Every few weeks I give the kids in my art classes free choice as to what we will make. Each student gets to pick the project for the following week. They really love it. For this week, the request was bananas. Yes, bananas. “Okkkkkk,” I said. “Let’s make some bananas.” So we did. And they were awesome!
Have you tried paper mache with kids before? It’s really fantastic if you follow a few simple tricks (see below.)
First, of course, you need some bananas. You want to take a look at the shape and see what you notice about them. You can substitute any fruit or vegetable or any object for this part. We noticed the long shape, the color, the different colors on the tip and the skinniness forming the stem on one side.
Then we got out our materials.
Here’s what you’ll need…
a big mixing bowl
paint (you really only need primary colors when it comes to paint. kids love to mix their own colors. this set is a great starter kit.
The first step is to make your shape, the banana, from the newspaper. We took a few big pieces of newspaper each and sculpted them into the shape of a banana. Once you have the basic shape you are going for, you’re going to tape it up with masking tape. You don’t have to tape the whole thing, but enough so that it maintains it’s shape. If you’re doing a more complicated shape, you may want to do it in parts and then tape those parts together.
So now that you have your shape all ready to go, here comes the fun and very messy part, so make sure you are outside or working over a plastic tarp. Also make sure you’re wearing clothes that you won’t mind getting messy, though it all washes off.
Paper Mache with kids is an interesting thing. I have learned four tricks for making it successful so kids can tolerate the gooey texture.
4 Tips for Making Paper Mache Work for Kids
1. Have the kids make the paper mache. Let them do all the pouring and mixing.
2. Add water if it’s too clumpy. The consistency is less intense for kids if it’s not so gloppy.
3. Keep a bucket of water close by so kids can intermittently wash their hands.
4. Prep the kids with a conversation that sounds something like this. “Today we are going to make something really different and fun called paper mache. It’s a gooey paste that some kids love the feel of and some kids find weird to touch. I wonder what you will think of it? Let’s give it a try. Will you help me make some?” This kind of conversation preps the kids for what’s ahead and I’ve found it makes kids more likely to dive right into the paper mache paste.
Paper Mache Recipe
There are lots of different recipes. I stick to the most basic one, simple flour and water mixed in a bowl. Occasionally, I will add some white glue but I really don’t think you need any. I/the kids put about two cups of flour and two cups of water into a bowl. It’s not an exact recipe. If the paste feels gloppy, I add some more water.
Pre cut newspaper strips about an inch thick and 4-6 inches long.
I demonstrate how to dip the newspaper into the bowl and then using my fingers like scissors I wipe the excess paper mache off the newspaper in between my fingers. I start with my two scissor fingers at the top and then run them down the newspaper to the bottom as the paper mache drips off into the bowl.
Then we wrap the newspaper strips around our banana until the entire banana is covered. Two or three layers covering the whole shape is ideal. Let it harden for a full 24 hours, preferably in the sun, before painting. If it dries in a damp area the paper mache can get a little stinky and moldy. Not fun.
Lastly, it’s time to paint your banana. You can make them funky or go traditional. It’s up to you. Like I said, any tempera or acrylic paints will work just fine and I like this set a lot. If you need to add an extra coat of paint to make your paint extra bright, feel free. Let them dry before playing or displaying them.
Hope you’re feeling inspired to give paper mache a try. Thanks for reading along everyone. xo Meri