Patterned Matryoshka Dolls


Matryoshka dolls are wooden nesting dolls originating from Russia. They are handcrafted by folk artists and often feature a woman wearing a traditional Russian dress and scarf. Many dolls seen today can carry many themes ranging from political leaders to cartoon characters. For my second grade students, these nesting dolls are the perfect vehicle for a lesson in line and pattern.


  • 2 sheets of 12″ x 18″ white paper
  • Black waterproof marker
  • Colored broad tip markers
  • Scissors and glue
  • Tempera paints (I used cakes for this lessons)
  • Big tip brushes


Drawing the Matryoshka
I used templates to trace the outside line for the Matryoshka. I found a simple pattern online and used it as a guide. Of course, you needn’t use a template but the focus on this lesson is developing patterns and creating a warm/cool background, so I didn’t mind the creative interference.

The fun part of this lesson is teaching the children how to place the graduating sizes of doll templates on top of one another and knowing which template to trace all the way around. Ideally, the smallest template should go in front and the largest in back. It’s a real trick making sure you don’t trace all the way around the largest template. I was pleased that almost every child grasped this concept. Progress!!! Some children used a round container to draw the face while others drew freehand. Either way is fine.

I handed out a sheet that gave some ideas for patterns. I demonstrated on the whiteboard how to connect the lines from one side of the doll to the other and to make their lines purposeful instead of scribbling.

Once all the patterns are complete, cut out the contour line of the dolls.

The background

On a separate piece of white paper, paint either warm or cool color stripes. I’ve been focusing many of my beginning lessons on warm and cool colors and have a color wheel on my white board for easy reference.

I think it’s tricky for many kids to identify warm vs cool colors, so the more we practice and incorporate into art lessons, the better it is for them. You could abandon this step all together and place your cut-out matryoshka on some colored background paper. It would be equally as beautiful.

Putting it all together

It’s okay to have lots of white paper showing. Children needn’t color in every single element. Sometimes it’s more effective if they don’t.


Second Grade Matryoshka Dolls



What do you think?

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  • Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree

    These are great! Thanks fir sharing!

  • aly marcotte

    I just did this with my students – would love for you to check it out!

  • Sandra Farrell

    I did this lesson with my Grade 2’s a few weeks ago. It took us about a week of Art lessons to finish it up. What was wonderful, was that one day I needed to leave at lunch and left the lesson for a substitute, but I left your instructions open on my computer, and it was so easy for her to follow that she did a great job teaching it. thanks so much for this fabulous idea. Check out our creations here http://savvyteachingtips.blogspot.ca/2012/03/matryoshka-doll-art-lesson.html

  • Jill

    This was a wonderful lesson! I pared it down to fit into one class, but it was fantastic, the 2nd graders loved it . . . and they loved saying the word: Matryoshka! I made a powerpoint and talked about pattern and showed examples of traditional Russian clothing as well (which I left up on the screen for examples). There is also a fantastic book called “The Littlest Matryoshka” which I didn’t have time for (I used this lesson idea for a class I was being evaluated for). The original art classroom teacher thought it was great, and told me she would have the kids work on them in a second class. One bright 2nd grader came up with a fantastic idea to wrap the matryoshka’s around tubes for a 3d display! I absolutely loved that idea of course and had her come share it with the whole class. Another student in the class was LD, prone to outbursts with a perfectionist attitude, and low self esteem. He loved, loved, loved, this project and volunteered to show his matryoshka (I just had them make one, for the sake of time), and it was so lovely. Also, I noticed students beginning to incorporate themes to their metryoshkas, so if I were to teach this lesson as a 3-4 class unit, I would love to include “making a theme” as an aspect. Anyhow, this was a great lesson, thank you so much for posting it! I can see it translating over to taj mahal tops . . . or crazy lollipops . . . Thanks! – Jill

    • Patty

      This is a great lesson. I especially love it at the beginning of the year, so if the children don’t have time to complete it immediately, then can pull it out from time to time to work on it. I sometimes read the children “The Littlest Matryoshka” but didn’t this year. It’s a perfect accompaniment.

  • Tiffany

    Hi Patty,

    I look forward to using this lesson this week in my classroom!

    Do you have any tips on flattening paper after painting on it? Every time we paint, the paper curls and makes the artwork hard to hang. I always end up putting artwork under heavy books, which helps a little bit, but it still could be better. Maybe I’m using the wrong paper?

    • shoughto@p12fwps.org

      Hiya! I second Tiffany’s question about curling paper, and I was also wondering what tempera cakes you recommend?

  • Brooke (siayla)

    LOVE these…inspired by and shared here http://siayla.blogspot.ca/2014/02/matryoshka-nesting-doll-crafts-and-more.html

  • The Russian Store

    Yay! Bright, colorful, cheerful nesting dolls! Thanks for sharing. Love it! 😉

  • Great Russian Gifts

    Very adorable designs! Bright and vibrant colors is what the Russian Nesting dolls are all about. Thanks for sharing.

  • Eleanor

    Love these! I will try it in one of my (now) online classes. I’ve done something similar with my fifth graders, where the matroyshka’s open like a book to reveal a smaller one inside.

  • unknown

    I liked this craft it was fun.

  • Chrystalla

    Amazing idea! Can’t wait to get creative with my 2nd graders tomorrow at art class!
    Thank you so much for sharing!

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