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Make a Paper Papoose and Cradleboard!

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Updated on Nov 6, 2013

As you prepare for Thanksgiving, use this fun craft to get your child involved! You'll create a wonderful opportunity to talk about the first Thanksgiving and Native American traditions, and your child will exercise his creativity and develop those fine motor skills as he crafts and weaves this fine handmade cradleboard to carry his very own papoose (Native American baby)! He'll also end up with a great prop to use for role-play involving families and babies or Native American culture!

What You Need:

  • Brown or beige construction paper (or manila file folder)
  • Brown construction paper (or paper bag) in a different shade
  • Scissors
  • Crayons or markers
  • Stapler
  • Single hole punch
  • Yarn (about 2 yards)
  • Tape
  • Brown tempera paint (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Have your child help you draw a baby on a piece of construction paper or manila folder. Ask your child what features a baby's face has. Is it awake or sleeping? The papoose can have arms and legs or, to make an infant wrapped in a blanket, just draw a head with a larger oval for the body. You can even take this opportunity to talk about what Native American children night have worn!
  2. Help your child cut his papoose out with scissors. Get ready to make the cradleboard to carry it!
  3. To make the cradleboard, lay one piece of brown construction paper or paper bag on top of another.These pieces can be the same color or different colors, but make sure they're not the same color as the papoose! If one is bigger, keep the bigger one on the bottom.
  4. Let your child cut both pieces of paper together (so that the edges line up) into the shape of a cradleboard. This can be oval-shaped for a traditional-looking cradleboard, or your child can leave the bottom square so he doesn't have to cut as much! The important element here is that the top of the cradleboard is rounded.
  5. If the top sheet is smaller than the bottom sheet, the cradleboard is ready to be assembled. If the two pieces of constuction paper are the same size, ask your child to fold the top one down like a blanket or sleeping bag.
  6. Now, help your child staple the cradleboard together around the edges so it stays together.
  7. You will also want to help your child punch holes around the edges of the papoose. Make sure they're fairly evenly spaced so your child will be able to thread yarn through them easily!
  8. When the holes are in place, hand the cradleboard to the artist. The two of you can research a local Native American tribe and talk about Native American symbols, or your child can make his own! Remind him that Native Americans often used symbols and drawings to tell a story.
  9. To up the "authentic" look, try painting over the symbols and drawings with a wash of watered-down brown tempera paint (or crinkling the cradleboard and unfolding it a couple of times if you're using a paper bag).
  10. The finishing touch is a border of yarn! The ends of a piece of yarn will fray easily, so wrap a piece of tape around each ends so it stays easy to thread through the holes you punched.
  11. Tie the yarn to the top hole on one side of the cradleboard, leaving a tail of about a foot and a half. Now, hand the long end to your child and let him thread down through the top of each hole, wrapping the yarn around the side of the paper in between holes.
  12. When he gets to the top hole on the other side, tie the yarn off at the hole.
  13. Put the papoose in the cradleboard and tie the loose yarn ends around your child's shoulders so he can carry the baby on his back.

Use your child's art as a Thanksgiving decoration or as a prop in an impromptu play about the first Thanksgiving! He'll impress the whole family with his new vocabulary words, "papoose" and "cradleboard."