Making Paper with Kids

Making paper with kids is a rewarding experience, and today I’m going to share how you can do it.

Making paper with kids - so easy!Have you ever made your own paper?  It requires some patience and preparation, but it’s not tricky and the process is worth exploring with children or anyone who’s curious about how to make paper.

After my toddler created a sensory bin full of paper and water, I saw an opportunity to upcycle that mushy paper pulp into some new-to-us paper. We had most of the materials handy, but had to make a trip to the hardware store to buy a small window screen (affiliate)

The hardware store happens to be across the street from an ice cream parlor, so my kids were okay with that.

Two ice cream cones later, we returned home, put my youngest down for a nap, and got busy with some paper-making…

Let’s start with the materials (full printable recipe at the end of this post):

How to make paper with kids | TinkerLab

Supplies: Make Your Own Paper

  • Window Screen. This sliding window screen (affiliate) is economical and reusable.
  • Two Plastic Wash Tubs (affiliate) or similar
  • Washcloth/rag/burp cloth/large piece of felt
  • Water
  • Torn paper from newspaper, tissue paper, magazines, etc. Be sure that it’s staple and tape-free
  • Blender (affiliate). <<This is my favorite economical workhorse machine. 
  • Small seeds (optional)

Steps: Homemade Paper with Kids

To get into the spirit and expand our knowledge of paper making, we watched a Mr. Roger’s episode about paper making. If you like this video you’ll also love learning about how crayons are made. Alternatively, here’s the video-free step-by-step (all from PBS Kids).

how to make paper with kids

Tear the paper into tiny strips, about 2″.

how to make paper with kids

Place your window screen on top of one of the plastic tubs

how to make paper with kids

Add paper to the blender, cover it with water, and run the blender on a low speed.

Since you will squeeze all the water out of the paper pulp, you can’t really have too much water, so if the blender doesn’t move easily, add more water.

Make paper with a blenderRun the blender a little bit faster until you get the paper mixture into a nice, smooth pulp. Ours is kind of chunky because my kids wanted it that way. Yours can be smoother.

how to make paper

My toddler wanted to play with the pulp right away. She squeezed it, scooped it, and carried bowls full of pulp into the living room. It’s so fun and a rich sensory experience, so leave time for this if you have a little one.

how to make paper with kids

Next, spread the pulp thinly and uniformly across the screen and then layer a cloth diaper or towel on top to absorb the extra water, while also pushing the water through the screen into the tub. Get the kids involved.

how to make paper

Place one hand firmly on top of the cloth while you flip the screen over onto a table or countertop that can handle water.

how to make paper

Remove the screen and put the cloth with paper pulp in a spot where it can dry, undisturbed, for about a day. The thicker the paper, the longer it will take to dry.

Make paper with a screen

Later the next day, this is what it looked like. Not your typical paper, but beautiful nonetheless. We haven’t done much with it yet, but I’m thinking some Sharpies or watercolor paint might be a good fit. And with the seeds embedded in the pulp, we could cut these up and give them away to friends, with the invitation to plant them in their gardens.

how to make paper


How to Make Paper with Kids
Recipe type: Sensory, DIY
Making paper teaches children how one of our most ubiquitous materials -- PAPER -- is made, and it's also a fun sensory project for kids of all ages.
  • Screen (we bought a $10 sliding window screen)
  • Large Tub
  • Washcloth/rag/burp cloth/large piece of felt
  • Water
  • Torn paper from newspaper, tissue paper, magazines, etc. Be sure that it's staple and tape-free
  • Blender
  • Small seeds (optional)
  1. Shred the paper up into little pieces (roughly 2" square)
  2. Add paper to the blender, cover it with water, and run the blender on a low speed. Since you'll squeeze all the water out of the paper pulp, you can't really have too much water, so if the blender doesn't move easily, add more water.
  3. Run the blender a little bit faster until you get the paper mixture into a nice, smooth pulp. Add more water if your pulp is still chunky.
  4. Spread the pulp in a thin and uniform layer across the screen
  5. Cover this with a rag or cloth diape to absorb the extra water, while also pushing the water through the screen into the tub.
  6. Place one hand firmly on top of the cloth and then flip the screen over onto a work surface.
  7. Removed the screen and put the cloth plus paper pulp in a spot where it could dry, undisturbed, for about a day. The thicker the paper, the longer it will take to dry.


Easy step for making paper with kidsMore Handmade Paper Inspiration

Allison of No Time for Flashcards used and Immersion Blender to make Recycled Paper Hearts.

Jen of PaintCutPaste made Handmade Blooming Paper.

Rebekah of The Golden Gleam made Recycled Paper Ornaments for Christmas, but you could easily make these with ornaments of just about any shape.

Kristi of Creative Connections for Kids made Wildflower Paper Ornaments (using the same screen as us!).

Melitza of Play Activities made Earth Day Seeded Paper.

Creative Challenge: Egg Carton

Do you enjoy repurposing and upcycling materials into new things? Do you try to instill your children with the ability to be resourceful and mindful of their footprint on the environment? Then here’s a challenge for you!

