As most kids do, Alexander got some homework over the school holidays. His new teacher asked the class to make a crazy hat and bring it in, with a note that they would need it all year. We decided to make a Chinese Dragon Hat (mainly because Alexander is in China Class for Year 4).

What you need to make a Chinese Dragon Hat

  • cardboard (old cereal boxes or similar)
  • scissors (large ones capable of cutting cardboard)
  • tape (micropore is best if you have it, gaffer tape is also handy in places)
  • an egg box (12 or more eggs are best)
  • newspaper
  • PVA Glue & a half-inch paintbrush
  • Assorted paints (green, red, yellow, black & white) and brushes (glitter optional)
  • Coloured paper (green, red, yellow for making scales)
  • Coloured pipe cleaners (red, orange & yellow for make some fire breath)
  • stapler (optional)

Step 1 – make a crown to fit the wearer’s head.

Cardboard Crown
Cardboard Crown

We made this from some cardboard out of the recycling bin and gaffer tape round the brim for reinforcement. You need to cut the longest strip that you can out of the largest cereal packet/piece of cardboard that you have and then measure it onto the person’s head. It ought to be a reasonably good fit, you won’t want the Dragon Head to wobble about when it is done.

When you’ve got the main headband done then add a cross strap over the top. The reason for this is that you want to be able to sit the dragon head on top and it helps to know where the wearer’s head actually goes. The cross straps will also be used in the next step.

Step 2 – Put a box on the crown

I forgot to take a picture of this. However you want to make a custom box the same width as the head and a little longer out front. Once you’ve done it secure it with tape to the crown you made in step 1. You can make the box taper slightly to the front, as the lip is going to form the front of the dragon’s mouth.

You can use the stapler for this step, but if you do make sure that the points go outside so that you don’t get scratched when you are wearing it. It also pays to cover over the staples with tape for the same reason.

Step 3 – Make the Snout, Ears & Eyes

Use the top of the egg box (save the bottom where the eggs go) to make the snout.

Carefully cut out the other nostril (there should be one on one side from where the egg box closes).

Make teeth using some triangles of cardboard (about two to three inches high) and roll them to make the two front fangs. Tape these into the two end corners of the egg box under where you have cut the nostrils. Pack some scrunched up newspaper into the rest of the egg box it to stiffen it. Attach it to the rest of the hat so that it sticks out to the front. Leave enough room to add a lower jaw with some more teeth and a bit of tongue.

Cut some pointy ear shapes out of doubled over cardboard, remembering to leave some extra at the bottom so that you can attach the ears to the hat. Roll the forward edges and tape them, also bend the ear vertically so that there it has a rounded ear shape. Attach the ears to the very back on a slight diagonal so that they can be clearly seen from head on.

For eye sockets use an egg holder from the egg box. The aim is to make a hood over an eye. Stick these on the top at the side just in front of the ears.

Step 4 – Paint with PVA

Once you’ve built the core of the structure you need to paint it with diluted PVA (about 2:1) and then stick down single sheets of newsprint over the top (wetting these also with PVA). The aim here is two-fold.

  1. you want to strengthen the model so that it will stay together well.
  2. you are looking to build up a coherent structure that looks like a dragon

You’ll need several coats, and you might want to do this over more than one session. If you find that you have sizable areas to fill in then scrunching newspaper in small pieces might make it faster, easier and lighter. When you’ve done you should end up with something like this:

Dragon hat drying from having been PVA'd


To be continued (we need to finish the next few steps and take pictures).