Paper Creations

Andrea Evans
September 1, 2009

Children love to create. They create imaginary characters and stories with their minds, and with their hands (and sometimes other body parts as well), they create all manner of artwork. As a parent, it is wonderful to observe our children's creative minds at work. We marvel at their ability to transform an ordinary household object into a rocket ship or a baby's cradle.  We praise them when they create their works of art. 

For young children, art generally consists of crayon drawings or paintings, but as children get older, they increasingly enjoy more elaborate craft projects.  And, there is nothing as simple or as useful as a single piece of paper to get your child's creative juices flowing. Paper dolls, rainbows, and jellyfish -- they can all be created with not much more than a piece of paper.  Perfect for young hands and minds.  And perfect too for parents who do not have a craft room at the ready.  So, the next time you are looking for a simple and fun craft to make with the paper and other supplies that you probably have on hand, try one (or more) of these:

Paper Scrapers

Next time you and your child visit a new city, try this fun technique when out in the streets. You need paper, a paintbrush and a crayon, with paper removed. Have child select a texture he'd like to capture, such as a manhole cover or a plaque by a statue. Use the paintbrush to gently brush away any dirt and then have your child place the paper over the object. Hold the paper firmly in place while your child rubs the peeled crayon back and forth over the paper, capturing the texture underneath. Have your child sign and date his/her paper when done.

Thumbprint Tree

This is a fun art project for little ones! To get ready, cut out a tree trunk and branches on brown construction paper and glue it to a light colored piece of paper. Then, take your child's thumb (or let your child do this part herself) and put it on a green ink pad. Next, let your child begin putting thumbprints all over the branches to add leaves to the tree. (Note: If your child is learning about letters, you can also talk about how thumb and tree both begin with the letter T.)

Paper Beads

This is a great way for your child to recycle paper scraps into jewelry. You can use large paper scraps from wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, or even magazines. Cut long, skinny triangles from the paper, and roll them around pencils, wide end first. Use a bit of liquid glue to hold the point of the triangle. You'll probably need to hold it in place for a few moments to let the glue set. Once the glue has set, slide the bead off the pencil. Make as many beads are you like, and then string them onto yarn for a colorful bracelet or necklace.

Paper Dolls

Take a sheet of paper and fold it into fourths, lengthwise. Draw the outline of a doll on the top fold, making sure that the figure touches both sides of the paper. Cut out the figure with scissors and spread it open. If you don't cut along the creases, you should have four connected doll figures. Next, get creative! Use crayons, markers, yarn, felt, cloth, and buttons to dress your dolls.

Tissue Paper Rainbow

Start with a piece of white paper - - a small one to fit on the refrigerator, or a larger one to decorate your child's bedroom wall or playroom. With a pencil, trace out the curved lines of a rainbow, leaving plenty of space to fill in the colors with tissue paper. Cut or tear up small pieces of tissue paper, wad them up, and glue them onto the rainbow to completely fill it in. Your child can add clouds made of cotton balls, if she'd like. This is a great activity for reviewing colors and also to teach beginning science for how rainbows are made.


Make a jellyfish with your preschooler and talk about animals that live in the ocean! Let your child decorate a plain white basket-type coffee filter. Once the decorations are done, attach a string to the top and streamers to the sides. Hang the jellyfish for one fancy decoration, or many jellyfish for a whole ocean of fun.

Paper Bag Animals

Turn a brown lunch bag upside down so that the bottom of the bag becomes the top of the puppet. Use the flap for face, drawing on a nose and some eyes. When you open the flap, have your child draw a tongue under the flap or attach a tongue made from red construction paper. You can also have them glue ears to the top of the bag above the eyes and arms on the sides. Use your new puppet to sing songs or act out a favorite story! These are so easy to create that you and your child can create a whole company of puppets to put on a fantastic show.

Paper Plate Clock

Write the numbers 1 through 12 on the outer edge of a white paper plate. Create hands for the clock by cutting off two half-inch wide strips of black poster board. Make one strip three inches tall and the other five inches tall. Cut off two small triangles from the black poster board. Glue one to the end of each of the strips of poster board. Line up the ends of the two strips of poster board that don't have a triangle glued to them. Poke a closed paper fastener through the pieces of poster board. Then, poke a small hole in the center of the plate. Push the fastener through the hole and spread out the prongs on the back of the plate. Arrange the hands of the clock to the correct time and explain to your child that the shorter hand represents the hour and the longer hand represents the minute. You can use this tool to help your child learn how to tell time or you can set the paper plate clock to an important time (like when a friend will be coming over to play) and then set it next to a real clock so that your child can begin to understand the passage of time.

Life Size Paper Doll

Take a long piece of butcher paper and have your child lie down on top of it (his or her entire body needs to fit within the edges with a good margin around the sides). Trace around your child's body with a Sharpie. When your child stands up, you will have an outline that you and your child can dress and decorate however you wish. My daughter and I drew her face; cut out her hair and shoes from construction paper; and cut out her dress from wrapping paper. My daugher then decorated the rest -- jewelry, socks, even a bow for her hair. She and I created a representation of what she looked like at that age, but you can do whatever you and your child wish! The best part is that you have a nice keepsake and your child has a cool poster for her wall.

Tissue Paper Butterflies

Use an assortment of solid color tissue paper or patterned paper. Using half-sheets (or smaller, depending on the size of the butterfly you want to make), lay the number of sheets that you wish to use on top of one another. Then, bunch them up a little in the center. Using a green pipe cleaner for the center of the butterfly, twist the green pipe cleaner around the slightly bunched-up part to create the body of the caterpillar. If you have enough pipe cleaner left over, you can use the two ends for antennae. Use this craft as an opportunity to teach your child about the miracle of caterpillars who emerge from their cocoons as beautiful butterflies.

From the Parents

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