The samurai were the military nobility of Japan in feudal times. The most important part of their armor was the helmet, called kabuto, which was often shaped in elaborate styles. Kids who love dress-up, running around in the backyard, or both can create this samurai helmet and learn a little bit of history along the way!
What You Need:
- Old bicycle helmet or plastic toy helmet
- Hot glue gun
- Black, red, or gold paint
- Foam craft sheets in red, yellow, black
- Internet access
What You Do:
- Explain to your child that samurai were the military nobility of medieval and early modern Japan. Samurai followed the “Way of the Warrior”, emphasizing duty and loyalty. They were fierce fighters requiring strong armor and helmets.
- Samurai helmets, also called “kabuto” in Japan, were made as early as the 4th century. Iron or leather plates were used, and helmets often included a “neck guard” on the back. Show your child some Internet images of classical samurai helmets for inspiration.
- Let your child know that black, red, and gold were traditional colors for helmets. Have her pencil designs for her helmet on the yellow, black, or red craft foam based on the images. She can cut out, horns, visors. flower shapes, or other elements that are commonly found on samurai helmets. Leave one sheet of craft foam uncut to be the neck guard.
- Take out the helmet and begin arranging the pieces on it. Plastic toy helmets can sometimes be found inexpensively at dollar or discount stores. Purchase a black helmet, or have her paint one black if it only comes in other colors. If using an old bicycle helmet, leave the helmet straps on — samurai helmets had cords that tied under the chin to keep the face armor in place. Have your child paint it black or red.
- After the paint has dried, help your child hot glue the craft foam décor on the front, top, side, and back (for the neck guard sheet) of the helmet.
- Once the hot glue has dried, she can take it outside!
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.