Paper Mache comes from the french word Papier-mache which means chewed paper. I realize that thinking of paper mache as being chewed paper doesn't sound very appealing but it's pretty amazing what you can do with it and you really don't have to chew the paper. It's true definition is a composite material which consists of paper pieces (could be pulp) bound with an adhesive like glue, wallpaper paste or starch. Sometimes the paper pieces are reinforced with textiles for extra durability. I will give you tips on how to do it and it's something you can do with your kids for fun.

One of the great things about paper mache is how versatile a craft it is, there really isn't a right or wrong way to do it and you probably have everything you need at home right now. Here is a recipe to make the paste if you don't have liquid starch available to use. This is a no-cook recipe and the only materials that you need are water and flour. Simply mix 1 part flour to 2 parts water together and stir until it's the consistency of glue making sure you don't have any lumps in the mixture. Depending on where you live and the humidity in the area you may have to add a little bit more water or flour to get the right texture. Add a few tablespoons of salt if you are in a high humidity area to help prevent mold and even add a little cinnamon to make it smell great. If you store the mixture in a sealed container in the refrigerator it will last for a few days.

The only other materials that you need to paper mache is a structure to put your paper mache on and old newspapers. The structure that you start with can consist of any thing from pieces of cardboard that you can add different shapes to it with duck tape or a simple balloon. Start by tearing old newspapers into strips and I would recommend that the strips start at least 1-2” in width for your first layer, then adding narrow pieces if your project requires it. Dip one piece of your torn newspaper into the paste mixture and gently run it through your fingers to remove excess paste. (Kids really love this step because it can be messy so be sure you have your floor or table covered.) Now place your soaked strip of newspaper on to your form that you want to paper mache and smooth it down with your fingers. Just keep repeating this process until your structure is completely covered. Be sure that you over lap your pieces and you don't have to worry about putting them in a neat row, run them in all different directions for stability. Once you have the first layer completed you have to allow this to dry completely (approximately 24 hours) before you add a second layer. I would recommend adding at least 3 layers to your paper mache project and be sure to let each layer dry completely before adding another one.

 Once you have all the layers on that you need to create your project all that is left is to decorate it. You can paint it, add crepe paper or finish it anyway that you would like. Paper Mache is a great way to make pinatas for kids parties and getting them involved by helping you decorate it. As with so many types of crafts the only thing that will limit you is your imagination. Be creative and have fun.