Create vibrant cardboard masks perfect for imaginative play! Art-making activity and post by Danielle Falk from Little Ginger Studio.
Mask-making is a project I’ve done many times with children. I love watching students individualize their designs. The masks created in our recent vacation workshop are examples of the sort of kooky over-the-top aesthetic only kiddos can come up with! This activity is suitable for all ages over 4, although younger students may need some assistance.
Making Cardboard Masks with Kids
Kids love cardboard!
Using cardboard to make masks is a classic activity and for good reason–it’s cheap, easy and effective! It’s also a great way to use up leftover cardboard boxes. And kids can decorate their masks using whatever art & craft supplies you happen to have.
There really isn’t anything kids can’t create from cardboard! Last year we made a Cardboard City and it was a huge success!
The design I’m going to share is a full-face mask but you could easily create templates for a simple eye-mask. We used a medium weight cardboard that you’d typically get from a delivery box. Too thick and it’s too difficult to cut, too thin and it won’t hold up.
Prepare to make the cardboard masks
We painted and pre-cut a lot of our cardboard to save time and because we were working with mostly younger children (4-6 year olds) who would have struggled with the cutting. I let students paint their own spectacles or any extra cardboard details they wanted.
Introducing the mask-making activity
We started our lesson the same way I begin most art lessons–looking at lots of visual stimuli. I had a collection of pictures of various masks from different cultures: African tribal, Japanese Kabuki, colorful masks from Indonesia and Mexican “Day of the Dead” masks. Kids are fascinated with the variety and discussion was animated.
Word of warning–shy away from some of the scarier tribal masks out there – we wouldn’t want to give anyone nightmares!
A demo cardboard mask
I nearly always make a demonstration piece to show my students to give them an idea of how to put materials together. Although usually the kids’ work turns out far more interesting than mine!
How to make the cardboard masks
- Painted & pre-cut cardboard oval face shapes
- Pre-cut cardboard spectacles
- Painted & pre-cut strips of cardboard
- Acrylic paints in bright colors
- Paint brushes
- Paint palettes
- Water containers
- Scissors & a box cutter (for teacher)
- PVA glue in small dishes
- Fluorescent Chalk markers
- Colored Sharpies
- Craft pom-poms, feathers, washi tape, sparkly streamers & dot stickers (or many other art supplies!)
- Stretchy elastic to make a headband
- And finally a trusty hot glue gun!
1. Creating the eye-holes
Students choose a colored face shape and draw on two eyes with a sharpie (on the back), paying careful attention to placement so that their eyes line up with the holes. (Little kids might need help with this part). The teacher then cuts the eyes out with a box cutter.
2. Adding the spectacles & other facial features
Next kids choose a spectacle cardboard cut out and paint or color it with sharpies & chalk markers. They then glue it on using PVA. (You may need to enlarge the eye-holes a little so the holes line up).
Some children may choose not to add the spectacles to their cardboard masks, whilst others like to add cardboard lips, noses, ears and cheeks. Let creativity rule the process!
3. Decorating the cardboard mask
Here’s the fun bit–let children loose to decorate their masks using paint, sharpies, dot stickers, pastels, paint sticks, chalk markers, glitter, craft pompoms, foil, washi tape, patterned paper or crepe paper–whatever you have lying around. I pretty much let my students have free reign at this point of creating and consciously stepped away.
4. Adding some ‘wow factor’ to the cardboard masks!
Adding a ‘starburst’ of cardboard strips around the mask really ups the wow-factor! Encourage students to create a symmetrical pattern and hot glue each strip neatly onto the back. (PVA just isn’t strong enough here).
Students can then decorate with sharpies, dot stickers and pom-poms. (Use hot glue to attach pom-poms). We discovered that feathers are easily pushed into the cut edge of cardboard and look awesome! Or you might add shiny streamers or crepe paper.
5. Finish off with a headband
Finally add some thick elastic to create a snug, durable headband. We were lazy and simply knotted some through the eye-holes for ease.
As soon as my students finished their colourful masks they were off having fun: looking at themselves in the mirror, playacting in pairs and dancing around. Masks really do encourage imaginative play. Enjoy!
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