Holy cactus love. I am going nuts over these amazing paper mache cactus plants that Olivia made with our private home classes this month. These 6 year olds totally rocked it and now I want to use cement for every project ever.
We’ve done paper mache with kids many times over the years, like these paper mache bananas, and what we’ve learned is that it’s best to prepare kids for the slimy aspect of the paper mache mixture ahead of time or you’ll totally lose your crowd so to speak. Some kids like the slimy consistency of paper mache and some kids don’t. I always explain that upfront to the kids and then they can decide for themselves while their doing it, leading to a way more open minded experience. Our paper mache mixture is flour and water. Occasionally I’ll add a little glue but it’s really not necessary. I find that the kids like it less when it’s gloppy so we go a little heavy on the water.
paper mache paste (newspaper, flour and water and a big mixing bowl and spoon)
tempera paint, toothpicks, white acrylic paint
concrete mixture and something to pour the cement into to form a shape. we used a recycled container.
1. First step is to create the cactus shape. We shared pics of cacti with the kids in class and practiced drawing them before starting the paper mache process. I love adding observational drawing into our projects. After drawing, the kids rolled and shaped pieces of newspaper and used masking tape to keep the rolls together and in their shape. This part may need some adult help. It’s fine to add as much masking tape as you need.
2. Once you have the cactus shape it’s time to paper mache. Dip about one inch by 5 inch strands of newspaper into the paper mache mixture and use your fingers like a scissor to get the excess mixture off. I go into the mixture and share more pics of the paper mache process here. Like I said earlier, some kids love this and some kids are done after about 5 strands. We just jump in and help the kids that are sensitive to it. Wrap the strands around and around the cactus shape, making sure there is a nice coat of paper mache strips all around your shape. This is a messy process so be prepared. You may want to suggest smocks or art clothes only. 3 layers is ideal but hey, these are only about a layer and a half and they look pretty darn amazing so just go with it.
4. When your paper mache cactus is totally dry, invite the kids to stick in some toothpicks for thorns all around the shape and paint it with your favorite tempera colors. Let dry. If you want the kids can mix their own paints. See the full paint mixing with kids tutorial here.)
5. The last step is to create a concrete mixture using concrete mix and water. This part is best done by an adult. Once you have your mixture by following the directions on the bag, pour it into a large enough container so that you can sit your cactus into the mixture without it falling over. The sides of the container can hold the cactus in place. We used old corn starch and baking soda containers found at Smart and Final. Let the cactuses sit overnight until the concrete is completely dry. Remove gently from the containers. *Note* Add a little olive oil or vaseline to the inside of the container with a paper towel so the concrete slips right out.
6. The very last step and my personal favorite, is to invite your child to dip their cactus into a bowl of paint. Make sure the paint is high enough to cover the desired amount of the concrete. We went with white to make these really pop and the results are just fab. Sit them on a piece of cardboard or paper and let dry and then you’re done.