‘Papier mache’ is French for chewed up paper, not an inspiring craft you might think! However, it’s an incredibly exciting activity. Kids paste layers of paper onto a mould to create fabulous 3D models. The art of papier mache originates from the Far East and arrived in Europe during the 18th century. It’s now a staple favourite amongst all the crafts for kids.
Papier Mache Ingredients
As with all crafts for kids, it’s best to gather all your materials before kids start. This prevents frustration at best and tantrums at worst!
- Start with the paste. There are many recipes and your choice often depends on the project or personal preference. The prime concern should be something child friendly. Try simple PVA glue diluted to an easy to handle consistency with a small amount of warm water. Alternatively, mix 1 part flour to two parts water.
- Next think about the paper. The best choice is newspaper. It’s nice and easy to handle and absorbent.
- Now you’ll need a mould to work with as the basis for your model. Exciting ideas include balloons, cardboard tubes, empty packets and egg cartons. It’s a great chance to dabble and see what happens.
- Last but not least the young artists will want to finish their work with paint.
How to Start
Kids will find the process very easy. Tear the newspaper into strips, the nice rough edges of the tears will give a good finish. Dip the strips into the paste and make sure they are thoroughly soaked. Lightly wring out any excess paste and gently smooth the strip onto the base. When the whole base is covered, leave to dry thoroughly for a day. The process should be repeated the next day and when it’s thoroughly dry, the kids can follow up all their hard work with lots of fun painting.
Piñatas are becoming really popular at children’s parties- with good reason, they’re great fun! A piñata is a hollow container filled with sweets or little gifts. Suspended high above the floor, kids take turns at batting it with a stick. Eventually the piñata shatters and showers the partygoers with goodies.
To make a simple papier mache piñata, take a balloon as your base. Cover the balloon with two layers of papier mache and leave an uncovered patch at the base. Don’t forget to allow each layer to dry before applying the next.
Once you are happy and the piñata is dry, pop the balloon and make sure you’ve removed all the shreds of balloon from inside. Now fill the piñata with all the goodies and finish with a final few layers of papier mache to repair the hole and attach a string for hanging.
It’s finally ready for painting and its big moment at the party. From start to finish, kids will love this idea and enjoy every stage of its creation.
Animals & Characters
Using an empty carton or plastic bottle as your base, there are many craft ideas which create some fabulous animals.
To add features like eyes and legs, attach cut egg cartons and cardboard tubes to the body using lots of masking tape.
Discuss how you can achieve an overall effect with these simple parts. It may look a bit odd at first but with a couple of layers of papier mache and paint, they’ll be thrilled to see how they’ve created a lizard, pig or sausage dog!
Papier mache offers so many craft ideas. If the kids enjoy this craft, there are enough projects to keep them going for years! Some other ideas to try are:
- Chicken wire bases to create more adventurous animal and people models.
- Shoe boxes to make elaborate jewellery boxes.
- Balloons to make hats- just cover half of the balloon to achieve the right shape and inflate the balloon to roughly the right size. The same technique works for a mask.
As with all crafts for kids, having fun is the main aim, experiment and enjoy the gunky and rewarding world of papier mache.