The praying mantis is a formidable insect that is frightening to look at and interesting to watch. A great visual aide while trying to teach about the three sections of an insect (the head, thorax and abdomen) is a large-sized papier mache model of a praying mantis. Papier mache is the easiest way to create a model of an insect.
You can add regular glue if desired, but the flour and water work without it.
Balloons are a choking hazard. If small children are involved, use a paper towel roll or something similar for the base of the abdomen to papier mache.
Rip newspaper into 1-inch wide strips. One full, daily newspaper should be enough.
Blow up the long balloon. Tie the balloon end to hold the air inside.
Pour 2 cups of flour into a large bowl. Slowly stir drops of water into the flour until the mixture feels thick but liquid enough to spread. It should feel like regular glue.
Dip a strip of newspaper entirely in the paste. Wipe the strip off so that it is wet but not dripping. Wrap this strip over the long balloon.
Repeat this process until the entire balloon is covered. Apply two or three layers and allow the papier mache to dry completely. This will take about two days for the papier mache to dry.
Take a few strips of the newspaper and roll them into a long stick, same length as the balloon. Dip this rolled-up stick into the paste until soaked. Wipe off any excess glue and set it aside to dry completely. It will take about two days for the papier mache stick to dry. Make a triangularly shaped ball about the size of the cap of a soda bottle.
Papier mache flat sections on the tops of two pipe cleaners. Bend these into a hooked position before allowing to dry. These will become the front legs of the praying mantis. Remember the praying mantis got its name because the two front legs are in a bent position that almost resembles praying; bend them accordingly. Allow to dry for two days.
Bunch up a few strips of newspaper and stick the now-hard stick into the bunch. Apply this bunch to the end of the balloon by covering it with papier mache strips. Prop this up so the stick is coming out of the balloon at about a 45-degree angle. This is the abdomen and thorax of the praying mantis.
Paint the thorax, abdomen, and head either green or brown depending upon which praying mantis you wish to create.
Hot glue the head and legs to the praying mantis according to the diagram or picture provided. Paint on round eyes according to the visual reference. The papier mached legs are the grasping front legs, which are placed on the thorax.
Cut the strips of cloth to three-quarters the length of the abdomen in an oval shape. Hot glue these to the part of praying mantis where the abdomen and thorax meet so that the cloth covers the back of the abdomen and slightly overlap.
- Praying mantis image by Kiraly Zoltan from Fotolia.com