Making paper doll chains

Paper doll illo

This one is an old favourite but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the obvious. Making a chain of paper dolls is a quick and easy craft activity but you may be surprised at how entertaining kids can find it and how a whole afternoon can disappear in this pursuit.

You will need:

Light cardboard or sturdy paper
Pens, markers and crayons
Decorative materials such as scraps of paper and fabric, buttons, lace, trim, glitter, tin-foil, stickers, sequins etc.

bullet Cut a strip of paper about 10 cm high and as long as you like. The longer the strip, the more dolls you will end up with.

bullet Fold the strip of paper accordion style, making each panel about 6cm or so wide

bullet Your (older) child can draw a figure on the top panel making sure that parts of the body (hands, feet etc) touch the sides of the panel.

bullet Cut around the figure but don’t cut along the folds where the parts of the body touch.

bullet Unfold the chain of dolls and then decorate with either just markers and crayons or use glue and stick on all sorts of wondrous outfits.

Paper doll 04

Older children will be quite capable of drawing their own shape on the top panel. Preschoolers may need you to draw the figure and cut out the shape but will have plenty of fun unfolding the chain and then decorating it once you are done.

Paper doll 05

Tip: A great idea is to do a little preparation before hand. Gather a bunch of fabric scraps and then cut them into little squares with pinking shears.

paper dolls 03

This makes it easy for especially little kids to create all kinds of different outfits for their dolls using the pre-cut scraps. (idea borrowed from Caroline Zoob’s Childhood Treasures book).

Strings of paper dolls can also be used for cute folded birthday party invitations which would be especially nice if you can get the guest of honour to decorate all the sets personally – perhaps a big ask. Stick them around a plain paper lampshade and you immediately add colour and fun. You could also Hang them as a mobile, or stick them to the outside of a bedroom door and use them as a name plate – one letter of the child’s name could be pasted or drawn on to each doll’s dress or stomach.

We have a page of downloadable templates for you to print out to get you started. This includes the classic doll shape (above), an alien (above), a fairy and a grizzly monster.

Paper doll pdf

Paper doll 02

12 Responses to “Making paper doll chains”

  1. michelle giacobello

    I LOVE this!!! THanks so much.
    By the way, there’s an old wives tale that says girls usually come early, boys come late…..

  2. Paola

    Oh, please keep going with the obvious stuff! My mother wasn’t a very crafty person so I never did any of this at home, but would love to do it with my daughter.

  3. Aoife

    A bit of a variant on the same theme we have done is getting the littlie to lie down still (yes a big ask but even my hyperactive three year old managed it) on a big piece of butchers paper or newspaper and draw around them. Cut it out and then decorate one the size of them. We did one which got christened “Happy Tom” by my son which is still on the wall over a year later. I’m going to try and do one annually to show them how much they have grown.

  4. Dawn

    A winter version of this project would be snowmen. I did this with my students when I was teaching art in the elementary school. They children loved to dress each one differently. It made a wonderful decoration for the room as well…all of them connected together! Fun!

  5. Charlotte

    Love your blog — and I second the call to keep the “obvious” ideas coming. Such a nice bit of inspiration for life with children. Thank you.

  6. eskimokisses

    I did the giant butcher’s paper version with my one year old son, myself and my husband, they are tacked proudly in our hallway – a very different family portrait:) If anyone would like to see let me know and I will arrange a pic. Thanks for the site claire.

  7. christina

    Thanks for the templates…although I enjoyed the flashback to my childhood as I made a few this afternoon 🙂

  8. Wendy

    My son made the alien paper dolls. Thanks for the templates. I’m glad to find your site. Your ideas will help keep my son busy and creative this summer.

  9. Laura

    Thanks for the template. I am working on a poster with my daughter for her Just Say No Club and we are doing the theme “Together we can say–Drugs Stay Away!” and the paper dolls make a cute statement, holding hands, bonded together to say no to drugs!

  10. Heather Lee

    Thanks for the instructions. I did a general search for paper doll chain and came up with your blog. I will be back. I cut for my daughter a paper doll chain to decorate while I read to her “The Five Sisters,” a lovely book by Margaret Mahy about a paper doll chain that comes alive and has a magical adventure. She was enthralled.

Comments are closed.