How to make a 3D paper skeleton

skeleton image by JASON WINTER from

Human anatomy can be a difficult subject to teach children. Make it exciting and engage their attention by creating a large human skeleton out of simple paper tubes. With a little creativity, you can cheaply and easily help children learn the names of the body's major bones.

Leftover cardboard tubes from wrapping paper, paper towels, and toilet tissue can be recycled into an educational and fun model.

Look at a picture of a human skeleton. Tape together toilet paper tubes, paper towel rolls and wrapping paper rolls so that they form the basic skeletal structure. To make knees and elbows, cut a 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 inch) tab from the end of a paper roll and bend it horizontally. Attach longer rolls to the horizontal tab to make the bones that hang from these joints. You can cut and attach several small sections of paper roll in this way to create an articulated spine that bends in many places as well. To make ribs, cut open a paper roll vertically, and cut out long strips from the roll. Tape the strips together in groups of six to eight, then attach them to the skeleton at the spine. Continue building the skeleton, making it as detailed as you like.

Pour 946 ml (4 cups) of water into a pot, and add 816 g (6 cups) of flour. Stir the mixture well. Heat it over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to bubble or boil, remove it from the heat and allow to cool. This is your papier-mache base.

Cut the newspaper into strips about 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide. Dip the strips into the flour mixture, and spread the papier-mache strips onto the paper roll skeleton. Cover the entire skeleton with at least four to five layers of papier-mache. Allow to dry completely.

Inflate a balloon to roughly the size of your head. Tie off. Cover the balloon with four to five layers of papier-mache strips. Allow the papier-mache to dry completely, then poke through it with a straight pin to pop the balloon. This is the skeleton's skull.

Attach the papier-mache skull to the body using masking tape. Cover the area where the skull attaches with four to five layers of papier-mache. Once dry, you can paint the skeleton or display it as-is.