How to Make a River Craft for Children


Children learn all about rivers in elementary school. They learn how a river flows into another body of water, and how the river water was an important resource for the early settlers. Children can then take the information they learn about rivers and create a homemade river diorama. Each diorama can be presented to the teacher and the rest of the student's classmates.

Things You'll Need

  • Styrofoam
  • Knife
  • Plaster
  • Paper towels
  • Tempera Paint
  • Rocks
  • Fake trees
  • Miniature canoe
  • Decorations
  • Fake water
  • Instruct each student to choose a famous river to create in the diorama. Some famous rivers include the Nile, Amazon, Mississippi, Jordan, Yangtze and the Hudson River.

  • Allow the students to spend time researching the river and locate a picture of the river to use as a reference to create the river diorama. Students can gather this information from a history textbook, library or online.

  • Place a large sheet of styrofoam on your table and cut the river's shape out of it. The river can flow in the middle of the styrofoam sheet, or along one of the edges.

  • Cover the styrofoam with plaster coated paper towels and allow it to dry overnight. The plaster is necessary if you want to be able to paint the diorama and add decorations. Plaster can be purchased from any craft store. You will need to follow the instructions to determine how much water to mix with it. Then dip each paper towel sheet in the plaster one at a time and apply to the styrofoam. Paint the cut out river blue and the surrounding area green. Wait for the paint to dry, which will take between 1 and 3 hours.

  • Decorate the river and surrounding areas to reflect the river you choose. You can glue rocks at the bottom of the river bank and fake trees along the river edge. Consider adding a canoe in the river or a camp scene just outside of the river. If a certain tribe of Indians used to use that particular river, add an Indian village. Be creative. If the famous river has a large bridge going over it, make one. As long as the diorama represents the river you picked, it can't be wrong.

  • Add fake water to the river if you aren't happy with just the blue paint. Liquid fake water should be poured into the styrofoam river area until it is 1/8 inch deep. Let it sit 24 hours. It won't be clear when you pour it, but it will be clear once it drys. Other fake water products come in a crystal form that must be heated until they melt. The melted crystals can then be poured into the fake river and allowed to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the river was near a famous battle, students may want to re-create the battle on the diorama near the river.
  • Craft glue may not be strong enough for some decorations. Use a hot glue gun to attach the decorations instead.


  • Photo Credit rafting,whitewater,river,colorado river,eagle,colo image by Earl Robbins from
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