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Kokeshi Doll

Kokeshi Doll Activity

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Recreate a traditional craft from Japan using regular household items! Kokeshi dolls have been around since the 17th century, and now your child can have a piece of Japanese history and culture right at home.

What You Need:

  • Small foam ball
  • Wine cork
  • Toothpick
  • Scissors
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Permanent black marker

What You Do:

  1. Research kokeshi dolls online together. Remember that these beautiful dolls are not supposed to look like dolls from America or any other part of the world. Their distinctive large heads and simple bodies—completely absent of arms or legs—are what sets them apart.
  2. Help your child poke a toothpick through the top of a small foam ball. Now poke the toothpick through the cork, positioning foam squarely on top of the cork as well as far enough into the cork.
  3. Use scissors to cut off any toothpick ends that are sticking out. You now have a doll torso (cork) and head (ball).
  4. Have your child paint a white circle on the front of the head. She can then paint on hair, eyes, a small red nose, and rosy cheeks.
  5. For the body, your child should pick out two colors. One color will be used for the kokeshi doll's kimono, and the other color will be the sash. Your ambitious dollmaker should cover the cork in the first color before carefully painting on the sash.
  6. After the paint dries, she can use a permanent black marker to draw black lines around the sash. If she's feeling artistic, let her use the marker and paint to put flower designs on the doll's kimono.
  7. Once the kokeshi doll is complete, prop it up somewhere in the house where everyone can admire it. Experiment with different color combinations and give the doll some more kokeshi companions.
Beth Levin has an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from Columbia University Teachers College. She has written educational activities for Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Renaissance Learning publishers. She has a substitute teaching credential for grades K-12 in Oregon, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

Updated on May 8, 2014
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See more activities in: Fifth Grade, World Cultures
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