Papier-mâché, also known as paper mache, is a fun and simple activity for kids. You don't need many materials, and chances are you have everything you need at home already. All you need is water, flour, paper, balloons, and your imagination! Not only is it easy and inexpensive, but paper mache is also surprisingly strong and durable.
Paper mache is also a great sensory experience, and kids will love the experience of mixing everything with their hands. Just be sure to cover your work area with a cloth or extra newspapers to minimise the mess.
To make paper mache, start by cutting or tearing strips or squares from your chosen paper, before making the paste. For your paper, you can use anything from recycled paper to newspaper, comics, or magazines, depending on your project. You can also use paper towels to strengthen your creation in between the thicker paper layers.
Then make the paste. Mix equal ratios of flour and water (so one mugful of flour and one mugful of water) and mix well. The consistency should be like a runny fish & chips batter, add a bit of water if necessary.
Next take a balloon and blow it up. Get a bowl or cup to rest it against.
Now it is time to start creating the bowls. Dip one strip of the paper you cut up into the flour and water mix. Make sure that it is fully covered and wipe off the excess on the side of the bowl and stick onto your project. You don’t want the mix dripping off the paper when you put it on the balloon, but still covered enough to stick. You can use a paintbrush to smooth the paper and remove any air bubbles if necessary, or just paste on with your hands.
Repeat this process, layering strips onto half the balloon, overlapping them slightly. Wait a few minutes between each layer to let it dry a tiny bit and do this 3-5 times. The more layers you add, the harder and more durable your creation will be, but it will also take longer overall to dry. Leave to dry for at least 24 hours, checking for soft spots and reinforcing if necessary.
Once the paper mache is completely dry, pop the balloon to remove it, and trim the edges if necessary to make a smoother or straighter lip.
If you want to decorate it, paint a thin layer of white paint over all the paper mache. This helps give a smooth base and makes your final coat of paint stand out more. Once the white paint is dry, you're ready to decorate your bowls however you like, with colourful paint, glitter, pom poms, or anything else that strikes your fancy!
Once you’ve got the base technique down, there are countless possibilities when it comes to designing a paper mache creation. Experiment with different shapes and cover the paper mache mix on different things, such as special cut out pieces of thick cardboard or even toys. Just make sure to leave a gap so you can remove the dried paper mache from the item.
The addition of glitter, beads, or sequins can add a fun, sparkling touch. You can even personalize your creation by adding words or initials, making it a unique and meaningful gift for a friend or loved one. With paper mache the cost is minimal but the possibilities are endless, so get creative and have fun!