Bring history to life with paper mache! You can become an Egyptian Pharaoh or a Roman soldier, or have some fun with animals.
It’s a great use for all those cardboard boxes laying around. Add a little paint, and the options are endless!
Paper mache also helps develop manual dexterity, spatial skills, color blending, and fuels creativity.
I realized quickly my paper mache skills are rusty. But, I have to say, it’s pretty fun!
- Cardboard boxes
- Scissors (parental supervision may be required)
- Newspaper, brown paper bags, computer paper
- Depending on the creature – balloons, plastic pop bottles, buttons…look around and see what you have
Paper mache paste (free recipe below, or you can just buy some such as Elmer’s Paste, non toxic, water cleanup)
Paint: we used this non-toxic metallic paint for a fun option, or regular non-toxic acrylic colors, especially for masks fit for kings and soldiers! Acrylic is best as it is thick for good coverage, and dries fast
Spray Paint: (Optional) You can also use spray paint for a base coat. If you do this, parents: spray it outdoors with a lot of airflow. Acrylic paint can be used on top of the spray paint.
Glue Gun: You could go with a mini glue gun like this Gorilla dual temp gun (parental supervision recommended to avoid burns). There is one for “kids” that is a low temp safer option. I haven’t used this so I’m not sure how well the glue holds large cardboard together, but it has good reviews
Mask: Plastic or paper face mask if you don’t want to use a human face. No pre-purchased mask is needed if using your own face, but be sure to use a layer of Vaseline if using actual skin or the paper will stick!
These in the photo are non-reusable paper masks but are designed for paper mache, have an elastic already attached, come in two sizes, and are perfect for numerous projects. I used a plastic one I got at a dollar store.
- White computer paper as a final layer gives a smoother finish and can be easier to paint
- For glue, a hot glue gun works well, but parental supervision is usually needed for young kids
- Some templates are provided, but we do encourage free drawing to help develop creativity and skills such as hand-eye coordination and spatial skills
- 2-3 layers of paper mache is recommended, but be sure to not go too thick or it will take forever to dry
- Allow 24 hours for paper mache to dry. You can speed it up with a hairdryer or put it in the sun
- If cardboard warps after drying, just gently move it back into shape with your hands
- The instructions included are a guideline: change what you will and do your own thing!
Some are a little more complicated, some simpler.
You can also adjust the ideas: for example, the Roman shield can be simplified. Instead of making it curve, just leave the cardboard straight and you skip a few steps.
Just have fun!
Projects and Research
To make things a little more interesting, do a little research on accuracy.
For example, different Roman eras meant different materials were used: leather, brass, iron, bronze. Also, different amour designs were used depending on the time and activity. Some shields had designs. Which hands did soldiers hold their shield and sword with and why? You can be creative or as historically accurate as you want.
Make a different style of a shield.
Different lands, different ages – pick your favorite!
For the animals, where do they live? What do they eat? Paint them all the colors of the rainbow or paint them as they appear in nature.
Combine some masks with cookies and reenact some edible history!
See the article Teach History with Cookies
The Big Sis