Introduction: Paper Dolls Dancing – Historical Paper Dolls Dancing With Magnets, Quick & Simple Project, Customizable

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These Paper Dolls are from the early 1900’s making them historical and very possibly your great great grandma played with these or very similar paper dolls. These paper dolls came with the doll itself and various clothes to put on them held in place by simple tabs so you could swap the clothes out depending on your playing. In this project we take these historical paper dolls and try to make them dance with magnets, pretty simple and sounds like fun. So lets jump right in and get the project started!


Here is a complete list of Supplies & Tools you will need. They are not all the same supplies I used but should be similar or better replacements.

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  • (This is required to make the dolls move and dance.)
  • – (This is required to make them move and dance.)
  • – (This was used because it is fast drying and easy, to hold clothes in place.)
  • OR: – (If you want the clothes to be removable you may want to try glue dots instead. I would recommend cardstock if this is the route you go.)
  • – (This lets you color and customize your paper dolls, not used in the project due to time but would be an excellent addition.)
  • – (This was used quite a little bit to hold parts in place if the glue came undone.)
  • – (Not required but would prevent having to reinforce the paper dolls later.)


  • – (Any pair of scissors should work.)
  • – (This is the one I used the mini glue sticks seem to hold better then some of the normal ones. Requires a Ryobi 18v Battery and the glue sticks are sold separately, these would be a good choice.)
  • – (This Surebonder is the one I used to use before I got the Ryobi Glue Guns. )

Step 1: Print & Cutout Paper Boy Doll

Choose and print out the Paper Dolls you want. I went for the Young Boy & Dog and the Young Girl for this project since they would be smaller and to have the dog. These Paper Dolls are from the early 1900’s making them historical and very possibly your great great grandma played with these or very similar paper dolls. I arranged these Paper Dolls for scale and printing, they came from the public domain. The scale is the Girl and Boy paper dolls which are older are bigger then the Young Girl, Young Boy, and Japanese Girl dolls. So print them out and cut out the Young Boy & Dog for this step. You will want to cut out between the legs so they move independently of each other which will help with the movement later on.


Step 2: Cutout Paper Boy Doll’s Clothes

Now cutout around the clothes so they are all separate like in picture 3 and then pick the clothes you want for this project and cut them out. I left a little extra paper around the tabs so it would stay in place better.

Step 3: Cutout Paper Dog

I also wanted to have the dog in this so I cut him out as well. I left a little extra paper so the ball would still be attached to the dog, but you can cut this out too if you want to make the ball move independently.

Step 4: Cutting Out & Trying the Hat

I wanted to try out the hat and see if I wanted to keep it on or not. I tried cutting part of the dotted lines but not all the way so it would be removable and stay in place, which is what you would likely do if you were playing with the paper dolls. I decided not to go with the hat so it is set aside.

Step 5: Put Clothes on the Paper Boy Doll

Now take the clothes you liked the best and put them on the paper doll, if you want them removable you just fold the tabs over and it stays in place with gravity.

Step 6: Cutout Paper Girl Doll & Clothes

Now take the young paper girl doll and cut her out as well as the clothes. Her clothes come with different legs and different shoes but for this project I cut off the extra legs so its just the dress.

Step 7: Putting Clothes on Paper Girl Doll

Now put the dress on the paper girl doll. I left the extra tops of the hair on her dress but it didn’t look good so I cut those off. You are probably supposed to fold them back around her head which would have also worked.

Step 8: Gluing Clothes on Paper Dolls

The clothes were not held on well enough for them to move so I decided to glue them in place and cut off the extra tabs. If you want them to be removable but stay in place you might want to try . They are a temporary adhesive that is removable, if you go with glue dots I would go with cardstock for the paper dolls as normal paper may still rip unless you are gentle with it.

Step 9: Cut Thin Cardboard Packaging Into Strips

The paper dolls being standard printer paper were not strong enough to stay upright and kept flopping over. So I took some thin cardboard packaging from frozen pizzas and cut it into thin strips to reinforce the legs. You could use any thin cardboard for this such as cereal boxes, instant oatmeal boxes, and so on look around your kitchen and there is likely something in a box that is thin cardboard like this you could use. This wont be needed if you used cardstock instead. From here on I will refer to these thin cardboard packaging strips as just strips.

Step 10: Hot Glue Magnet Onto Cardboard Strips

Now take a cardboard strip, hot glue the magnet onto the end, and cut it down and fold it in half so its a small square on both sides. I went with the smallest magnet in the variety pack but should have gone for one size up. Easiest way I found to not burn yourself on the hot glue is take the scissors and stick the magnet to the end, then lightly squeeze the glue gun trigger and dip the magnet into it. Then put it on the cardboard strip and hold it in place firmly until the glue sets. It will get a little warm on the scissors but not nearly as bad as touching the hot glue itself. I tried scotch tape and glue sticks but the results were not good for holding the magnet in place. Hot glue worked the best, I am betting elmers glue or other glues would work as well if you give them enough drying time.

Step 11: Hot Glue Magnet Strip Onto Paper Doll Foot

Now take the small strip of cardboard with the magnet and put a little hot glue then attach it to the foot of the paper doll. It needs to be folded in half for them to stand upright and for the magnets used in later steps.