Every two months I host a Creative Challenge with the introduction of a new material and an invitation for children to create something from it. The objective of these challenges is to encourage children to trust their own ideas, build creative confidence, and envision new purposes for common objects.

The rules of the game are simple: projects must include the challenge material, they should be be child-directed, but grown-ups are welcome to join in the fun if the mood strikes.

For this ninth creative challenge, children are invited to transform an egg carton into whatever they can dream up.  To participate, all are invited to add a photo to a comment or add a blog post to the Linky at the end of this post. Over forty bloggers and readers let me know in advance that they would participate and I hope that this will be an inspirational space for parents and caregivers who want to encourage creative thinking in their kids.

And, the fabulous kids’ activity crate subscription service, Kiwi Crate, is gracious enough to offer a free crate to one randomly selected winner. Read to the end for details.

Painting Egg cartonWe’ve been staring at egg cartons for weeks now, and my three year old hasn’t been too excited to manipulate this object. Yikes.

So I set up an invitation that she was eager to accept: Six small bottles of acrylic paint, a paper plate (palette), three brushes, and an egg carton.

She squeezed the paint onto the palette in rainbow order, and then painted each cavity a different color. A few minutes before I snapped this photo she mixed all the colors on another palette together and made the putty grey color you see on the right side of the crate.

She loved the name “putty grey” and made up a little song about it as she painted. I used this as an opportunity to encourage her to invent her own color names, but she didn’t bite.

nature collection in egg cartonI thought it could be fun to fill the holes with objects and natural materials that corresponded to the paint colors. She was less than enthusiastic about this idea and asked me to throw everything back into the garden.


As we developed a new game plan, a couple of her favorite friends stopped by and invited us to make lemonade with them.

But they didn’t have any lemons. How did they know that we did?

Cue: lemonade diversion…

squeezing lemonade with kids

A few hours later my toddler and I found a fun way to use the carton, and it reminds me of a baby version of that shell game you sometimes see on street corners of Manhattan. But no gambling here, I promise.

play baby gamesAfter noticing her interest in filling the egg carton with small toys, I filled each cavity with a plastic egg shell and then poured some glass bead treasures in a few eggs.

The treasures are great for burying in the sand box to dig up and discover, sprinkling around a garden, or pouring into a water table. You do have to be careful with small children who like to mouth little objects, and because of that we haven’t played with these for a while. But when you can confidently play with them, they sparkle and make everything more spectacular.

I loosely covered each egg and then my 1.5 year old had to find the treasures. She loved this! When she opened an empty egg she’d say, “Not there!”, but would shriek with laughter when she opened an egg filled with treasure.

This carried us until bath time, and I then I packed the game right up in the carton, ready to play again tomorrow.

play baby games

Thank you to the following blogs for participating in the challenge:

Child Central Station,  Red Ted ArtSun Hats & Wellie BootsTeach PreschoolThe Chocolate Muffin Tree The Educators’ Spin On It The Golden GleamGlittering MuffinsInspiration LaboratoriesKitchen Counter ChroniclesLiving At The Whiteheads ZooMake, Do & FriendMama Mia’sheart2heartNurtureStorePlayDrMomRainy Day Mum,  The Imagination TreeToddler ApprovedReading ConfettiKindergarten & Preschool for Parents & TeachersRainbowsWithinReachMommy Labs,  Green Owl ArtReusecraftsThe Outlaw Mom BlogHappyLittleMessesExperimenting-MomDuck Duck OctopusPaintCutPasteTrain Up a ChildGrowing A Jeweled Rose Coffee Cups and CrayonsReady. Set. Read!Scribble Doodle and DrawCarrots Are OrangeJDaniel4’s MomQuirky MommaA Mom With A Lesson PlanGood Long RoadTwo2Read

Check out their posts here, or add your own:



Thank you to our lovely sponsor, Kiwi Crate, for their ongoing support and generous giveaway. One lucky Tinkerlab reader will receive a free crate.

To enter to win, please leave a comment by Sunday, April April 15, 2012. And if you have material ideas for future challenge, I’d love to hear them.

Winner will be selected by random number generator and must have a U.S. address. Good luck!

A winner has been selected! Thank you to everyone who entered.



DIY Paper Bag Book with Japanese Binding {Free Download}

You might know that I’ve been working on a fun project with the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum DIY Studio Space. Each month for a full year, we’re developing creativity-boosting invitations for children who visit the museum. If you visit the Studio this month you’ll find an assortment of interesting found materials and a host of ideas for upcycling books from these materials.

And in case you didn’t make it to the CCM this month, I’m giving away a free project download: Tinkerlab DIY Paper Bag Book

The cover is made from a paper lunch bag, the inner pages are made from any paper you like, and it’s bound with a traditional Japanese 3-hole binding that elementary-age children could do with a little assistance.

Children will work through spatial reasoning and learn about a traditional binding method through the process of binding. They will also explore different recycling possibilities through the selection of materials. And once the book is made, children can fill it with sketches, stories, stickers…the possibilities are endless.

This is new to me and I’d love to hear your thoughts: Would you rather see all the steps in a blog post or do you like having it in a sweet and tidy PDF?

