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41 Excellent Native American Arts and Crafts Projects for Kids

Loraine loves arts and crafts and used to volunteer at an elementary art class. She loves sharing fun and easy craft tutorials.

Here are 41 art projects you can do with your students to help them learn about Native American cultures.

Here are 41 art projects you can do with your students to help them learn about Native American cultures.

Celebrating Native American Cultures in Schools

It’s important we teach children the role Native Americans have played in shaping our country, especially with respect to cultures and practices that may seem very different from others in the United States.

When studying Native American history and cultures, kids can benefit from engaging with indigenous arts and crafts projects. Unfortunately, teachers may experience difficulty finding Native American-focused activities with tutorials. That was a huge problem for me when I volunteered to teach an elementary art class a few years ago. But now, I've had the time to do some research, and I've found many great crafts that I'd like to share with you.

Respect and Cultural Sensitivity When Teaching

Remember, using these crafts as classroom activities gives you the perfect opportunity to speak with the students about how to engage with Native American history and indigenous persons. I have provided some information throughout to help you tell your students how these projects reflect native cultures. At the bottom of the article, I have provided additional links to information on accurately and sensitively teaching Native American history.

Native American shield

Native American shield

1. Crafts From Kids & Glitter

You can find this Native American War or Medicine Shield and many more craft ideas in the 3rd Grade Projects Gallery at Kids & Glitter.

There are many more good activity ideas in the 4th Grade Project Gallery as well.

Corn husk doll

Corn husk doll

2. Corn Husk Dolls

Make corn husk dolls like both Native Americans and the colonists did. For directions, go to this Martha Stewart page. There is another version of a corn husk doll at Be Brave, Keep Going I recommend you also check out.

These were made by indigenous cultures for a variety of reasons. They have been used as charms to protect homes or livestock or to ward off omens seen in bad dreams. They are also often made to represent the spirit of the crop.

Native American rattle

Native American rattle

3. Paper Plate Rattles

Kids will really get into making this project. Paper plates, a paint stick, and paper mache! Find all the instructions for making these rattles at Art is Basic.

Felt tipi classroom project

Felt tipi classroom project

4. Felt Tipi

Recreating a village with felt tipi is a great classroom project that can engage more than one student. You'll find instructions for making these felt tipis at Munchkin and Bean.

This can be a perfect time to educate students that, historically, not all native people slept in tipis. Housing types varied greatly by location within North America and climate. Tipis were used mostly by people living in the Great Plains region of the current-day United States.

Native American Peace Pipe

Native American Peace Pipe

5. Peace Pipe

Kids will have a great time making this Peace Pipe. For the instructions and some interesting notes about the Peace Pipe, go to Plains Indians Crafts.

Piece Pipes, or Sacred Pipes, are ceremonial objects used by Native Americans in the Great Plains and the northwest. These objects are venerated, so teaching about them should be respectful and accurate.

Medicine bag

Medicine bag

6. Medicine Bag

The bead work on this medicine bag will it a special project for your students. Find the directions and reading suggestions for this craft at Eastern Indian Crafts.

Take the time to talk about the ways medicine men and shamans used bags like these to carry supplies or how warriors carried them to hold furs and rattles.

7. Kachina Doll

The Hopi people in present-day northeastern Arizona considered Kachina figures to be symbolic of ancestral spirits who came to help their people. They were often given to new brides or young girls.

To make the Kachins dolls, go to Southwest Indian Crafts for the instructions.

Woven basket made from recycled materials.

Woven basket made from recycled materials.

8. Woven Basket

This is an easy craft for the classroom. Take the opportunity to teach about different weaving techniques or how they differed based on the tribe. You can find the supplies list and instructions at The Crafty Classroom site.

9. Necklaces and Other Jewlery

Make necklaces and other jewlery with colored pasta. This project is good and relatively cheap for young children, but you should be conscious of mentioning what Native Americans actually made their jewelry from. Pasta was not used. Instead, they used more valuable elements like beads, gemstones, metals, or even teeth and hides.

The directions for dyeing the pasta are included in the instructions for the necklace at All Kids.

Milk carton totem poles

Milk carton totem poles

10. Totem Pole

This totem pole made of milk jugs—with directions at Danielle’s Place—looks like it would be right at home in a family room or den. The size and colors will make it a family favorite.

