Make: Clip-On Clothespin Cicadas for Kids

They’re baaaa-aaaack…! In different parts of the US this week the Brood X Cicadas are beginning to emerge! Here in Minnesota, we won’t be seeing this particular species, but back in my old state of Ohio, they’re expecting a total invasion. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I made our own set of bug-eyed clip-on clothespin cicadas – a perfect kids craft substitute for those who might find the real things a little too creepy and crawly to observe up close.

These DIY clothespin cicadas clip on to anything and make the cutest summer nature craft for kids. | from barley & birch

Our clothespin variety may not make their own relaxing summery noises, but they DO mimic another trait I’ve noticed in my many summers of cicada observation… these little guys grab on to anything and everything! My last couple of summers in Ohio were years of larger than normal cicada populations. They’d fall out of trees, pop out of bushes, cling onto the window screens, and by the middle of their season, we’d find their empty shells hanging EVERYWHERE.

PRESS PLAY TO SEE OUR CLOTHESPIN CICADAS IN ACTION

We’ve had an embarrassing amount of fun this week moving our cicadas around to different parts of the house for surprise insect sightings. Some of us appreciate the clip-on feature much more than others…! 😉 There are a billion ways to make these cicadas look exactly like the kind YOU see where you are, so read through the whole tutorial for some simple ideas to help you create your very own cicada brood!

For more adventures in recycled insect crafting, turn old crayons into a beautiful flutter of melted crayon butterflies! You could also create a DIY bug observation box to house your cicadas, or use a cardboard box and recycled plastic to build a play pet tank and artful cicada habitat!

For your own DIY clothespin cicadas you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • A plastic spoon
  • A clothespin
  • A cereal box side, scrap cardboard, heavy cardstock, or watercolor paper
  • Scissors (I love this kind for cutting plastic and cardboard!)
  • Acrylic or tempera paint and a paintbrush
  • Two small pieces of tissue paper
  • A pipe cleaner
  • A glue gun or craft glue

OPTIONAL:

DIY Clothespin Cicada Instructions:

  1. Gather your supplies

    Gather up all the basic materials. You’ll need a plastic spoon (it doesn’t have to be black!), a couple of small pieces of tissue paper, 1 pipe cleaner cut in half, a clothespin, a scrap piece of paper (optional), and wings. You can print our free template, or just free-cut simple wing shapes like ours out of a cereal box, scrap cardboard, watercolor paper, or heavy cardstock.
    Gather the basic supplies you'll need to make your DIY clothespin cicada.
    There are lots of ways you can make substitutions or omit certain pieces if you don’t have the particular supplies we used – for instance, you can use beads, pieces of painted cereal box, or anything small and round for the eyes. The pipe cleaner legs aren’t necessary if you don’t have one handy, and you can print the full-color version of our wings onto watercolor paper or heavy cardstock if you’d rather not deal with paint.

  2. Paint your clothespin (optional)

    We prepped by painting our clothespin black so it would blend in with the spoon and look like part of the body if seen from the bottom or side, but most of the clothespin is covered, so you can skip this step if you’d like to speed up the process!
    Paint your clothespin to blend in with the body of the cicada.

  3. Cut off the handle of your plastic spoon

    Carefully cut off the handle of your spoon (adults may need to help with this step). Save the bowl-shaped end (this is going to create the head of our cicada!). Roll your pieces of tissue paper into two tight, round balls – these will be our cicadas eyes.
    Cut the handle off of your spoon and roll the tissue paper into small balls for eyes.
    Note: If cutting the plastic spoon created sharp edges, you can run a small piece of sandpaper or a nail file around the edges of the spoon to smooth them.

  4. Paint your cicada’s wings

    We used a toothbrush loaded with a bit of colorful paint to create our multi-colored speckled wings. Dip into water, load with a bright paint color, then drag your finger across the top for cool flecks of color! We used layers of yellow, green, black, and white to speckle our wings.

    You can use the same technique we did, or create your own patterns or designs on the wings. Different species of cicadas all have unique patterns and colors on their wings, so do a little research to observe which patterns you’d like to recreate (or make up your own!)
    Paint your cicada's wings
    Note: You can skip this step by printing out the free printable full-color wing templates.

  5. Glue the pipe cleaner legs to your clothespin

    Twist the two halves of your pipe cleaner together into an X-shape then use a dot of glue to glue it into the groove of your clothespin. Bend the pipe cleaner to create little leg shapes.
    Glue the pipe cleaner cicada legs to your clothespin.

  6. Glue the spoon cicada head to your clothespin

    Use a hot glue gun or craft glue to glue the cut piece of your spoon to the end of the clothespin as pictured.
    Glue the spoon cicada head to your clothespin
    Use two small dots of glue to glue on the tissue paper eyes.

  7. Add decoration to your wings (optional) and gently bend to curve.

    We wanted our cicadas to look like the 17-year cicadas that are emerging right now, so we added some extra paper decoration to our wings to create similar color patterns. This is an optional step, but I love the little touch it adds!
    Add decoration to your cicada wings.
    Gently bend the cereal box wings along the center lengthwise to form slightly curved wings.

  8. Glue the wings on to your cicada

    Glue the wings onto your cicada as pictured below. Let dry completely, then clip to ANYTHING!
    Glue the wings on to your cicada as shown.

Can you even stand it?! This year’s adult Brood X cicadas will only live for a few weeks, but you can keep our clothespin version around long after the hum of their summer song has ended.

If this inspires your little ones to learn more about this historical 17-year event, pop by this extremely informative article about Brood X cicadas from Scientific American (life cycle illustrations and everything!) and grab some cicada-themed kids activity ideas from National Geographic. Download a free printable cicada bingo card from Cicada Mania, or follow their emergence with the Cicada Safari smartphone map app! And how cool are these giant paper bag cicada sculptures from Instructables?!

These DIY clothespin cicadas clip on to anything and make the cutest summer nature craft for kids. | from barley & birch

For more nature-themed spring crafts and activities turn a shoebox into a cool DIY nature explorer’s kit for on-the-go outdoor investigation or download a free printable nature scavenger hunt. We’ve also collected 50 of our favorite insect learning and play activities here!

These DIY clothespin cicadas clip on to anything and make the cutest summer nature craft for kids. | from barley & birch

*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon or Woodpecker Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

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Amanda E.
With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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