Paper-based craft ideas for kids

By Jean Sanders
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kids working on arts and crafts
Stuck inside with a bunch of adorable but hyperactive kids on a rainy day? Here are a few paper craft activities to keep them occupied.
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Making a 3-d picture

These projects are mostly geared towards children between 6 and 12, because that's the age range where you can give a kid tools, instructions and a quiet place, and they won't lose interest after five minutes or want to discover what paste tastes like.

A lot of craft ideas, especially finger painting projects, for kids involve a multitude of art supplies and working space, so this article is intended to highlight a few projects that stay relatively dry except for the final touches and can work with a limited budget.

Make a 3-d picture: there are a couple of different ways to make a three-dimensional portraits and drawings. One way is to make two different pictures on the same general subject, such as a tiger and a lion. It's important that both drawings be on exactly the same size paper. If possible, let the kids draw with pencil, landscape-style, on a color background. Keep erasers handy for mistakes. Then, have them paint over the lines with solid pastels or acrylics that will show up on construction paper (this is why you want older kids to do the projects—they won't eat the supplies or stain everything within reach). Try to have them fill up the space on the paper as much as possible. Now tape two blank sheets of paper identical in size together at the shorter ends. Add a third piece in the same way later if necessary.

Measure the width of one of your picture sheets. Think of factors of the measurements, e.g.: if you paper is an 8x11 sheet and you can trim half an inch off each end of the long side, you'll have a 10-inch wide picture that you divide into five columns of 2 inches each. Trace these dividing lines in pencil lightly onto the back of your two pictures. Fold the joined pieces of blank paper like an accordion fan at 2-inch intervals. This will be the backing of the drawings.

Place the spreaded-out fan on a table and shorten it so that when you look at the ridges from eye-level, there are 5 2-sided triangles with their points up side by side. Cut off the excess paper so that the triangles on the ends stop when the side edges are slanted down to the table and there is about half an inch of another ridge attached. Tuck the extra half inch edges under.

Cut the pictures into vertical columns with the lines you just traced. The kids can paste the strips of the first drawing, in order, onto five consecutive sides that face one direction. Then they can do the opposite with the second drawing. Let the fan dry, then flip it over and glue thin, long strips made from the excess you cut from the fan onto the 4 inner ridges of the fan.

When those are dry, you will have four flat surfaces to glue to a more sturdy, larger back, and there will be only two outside edges left that you can now glue down as well thanks to the extra half-inch allowance. Now you have a picture that changes when you look at it from a different angle!

One variation on this themes is to start with a flat backboard, add sequences of cubes to it, then cut up the pictures and put one picture on the surfaces directly facing out/up, and another on all of the side panels. Building a cube to stick onto the board is easy; just draw a fat-legged cross like the ones you see on hospital signs. The width and length of all legs should be equal, and if you were to cut the legs off, the middle square would be identical in size to the 4 leg squares. This formation makes a 5-sided cube. If you double the length of one leg, you can fold that leg in half, and you have a 6-sided cube—whichever is easier to attach, use that design. Staggered cubes can make objects in a background picture stand out or seem further away, and kids appreciate the feel of 3-d art because it (literally) stands out.

Another great project in which you can implement various 3-d decorations is a memory box. Memory boxes are great places to put keepsake, photos, heirlooms and even craft supplies. Use an old shoebox or a box small enough that decorating every surface won't take your kids until their retirement. The children can pick out favorite themes, colors, lyrics, quotes and designs and make a collage of magazine clippings, shapes paint, construction paper, markers, beads, glitter, jewels, etc. Remember that craft ideas for kids come from their perceptions of their home and school environments; there are plenty of sources of inspiration at their disposal.

You might want to cut off one of the long sides of the box top and tape the top down on that edge from both sides to make a working hinge. When every inch of space inside and out is covered, apply at least one light coat of matte sealant (you can get it at any craft store worth its name), or if sealant isn't handy, use a very thin layer of Elmer's glue. Allow a side to dry completely before you rest it face down to seal the bottom.

As you can see the craft possibilities, even with limited art supplies, are endless. A little research will yield crafts that you can do with recycled papers, including gum wrapper crafts and candy paper origami. This selection doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of paper craft ideas for kids, and that's just one medium!

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