Have your students collaborate on making the different portions while teaching about how these were usually crafted by populations living in the northwestern areas like Washington state and British Columbia.

Dream catchers

Dream catchers

11. Dreamcatchers

Find step-by-step instructions for making this beautiful Dreamcatcher at That Artist Woman. Talk about the ways these were used hung over beds or cradles to protect the inhabitants and how they usually had feathers and beads strung onto them.

12. Simple Native American Necklace

Some poster board, felt, and beads are all you need to get started on this necklace. You can have your students try and make more intricate designs or just practice beading. Then decorate with more elements like feathers!

Southwestern-inspired drum

Southwestern-inspired drum

13. Southwestern Drum

A salt container, felt, and feathers are all it takes to make this southwestern-inspired drum. Take the time to talk about the significance of drums in native cultures—in battle, in spirituality, and in social settings. You'll find the instructions at Southwest Indian Crafts.

Medicine pouch

Medicine pouch

14. Medicine Pouch

Kids could easily make a felt version of this medicine pouch. Go to Children at Play for the directions.

Discuss what was usually carried in these pouches and what plants were commonly used as medicine several hundred years ago.

Rain maker

Rain maker

15. Rain Maker

A rain stick is another fun and easy craft. Find the instructions for this project made from recycled supplies at Activity Village.

Humans have practiced rainmaking around the world for hundreds of years. Use this project as an opportunity to highlight how Native Americans followed weather patterns and used rainmakers as a way of connecting with spiritual beings.

A paper cutout of a buffalo

A paper cutout of a buffalo

16. Buffalo Cutout

Begin this project by cutting the animal's shape from a brown paper bag. Then create symbols reflective of Great Plains cultures that utilized buffalos.

Find all the directions for this neat craft at Crayola. They even recommend using the project as an opportunity to discuss how the animal enabled Plains people to survive.

17. Books Celebrating Native American Girls

This list of children's books on A Mighty Girl all celebrate Native American women and girls. Take the time to read a story to your students and have them create a drawing inspired by it.

The video above may give you even more ideas for books to bring into your classroom.

More tipis

More tipis

18. Faux Leather Teepees

These are so simple to make and so appropriate for a class project! Go to I Love Crafty Things for the pictured instructions.

Talk with students about how tipis were adapted for changes in weather and materials that were traditionally used.

Native American medicine pouch

Native American medicine pouch

19. Native American Herb Pouch

This would make a great classroom or home school project. Go to Crayola for the instructions.

Try to find regionally specific information about the plants and herbs in your area that Native Americans used. For example, some of the plants the Kumeyaay of present-day San Diego used were California sagebrush, white sage, wild onions, and laural sumac.

Small-scale depiction of Native American pottery.

Small-scale depiction of Native American pottery.

20. Native American Pottery

Go to the Crayola site to find out how you can make beautiful pottery like this. Highlight specific artistic trends based on the region you are teaching in!

21. Native American Talking Stick

Hold a council meeting and use a replica of the talking stick to maintain order. A version of this craft can be found at Activity Village. Talk about the ways council meetings were held in native societies.

Cowrie shell necklace

Cowrie shell necklace

22. Cowrie Shell Necklace

Everybody will enjoy making a cowrie shell necklace, so this would be a great classroom or troop activity. Find the instructions for this project at The Wandering Bull.

Talk about how these shells were traded among societies and how they've been used for hundreds of years in jewelry and on clothing.

Indigenous village dioramas

Indigenous village dioramas

23. Indigenous Village Dioramas

Find lots of great ideas for making indigenous village dioramas at THE {ART} OF LEARNING. This is a great classroom activity to be able to talk about how climate and terrain affected the way native societies lived.

There is another good example you can find at Home School Fridays.

Corn made from beads

Corn made from beads

24. Pony Bead Ears of Corn

Pony beads come in so many colors that kids will have fun making these ears of corn with them. Go to Cutesy Crafts for the instructions.

You can talk about the history of corn cultivation throughout the America's and how Europeans benefitted from his crop upon arriving and beginning colonization.

Crayon batik art piece

Crayon batik art piece

25. Crayon Batik

There are a dozen other projects besides this one at Native American Art Projects for Kids. They are all very good examples of Native American art.

