Make a paper mache bug!

FunLab Mom hints: This project is the first of series of creative ideas dedicated to having fun while using the classic art of paper mache. We will start with an easy project in order to get the hang of the techniques. Paper mache requires some hands on time for the adult who supervises and is quite messy but the end result makes the effort and time worthwhile.

1. Set up a work area. Protect your table with an old towel or a ALEX Toys® Drop Cloth.

2. Dress your kids in old clothes or use a smock to keep things clean and avoid accidents.

3. The homemade paper mache recipe can survive for up to a week in the refrigerator if well sealed.

4. We have listed some suggestions to assist in form making. For example, cereal boxes make good wings and straws are great for legs. As this is an intro level project, our form will be made using a balloon. Use your imagination to convert common household “trash” into body parts of your bugs – a great way to recycle.

You will need

Newspaper Straws Google eyes
Empty cereal boxes Chenille stems Buttons
Masking tape Acrylic Paint Pom poms
Balloons 3-D outliners Craft glue

Step 1: The first part is to build the form of the bug. Decide what bug you want to make and blow up a couple of balloons-the balloon will serve as the body of your bug. Don’t have in balloons in the house? No problem. Crumble some newspaper into a ball and cover it with masking tape. Keep in mind that small balloons are harder to cover evenly.

Step 2: Cut out wings from cardboard boxes. We used empty cereal boxes and took

advantage of the hinged top flap as our anchor to the balloon. Use masking tape to attach the wings onto the balloon.

Step 3: Now it is time to make the paste! This step requires parental supervision as the paste must be cooked. Bring 2 cups (500 ml) ofwater to boil. In the meantime, mix another 2 cups (500 ml) of cold water with 1/2 cup (75 grams) flour. Stir the flour/water mixture into the hot water and bring the paste to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons (40 grams) sugar and let cool (make sure that it is cool to touch to avoid burning of small hands). If you live in a very humid area add a little bit of salt to prevent mold growth. Your paste is ready to use.

Step 4: Tear old newspaper into pieces that are 1½ by 5 inches (4 x 13 cm) long. It is better to tear instead of cut the pieces because they will cover the balloon better.

Step 5: Set up a work area. This part of the project is the messiest so remember to protect your work area. Transfer the paste to a shallow plate. Dip the strips of paper into the paste and remove any extra paste with fingers so that the balloon does not get too wet. Working systematically, cover the balloon with a first layer of newspaper slightly overlapping the pieces. Once the balloon is completely covered let it dry. We set the balloon on a glass cup so that it would not touch the work surface and was easier to handle. We usually let the paper mache dry overnight but depending on the temperature it can take less time.

NOTE: The drying step is extremely important and a little bit delicate. The balloon is an easy form for beginners but has a BIG draw back. It can pop while the paper mache is wet and, unfortunately, the bug will collapse. In order to avoid popping, we offer two big hints. First, use heavy high quality balloons. Second, avoid temperature changes while the paper mache is wet. For example, do not put the wet mache covered balloon in direct sun light otherwise the balloon will expand and your paper mache shell will split. The same is true for the opposite case. Do not put the wet mache covered balloon in a cold place or the balloon will shrink and your shell will be all bumpy. We also recommend starting with more than one balloon so that if anything happens not all the work will be lost

Step 6: Repeat step 5 a minimum of 2 more times. Your balloon should have a nice hard finish. If there are any soft spots add another layer of newspaper wet with the paste.

Step 7: Decide how you want to add antennae and legs to your bug. We used straws and chenille stems but use whatever you have in the house to add details and make your bug more authentic. Attach the antennae and straw using masking tape. Then cover the masking tape with a layer of newspaper wet with the paste.

Step 8: Once the bug is dry, use acrylic paint to decorate. Let dry.

Step 9: Add the face using google eyes and 3-D outliners. Pom poms and buttons are other good craft essentials that can be used to decorate the bugs.

FunLab Fact: Did you know that while paper mache sounds French it actually has origins in China where it was used to make helmets?