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Naturally Educational » 3-5 (Preschool), 3-5 (Preschool), 5-6 (Kindergarten), 5-6 (Kindergarten), 5-6 (Kindergartners), 6-8 (Early Elementary), 6-8 (Early Elementary), Fall, Featured, History and Culture, Home Arts, Science, Weather » Corn Husk Dolls

Corn Husk Dolls

Since it is harvest time at the farms around here, we decided to make a corn husk doll.

Unlike most of the crafts I post on here, this is really one for older kids or adults.  However, little ones can be helpers and I think there is a lot to be gained from them observing their older siblings and parents as they prepare for the changes in the season.  And younger children can decorate, dress, and play with the corn husk dolls.

I found great instructions with illustrations and I also made this video tutorial for making your own corn husk dolls (watch all the way to the end for some spontaneous cuteness from my daughter).

Instructions:

  1. If you are using dried corn husks, soak them in water for about twenty minutes.  If you are using fresh husks, you can skip this step.
  2. Take four corn husks and tie together at the top. Trim the edges so they are even.
  3. fold the corn husks down around where you tied to form the head. Tie to secure at the neck.
  4. Roll a corn husk into tube for the arms. (Variations not shown in the video: you can also fold in the hands before tying off so that the doll can hold a broom or arrow or other object; you can also insert a pipe cleaner into the arms so that the child may post them.)
  5. Insert the arms between the corn stalks hanging down from the head. Tie off at waist.
  6. Take two corn stalks and criss-cross over the shoulders and tie off at waist.
  7. Take four or more corn stalks and position around the waist like a skirt.  Tie off again at the waist.
  8. If you want to form pants, separate the corn stalks that form the skirt and tie at the feet to form legs.
  9. Decorate the corn husk doll and dress it.

My daughter dyed her doll’s clothing in food coloring and beet juice and also used markers.


While you are making the doll, tell the story of why Native American corn husk dolls have no face.

Afterward, read some books about the harvest:

Red Are the Apples by Marc Hashman and Cheryl Ryan shares rhyming quatrains about the colors of the harvest. I love the lush, heavily foreshortened illustrations that pull you right into the picture. A nice, simple book appropriate for toddlers but also interesting enough for preschoolers and kindergartners.

By the Light of the Harvest Moon by Harriet Ziefert is a magical tale of leaf people who come to life and enjoy a delicious and fun harvest festival. Their celebration is filled with good food, delightful games, and lots of love. Your children will probably recognize a lot of their own favorite autumn activities. The book is a little long for toddlers and younger preschoolers but the charming, fanciful and warm illustrations should grab their attention and it is just right for children four to eight. This book is a perfect addition for lessons about the harvest, fall, apples, or pumpkins.

Hello, Harvest Moon by Ralph Fletcher describes the subtle changes that take place in nature under the harvest moon. The vocabulary is a bit advanced but the book is suitable for ages four to eight–just be ready to stop and define words for younger children. The lovely, impressionistic illustrations set the moonlit mood. I especially enjoy how the young girl in the book feels the pull of the moon and enjoys a few stolen twilight moments before bedtime.

Autumn Harvest by Alvin Tresselt is a harvest tale from 1951, complete with classic mid-century illustrations. Six decades ago, agriculture was probably a more familiar part of children’s lives and the harvest is treated with a matter-of-fact grace that is very comforting. The prose really hasn’t aged at all and children ages three to eight will enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, sounds, and sensations of autumn. My son especially loves the farm vehicles that feature more prominently in this book than our other harvest stories.

We Gather Together by Wendy Pfeffer describes the coming of autumn and harvest festivals in different parts of the world and throughout history. Although it is simply written and beautifully illustrated, the book may be a bit fact-based and long for toddlers and many preschoolers. Kids 4-8 will enjoy hearing about celebrations throughout the world. The book also provides great Autumnal Equinox activity ideas.

Educational Connections:

  • Science: Why do the corn husks dry up once they are off the stalk? What foods are harvested in the fall? Why do we harvest before the frost?
  • History / Culture: Why are harvest festivals important in most cultures?  What similarities are there between the different harvest festivals? What was the significance of corn to the Native Americans and Colonial Americans?  Why did people make dolls of corn husks?  What other toys did Native American and Colonial children have?
  • Home Arts: What natural dyes can you use? Which work the best on your corn husk doll?

Check out more  great Story + ART at stART! I am also sharing this on the Friday Nature Table!

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Written by

Candace Lindemann, Yale, BA, Harvard Graduate School of Education, EdM, is an educational consultant and published writer. She enjoys new learning experiences with her children, ages 6 and 4 and 1.5.

Filed under: 3-5 (Preschool), 3-5 (Preschool), 5-6 (Kindergarten), 5-6 (Kindergarten), 5-6 (Kindergartners), 6-8 (Early Elementary), 6-8 (Early Elementary), Fall, Featured, History and Culture, Home Arts, Science, Weather · Tags: , , , ,

10 Responses to "Corn Husk Dolls"

  1. MamaGames says:

    We haven’t made husk dolls in a few years… now that my daughter is almost 4, I think she’d be able to help her brother make some. Great idea for October!

  2. Rebecca says:

    This is so creative! And different from so many crafts- great job!

  3. I love the video. It looks like you had a wonderful time making the dolls. Please stop by and link this activity to Read.Explore.Learn on my blog.

  4. 8004321000 says:

    They should make the next burning man out of corn!

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