Q-Tip Skeletons

Why do we have bones?


  • Learn some basic information about bones
  • Create an art project with bones

Materials needed:

  • Dark colored construction paper (a bigger size such as 18 x 24in works great for this project)
  • White printer paper or scrap paper
  • Pencil
  • Black marker/crayon
  • Q-tips (pre-cut into different sizes if smaller children)
  • Scissors
  • Craft glue


  • Make up of bones:
    • Outermost surface “periosteum” – thin, dense membrane that contains nerves and blood vessels
    • Hard outside shell “cortical” bone – responsible for support and structure and releasing calcium to form new bone (80% of body)
    • Spongy “cancellous” bone – found at end of long bones and in ribs, it’s more porous and easier to break (still strong!); contains red bone marrow (production of red blood cells)
    • Marrow – soft, fatty substance, kind of like jelly, in bone cavities that contains stem cells that produce blood cells and fat, cartilage and bone
  • Bones give humans their structure and shape and protect our inside organs.
  • Bones are made up of lots of things, including calcium (which you might have heard about in milk), phosphorus, sodium and other minerals, as well as collagen.
  • If you’ve ever seen a skeleton in a museum, it might have looked crumbly, old and weak. But the bones in our bodies are strong and almost alive, changing and growing with us.
  • A baby is born with ~300 bones at birth. Eventually they start to fuse together. Adults have 206 bones. Babies have a lot of cartilage that eventually grows and is replaced by bones. Cartilage is soft and flexible tissue (not bone).
  • Some important bones:
    • The spine: is actually made up of lots of bones (also called vertebrae) – you can feel all 33 of them if you reach your hand behind your back. The spine is super important because it helps keep us upright, allows us to twist and bend, and protects a big bundle of nerves called the spinal cord, which is super important in connecting the brain to the rest of the body.
    • Ribs: feel them in your chest! Most people have 12 ribs on each side. The ribs are important because they act like a cage to protect the heart, liver and lungs – organs that are super important for us!
    • Skull: Our skull is made up of a few bones that go around our brain and make up our face. It helps protect our brain, but don’t forget that you always need a helmet to protect the skull!
  • One way to take care of bones is to get lots of calcium – calcium helps make the bones harden and become strong. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are all great ways.
  • Be active! Exercise helps make our bones strong.
  • Always wear the right protection: we know about helmets, but if you play a sport like soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby or ice hockey, make sure you wear the proper equipment.

 Activity Plan

  1. Print the outline of a skull for child to cut out, or have child draw a circle and a rectangle and cut out
  2. Using a black marker, have the child add eyes, nose and teeth to the skull. Provide examples if needed.
  3. Place the skull and cotton swabs onto the black paper to lay out the design. Of course, 206 bones will not fit on this project, but some of the important bones (like the spine, leg bones, 5 fingers etc.) can be on there! Have an adult cut them down as needed.
  4. After the skeleton is laid out, use glue to stick the Q-tips to the paper.