We made sculptures the other day with balloons, plaster of Paris, and four giggling children. The whole process and experience was awesome and was the perfect antidote to the freezing weather outside.
Let me just say right now that you have to try this. It takes a bit of prep, but is so worth it!
I found the idea and instructions for the plaster balloon sculptures on First Palette, pinned it ages ago, and have been meaning to give it a try since.
So glad we finally did!
By the way, I recommend you read the step-by-step instructions at First Palette if you're going to do this project. They are excellent and specific.
We did ours slightly differently (mostly to make the plaster mixing & pouring easier), but not by too much.
First, Gather Your Materials:
- 2 parts Plaster of Paris (I've always bought plaster from the big arts and crafts stores before, usually with a coupon, but this time bought a 25 lb bag from Lowes thanks to a reader tip.)
- 1 part cold water
- Ziploc-type freezer bag
- Squeeze bottle (I used almost-empty BioColor paint bottles)
- Large balloons
- Paint (optional)
- Glitter (optional)
First we stretched out the balloons by blowing them up and then letting the air back out of them. Emily (above), Julianna, and Daphne, the three four-year-olds in the house at the time, gave it a valiant effort but found that blowing up balloons was a bit tricky.
Maia ended up entertaining the troops by blowing up balloons and then letting them go to fizz around the room.
They all thought this was hilarious and did this over and over and over.
In fact, I think they would have been perfectly satisfied if the activity ended right there.
While the kids were laughing and chasing balloons in the living room, I mixed up plaster of Paris in the kitchen.
I measured 4 cups plaster powder into a freezer bag, added 2 cups cold water, then zipped the top of the bag closed and mixed and kneaded with my hands until there weren't any (many) lumps left.
I then tilted the bag so that all the wet plaster went to one side of the bag and I snipped the corner off at the other side. This made it easier to transfer the plaster to the squeeze bottle. I just tucked the snipped-off end into the bottle opening and squeezed gently. It was (mostly) mess free.
By the way, this is where I mention that you should never put wet plaster down the sink. It'll harden and block your pipes. Always discard extra wet plaster (and plaster messes) in the trash.
Once the squeeze bottle was full, I attached a balloon over the end of the bottle then turned the bottle upside down and squeezed as much plaster into the balloon as I could.
The instructions at First Palette are great on this point. You really only have one good squeeze, so give it all you've got. If you try to do it in more that one, you just end up squeezing the plaster back and forth between the balloon and squeeze bottle.
Next, gently pull the balloon off the squeeze bottle, let any extra air escape, then tie the end.
Hand the plaster-filled balloon to the nearest kid and let them knead and squeeze the balloon to their heart's content.
It's so fun! And a great sensory experience.
After a while, the plaster changes consistency, becoming more gel like. Then heats up. And finally hardens.
Once it heats up, you have to hold the plaster-filled balloon in whatever shape you want the final sculpture to be. And you have to have the patience to hold it that way for a while.
Emily and the other fours LOVED this whole plaster balloon sculpture project. They kept kneading and playing and holding their balloons until they hardened and were completely happy with their final egg-shaped plaster sculptures.
Maia had the patience and the motivation (not to mention the manual dexterity!) to experiment with different shapes.
The hardened plaster sculpture looks so cool when it's still inside the balloon! It's tempting to leave it as is.
But curiousity always won out and we snipped off the balloon knots and pull the balloons off the sculptures.
Our sculptures were tinted purple and pink since I used almost-empty paint bottles for the plaster.
The four-year-olds also added paint and glitter to their plaster sculptures.
All in all, we were very happy with this project! Did I mention yet that I think you should give it a try?
Note to teachers: This is a grown-up intensive project, what with all the plaster mixing and squeezing into balloons and such. And the hardening plaster is time-sensitive. I would recommend doing this with small groups at a time, not with an entire classroom.