Paper mâché is one of those classic art techniques that all children should experience at some point in their childhood. Getting your hands covered in ooey, gooey paste is a rite of passage! You will need some preparation and planning, but the process is so enriching and the end result is always kind of magical.
Before we get started with these amazing paper mâché ideas for kids, let’s take a look at what goes into making a good paper mâché paste.
How to Make Paper Mâché
There are 3 ways to make a batch of paper mâché. Each one feels and acts a little different, but ultimately you are getting the same result. Paper mâché is not an exact science, so these recipes may take a little tweaking as you go to adjust the consistency. In general, you want your mixture to be thick enough for the paper to stick to your armature, but not too thick. A perfect analogy would be like pancake batter.
Method One: Flour and Water
The first way to make your paste is the traditional way using flour and water. This method couldn’t be easier to whip up with only 2 common ingredients.
Start by combining 1 part flour to 2 parts water in a bowl, and mixing thoroughly until all of the lumps are gone. Mix in 2 tablespoons of salt (optional to inhibit mold growth) and check consistency. A little too runny? Add flour, a little bit at a time, until the mixture will stick onto your paper pieces.
Method Two: Glue and Water
You can easily mix up paper mâché paste using white school glue. Just pour some into a mixing bowl and add in enough water to thin it out a little bit. With glue, you have the benefit of knowing it won’t mold, but it tends to be a bit stickier than the flour mixture.
Method Three: Mod Podge
Mod Podge is perfect for paper mâché, and is definitely the easiest to use, since you don’t have to mix anything. It’s also the most expensive, so it’s probably best for smaller projects. Simply alternate layers of Mod Podge and paper over your armature, and let it dry.
Paper Mâché Ideas For Kids
Now to the paper mâché ideas! These are organized from most simple to more involved so if you have younger kids, definitely focus on the beginning of the list. The projects at the end are great for older kids and teens.
Simple Paper Mâché Mobiles
These mobiles are the perfect first paper mâché project. Little kids will love rolling tinfoil balls and making these super-cute mobiles to hang in their rooms. And yes, that is a fabric covered wire hanger!
Ugo Rondinone Paper Mâché Sculptures (Part 1)
Ugo Rondinone is the perfect artist for kids to emulate with paper mâché. These pieces have magnets in them so they can become toys when they’re all dry.
Ugo Rondinone Paper Mâché Sculptures (Part 2)
I wasn’t kidding when I said Ugo Rondinone was the perfect artist to inspire paper mâché ideas; this one is based on his Human Nature installation.
CHIAOZZA Inspired Paper Mâché Sculptures
Kids will love exploring all that paper mâché can do while learning about the couple who make art together under the name Chiaozza.
Paper Mâché Bird’s Nests
You can absolutely alter your idea of paper mâché with these bird nests made from strips of paper. We added in some color with magazine pages.
Paper Mâché Bowls
This process couldn’t be simpler, and although the tutorial is in German, you can follow along with the photos. Just pick one of the paper mâché recipes above, and use your favorite paint colors when the bowls are all dry. (From Schaeresteipapier)
Paper Mâché Jellyfish
I’m just blown away by how fun these paper mâché jellyfish are! I’m imagining lots of them all hanging together in a smack. And yes, that’s the awesome word for a group of jellyfish. (From Tea For Monkeys)
Paper Mâché Ice Cream Sundaes
One of my very favorite ways to let kids work with paper mâché is making ice cream sundaes. It’s simple and colorful and joyful. The toppings are the most fun!
Paper Mâché Ice Cream Cones
These look yummy enough to eat! With a similar concept as the sundaes above, these scoops are attached to cones. Kids young and old will love this one. (From Art Room Britt)
Paper Mâché Animals
I just can’t get over how incredible these paper mâché animals are from Purple Twig! Those little earmuffs are ridiculously cute. It’s also so interesting to see how Samara made the armature.
Paper Mâché Weiner Dogs
I am OBSESSED with these paper mâché weiner dogs from Small Hands Big Art, made from a water bottle. Look at how fun and colorful they are with all the extra little embellishments!
Paper Mâché Cat Mummies
These are brilliant! Kids are fascinated by mummies already, but they will adore learning about cats in ancient Egypt with this cool project. While Samara uses plaster strips with her kids, this can easily be adapted to paper mâché. (From Purple Twig)
Paper Mâché Animal Heads
Anything goes when you make animal heads with paper mâché (is that a cyclops bear?) The key is in building the armature. (From Purple Twig)
Paper Mâché Foxes
What I love about these paper mâché foxes by Small Hands Big Art is all the different expressions and shapes that come from how each kid manipulates the materials. So good!
Paper Mâché Fabric Flowers
I’m in love with these gorgeous, giant flowers. With the use of fabric, its a great spin on traditional paper mâché. (From Purple Twig)
Paper Mâché Fabric Bowls
Another beautiful fabric mâché project with so many possibilities for different patterns, colors, and textures. (From Paper & Stitch)
Paper Mâché Bowls
Can you believe these were made from paper mâché?! So beautiful, and you get to play around with gold leaf as well. (From Kelli Murray)
Paper Mâché Vehicles
When you think of paper mâché projects, vehicles don’t jump to mind at first, but this these are so perfect. Use them as toys, or simply display on a shelf. (From Martha Stewart)
Paper Mâché Cacti
Who doesn’t love a paper mâché cactus? I love the idea of displaying many together on a big table. The spikes are made from toothpicks, how cool. (From Design Sponge)
Paper Mâché Cakes
Sometimes cake-making is more fun with paper than baking ingredients, especially when they’re as cute as these! (From Oh Happy Day)
1. Remember smocks or old shirts when working with paper mâché as it can get a bit messy (you can set up outside if weather permits).
2. Remind your kids that it usually takes a day or two for the paper mâché to dry between layers, so patience is key.
3. If your child doesn’t want to stick their hands into the paste, which some kids don’t like, then don’t make a big deal about it (it’s normal) – you may just need to help them. They can put the pieces of paper in the paste, and you can run your fingers over the paper to clean off the excess paste. Kids love collaborative projects.
Have fun playing with these paper mâché ideas!
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As an art ed major, we tried various pastes and glues and combos to use for papier-mache. The best and cheapest one I used most often was corn starch + water cooked into a paste. Cheap enough for kids to make really BIG papier-mache items. Add a few drops of peppermint to prevent mold when keeping this ‘paste’ over time.
As an ‘itinerant art teacher’ in one- and two-room rural area schools where cost was forever an issue, corn starch paste was the answer.
Thank you so much, Yvonne, that is a very helpful tip!