How To Make Paper Mache Turtles

Paper mache for kids usually involves making a mess, but creating and learning to make something really helps child development and learning. So what does it matter if they make a bit of mess along the way?

On our Kids’ Activities page, we share fun activities from around the world that will help your child express themselves and develop self-confidence. Experiencing messy play activities from different countries is not only beneficial for child development but also enriches their understanding of other cultures.


What are the turtles of Hoan Kiem Lake?

Hoan Kiem Lake is the most famous lake in Vietnam. It is also the home of a giant, elusive and very rare species of turtle. Very occasionally the people who live near the lake glimpse one of the turtles, and when they do, it makes national news. Why not help your child to express their creative side and learn a little about the elusive turtles in Vietnam by making their own paper mache turtle model?


There’s lots to learn through paper mache crafts

Our paper mache recipe for making models of the turtles of Hoan Kiem Lake in Vietnam is the perfect craft activity for 5-11 year olds and has all the ingredients your child needs to have fun and learn lots.

Making the paper mache turtles will really help to develop their cognitive and problem solving skills –they’ll need to persist with the different elements of this craft in order to produce a good end product. They can design patterns for the turtles’ shells and use practical skills like drawing, cutting, pasting and painting to make their models. This is the type of messy play where they can really focus and express themselves. And if you spend a little time researching the history of the turtles too they’ll be learning all about the history of the Hoan Kiem Lake and surrounding area.


Paper mache recipe and ingredients

Before you start looking for paint and brushes, have you got the most important ingredient? You need at least one child with a desire to express themselves and the confidence to get messy with glue and paint. Don’t worry too much about the mess as we have some tips to help you clean up afterwards!

Next you need for this paper mache idea:

  • 1 plastic or ceramic soup bowl
  • Cling film or plastic food wrap
  • Old pieces of cardboard
  • Old newspaper
  • Sticking tape
  • Flour (preferably rice flour)
  • Water soluble poster paints
  • Paint brushes


How to make a paper mache turtle

First prepare your materials ready to make the paper mache turtles.

  • It’s easy to make home-made glue by mixing flour with water in a large mixing bowl. Don’t worry if things get a bit floury in the process – that’s what this activity is all about
  • Then tear up some newspaper sheets into small pieces so you’ve got plenty to make the turtle’s shell

Next help your child think about their design for the turtle.

  • Your little one could make a realistic looking turtle or they could make something more colourful

Now it’s time to make the shell, the head and the feet. This is the really sticky bit. Lots of fun for your child.

  • Cover the outside of a bowl with cling film to prevent the paper mache from sticking to the bowl. (It’s fine if some sticks to your child though – remember that’s half the fun.)
  • To make the shell, paper mache the outside of the bowl by taking strips of newspaper and covering them in the glue then sticking them to the bowl
  • You need to add enough strips to completely cover the shape of the bowl and add a few layers so that the turtle’s shell is strong enough to be removed from the bowl and painted when it’s dry
  • To make the head, scrunch up a small piece of newspaper and squash it into an oval shape
  • Now in the same way that you did for the shell, paper mache the oval shape until it is completely covered with at least two or three layers of gluey strips of paper
  • Allow the glue to dry and the paper mache to set and harden
  • Carefully take the dried shell off the bowl
  • To make the feet, cut out four feet shapes from the old cardboard
  • Attach the feet and head of the turtle to the shell using sticky tape


Decorating the paper mache turtle means having fun with the paint pot. Don’t worry about a few spills or splashes as they’ll be learning all about mixing and matching colours to create their design.

You’ll know the turtle is ready when you’ve got a beautifully decorated model on the table and a happy, paint-splattered child who knows all about the majestic turtles of Hoan Kiem Lake in Vietnam. Don’t worry too much if your child has got a few paint splodges on their t-shirt – just make sure you wash it straight away with cold water while the paint is still wet, then add to your wash as usual with your favourite Breeze detergent. Just check the label for care details of the stained garment before cleaning the stain. There are lots more stain removal tips here!

What’s your recipe for messy success with paper mache crafts?

Ever had fun making a model with your little one? Do you have more paper mache ideas for kids? Share your story with us here in a comment.