Talk about how the real artistic process works and what materials were traditionally used.

Wampum belt weaving

Wampum belt weaving

26. Wampum Belt Weaving

I really love this craft and can't wait to try it with my granddaughters. You'll find a super easy to understand tutorial at Ridgetop Farm and Garden. Beautiful!!

27. Native American Breastplate

Make a breastplate like those worn by Sioux warriors. You'll use drinking straws and beads to make the breastplate and then finish it off with feathers. Again, be sure to note what materials were traditionally used by the Sioux people.

New Archaeology has the directions for making this project.

Burlap weaving

Burlap weaving

28. Burlap Weaving

This would make a great classroom or scout project because the supplies are inexpensive and easy to find. You can talk about different weaving techniques, and you can find the instructions for this weaving project at Blick.

Coilpot

Coilpot

29. Coil Pot

Native societies of the Southwest are famous for their crafts. This lesson uses clay to make the Pueblo-inspired coil pot shown above. Make coil pots to enhance a classroom lesson on the Pueblo culture. For the instructions, go to the Blick site.

Native American shakers

Native American shakers

30. Shakers

Kids will love making their own shakers and imagine all the fun they'll have while playing this musical instrument. You'll find the instructions on how the shaker is made by going to Fairy Dust Teaching.

Native American-esque arrows

Native American-esque arrows

31. Native American Arrows

Making arrows can be a nice activity for a group of kids—like in a Boy Scouts group. The arrows will be both a great memento of the camp/lesson and can also be used as décor for their bedrooms.

32. Native American Wrap Bracelet

Here is a detailed tutorial on creating this leather and beaded bracelet. Have your students plan more intricate design patterns on graph paper or let them create more freestyle designs.

Wind chimes

Wind chimes

33. Wind Chimes

I think this would be a great classroom project. Gathering the supplies—which are super inexpensive—can be done during one class period, or each student could even bring their own supplies to class.

For the tutorial to put the wind chimes together, go to the Art Club Blog site.

Medallions

Medallions

34. Native American Medallions

Kids learn so much better when a subject includes some hands-on activities. Making medallions will give studying native cultures a more personal event. Go to the Family Chic site for instructions for this craft.

Native American chief

Native American chief

35. Native American Chief

A great project for little kids learning about the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday or the role the chiefs played in society. You'll find instructions for making this at Activity Village—it's a super easy and fun project!

Corn from bubble wrap

Corn from bubble wrap

36. Bubble Wrap Corn

Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to plant and harvest corn. This is a great project for classroom use when studying how native societies helped European Americans survive. Find the tutorial for making the bubble wrap corn at Crafts for all Seasons.

37. Native American Jewelry

Here is another tutorial you can use to teach your students about Native American jewelery making.

Totem pole made from printed coloring sheets

Totem pole made from printed coloring sheets

38. Printable Totem Pole

This printable totem pole project will come in handy for use in the classroom. It's a physically smaller craft compared to the one noted above. It's especially good if the time allotted for crafts is short.

You can find great free totem pole coloring pages at Cool 2 B Kids. They'll work beautifully for this project!

Beaded headband

Beaded headband

39. Beaded Head Band or Belt

For instructions on making these beaded head bands or belts (or wampum belts) go to, There’s a Dragon in My Art Room. This would make a great classroom art project when learning about Native American dress.

Hair clips made from feathers

Hair clips made from feathers

40. Feather Hair Clip

Making these feather hair clips would be a nice project for a camp or classroom activity. Find the tutorial for making this hair clip at Pow Wows.

Talking stick

Talking stick

41. Native American Talking Stick

I think the Native Americans really had a great idea with the concept of the talking stick. During a meeting, whoever had the talking stick could say what he wanted without anyone else interrupting him. Everyone else listened carefully.

This is a little different than the talking stick shown earlier, but is another very nice project. The instructions can be found at Home School Fridays.

More Teaching Resources

Here are some more resources for you to check out. These discuss ways to teach about Native American history and cultures both accurately and sensitiviely.

