Finding simple, fun and cheap art projects to do with children is not always easy. Simple coloring and drawing can seem repetitive and boring after a while. Hence, a medium like paper mache might be just what your child needs to renew their interest in the arts.
Paper mache is a composite material made by mixing water and glue and dipping strips of paper into the mixture. When the wet paper is extracted from the mix it can be placed on an object like a rubber ball or a bottle. By repeatedly placing wet paper strips on top of each other until the base item is covered, a paper mache figure is made. Once it dries the whitish paper base can be painted and otherwise decorated colorfully.
Pinterest has a number of ideas for paper mache projects for children. However the piggy bank is one of the most common. A paper mache piggy bank can be achieved in the following way:
1. Take an empty plastic milk container (the fattest one you can find will work the best) and turn it sideways. The “front” part of the container (where the head will be) should be the side that has the nozzle since that will later serve as the pig’s nose.
2. Take two cardboard centers out of bounty rolls and cut them in half, leaving you with four cardboard cylinders of equal length. Scotch tape these four cylinders in a square-like pattern onto the base of the container so the container can “stand” on the cylinders. NOTE: The bottom of the sideways container should be where the handle sticks out! This will make the top part of the completed pig looking smooth, like a real pig’s back.
3. Cut up many strips of paper. Although it is fine to use newspaper, blank white paper (such as what is used for receipts) will make the base look cleaner and avoid messy blotting ink from the wet newspaper.
4. Mix water and glue (Elmer’s liquid white glue is fine) in a bowl. Keep the glue and water nearby so, if you run out, you can quickly refill. This is one of the simplest ways to make a paper mache paste, but you can find other recipe options at ultimatepapermache.com.
5. Dip one strip of paper into the paste mix and then carefully place it on the container. Continue this process, going in overlapping directions, until the entirety of the container is covered. Make sure to place some extra layers over the sections that connect the container and the scotch taped legs. This will make it less likely that the legs will fall off once the paper mache is dry.
TIP: You might want to have some paint brushes handy so you can brush a little extra paste mix onto the figure to ensure the glue mix is properly fusing the paper together. However, don’t use so much mix that it becomes droopy, that might cause the paper to peel.
6. Let the paper mache dry. If you do only one layer the process will take about an hour—and then you will have to go back to add more layers. If you do two layers at once then the project will take a few hours to dry so you might want to turn this into a two-day project. In order to decorate it effectively, the entire figure must be completely dry. Two to three layers of paper is suggested overall for best results.
7. Once the container (that should be clearly pig-shaped) is totally dry, start decorating! For a traditional piggy bank:
a. Paint the pig light pink. Craft paint will work perfectly.
b. Twist up a pink pipe cleaner into a spiral shape. An adult should then take a knife, pop a small hole into the back of the pig, and glue in one side of the pipe cleaner so the exposed part looks like a pig’s tale.
c. Cut pink cardboard into small triangles and place two on the top of the head to get piggy ears.
d. Use a darker pink shade to paint the nose and add two “googley” eyes (available at any craft store) for eyes.
8. Let the decorated pig dry for a few more hours. Then, last but not least, have an adult take a knife and cut a small hole in the back for which a child can store money and change—hence, a piggy bank. You can also cut a small hole in the bottom if you want to have the ability to take the money out without breaking the piggy.
This is just one suggestion for how to use paper mache in an art project but the creation—and the decoration—is entirely up to you! Art is all about having fun and letting your imagination run wild. Although paper mache can be messy (you will need a lot of clean up materials such as paper towels) it is a fun and rewarding way for children to experience art education and create something that could last for years to come!