Step 12: Repeat on Other Foot

Now do the same thing with the other foot of the paper doll.

Step 13: Cut Strips to Reinforce Legs

I found my standard paper dolls would not stay upright so I cut a thin strip of the thin cardboard and glued them in place onto the backs of the legs with a glue stick. You could use different glue as well I just had a glue stick handy and they dry quick.

Step 14: Testing Ability for Paper Doll to Stand Upright

This is me testing with two other magnets on the end of the scissors to see if the reinforced paper doll can stand up right. It does so we can continue to the next steps.

Step 15: Repeat for Paper Girl Doll

Now repeat all these steps for the paper girl doll. I also reinforced her legs with thin strips of cardboard. I didn’t do it in these pictures but you will want to fold her longer foot to be the same height as the other foot or she isn’t going to move properly.

Step 16: Repeat for Paper Dog

Now do the same steps for the paper dog. I originally only had one tab for him but he kept turning so glue two on the back of the dog. You can probably see I attached one of the strips with scotch tape, that was before I glued it in place to see if two strips with magnets would stop him from turning around.

Step 17: Hot Glue Magnet to Popsicle Sticks for Dog

Now attach another magnet to the dogs tab and then put a dot of hot glue and stick it to a popsicle stick. I only had large ones around but this would have worked better with standard size popsicle sticks. These pictures are before I added the second tab to the dog.

Step 18: Bend Legs a Bit on Both Dolls

The legs were a little too rigid so I carefully grabbed one and bend it sideways a just a bit and did the same to the other leg. This made them slightly further apart which is needed for the magnets because of the large popsicle sticks.

Step 19: Hot Glue Magnets Onto Popsicle Sticks for Paper Dolls

Now do the same thing but for the paper dolls. For the girl paper doll this step I had to remove the tab and bend her leg over so both legs are the same height which tore the paper a little bit, so do that in the earlier step. Attach magnets to the tabs on the paper dolls then put a dot of hot glue and stick it to the popsicle stick, then do the same with the other leg. Be sure the spacing is right on the magnets on the popsicle sticks so they match the paper dolls leg distance otherwise they wont move right. These pictures are before the second tab on the dog as well.

Step 20: Testing Popsicle Sticks Against Gravity

Now I tilted both legs popsicle sticks to see how well they held against gravity, this is where I realized I should have used the one size up magnet that I used on the popsicle sticks on their leg tabs as well. The dog now has two sticks in these pictures.

Step 21: Glue Popsicle Sticks Together to Move in Sync

Now hot glue the popsicle sticks to eachother with another popsicle stick to make a moving base to move them in sync. I glued the popsicle stick from the left legs of each of them to a horizontal popsicle stick bar then did the same for the right leg and stacked the popsickle sticks horizontal bar ontop of eachother. I then glued a vertical stick so I had something to grab onto to make them move that extended beyond the surface they stand on.

Step 22: Two Separate Moving Bases

Here are some pictures of the two separate moving bases showing the one for each leg and the basic motion that will be done to make the paper dolls move for the last steps. It is basically moving one up and the other down to make it turn one way then reversing it for them to turn the other way.

Step 23: Basic Movement Test

Now with the two moving bases I attached the paper dolls to see how they move. They had some issues staying in place due to the smaller magnets on their tabs. Definitely a good idea to use larger magnets the same as used for the popsicle sticks for their feet. But I already have the smaller ones glued in place so I will continue to try and make it work.

Step 24: Finished Dolls & Moving Bases

Here are some pictures of the finished paper dolls and the moving bases before trying to make them move for a recording.

Step 25: Final Movement Tests

I tried getting them to move on the hobby mat but the magnets on the feet just weren’t strong enough, they did however work when stuck below a sheet of photo paper. I also ended up attaching magnets underneath the feet tabs to get better motion for the final step.

Step 26: Upgrades

I did a few upgrades so they would move better, first I removed all the tiny magnets from the tabs on the feet and dog. Then I glued the small magnets, same as the popsicle sticks onto all their feet. I also the small magnets from the popsicle sticks and reglued them where the feet touched nearer the edges of the popsicle sticks. And last I glued the tab onto the dog that was only taped on. These upgrades made a huge difference and now they move properly even underneath the hobby mat!

Step 27: Dancing Paper Dolls

Here are some pictures and videos of the paper dolls dancing. The movement was not bad, I had to tape the glossy cardstock down as it kept moving with the paper dolls. The hobby mat wouldn’t of had this problem and after the upgrade that's what most the videos are.

Step 28: Other Ideas and Upgrades

Here are some upgrade ideas:

  • Color the paper dolls
  • Add felt and other type of materials to make it nicer
  • Make a diorama with felt and lots of other materials for them to move around in like outside a house. I included a small house pattern if anyone wants to try this. I ran out of time so I didn’t get a chance to try the house.
  • Better movement bases, an upgrade to this where the bases can move more would be nice then more movement could be done.
  • Making lots of little movies with the paper dolls playing around the yard of a house would be fun to do, could also do stop motion instead of magnets if you glued slightly rigid wire to the backs of them.

Do you have any more suggestions? I will add good ones to this list and if there is enough demand I will possibly do some of these ideas in the future.

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