Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Papier Mâché - Buildings

The children construct small buildings with cardboard boxes and papier mâché. For ages 3 to 9. Plan 4 sessions.

  • Learning the process of papier mâché
  • Working with three-dimensional form
  • Building on small motor skills
  • Working with shapes and balance
papier mâché, architectural, overlap, pattern, freestanding

  • A variety of small cardboard boxes and paper towel tubes that are thin enough for children to cut
  • Scissors
  • Non-toxic liquid craft glue or extra-strength glue sticks (Elmer's bonds especially fast)
  • Masking tape
  • Wheat paste (I use PlayBox wheat paste.)
  • Bowls for the wheat paste
  • Newspapers
  • Tempera paint
  • Brushes
  • Water containers for rinsing brushes
  • Sponges for drying brushes
  • White drawing paper
  • Extra-fine point permanent markers (Faber-Castel markers are odorless.)
  • Fine-tip watercolor markers
  • Pictures or examples of houses and buildings
First Session
  • Cover the work area with newspaper.
  • Set out boxes and tubes.
  • Set out scissors, glue, and masking tape.
How to Begin
  • Explain to the children that, in this session, they will be constructing buildings using cardboard boxes and tubes. In the next session, they will be applying papier mâché, a process using paper and paste that will make their buildings stronger.
  • Looking at the pictures of buildings, discuss how the architectural, or structural, details help identify the types of buildings, such as a porch on a house, a steeple on a church, or smoke stacks on a factory. Ask the children to think about the structure of the buildings in their own neighborhoods, as well as ones they might see in a city or town.
  • Demonstrate how to construct the buildings. The cardboard boxes and tubes can be used as they are or cut to make architectural details. Attach the boxes by applying glue to both surfaces that are to be joined and holding them in place for a few seconds. If necessary, a small piece of tape can be used to hold the boxes until the glue dries. As the buildings are being constructed, be sure they remain freestanding, or balanced enough to stand on their own.
  • Have the children choose several boxes and/or tubes to cut and glue together for their buildings. Encourage them to add architectural details that will identify the types of buildings they are making. Let the constructions dry.
Second Session
  • Cover the work area with newspaper.
  • Mix the paste to a creamy consistency and put into bowls, planning one for every two children.
  • Tear newspaper into approximately 1- by 3-inch strips.
  • Set out paste and torn newspaper strips.
How to Begin
  • Explain to the children that, in this session, they will be covering their buildings with papier mâché, a process using paper and paste. When the paste-soaked paper dries, the buildings will be stronger and have surfaces that will be easier to paint.
  • Demonstrate the papier mâché process by dipping strips of torn newspaper into the prepared paste. Pull the wet strips between two fingers to remove the excess paste. This step is important to avoid having the buildings become too wet. Lay the dampened strips on the buildings. Show the children how to overlap, or lay each piece slightly over the previous one, and smooth the edges while covering the entire structure with one layer. Be especially careful to cover and overlap the areas connecting the boxes.
  • Have the children apply the papier mâché to their buildings, smoothing the surface as much as possible before letting the buildings dry.
Third Session
  • Set out tempera paints, brushes, water containers, and sponges.
  • Set out dried buildings.
How to Begin
  • Explain to the children that, in this session, they will be painting the base or first coat on their buildings. In the next session, they will be adding details, such as bricks, stones, doors, and windows.
  • Show the children how to paint any rough edges of the dried paper mâché by loading the brush with paint and dabbing into the crevices. Carefully brush over the area to remove any puddles of paint.
  • Have the children apply the first layer of paint on their buildings. Remind them that details will be added in the next session. If time permits, they can add a second coat of paint for better coverage.
  • Once again, let the buildings dry.
Fourth Session
  • Set out white paper, permanent markers, watercolor markers, scissors, and glue.
  • Set out the dried buildings.
How to Begin
  • Explain that, in this session, the children will be using markers to add details to their buildings.
  • Discuss the types of patterns found on buildings, such as shingles, bricks, stones, and wood siding. The children can use markers to draw these patterns, or designs, directly on their buildings.
  • Have the children use permanent markers to draw windows and doors on the white paper. Encourage them to include scenes in the windows and color them with watercolor markers. When the drawings are completed, have the children cut them out and glue them to their buildings.
Note: A coat of polyurethane will add strength and sparkle to the buildings, but must be applied by an adult.

  • Children enjoy this three-dimensional challenge and many ideas take shape as they work.
  • The tops of milk cartons make excellent slanted roofs.
  • Newspapers that use soy inks are less messy and easier to work with. Always tear the newspaper strips to be dipped into paste; the rough edges from tearing are much easier to smooth. Newspapers tear easily when ripped vertically.
  • After using papier mâché and paint, it’s hard for children to change their focus to the small details in the windows. It’s best to make this a separate session.
  • Be sure to click on the pictures shown in this lesson to see larger images of the charming activities going on inside the buildings.
  • Are the buildings sturdy and viewable from all sides?
  • Talk about the architectural details that help us recognize the types of buildings.
  • Discuss the scenes in the windows and the interest they add to the buildings.
What the children might say...
  • This box is just right for my house, but it is too tall.
  • I can’t cut this box. It’s too hard.
  • This box won’t stay on top. It keeps falling over.
  • I live in a brick house. How can I make bricks?
  • How can I make a chimney?
  • Can I put my cats on the porch?
What you might say...
  • You don’t have to use the whole box. Cut off the part that you need.
  • If you've tried cutting a box and are having trouble, I’ll cut it with my big scissors.
  • Sometimes you need a little tape to hold the boxes in place until the glue dries.
  • After the first coat of paint on your house has dried, you can draw the shapes of the bricks with a marker.
  • To make a chimney, use a small box or cut a piece from a box and glue it to the roof.
  • Adding your pet is a charming idea. It will tells us even more about your house in the neighborhood.
Click to view this lesson in a printer-friendly format.