Face-Changing Paper Dolls

Emotions final

We made these dolls as a way to extend our learning about emotions, and I underestimated how much the girls would love them! They look a bit complicated to make, but I assure you they were a piece of cake! My daughters are very interested in space and rain, so we made an astronaut, a wet weather character, and a little girl. You could make anything, though, even animals!


  • paper
  • paint (optional)
  • scissors
  • markers
  • pictures of your children’s faces (optional)
  • strong craft glue
  • sheet of thick card (we used the side of a cardboard box)
  • two sizes of cardboard tube (we used toilet paper rolls and a wrapping-paper roll). If you can’t find a smaller-size tube that fits inside your toilet rolls, you can just make some by rolling and taping thick flat card.


  1. emotions 8With the larger-size rolls (the toilet paper rolls), make a few “dolls.” First, cut a little window at about the height and size of your character’s face.

  2. Then decorate however you like. We painted our rolls and then used markers to add the details after they were dry. You could use cut-out pictures from magazines or make clothes from fabric/felt—anything at all really! I gave the little wet weather character an umbrella for extra effect and play value.

  3. emotions 9Once your dolls are made, you can make the face inserts. Cut your smaller-size rolls to the same height as your toilet paper rolls.

  4. Then cut discs from your cardboard sheet, a little larger in circumference than the larger rolls, to act as bases for your dolls. Glue one end of each tube securely in the center of a disc.

  5. emotions 10Cut four or more small circles of paper and draw a simple face showing a different emotion on each one. I made happy, sad, surprised and angry faces on each of ours. Another idea would be to take photos of your child making faces and use those instead of drawing them.

  6. Glue the faces around the side of the inner tube, making sure they are at the same level as the face windows cut into the toilet emotions 11roll characters (a simple way to do this is to slip the toilet roll over the insert and use a pencil to trace the window straight onto the inner tube. You can then use this as a guide to glue the face on).

  7. Slide the toilet roll dolls over the top of the emotion inserts and you are ready to play! All your child has to do is spin the cardboard disc at the base to change the expression on the doll’s face.

emotions final 1

These have been played with endlessly in many different ways. The ability to change the expressions on the faces has led to so much imaginative play and lots of discussion about what might make them feel sad/happy/angry/surprised.