My little boy means the world to me so I decided to make him a globe costume for Halloween.
Since our 4-year-old has been interested in our tabletop globe and asking lots of geographic questions, I decided to make this an educational project we worked on together.
Step 1: Planning:
I figured paper macheing over a big balloon could give us a large structure that was ridged and lightweight. I had not worked with paper mache for 30 years so I was really just hoping this would work. It did. After the paper mache dried we popped the balloon and were left with a strong, lightweight hollow structure.
Ensure you do not make the globe so large you can’t remove it from your house. We used a 36” balloon from a party store. However, most doors are narrower then 36”. We blew our balloon up to about 30” in diameter. After the paper mache dried over two weeks, the final globe turned out to be 25” in diameter. This was a surprise, but the 25” dimension turned out to be just right for our 4-year-old boy. I suppose you could go bigger and plan on it shrinking down to 30”, but that sounds risky.
This is not a quick project. You need at least a week to do this right. Drying the paper mache can take 24+ hours. We did two paper macheing sessions, each with its own 24+ hour drying period.
Step 2: Materials:
Lots of newspaper
50’ish sheets of white computer paper
Cooking oil spray
Paper mache mix. We used flour and water (more on this below)
A tabletop globe to help with drawing the continents on the paper mache globe. An atlas could also work.
Black Sharpie pen
Basic tempera kid paint - blue and green. We used about 8 oz of each color.
Two large foam paintbrushes and one small craft paint brush for detailed work.
4” hole saw and drill (optional)
2 pieces of thin (< 1/8” thick) scrap wood or plywood
48”ish of cloth scrap ribbon
4 small bolts, nuts and washers
Step 3: Balloon & Paper Mache:
Spray the balloon with a thick coat of cooking oil spray. This helps the balloon and paper mache separated when you pop the balloon.
Mix up a large batch of paper mache paste. Since you use so much paper mache paste (we used 12 cups) for this project I thought making my own paste would be cheaper.
I found this paper mache tutorial helpful. http://www.dltk-kids.com/type/how_to_paper_mache.htm.
We used the “1 part flour to 5 parts water... boil about 3 minutes and let cool” method. As suggested, we added cinnamon to make the paste smell good and salt to keep the bugs and mold at bay. I’m not sure we needed either of these.
Start paper macheing. Go big with the paper strips. Wider paper (6”ish wide strips) makes the work go faster.
I found that 3 scrap 2x4 wooden blocks under an old towel helped keep this slippery mess in place during the costant turning of the paper macheing process.
I did two sessions of paper macheing. For the first, I placed about four layers of newspaper on the balloon. Then I let the piece dry in my basement in front of a fan for about 24 hours. Make sure the paper mache is completely dry before adding more layers. For the second paper macheing session I added about 3 layers of newspaper and 1 layer of white computer paper. The white paper makes the finished surface of the sphere much easier to paint. You will use much less paint if the final layer of paper mache is white. Again, let the piece dry completely in front of a fan.
For each paper macheing session I mixed one batch (1 part flour to 5 parts water) of mache mix.
Step 4: Drawing the Continents:
I found the equator of the sphere with some trial and error using a piece of string. Make sure the hole in the paper mache where the balloon is tied is one of the poles of the globe. I then traced the equatorial string with a light pencil line and quickly drew a few other longitude and latitudes as guides. I then used a small dinning plate to trace the head opening (about 7.5” in diameter) at the North Pole. The South Pole got a larger 10” hole for the costume’s ‘entrance’ and leg opening (more on the bottom opening later).
Drawing the continents with a pencil took some time, but was fun to do with a 4-year-old. He can now locate where we live, the equator, the Panama Canal, Antarctica, the North Pole and name a few continents. Having a tabletop globe at hand makes this task much easier. Once I was happy with the continental layout I then quickly traced over the pencil with a black sharpie pen. I left all the longitude and latitudes guides as pencil. I did not want to see these lines on my final product.
Step 5: Painting:
We used two larger brushes to rough in the blue and green paints. After this first layer of paint dried, I used a small brush to finish the edges of the blue and green areas.
Step 6: Harness and Usability:
While my boy was wearing the globe we eyeballed where the hand openings should be and used a 4” hole saw and drill to cut these circular holes. You could also cut these openings with scissors or a utility knife. Make an effort to have these holes in large ocean areas.
After a midday trick-or-treat trial run my 4-year-old determined he could not comfortably walk with the 10” leg opening. We turned the 10” circle into an 11”x18” oval opening so larger strides could be taken. This adjustment worked very well for walking, but compromised the structure for the sphere. After a good evening of trick-or-treating and a few falls, there were several cracks in the paper mache in this area.
Step 7: Extra Credit:
Good luck and enjoy