Make: Scrap Paper Quick Collages for Kids

I have a little stash of “emergency” projects I keep in a list on my phone for situations that call for some kid entertainment STAT. The criteria for my 911 list are that the activity requires only 1 or 2 supplies, be mess-free & simple but engaging for any kid. These mini compositions are one of my favorites because, not only do they meet all the criteria, they offer endless options for art exploration and kids can do variations on this for-ev-er. I mean, for-ev-ER.

A simple frame from a piece of paper and paper scraps are all you need for this exercise in art, design, and spontaneity. Unlike more conventional collage activities, this one encourages using the frame as a viewfinder to find art using altered perspectives rather than gluing pieces down with intention and the goal of a “finished” piece.

I have torn up sugar packets and ripped a hole in a paper napkin to do iterations of this at restaurants and movie theaters, and it NEVER fails to entertain (at least long enough to change the mood or provide a bit of quiet entertainment).  Take my word for it – this one’s a keeper.

For another quick variation on this lesson in composition, try our incredibly simple color exploration grid exercise or embrace the process with some spontaneous scribble art collages.

To make your own scrap paper quick collages you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains either our own printable products, or Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*


  • Pieces of scrap paper
  • An 8.5 x 11 piece of paper (or similar size – I think white cardstock works best)
  • Scissors or an X-Acto Knife


Scrap Paper Quick Collage Instructions:

Cut a large square window out of a piece of paper

Cut a square out of the center of your sheet of paper or cardstock to make a simple frame. Gather pieces of scrap paper in an assortment of sizes, shapes, and colors.
Cut a large square out of a sheet of white cardstock and gather scrap paper. | via barley & birch

Layer scrap paper pieces

Let kids arrange the scrap bits – or – just toss them up into the air and onto a flat surface (which seems to be the favored choice around here). I quickly trimmed scrap paper into simple geometric shapes using a paper cutter and circle punches, but you can experiment with free-cutting and more organic shapes too!
Arrange scrap paper pieces into different quick compositions. | via barley & birch
You can cover up the surface you’re working on, or use it as part of your artwork. We worked on a couple of different colors of paper – when our colored background showed through the compositions, it became part of the artwork.

Use the viewfinder to find different compositions

Move the viewfinder around to look for different cool compositions.
Move your viewfinder around over your scrap pieces and photograph different compositions. | via barley & birch

Draw a simple pattern or shape onto a transparency sheet

Draw a simple pattern or shape/s onto your transparency. Slip it under your viewfinder (you can secure it to the paper with a couple of bits of tape if necessary) and move it around the paper again.
This art activity for kids is super easy and endlessly entertaining! All you need is a piece of paper and some scraps to make beautiful compisitions!
You can use a permanent marker if you think you might glue and keep your final compositions, or a dry erase marker (as we did) for art you can photograph then disassemble and wipe clean for reuse.

Photograph your compositions as you move things around

Instead of gluing the paper bits down or trying to create finished pieces of artwork, I prefer just keeping it fast and loose. One of the great lessons in this project is the idea that art doesn’t have to be permanent.
Move your frame and transparency around to create different compositions in an instant! | via barley & birch
As you find compositions you like, just snap a picture! There are no mistakes or forevers with this one – it’s pure play. I use Instagram’s Layout app to arrange the pictures into grids I can save, send, and share.

Creating a pictorial series of collages is a fun way to remember what was created, and there’s always a bit of a “wow” factor when they’re all seen together. Best of all, this exercise is just as fun and important for adults as kids.

This art and design activity for kids is quick, easy and endlessly entertaining! All you need is a piece of white paper and some scraps to make beautiful compositions! | via barley & birch

Should you fall in love with your quick collages, you can always glue down your composition, affix your frame on top with a glue stick, then trim around the edge with scissors or a paper cutter to create a nice square frame (as I did with the series below). These look so lovely as a gallery grouping – and they’re a great reminder of the spontaneous joy you can find in art.

This art and design activity for kids is quick, easy and endlessly entertaining! All you need is a piece of white paper and some scraps to make beautiful compositions! | via barley & birch

Quick collage variations for kids who just aren’t into it…

It happens. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, they are just NOT going to get into it.  Here are a couple of variations to try when quiet art-making isn’t in the cards…

  • Use the shake and dump method. A little like playing a big game of Yahtzee, this variation incorporates some fun full-body movement. Make a larger viewfinder/frame out of the side of a large cardboard box. Place a collection of large scrap paper pieces into a shoebox and shake, shake shake. Take off the lid and dump all the scraps right onto the floor. Like the smaller tabletop version, move the frame around to find compositions. This works well for kids who appreciate a bit more physicality and energy, or have a hard time sitting for a full art activity.
  • Use the “move it….move it….move it….FREEZE!” tactic. You can use this when kids are drawing, or making a sculpture, or WHEN-EVER, but it works especially well for this project. Instead of presenting this as an art activity, turn it into a game – kids move the square around over the paper until you yell, “FREEZE!” I think of it as short-term entertainment that’s a long-term win. Plus…it’s really fun to yell, “move it….move it…move it….FREEEZE!”  🙂
This art and design activity for kids is quick, easy and endlessly entertaining! All you need is a piece of white paper and some scraps to make beautiful compositions! | via barley & birch


Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

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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