  • Native Tribes of North America has detailed maps labeling the general locations of different tribes. Use this resource to gather information about what arts and crafts from the list above may be most relevant to the region you're teaching in.
  • Teaching Native American Histories has links to two presentations about presenting information about these cultures without bias and through a native lens. This website also has a platform for teachers to share information and lesson plans about Native American curriculum.
  • The Burke Museum has advice for teachers on presenting information about Native populations both accurately and sensitively.
  • Though geared towards teachers at the middle and high school levels, Facing History and Ourselves has plenty of resources for teaching Native American history and culture accurately.

© 2012 Loraine Brummer

Do You Make Native American Crafts For Thanksgiving? - or leave a comment

riley elizabeth on October 09, 2019:

this is awsome! i got lots of ideas now.

Jenn on October 09, 2019:

thank you!! great ideas!!

ethan on March 06, 2019:

i love bow and arrows

dkcar1@comcast.net on December 29, 2018:

I am going to try making corn husks dolls for my friends. Wonderful ideas.

Sally on October 23, 2018:

I would really like more information because I am doing a project on Indian Pottery and I need more information on it

Darian Lookout on March 26, 2018:

I think this page should do a little more reasearch on Native American crafts and customs to get a better generalization of the “Native American crafts”

Sarina lang on February 01, 2018:

i love doing crafts and native american crafts so this site gave me some good ideas

Emily on December 19, 2017:

My daughter needed to do a Native American project for a grade in school and she used your wonderful Wind Chimes idea.

Maya on May 07, 2017:

Thank you for doing this it helped me a lot with my native Americans project

Lora on June 09, 2016:

Thanks for sharing our Native American Dress, it is an older post, so I was surprised to see it getting so much attention this week!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 19, 2015:

We are in Arizona now and this trip has given me a better appreciation of the native American Indian art and crafts. I can't have enough of it.

Loraine Brummer (author) from Hartington, Nebraska on July 22, 2015:

Thanks, Jessica, for your visit and comment.

Jessica on July 21, 2015:

I am Native American and I am also a teacher. Most of these crafts are great to do with young kids, but please, please, do NOT make "costumes" as apart of teaching your children about Native culture. These costumes are offensive and do not adequately reflect my culture in any way. Our regalias are personal to us and are all unique. They are usually made with the help of elderly women in our families, such as our mothers and grandmothers. These "costumes" do not reflect the amount of work, love, and culture that goes into making an individual's regalia. With that being said, I hope that you would choose not to do this "craft" with your children. Many thanks. #culturalappropriations

Barb on July 01, 2015:

There are a few things I'd like to try on this list. Thank you.

A note on the costumes... most Native American people find dressing up as Native Americans for Halloween etc. to be offensive. Thankfully, our local school has a policy against this for the Halloween parade, along with any other costume that could be offensive. If you really want to offer a 'unit' on Native Americans, help your children to understand how to respect other cultures as well as learn about them.

NicoleRM on January 26, 2014:

Thank you!

nonya222 on September 22, 2013:

I had to send this to a few teachers. They are going to love it.

anonymous on September 12, 2013:

What wonderful delights and so well presented!

bluelily lm on July 21, 2013:

This is an elaborate lens on Native American Crafts listing ornaments, dolls, musical instruments, baskets, bags and many more. But I liked the Cornhusk Dolls the most. Thanks!

bluelily lm on July 21, 2013:

This is an elaborate lens on Native American Crafts listing ornaments, dolls, musical instruments, baskets, bags and many more. But I liked the Cornhusk Dolls the most. Thanks!

wiseriverman on July 11, 2013:

This is an awesome lens with so many inspiring crafts. I'm bookmarking this wonderful resource,

anonymous on November 14, 2012:

This is very special, my soul found a resting place here as I was scrolling through and I heard myself give a restful sigh. I'm a lover of Native American crafts and you have done something wondrous here, thank you!

bezabeza on October 30, 2012:

This is an amazing resource for teachers and also parents.. My friend's mother-in-law is native american. Living in England there's not so much around to celebrate and explore native american culture and it's ideas like these that will be fun for her to try out with her little boy! Lovely to meet you! :)

jgbrew50 on October 28, 2012:

interesting

DDLewis on October 27, 2012:

A great collection of craft ideas!!

Essentially Ind on October 26, 2012:

wow so lovely crafts ..........so attracting, peaceful and wonderful. :)

PamperedPen on October 24, 2012:

Great ideas for Thanksgiving.

Deadicated LM on October 21, 2012:

These are great; thanks for sharing!