Monday, April 25, 2022

Crafting with Kids: Make Your Own Plaster of Paris Figurines

I originally published this tutorial on Crafting a Green World way back in 2010!

Summer is for kitschy children's crafts. Popsicle sticks, pom poms, the ubiquitous lanyard, plus a few thousand mosquito bites are all that's necessary for the perfect summer. 

Kids' crafts, however, can compete with the eco-friendly lifestyle that we try to teach them. They want foam stickers and plastic beads, and we want them to craft with twigs and pine cones

One of the ways to teach children to craft positively is to teach them the DIY mindset. Plaster of Paris is a kid-friendly material, made from powdered gypsum (just like the dunes at White Sands, New Mexico!) that you rehydrate and then dehydrate again in a mold, and those little plaster of Paris figurines that craft stores sell are cute and fun to paint. But what sweatshop were they imported from? Who knows? 

Here's how give your kids the fun of making your own plaster of Paris figurines, all with stuff that you already have around the house. 

You will need:
  • Plaster of Paris. I bought mine half-used from a garage sale, but it's an inexpensive and easily found craft supply to find new or used.
  • Measuring cups and stirrers. You can either use cups and bowls and spoons that you can rinse off with the hose outside (NOT down your drain!), or you can do what we do and give one final use to stuff that we're just about to throw away, anyway- souvenir non-recyclable plastic cups or decorative tins or toothbrushes or used-but-dry popsicle sticks, or paint stirrers.
  • Kitchen or postal scale
  • Household objects for molds. Silicon muffin molds work well for this, as do conventional metal muffin tins, as well as any plastic or metal container. Be creative!
 1. Using the kitchen scale, measure out your plaster and water in a 2:1 ratio. This means that you need to have twice the weight of plaster that you do water. If you measure out 12 ounces of plaster, for instance, then you'll need to weigh out 6 ounces of water. 

2. Combine the plaster and water into one bowl and stir well until they're combined and there are no lumps. 

3. Pour the plaster of Paris mixture into your molds, smoothing out the tops with a popsicle stick or the flat end of a knife. 

4. After at least 30 minutes, the plaster of Paris will be firm to the touch and can be unmolded and painted with acrylic paints.  

Plaster of Paris figurines make great paperweights, party crafts, and grandparent gifts. To make them extra crafty, you can embed found objects in the plaster before it's completely firm. May I suggest twigs and pine cones, perhaps?

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