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Papier-Mache Pull Toys

Source: The Martha Stewart Show, December 2008


Make these one-of-a-kind elephant and squirrel pull toys for unique Handmade Holiday gifts -- perfect for kids.

Tips for papier-mache:

  • Moisten fingers while working by dipping them in a bowl of water.
  • Apply papier-mache a little at a time, allowing it to dry and strengthen before continuing.
  • If the animal is not stable enough to stand at this stage (likely for the squirrel), it's helpful to work on one side at a time.
  • A 200-degree oven speeds drying time.

Special thanks to crafter Katie Steuernagle for showing how to make this wonderful gift.


  • Corrugated cardboard

  • Craft glue

  • Papier-mache mix (Activa Fast Mache or Celluclay)

  • Creative Paperclay

  • Fine-grit sandpaper

  • Acrylic paint in a variety of colors

  • 1/4-inch wooden dowel

  • Nontoxic water-based polyurethane

  • 1/2-inch poplar board

  • Craft saw

  • Drill

  • Wood wheels and axles

  • Wood glue

  • Paintbrush

  • Additional items for the elephant: Two wooden circles for ears

  • Wire


  1. Print templates. Trace and cut out pieces from corrugated cardboard.

  2. Glue the small cardboard circles into 4 stacks of 3 each for the squirrel, or 4 stacks of 4 each for the elephant. Glue each stack to the body of the animal where the legs will go.

  3. Papier-mache the body. Prepare the papier-mache mix and apply to animal, working around the leg joints first.

  4. For the elephant ears, insert two wooden circles into the elephant head while the papier-mache is still wet; smooth more papier-mache over the ears. For the elephant tail, fold a 2-inch wire in half; twist, leaving a small loop. Insert the loop into the backside of the elephant; you will tie a string onto this loop for a tail as a finishing touch.

  5. Keep adding layers of papier-mache mix until the body shape is built up. Allow to dry completely. Mix small amounts of Creative Paperclay with water in your fingers, and smooth onto the body a little at a time. Allow to dry, and sand with fine-grit sandpaper if necessary.

  6. Paint a base coat of acrylic paint. Allow to dry, then paint details. Tip: Make dots by dipping the end of a thin wooden dowel into a dab of acrylic paint, apply, and let dry.

  7. Seal toy with a couple layers of nontoxic water-based polyurethane.

  8. Cut a 1/2-inch thick piece of poplar board to 3-by-5 1/2 inches long for the elephant; 3 by 4 1/4 inches long for the squirrel. Sand edges smooth. Paint and coat with polyurethane.

  9. Drill 4 holes about 3/4-inch deep into the bottom of the wooden base, using a drill bit a hair bigger than the size of the dowels you're using for wheel axles. On one end, drill a smaller hole all the way through the board where the string will go.

  10. Put a drop of wood glue into holes. Thread wheels onto axle and insert into hole. 

  11. Cut 4 small pieces of dowel, each about 1/2-inch long. Drill a hole into the bottom of each animal foot. Glue a dowel piece inside each hole.

  12. Place animal on base and mark where the dowels touch the base. Drill holes in base without drilling all the way through. Put wood glue in holes, push animal onto base, and wipe off any excess glue.

  13. Add a piece of string to make the tail. Tie a pull string onto the wood base. Keep it less than 12 inches for safety.

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