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Wooden Figure Key Hanger

Grades: 3-8 (Children as young as kindergarten can enjoy this with help from an adult)
Time needed: 4-6 hours divided
Objectives: To introduce decorative possibilities of castoff elements to create functional art.


  • Scraps of wood panelling, wood bits, bottle caps, corks, beads, wire,plastic bugs, faethers
  • Hot glue gun, white glue
  • Coping saw, jig saw (optional)
  • Drill or dremel tool
  • Various colours latex paint and brushes

Wooden Figures This is a great project to celebrate a special occasion such as Mother's or Father's Day. In this example, the children have portrayed their parents as an anniversary gift.

The main body of the figure consists of 3 1/2" tongue in groove pine paneling cut to about 2' lengths (free offcuts from a local woodworker). The children are asked to make an outline of head and waist. Encourage them to maintain the elongated character of the medium. An adult will have to cut these out using a coping saw. OR you can eliminate any cutting by simply gluing on a round piece to act as a face ignoring the angle shape of the background.

The kids can cover this with "hair" made of yarn fringe, or curly kate scrubber or buttons strung on wire and attached by drilling holes through the wood). When they have their general body shape, they can now begin to define body features and clothing using small bits of wood, old game pieces, bottle caps, popsicle sticks, beads etc. (A great source for such things is the dollar store where you will also find feathers, beads, plastic bugs and frogs etc. Kids love this stuff!) These are glued with white glue and where necessary clothes pegs or bulldog clamps can be used to secure the pieces as the glue dries. Another valuable tool for sticking odd shaped things or metal is a hot glue gun.

At the next session the class can begin painting. The best results are achieved if the child first paints the entire figure in one colour. When that dries, it acts as a background for any further painting or decoupage. When decoration is complete, several cup hooks are screwed in the thickest areas for the keys to hang on. A screw eye can be attached at the top through the thickness of the wood for easy hanging. Blue tack at the bottom underside helps it to hang vertically.

Encourage the child to begin with attaching arms and legs...either tongue depressor or popsicle sticks are good as are threaded punched bottle caps on a wire.

Remember things like threaded beads and taped together feathers are easily "sewn" on after drilling a hole through the wood and has the added fun of being articulated or dangly.

Suggest several layers of shapes to make a skirt for instance on top of which is a belt and maybe a fringe of dangly beads along the bottom. Corks or beads can be added to legs for feet.

Special features could be added to represent the recipient's vocation or hobby. For example, one child added a fishing rod with fish on the end for his angling dad.

Contributed by Pamela Allen, (B.F.A. Queens University)

About the Author:
Pamela Allen, (B.F.A. Queens University)has received 9 Artist in the Schools Grants from the Ontario Arts Council through which she has gained much experience teaching young children. In addition, she has taught in the Fine Art department at Queens both on campus and as an instructor in the Far North through the Aboriginal Teachers Education Program ( ATEP ). Pamela's teaching has taken her several times to Moose Factory and Kasabonika First Nation Reserves and most recently to Sioux Lookout. She exhibits regularly in both Kingston and Toronto and has participated in shows in the U.S. Pamela has enjoyed several artist residency "sabbaticals" in El Paso Texas, Pouch Cove Newfoundland and soon a printmaking residency in Tuscany. She works at her art full time and enjoys a spacious studio in the Kingston downtown. You can contact Pamela by sending email to
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