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African Arts & Crafts for Kids

by Dana Hinders, studioD

Completing projects inspired by traditional African arts and crafts teaches kids about the diversity of this continent. Craft projects can be completed on their own or tied into a school unit on geography or world history. You might find it helpful to refer to images of African art before beginning, but remember to let your child add his own creative ideas to the project.

African Tribal Masks

African tribal masks are used to represent spirits or departed ancestors. Kids can made simple masks by decorating paper plates with tribal designs. The patterns for masks vary according to the customs of the tribe, but most are made using black, brown, yellow or orange backgrounds with stripes or small dots used to accent the forehead or cheek area. Once your child is done decorating the plate, cut eye and mouth holes with scissors. Punch two holes in the sides of the plate and tie yarn around it so your child can wear the mask.

African Sand Paintings

Using crayons on a sheet of coarse sandpaper is an excellent way to mimic the look of African cave drawings. Show your child examples of cave drawings before you begin, then let him try drawing hunters with spears, giraffes, rhinos, elephants or similar motifs on the sandpaper. If you would like to display your child's drawing, glue it to the back of a shoebox lid so it can be hung like a canvas.

Khamsa Hand Craft

The khamsa is a symbol of good luck in Africa. It is an amulet shaped like a hand that is decorated with various symbols. They are most often made from precious metals such as gold or silver, but your child can make a simple version of a khamsa by tracing his hand on a sheet of cardboard. Cut out the hand print with scissors. Paint it using metallic, nontoxic craft paint. When the image is try, let your child draw stars, dots, swirls or other embellishments on the hand with a permanent marker. Punch a small hole at the base of the palm and thread a ribbon through for hanging.

Paper Bead Jewelry

In many parts of Africa, women often earn money to support their families by selling jewelry made from paper beads. Cut 12-inch long strips of paper that are tapered to a fine point at one end. Roll the paper around a thin wooden dowel, starting with the large end of the paper. Add a drop of nontoxic school glue at the end to keep the paper secure. String the beads together using leather cord or stretch elastic to make bracelets or necklaces. Making beads from black, white and gold papers gives the project the look of traditional African jewelry, but kids can experiment with other colors and patterns if desired.

About the Author

Dana Hinders is an Iowa-based writer. She earned her B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa in 2003.

Photo Credits

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