How to Make a Paper Mache Map

How to Make a Paper Mache Map

Learning takes on many forms, and tactile learning is always a favourite in our homeschool…especially messy tactile learning! Of course, over the years, we have made many maps in this way. Whenever possible, I aim to make any maps as large as I can. This allows us to add lovely details such as boats, houses and geographical features such as Offa’s Dyke seen here. Read on to learn how to make a paper Mache map for your homeschool.

Supplies to Make a Paper Mache Map

Although you can make paper Mache the old fashioned way, I really recommend buying in a pack of paper mache pulp. Not only is it easier and malleable to use, it also produces a light-weight textured end result. Oh, and it’s super sturdy, almost unbreakable and a lot goes a long way. To mix it up, you’ll need a container which is not used for food. An old ice cream box is perfect, or alternatively a paint bucket. I also recommend using charcoal to hand draw your map (I learnt this the more maps we made) because it marks really clearly.

In terms of cardboard, you can of course buy some, but I have never needed to because we always have lots of packaging of various sizes. If you want to make an extra large paper mache map, you can tape lots of smaller card together. Another option is to ask around at large appliance suppliers. A fridge freezer packaging box is perfect! Once you have created the map and it has dried well, you’ll need some acrylic paints and some different sized brushes.

Map of Great Britain

My goal here was to create a huge paper mache map of Great Britain.  It will be specifically used for our Anglo-Saxon and Viking studies as well as Middle Ages. I wanted the map to include the countries the two former cultures migrated from (Norway, Sweden, Germany, Denmark) as well as the countries the Vikings explored (Newfoundland, Iceland and Greenland). 

The idea was that the children would actively build these countries and therefore NEVER forget where they were.  I had decided to build some of the things we had learnt about in our Anglo Saxon  lessons: Offa’s Dyke, Sutton Hoo Burial and an Anglo Saxon village.  I also included boats to show the direction of migration.  Afterwards, we will be studying the Vikings and therefore will choose different land marks and subjects to focus on and build.

How to Make a Paper Mache Map in Stages

# Mark the outline of the countries you have chosen

Two girls drawing Great Britain for a map

I photocopied some maps and made a light sketch of the countries, which the girls went over. First, we did an outline of Britain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland (America) in pencil. Then the children outlined the map with black marker. (only showing Britain- the map really is huge!):

Huge outline map of Great Britain

# Going Over the Map with Paper Mache

This is where the fun begins! Mix up the paper Mache using the instructions on the package. I always add a little bit more water because I prefer that consistency. You want it a little like mushy peas 😁. We used gloves for the first few maps we did, but to be honest, I now just use my fingers and wash my hands thoroughly after use. I have quite sensitive skin, but bizarrely don’t react to this at all.

three children making a paper cache map

The outlines are roughly made, which is perfect because it emulates sea cliffs. These edges will come into their own when you paint them later, as you will soon see…

Make a Paper Mache Map

Leave this to dry (this will take longer than you think it will: think days rather than hours)

# Painting the Map

Don’t be scared! This is my favourite bit. You need some fairly good quality acrylic paint. Water colours are not strong enough and don’t blend as well as you need. Oil paints are expensive, way to slow drying and stink, although they blend perfectly. Acrylics offer the benefits of both without any of the negatives.

Paper mache map

I start with a middle blue and paint the waters. You want to roughly spludge the paint around the paper mache, sort of pushing the paint into the grooves. No need to be neat. Just go at it! Next, I use the darker blue, splodging only around the map outline. Lastly, use the white and lightly add it to the outline and the surface of the seas, lightly as if to make the foam of the waves.

Paper mache map
This close up shows the place around the Thames river where an Anglo Saxon village could have been, and Offa’s Dyke between Wales and England

Using the middle green, the girls painted the land, adding highlights using light green and lowlights using darker green around the edges and on the tops of the mountains. The girls painted Offa’s Dyke brown and the flat plain yellow, to show where the Anglo-Saxon village will be built.

# Adding Prominent Details

We used this map to learn about the Anglo-Saxons, and so we created Offa’s Dyke and added an Anglo-Saxon village. I used a PlayMobil shipwreck to illustrate the burial at Sutton Hoo:

paper-mache map showing offa's dyke and Sutton hoo and an Anglo-Saxon village
Our papier mache map showing an Anglo Saxon village, the burial at Sutton Hoo and Offas Dyke

# Labelling Everything

We also labelled the additions as well as the surrounding countries. We did this using toothpicks, plasticine and sticky labels:

paper mache map with offa's dyke, anglo-saxon village and Sutton hoo burial

It is easy to make these maps large or small or anywhere in-between. Teaching Expertise have many more hands on educational map activities you can do with your children. I’ll be using this map for our Anglo-Saxon presentation and perhaps even our Viking unit study…oooh and our medieval unit study…the uses go on and on!

2 comments

  1. Looks great! What do you do with the maps when your done? Where do you display/store them? 🙂

    1. This particular map we used for two or three unit studies (Anglo-saxons, Vikings and Middle Ages). During this time we stored it behind the bench at our table. Once we’d finished we threw it out (which was surprisingly hard!), but I’d taken loads of photos which take up far less room 😁

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