Paper Mache Easter Baskets

by Deb on March 29, 2010

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At last, something good about gluten. Huh?  Why am I talking about gluten in a post about Easter and paper mache?  Because it’s the gluten in flour that lets you make the easiest glue ever.  In fact gluten comes from the latin word for glue.

To make these paper mache easter baskets, you need:

  • Paper – we recycle paintings and old craft, you can’t possibly keep it all.
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Water balloons that have been blown up
  • Paint/Things to decorate them with

Paper and water balloons

Making the glue:

  1. Boil some water in a kettle, it depends on  how much you’re going to need but about a cup.
  2. Mix some flour and cold water in a large bowl to make a smooth paste.  About a tablespoon of flour should be enough and sifting makes it easier to get lumps out.
  3. Pour in the hot water and keep stirring.  For paper mache you want a nice thin paste.

Doing the paper mache:

  1. Tear the paper about an inch square, too small and it’s fiddly too big and it’s hard to get smooth curves.
  2. Put a handful in the glue at a time to soak.
  3. Smooth them onto the bottom of the water balloons so you get an egg shape.  Don’t be afraid to use lots of glue.
  4. We did this over a few days – do a layer then leave it to dry, and another one.  The balloons burst overnight but they had set by then so it didn’t matter.  We ended up with 3 or 4 layers, keep going until they are as stiff as you need.
  5. When they are finished and dry, pop the balloons if they haven’t already and trim the top.  The easiest way to do that is to use strong scissors and cut in a spiral until it is smooth.
  6. Decorate however you want.

Painting with water paints

So where’s the science?

Heaps of it!  The glue is a wonderful reaction, what is happening is the gluten in the flour is cross-linking, or sticking together, which is what makes the paste.  The water allows them to move freely and the heat gives it some energy to power the reaction.

Then you have the drying – this is because the water in the glue evaporates and leaves the network of cross-linked gluten holding everything together.

Blowing up the water balloons shows the elastic properties of rubber, it’s surprisingly similar to gluten in flour.  There are long coiled molecules in rubber with cross-links, between the links they move freely but when they are stretched they go taught, like pulling a rope tight.

The balloons also demonstrate that air is there even though it can’t be seen.

There is some great language to use here as you experience and talk about the properties and how they change – it starts as warm, soft, sticky and stretchy and turns cold, hard, dry, smooth and stiff.  All wonderful things for babies and little ones to feel, name and discuss.

Have you done paper mache with your kids?  If not, here’s a geat opportunity.  Send me some photos and I’ll put together an Easter album!The finished Easter Baskets

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