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Crafts And Conversation: Paper Plate Sailboat With The DUCK Lab

Get crafty with the DUCK Lab! Each Friday, trained research assistants from the UNCG Psychology Department’s DUCK Lab will guide at-home crafts for children ages 3 to 12. Parents can join too to learn fun facts about crafts that foster age-appropriate skills or learn about the DUCK Lab’s nonprofit child development research projects. 

This Friday, the DUCK Lab invites all school-age friends to join Jessica and make a paper plate sailboat for play time! Follow along as Jess takes you through each step and see how you can turn a fun craft activity into an opportunity to practice some STEM skills!

Parents, did you know?

This craft offers an opportunity for children to practice their mathematical and scientific reasoning. Read on below for more info. about the connection between these types of activities and age-appropriate developmental milestones.

We also invite you to check out our child development research opportunities, which are now modified for the virtual world! Please click here to learn more or sign up to participate with us.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:


  • Paper plate

  • Popsicle sticks (thick)

  • Construction paper or card stock

  • Scissors

  • Glue (or glue dots)

  • Markers, foam shapes, or stickers to decorate

  • Stapler


  1. Cut a paper plate in half. Cut trim off of the curved bottom so that your boat has a flat bottom.

  2. Attach the two paper plate halves together so they are facing each other (this should form a boat-like shape). Align the edges and staple at the four corners.

  3. With construction paper, make a sail by folding the top right corner of your construction paper downward diagonally so it lines up with the edge of the paper. Cut off excess paper so that you just have the triangle sail.

  4. Attach a popsicle stick to your constriction paper sail. To do this, put some glue on your popsicle stick. Then, open up your construction paper sail and lay the popsicle down. The popsicle stick should be about halfway up the sail. Then, put some glue around the edges of the construction paper sail and fold it back into a triangle. Make sure to press the edges together.

  5. Attach the mast and sail to the inside of your boat with glue.

  6. Decorate your sailboat!

The DUCK Lab: Paper Plate Sailboat

Relation to Developmental Science:

This craft lends a chance for kids to practice their developing mathematical and scientific reasoning abilities. By emerging the paper plate sailboat in water, parents and children can discuss how different facets of the sailboat can assist with floatation. For example, parents and children can experiment with changing the width of the boat to see whether it helps the boat stay afloat on water, in addition to questioning whether the addition of more mass to the inside of the boat will keep the boat from sinking. Parents and children can also discuss what could impact the direction that the boat floats, such as the direction of the wind. Lastly, if the sailboat sinks, children can practice their conservation abilities by determining whether the sinking sailboat displaced the water and thinking about whether a lighter or heavier sailboat would result in the same displacement.

*Great for older children!

The DUCK Lab is a partner in the nonprofit Child Development Research Center in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. They conduct studies of social and cognitive development with 2- to 12- year-olds. Families who participate in their research studies are volunteers in the Greensboro community who generously offer their time to help support research and training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.

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