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How to Make Easy 3D Sculptures for Kids

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Try this fun activity creating easy 3D sculptures using materials from home. Children can create abstract designs or concrete objects with foam, pipe cleaners, buttons, beads and feathers. 

3D wire sculpture materials
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We had such fun yesterday creating sculptures with pipe cleaners and styrofoam blocks. along with a variety of colorful craft materials on the table.

This art activity comes from Scribble Art, by MaryAnn Kohl. I had the opportunity to meet her once at an early childhood education conference and the materials we used for this project were leftovers from a session she was giving there! She has written more than twenty books, but Scribble Art is my favorite.

Here’s a video showing Wire and Bead Sculptures in action! And keep scrolling to find out how we made these particular sculptures using foam blocks.

This activity was a hit with both my daughters. Daphne concentrated so very carefully while pushing the pipe cleaners into the foam and she even strung beads and buttons onto them. In typical toddler fashion, she also concentrated carefully while unstringing each bead and button, and ultimately pulling each pipe cleaner back out of the foam.

Child stringing button onto pipe cleaner for 3D wire sculpture

Once she had fully deconstructed her own wire sculpture, she sat and watched Maia, providing commentary and encouragement. 

This was a good reminder to me that Daphne (2 ½ year old) and Maia (6 1/2 year old) can both get a lot out of these art activities. Although they’re at different developmental stages, Daphne still benefits (and often exceeds my expectations) during these shared art experience with her older sister.

3D wire sculpture train

Easy 3D Sculptures for Kids

MATERIALS

  • pipe cleaners (regular wire would work, too, of course)
  • buttons
  • beads
  • feathers
  • Foam blocks (any kind of foam will work – even pool noodles! These were cut from cheap foam insulation bought at the hardware store)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Attach pipe cleaners or wire to foam block

    Use the foam block as the base of your sculpture. Stick pipe cleaners in first by bending some and curling others. I showed Maia how to coil a pipe cleaner around her finger for a curlicue, sculptural effect.
    Curling pipe cleaner around finger for 3D wire sculptures

  2. Add beads and buttons

    String beads and buttons onto the pipe cleaners. It’s so fun to see what children will come up with!

  3. Finally, add feathers!

    Don’t forget to add feathers to your design as well. You can even cut slots into the foam and add buttons directly to it. Here Maia is inserting buttons into a foam block (after first making slits with a butter knife) as wheels for one of her trains.
    Children putting buttons into foam for 3D wire sculptures

Here is one of the finished sculptures – a train. It is amazing to see that some children come up with a very concrete object, like a train, while others will create a much more abstract design. 

Children making 3D wire sculptures

I typically tend towards two dimensional art activities, like drawing, painting, and collage. But I need to remember how much fun we always have with these three dimensional art projects! I hope you have fun with them, too!

Did you know we have an entire page dedicated to fun sculpture ideas for kids? Be sure to check it out!

More Easy 3D Sculpture Ideas for Kids

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How to Make Easy 3D Sculptures for Kids

16 Comments

  • Reply
    rachel
    March 8, 2012 at 6:27 am

    oh how fun!!! a great new way to use so many collage materials we have floating around here. gotta find some foam. thx jean!

  • Reply
    molly
    March 8, 2012 at 8:12 am

    This looks like so much fun and so colorful. And, I LOVE the pictures of sisterly love and encouragement. They are so sweet.

  • Reply
    JoAnn Jordan
    March 8, 2012 at 9:50 am

    This looks like great fun! I can see a family sitting together all working on their individual projects.

  • Reply
    christine
    March 8, 2012 at 10:48 am

    i love this! especially because my own kids are 6.5 and 2.5!! And sometimes the 2.5 year old has more patience with art activities than the 1st grader! But this is why i enjoy reading your blog – when the art experiences you feature are so process-oriented, I am reminded that different aged children will explore the materials in different ways, and i am inspired to have 2 kids involved with the same mess at the same time, making me much more likely to provide them the materials in the first place. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Kate
    March 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    My children and I recently read “Dream Something Big : the Story of the Watts Towers” by Dianna Hutts Aston. This is the PERFECT book to coordinate with this project. I’d highly recommend it! :-)

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Try the hardware store! Or perhaps you can stick the wire or pipe cleaners into something else? Playdough?

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I know! I love those pictures of them together, too. :)

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    That’s exactly what happened with this project! Everyone working at the table at their own level. This was the perfect activity for that.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    March 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Exactly! Different aged children can explore the same activity and material in different ways and each at their own level. I love that about art!

  • Reply
    Julie Liddle, ART IN HAND
    March 8, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    I’ll have to check that book out. In my classes we always read a story to inspire us before I introduce the materials. Jean, I can’t beleive I’ve never actually done this with my groups. I can’t wait to try it. Another great story for this sort of project is called, “If I Built A Car” about a kid with an active imagination who would build a car with all sorts of bells and whistles. It’s often the story I read before we build found object sculptures. But I like this idea as a no-glue option for 3-D art to try.

  • Reply
    Mary at The Forager's Landscape
    March 9, 2012 at 12:40 am

    This is such a great idea! I can’t wait to try it with my girls, they are going to love it. I do the same thing with my two year old, and then find that many times she is more interested in an art project than her four year old sister. I’m going to check out Scribble Art because that’s one of MaryAnn Kohl’s books I haven’t tried. Thanks as always for the inspirations!

  • Reply
    Chelsea
    March 19, 2012 at 9:59 am

    FYI – I cut a section from a swimming pool “noodle” for the foam blocks. One of the noodles was star shape which was, of course, awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    MaryAnn F. Kohl, art book author
    April 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I remember the day you came to my workshop at ETSU in Johnson City, Tennessee — and it was so much fun packing you up with left-over art supplies! The fruit of that labor is in this delightful photographs! It’s like I’m there with you. Let’s do that again! Can I come to Asheville for a workshop???

  • Reply
    MaryAnn F. Kohl, art book author
    April 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I’m using way too many !!!!!!!!

  • Reply
    Travis Ann Sherman
    July 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I’m cutting up a swim noodle for the base right now to do it with my little library art class. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Georgina @ Craftulate
    April 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I have just featured this in my feather craft roundup! https://craftulate.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/15-feather-crafts-for-children.html

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