Quick & Easy Chinese Parade Dragon




About: I adore instructables and use it when I'm playing with ideas for my students (I'm a certified art teacher and the Art Director for a children's summer camp). I have found that it fuels my creative process a...

Several years ago I shared with instructables my Chinese Parade Dragon for Under $75.  You have all been so kind in your comments, messages and over all good cheer. 

When I created that dragon I was working fast, in a hurry and on a budget.  I also was not very good about taking pictures of the construction.

This year I was asked to make a parade dragon for a small part in the play Mulan at the children's summer camp I work for. (This dragon was actually cheaper than my first, costing under $25)   I had 4 hrs to make this all happen, in good news building one before I knew I could do it, in bad news it's not nearly as cool as my first one. 

One day perhaps I'll make a really killer one with super detailed instructions.  In the mean time, let me see if I can't help so many of you who asked me how I made the first one get a better understanding of it's construction.

Let's get started

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Step 1: Materials Needed

6 to 8 sheets of foam board


Hot Glue Gun

Hot Glue

Box Knife


2 Cans Black spray paint (or base color of your choice)

1 Sky bouncy ball (or knock off version)  Or any hollow ball, I just enjoy those I can see through so I can put glow sticks in them if I wish

Black Acrylic Paint

Other Acrylic paint colors of your choice

1 Twin bed sheet (color of your choice)

Lion Brand Fun Fur Yarn or Bernat Boa Yarn

Rulers/Tape Measure

Step 2: The Eyes Have It!

Take your bouncy ball and cut it in half.  You can use the outside of the ball and paint then pupils or turn it inside out.  For this dragon I scrapped off the words sky ball with a razor blade then turned them inside out. 

While not pictured I also painted the iris at this point as well.

Step 3: Bottom Jaw

Take a piece of the foam board and draw your bottom jaw. then cut it out with a box knife

Step 4: Template

Use the first jaw as a template to make the second on another piece of foam core

Step 5: Upper Jaw

Create your upper jaw/head.  Make a duplicate with the first.

Step 6: Hot Glue

Hot glue the upper and lower jaw together.  Using a small piece of foam board, decided how wide you want the head and glue that width of foam core between the two sides of the head.

Use several pieces around the head in this manner to make the form sturdy.

Step 7: Eye Holder

Create a 90 degree angle to help attach the eye at an angle.  Hot glue in place.  Make sure you measure to get the same location on the other side of the head.

Step 8: Eye Details

Use small pieces of foam core to create eye details.

Step 9: Close the Head

Foam board will roll.  You will hear a snapping sound, breaking down the actual foam.  The paper on the foam board will hold everything together.  You can now cut down the rounded foam board to close the head together.

Step 10: Jumping Forward

OK, so I clearly was bad about some pictures, so let me full in the blanks.

I added more detail to the dragon, teeth, horns, ears, eyelashes and so on.

At this point if I wanted to really seal everything together I could have used some calking and even used that calking to create details. If I had more time as well, I would have hand painted with all acrylic OR put a base acrylic layer down before spay painting.  Spray paint eats foam, and wrinkles the paper layer because of this.  It's not a horrible thing, but it's noticeable.   But as I said at the start I only had a few hrs to get this done.

I took the twin bedsheet out to the grass laid it out flat and sprayed scales.

I spray painted the head black.

Once the spray paint was dry I added two small pieces of foam core to the inside of the head sticking out from the head, this made a shelf of sorts.  (see picture notes)

I hot glued the sheet into place.

I then added acrylic paint details.

At the end I added the yarn for a beared and eye lashes.

Step 11: Finished

Not bad for something I had four hrs to create.

Unlike my other dragon people just went under the bed sheet vs holding it with sticks.  Also, do to the time crunch I couldn't add the yarn to the body.

However, as I stated before this was for a small part in this play (it was in the play less than 7 mins) so it worked for what we needed.

I doubt this is my last parade dragon, I'm pretty determined now to create another, but with crazy detail and more on the high end of things.  I assure you, I will share it. :)

Please ask questions I'm happy to help!

Step 12: Poof's Tips and Tricks

TIME!:  A non-rushed dragon is a better looking dragon!

CHEAP! : If you can get to a dollar tree, foam core is so cheap there, you can load up and make a pretty huge dragon head if you desire.

Get creative!: Egg cartons could be use for texture on the dragon.  Look around at junk, sometimes you can find real gems to create something new!

This could EASILY be tweaked slightly to make a killer fort!

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18 Discussions


9 months ago

Thank you so much for your instructables! We did Fantastic Beasts for our Halloween theme this year, and you helped make an occamy fly! She ended up 20’ long with a 15’ wingspan. I took a couple of months to make this, and it lasted the three hours for trick and treating. I would never have had the confidence to make it without your help. Thank you!!!


5 years ago on Introduction

This is a wonderful project! Thank you so much for this instructable! We have been talking about the Chinese New Year coming up on Friday as my husband is from Vietnam and we celebrate Tet. So, for art this week, we had our 12 year old follow the instructions and it became a family project. Needless to say on this rainy afternoon the oldest and youngest boy (6 years) have been dragon dancing around our living room. This morning, they had a blast painting, adding the lion brand fur yarn, cutting out teeth and embellishments has kept them very busy this morning! And of course last night, the better half and the oldest boy assembled the head and even talked about how to possibly make the jaw move. Rick was thinking of using a large brad maybe? I was wondering your thoughts as our middle boy was really wanting to build his own dragon costume maybe over Spring break. Thank you again, and love this project!

3 replies

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

So sorry this took me so long to comment back! I do want you to know that when I did log in and read this you made my day, I get to tickled with people use my instructbales! My year has been jam packed and I sadly haven't been on instructbales much at all so I do hope you read this and if you have any pictures of your kiddo's dragons I would LOVE to see them. A brad would possibly work, but it would have to be large. Now what might work better is using some sort of wire, perhaps a clothing hanger that is cut with wire cutters so you kind of make your own brass fastener. Crafting wire might be ok as well, it's bendable and pretty cheap. I only worry that a brass fastener wouldn't hold the jaw. This has my mind spinning with ideas, if I think of something brilliant I will post again! :)


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

No worries! Just posted a couple shots for you of the finished product. This was our first year trying to home school so I can completely understand about a busy year! The better half helped the boys and I out and the kids did most of the work with the exception of cutting out the pieces. We also added two globe solar lights, one for each eye and my husband made a little cross bar to attach the two. So for the first couple of nights, the dragon actually had glowing eyes! :)


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

That just plain cool! I still smile when I think about the fact that some kiddos out there made my project, seriously! Love love love it and so glad you posted the pics. If you ever venture into any of my other instructables and make them do share that work!

your partner in education,



5 years ago on Introduction

That looks like it could easily be modified for a horse costume! The costume class at my next horse show should be awesome! :D

1 reply

5 years ago

R u an art teacher u seem Like one if u r I want u as my art teacher!! :D

1 reply

5 years ago on Step 12

I like the details! Neato project, I like the fort idea for later... That would be the head on the Pirate's ship!

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago on Step 12

Yes, I could see it all spread out and the head being at the top of the fort being all enter if you dare. :)


Hey thanks! Our set design class worked on those, the kids have so much fun at camp creating things for the play. (Even the big kids like me!)