Paper mache is a simple, affordable craft for children of all ages. It’s a messy activity, but the possibilities to create cute projects for all seasons are nearly endless. All it takes is a balloon, some liquid glue or decoupage, and plenty of newspaper. Start with the required materials and let your creativity take it from there.
Spring is the perfect time to make paper mache treat baskets. Cover the work area with newspaper to protect it from the glue. Place an inflated latex balloon in a bowl to keep it steady and begin covering the top half with the glue-saturated newspaper strips; this is the bottom of your basket. Use two to three layers of newspaper to make it sturdy. When the glue is almost dry, remove the balloon from the bowl and place it newspaper side down. Flatten the bottom so it lays flat when the basket is finished. To construct the basket handle, replace the balloon in the basket, and lay the newspaper strips on the balloon going from one side of the basket to the opposite side over the top. The handle should be about 2 inches wide, and overlap the sides of the basket bottom so it is securely attached. When the basket is dry, usually after 24 hours, it can be painted and decorated.
Making "tribal" masks is one way to incorporate a classroom unit theme into your arts and crafts projects. The base of the mask is cardboard, and the paper mache is layered on top. Measure a piece of cardboard to the desired shape so that it is slightly larger than your child’s head. Cut the eye and mouth holes using a craft knife. Cover the mask with the paper mache. When it’s dry, the children can decorate the mask with construction paper, markers or paint and draw tribal-themed symbols on it.
Apple Pencil Holder
For a cute school-inspired pencil holder, inflate a balloon to the size of an apple. Cover it with the newspaper strips and allow it to dry. When it is still slightly damp, pop the balloon and gently press one side onto the table top so it will lay flat. It will dry very hard and stand on its own when you use it. Cut a hole in the top of your apple with a crafting knife and allow to dry completely. Paint the apple red and add some leaves to the top with construction paper or craft foam.
For paper mache maracas, fill the balloon with dried beans or uncooked rice. Make a funnel out of paper and insert it into the balloon; deposit the beans or rice and remove the paper. Carefully inflate the balloon to about 5 or 6 inches in diameter. Next, create a handle using an empty paper roll by cutting snips in one end. Fan the cut sections out and it should lay against the tied-off end of the balloon. Secure the paper roll with a lot of cello tape or masking tape, and cover the open end thoroughly by stuffing the handle with paper. The maraca is ready to be covered in the paper mache strips. Cover the balloon and handle in the strips. Decorate your maraca with paint and markers or stickers.
Patricia K. Maggio is a freelance writer originally from Chicago, Ill. She has been living, studying or working in Europe since 2007, when she graduated with a B.A. in English from DePaul University. Most recently, her screenwriting work has appeared on BBC America and STYLE Network.