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Paper Dolls - A Fun Creative Activity for Children. Includes Free Paper Dolls.

Updated on February 7, 2019
AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

Adele Cosgrove-Bray is a writer, poet and artist who lives on the Wirral Peninsula in England.

Traditional Games

Dolls are one of the oldest toys known to humankind. Dolls made from wood or clay can trace their lineage back to the Stone Age

Paper dolls first gained popularity with the Victorians, and then went on to become a traditional activity useful many a rainy afternoon.

The reason for this is simple. Making paper dolls is easy and fun. Expensive art materials are not required. Young children can be safely left to pursue this hobby without direct adult supervision, so long as they are given safety scissors.

However, it's not only children who enjoy this hobby. Many adults love collecting dolls, and while antique porcelain dolls or those delicately detailed Asian ball-jointed dolls can command high prices, paper dolls remain extremely economical - though these too are increasingly being collected by adults.

But the fun of playing with paper dolls is in making your own. Read on to learn how.

Free Paper Doll with Clothes to Print!

Video Showing How to Make Paper Dolls

Free Werewolf Paper Doll to Print!

Have you ever seen a werewolf paper doll before?
Have you ever seen a werewolf paper doll before?

Make Your Own Paper Dolls!


  • paper
  • pencil
  • firm card
  • child-safe glue
  • child-safe scissors
  • colouring pencils, wax crayons, felt pens or child-safe paints

Get Creative!

On paper, draw your doll with a box-shape, or base, around its feet. It is traditional to draw the doll wearing a swimming costume or underwear - clothing which fits to the shape of the doll while keeping the body covered.

You can make your doll look any way you wish - imagination is your only limitation. Your doll can be young or old, male or female, and you can colour it to your own liking. It's up to you!

Do not worry if the drawing isn't perfect. With practice, techniques will improve. If you wish, you could cut out images from magazines and use these instead of drawings. Personally I would always encourage a child to draw the dolls for themselves.

Glue the drawn doll including the base onto firm card. You needn't buy anything special for this - you could use a cereal box's plain side, for example. Wait until the glue is fully dry before you cut the doll out, or you'll spoil the edges of the drawing.

To enable your doll to stand up, make a slim rectangular piece of card. Fold this in half to make a 'V' shape, and cut two small slots which will slide into two corresponding slots in the doll's base.

Now you're ready to create a fabulous wardrobe for your doll!

Free Paper Doll to Print!

Clothes for Paper Dolls!


  • paper
  • pencil
  • coloured pencils, wax crayons, felt pens or non-toxic paints
  • child-safe scissors

Imagination and Design Skills

Once you've made your doll, now it's time to create some clothes for it!

What kind of clothes are you going to make? The choice is entirely your own. You could make ballet costumes or ball gowns, chic evening wear or sporty casuals, school uniforms or trendy beach wear. Perhaps you would prefer to create costumes from historical times, or even design something totally new and as yet unseen on any fashion catwalk! Space-age, steam-punk or romantic and retro - it's totally up to you!

Place your doll flat on a sheet of paper, and use the doll's shape to draw round to ensure the clothes will fit. Remember to add tabs - those little squares you can see in the pictures of free printable dolls on this page - as these will fold over the doll's edges and so prevent the clothes from falling off.

Then design your own styles and colour them in. Cut out the clothes with tabs, and you're ready to have fun playing dressing up!

Further Ideas for Paper Dolls

Paper dolls could be an economical addition to home-schooling projects, such as paper-making, printing, historical costumes and cultures, and contemporary fashion design.

It is possible to make your own theatre from card, and populate with actors made from paper dolls - a fun way of staging your own plays.

Making paper dolls is also suitable for a child who is convalescing, as the activity can readily be done on a tray resting on the bed. 

Paper Dolls - Developing it Further

Free Paper Doll to Print!

Home-schoolers might consider using paper dolls as part of a lesson in historical costume, or in miniature theatrical productions.
Home-schoolers might consider using paper dolls as part of a lesson in historical costume, or in miniature theatrical productions.

Childhood Memories of Paper Dolls

As children, my sister Hazel and I used to spend hour after hour most weekends playing with paper dolls. Most of these we had made ourselves, using the simple methods which I described above. Some of them were commercially manufactured dolls, but in all truth we had more fun with those we made ourselves.

Each doll had its own name and set of clothes. Each doll looked different. They had been drawn with different poses, different shades of skin, eyes and hair. Some were taller than others, but I think our favourite dolls were the older teens and twenties which we then aspired to be.

We stored each doll, with its set of clothes, inside the pages of the colouring books which we had outgrown. Each page represented that doll's apartment. The pages could be decorated like a scrapbook with magazine or catalogue pictures of furniture or furnishings which we imagined that particular doll might choose.

Between us, Hazel and I created hundreds of these dolls! The fun is in the creativity, really. Every so often, our mother would descend with a binbag and the more ragged of our treasures would vanish into it - only to be swiftly replaced by new creations.

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© 2009 Adele Cosgrove-Bray


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