Hawaiian Kapa Activity

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Updated on Aug 13, 2012

Traditional Hawaiian kapa cloth is made out of the pounded bark of trees and then decorated with intricate geometric designs and patterns. Originally, kapa cloth was made for wearing, but now is cherished as decoration for the home. Here, your child can learn how to make her own kapa cloth and explore her understanding of geometric shapes and pattern.

What You Need:

  • Brown paper bag
  • Scissors
  • Paintbrushes
  • Brown or black tempera paint
  • Paper plate
  • Shapes for printing such as blocks, paper rolls, or cookie cutters (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Start by looking at examples of kapa cloth with your child online or at the library. This will give her an idea of what kapa cloths usually look like.
  2. Although kapa cloth is made from bark of a tree, reusing a paper bag will work just as well. Cut a used paper bag to create a piece of 12" x 12" paper.
  3. Encourage her to sketch out her kapa design on the paper bag before painting. Often kapa cloths have a nature-themed picture in the center and a border of various geometric designs. They can also have other embellishments such as straight or zigzagged lines.
  4. Pour a small amount of black or brown tempera paint onto a paper plate and have her begin creating her design, starting with the outside border.
  5. If she wants do some printing, she can use cookie cutters, blocks, or even toilet paper rolls for circles. Just dip them in the paint and press onto the paper bag.
  6. Set the finished design aside to dry.

Once the kapa cloth has dried, it can be framed and displayed in her room as a unique and beautiful decoration!

Sarah Lipoff has a K-12 Art Education degree and enjoys working with kids of all ages.

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