How to Build a Simple Clip Fort

how to build a clip fort

How was your Valentine’s Day? We had a drizzly pre-Valentines romp in the park with friends and I spent Valentine’s morning leading a fun docent training workshop at the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA). Under the leadership of Education Director, Lucy Larson, SJMA one of the most visitor-centered museums around. It’s not a huge museum, which means it’s easy to navigate with squirmy kids, and if you ever take a docent tour you’ll be surprised at how much the docents care about what YOU think. No stuffy lectures here!

So backing up a bit, I’ve been clearing the clutter from my house (see herehere, and here) –what a slow job that is with two little kids running around the house! — and I found a huge stack of sheets that we really don’t need anymore. We gave a few away to our favorite thrift store, but before I parted with all of them I asked the Tinkerlab Facebook community for ideas on what we could do with this bounty of potential fun. So many great ideas came my way that I decided I’d try a bunch of them out. So today I’m starting with building a simple fort with sheets and big kitchen clips. This activity is perfect for little kids and helps foster imagination and invention, while giving kids the opportunity to build with everyday materials.


how to build a clip fort under the table

Start by assessing your room for fort-able furniture. Anything heavy with lots of head space is good — if the piece is too light it has the potential to tip over. Move things together and shift your furniture around. Some ideas: couches, dining tables, coffee tables, kid art tables. Look for places to clip your sheets, move the sheets around and twist the corners and edges until you and your kids are satisfied with the results, and BAM — you have a fort.

These steel wire clips (above) don’t have as much reach, but I use them for just about everything in my kitchen so they’re plentiful in my house. They’re great for clipping to thin things under 1/2″ wide.

how to clip sheet to the table for a fortI’ve had these forever and couldn’t find them online, but they seem to be similar to ng this big clip (with round magnet on the back so you can stick it to the fridge when you’re not turning your house into a faraway tent planet).

clip a sheet to the coffee table

This is one of our favorite set-ups: scooting the coffee table up to the dining table for an low entry that rises for easy sitting (and sleeping). My three year old dragged a few pillows and blankets inside for an extra-snuggly spot.

take a blurry picture of your dadI was busy snapping photos when N asked if she could take a drive with the camera. So she turned the camera on my husband who is so game, and she wiggled down onto her belly to take this shot. I have a heavy camera, which makes for some wobbly (but happy) photos.

I recently came across this site, All For the Boys, which hosts a weekly Fort Friday post. It’s awesome, and if your kids like building forts you’ll get all sorts of inspiration over there. Not to mention, Allison takes photo submissions and might include your fort on her site. In her words: “If you want to share a photo of your fort to inspire us send them to info[at]allfortheboys[dot]com and I’ll share them here on Fort Friday.”

Do your kids like to build forts? What do you like to make them with?


Paper Bag Museum

In case you missed yesterday’s post, we’re hosting a super fun Paper Bag Creative Challenge that brought over 50 kid-directed paper bag projects together in one spot. Today I’m excited to share our own take on the challenge.

paper bag art oil pastels

This is how our art table looked the other morning.

paper bag art table

Me and the girls crafting up a paper bag collage storm.

My one year old colored paper bags with oil pastels and glued hearts and sequins to a paper bag while my 3 year old went to town — all day long — making paper bag collages that quickly took up all the ceiling space in the room.

collage installation

My 3-year old, N, called these her Valentine Collages and Paper Bag Art. She recently picked up on how museums have multiples of one type of thing, and decided that this would be her Paper Bag Museum. In case you’re wondering, I was told that it was okay that some of the things in the museum weren’t made with paper bags. She’s the curator, so I couldn’t really argue with that.

paper bag museum

We set up a Vistor Services Desk with information about our admission policies and hours. It’s really important for people to know that they can’t hang out in our house at dinner!

paper bag museum

We gathered up all the paper bag creations that weren’t hanging from the beams and displayed them here. Maps are in the basket on the left and she set up an interactive activity in the paper bag “basket.” More on that in a sec.

paper bag museum maps

We talked about how museums share all sorts of informative collateral for visitors to pick up, like maps, schedules, and catalogues. I cut a big paper grocery bag into squares and she decided to turn them into maps. To make this map, we started with a “you are here” dot, and then she added trails into the various rooms of our house, also marked by dots.

paper bag museum maps

But why stop with one map when you’re expected a big audience!

interactive museum prompt with kids

Then she handed me a stack of post-its and dictated this participatory prompt to me.

The museum educator in me was so proud!

This wasn’t going to be some stuffy old museum — oh no, she was thinking about her visitors’ experience and wanted to make sure their voices were heard!

paper bag museum

Our first visitor woke up from her nap just in time for the opening, and got right to work with a drawing. The prompt worked!

The museum is now closed for the installation of a new show. My one year old is enamored by fish, so maybe we’ll figure out a way to build her an Aquarium!

What’s your child’s favorite kind of museum? Could you set up an imaginative play area based on it?


If you’re interested in reading more about participatory museums, Museum 2.0 is one of my favorite sites, and it’s run by Nina Simon, Executive Director of The Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz and author of The Participatory Museum.