Totem Pole Crafts for Kids

    by Sarah Schreiber

    About the Author

    Sarah Schreiber has been writing since 2004, with professional experience in the nonprofit and educational sectors as well as small business. She now focuses on writing about travel, education and interior decorating and has been published on Trazzler and various other websites. Schreiber received a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications.



    Commonly found in the Pacific Northwest, totem poles were carved by native people as majestic monuments to their family histories. While totem pole craft projects may not be as stunning as the real things, children can enjoy creating them while learning a lesson in history. Before starting the projects, consider teaching the children about the special significance and history behind totem poles. They are hungry for new information, and learning interesting facts behind a craft project can help to keep them engaged.

    Paper Towel Roll Totem Pole

    Crafting a totem pole from a paper towel roll is a budget-friendly project good for large groups. When completing this project, there are several options. You can locate and print totem animal and face coloring pages online. The kids can color them in, cut them out, and glue them to the paper towel roll. For added creativity, have the children draw their own interpretations of faces and animals. Kids can also paint the faces directly on the paper towel roll. Toilet paper rolls can also work for a shorter totem.

    Family History Totem

    Since totem poles depict the family history of their owners, have the children design poles that depict stories from their own families. Discuss with the children how stories can be told in pictures. Another use for totem poles was to honor deceased relatives. Perhaps the children have a pet or relative who has died who they may want to honor with their craft project. If you decide to present this option, be sure to keep in mind the sensitive nature of the subject and to give the crafters the option of family histories as well. Kids can collect pictures of family members and pets and arrange them in order to tell a story. Story ideas include a family trip, holiday or a story of how their family came to be. When the pictures are in order, attach them to a tall, thin object such as a board. Another option would be to stack metal coffee cans on top of one another as the totem base.

    Pumpkin Totem Pole

    A project for older kids that’s sure to make an impact is a pumpkin totem pole. Obtain six to eight similarly sized pumpkins. Stick a round pole no higher than the pumpkins into the ground outside to provide stability. Using native totem poles for inspiration, have the kids carve the pumpkins with traditional native-style animals and faces in the same manner a Halloween pumpkin is carved. Stack the pumpkins one on top of the other with the pole running through the center. You may want to insert candles in them before stacking if the holes from the carving aren’t large enough for them to fit through. Using a long lighter, light the candles for display.

    Photo Credits