed us the large dioramas they had made to re-create battles. The dioramas were complete with soldiers, buildings, trees, and many other natural elements. Many of the veterans were working together on the dioramas to re-create historical events.

A diorama is a 3-D creation, typically using natural elements and other materials in its background, to re-create a period in time. You see dioramas in museums, students use dioramas to present projects, and I have seen them many times in toy train displays. My father made a diorama with his toy train set which includes natural elements such as trees, bridges, plants, animals, and people. He loves to show it off to the Grandkids!

Many hobby stores have materials for dioramas. These can include trees, animals, people, plants, mountains, landscapes, buildings, desert or water scenes, grass and foliage, sand, etc… The plastic people are soldiers (from various wars), farmers, royalty, as well as others. Natural elements can also come from your backyard. The diorama can be placed inside a box, on a sturdy board, or whatever foundation you have available.

  • Dioramas can be fun for the whole family to get involved. First decide on a scene you would enjoy creating with your older family member or friend. Train sets are fun to play with and setting a scene around it allows for creativity.
  • Decide what elements and materials you would like to use.
  • Decide on a foundation for your diorama. Do you need to paint this or leave it natural?
  • Arrange your materials and elements on the foundation. Move them around to create just the right setting. Decide if you would like to attach them to the foundation or if you would like freedom in moving them around.
  • Enjoy your diorama with a child or other adults!


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