European Colonial Figures


Learn about the clothing worn by Europeans when they first came to the Americas. Create a historic, miniature figure wearing authentic attire of the period.


1. Research the clothing that was worn by European immigrants when they started to come to the American continents. Discover how religious beliefs and cultural history influenced clothing designs for men, women, and children. These directions are for making a female figure in a simple dress. Modify the steps as needed to create other attire.

2. Fold a sheet of Crayola Shaper Paper™ in half and in half again. Cut along folds to make four small sheets.

3. Place a paper cup upside down on a flat surface covered with newspaper. Dip one small sheet quickly into a bowl of water. Attach short edge of sheet vertically to top edge of cup pleating the top together to form one-third of the skirt.

4. Repeat Step 3 twice, attaching two more panels to complete the skirt.

5. Crumple a paper towel into a ball to place on top of the cup. Cut the last quarter sheet in half vertically. Dip in water and attach the short end at the waist. Stretch the piece around to the other side of the waist. Hold in place for a minute or until the paper adheres.

6. Cut the last small paper in half. Dip into water and roll into small tubes to create arms. Flatten one end. Attach flat ends to top sides of torso.

7. Fold a second sheet of Shaper Paper in half and in half again. Cut out one-quarter sheet. Cut it in half vertically. Dip each piece in water and attach the short ends at the front waist. Stretch the pieces over and around to the back of the waist. These pieces cover the top of both arms.

8. Cut out another quarter sheet and cut it in half. Attach the short ends to make one long vertical sheet. Fold this sheet in half and cut along vertical line. Dip into water and fold in half and in half again lengthwise to create a belt. Wrap around the waist to secure torso.

9. Crumple a half paper towel into a small ball to create the head. Cut another quarter sheet in half horizontally. Dip in water and cover the head, wrapping it tightly around the paper towel ball. Set aside.

10. Fold a third sheet of Shaper Paper in half and in half again. Cut out one-quarter sheet and cut it in half vertically. Dip one section in water and fold in half. Set head on top of figure. Wrap newly folded sheet around the head, meeting two corners to create a collar. This secures the head on the figure.

11. Fold another quarter sheet in half horizontally. To make a hat, draw a circle about 2.5 inches (6 cm) in diameter. Draw another circle, about 3/4 inch (2 cm) in diameter, on cardboard. Cut out all circles. Place the smaller circle in the center of the bigger circle. Trace around the edge of the small circle. Cut out the circles in the middles of both larger circles. Using a wet paint brush, dampen one circle surface and attach to the other. Wet around the inside edge of the circle and attach the hat to the figure’s head. Hold in place for a moment until hat adheres to head. Air-dry the figure overnight or until completely dry.

12. Decorate your figure and its apparel with Crayola Watercolor Paints. Air-dry the paint. Orally describe the clothing, culture, and period it represents to your classmates.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.

Crayola Washable Paints—Not for use as body/face paint.

Scissors—ATTENTION: The cutting edges of scissors are sharp and care should be taken whenever cutting or handling. Blunt-tip scissors should be used only by children 4 years and older. Pointed-tip scissors should be used only by children 6 years and older.


  • Research and create designs for different hats, dresses, and sashes for different customs and time periods.
  • Create historic dioramas with your figure showing home construction, candle making, farming, weaving, or cooking, for example. Reproduce a colonial house or wagon for your figure.
  • Write a story about your figure, giving it a historically accurate name and activities.
  • Try decorating the figure with Crayola Markers or Tempera Paints. Use bits of recycled fabric or craft materials to embellish it.
  • Assessment. Students carefully follow directions for making their figures. Students explain the influence of other religions and cultures on clothing styles. The figure is dressed in authentic clothing for the culture and time period.

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Colored Pencils
  • Washable Watercolors
  • Watercolor Brushes with Wood Handle
  • Pointed Tip Scissors
  • Shaper Paper
household supplies
  • recycled newspaper
  • paper towels
  • recycled cardboard
  • container(s) of water
  • paper cups



  • Grades 4 to 6
  • Grades 7 to 12


  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Visual Arts


  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Multiple Sessions


  • Students research clothing of historic European cultures and religions to learn the influence on clothing of early immigrants to North America.

  • Students reproduce an authentic costume on a figure showing details of clothing worn by an immigrant from a specific European country and time period.

  • Students orally share their research findings and details about their replicas with classmates.


Research Canada Standards
Research UK Standards
Research U.S. Standards