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3-D Animation Your Kids Can ROCK!

2016-04-22 by Zina Harrington

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Keep your troops entertained with this super-simple stop motion animation tutorial for kids! This activity is brought to you by our Blog Ambassador Zina of Let’s Lasso the Moon and is suggested for kids ages six and older.

3-D Animation your kids can rock

Stop motion animation is the perfect way to keep kids occupied (and creatively enamored) on a rainy, snowy, or “too hot to handle” must-be-inside day.

Stop motion animation is a filming technique in which objects (such as clay models) are photographed in a series of slightly different positions so that the objects seem to move.

If your children are not familiar with stop motion animation, have them check out the clay-animation TV show Shaun the Sheep. Many children are familiar with classic flipbooks, which use a series of drawings to create an animated “cartoon.” This is a great way to demonstrate to kids the basic principles behind stop motion animation.

Before we dive into the tutorial below, I want to share the Pirate Ship 3-D Puzzle and Play Set that sparked our family’s interest in stop motion animation. My daughter loves building and was ecstatic when she opened this new puzzle set from Melissa & Doug.

3D animation your kids can rock

The 3-D Puzzle and Play Set has detailed, section-by-section instructions that help kids fit together the more than 100 foam pieces — with no glue or scissors required — into a multi-level pirate ship. It comes complete with three masts, a crow’s nest, ship’s wheels that spin, a working hatch, and even a plank to walk. Can you see the animation potential already?

My husband couldn’t resist joining in on the fun…

Daddy + daughter puzzle time. Still working on this 3D @melissaanddougtoys pirate ship… #blogambassador

A photo posted by Zina :: Let’s Lasso the Moon (@letslassothemoon) on

The Pirate Ship 3-D Puzzle and Play Set includes a separate deserted island and rowboat, as well as play pieces like a treasure chest, cannons, and pirate and parrot play figures. In other words, it’s the PERFECT toy for making stop motion films.

3D animation your kids can rock pirate ship puzzle

Educational Perk: 3-D puzzles help children six and older to develop hand-eye coordination, concentration, attention span, and an understanding of spatial relationships.

Let’s get the kids rolling on creating their stop motion animations! Below are the supplies you’ll need to get started…

Stop Motion Animation Supplies

  • Foldable foam core display board
  • Collection of objects to animate (see more suggestions below)
  • Smart phone or iPad
  • Small tripod or stand to hold your device steady
  • Stop Motion Animation App — For example, the free version of Stop Motion Studio

Animation Production Tips

Location is important. Be sure to help kids set up their “animation studio” parallel to a window. Natural light will provide the best video quality.

3D animation your kids can rock pirate ship video set

Next, set up the foam core as a background to remove extra visual clutter. In this particular set-up, the kids ended up pulling some wrinkled sheets from their closet to create the Caribbean Sea.

If your kids are using an iPad or iPhone, plug in your Apple headphones. They can use the volume button on the headphones for snapping photos without having to touch — and potentially move — the camera set-up.

Open your stop motion app (e.g., Stop Motion Studio) and check your camera location. You want to ensure the camera frame stays within the boundary of the foam core. You might need to move it forward to ensure the frame is full.

3D animation your kids can rock on screen

Once the area is set up, it’s time to start snapping pictures! The app is very intuitive, and both of my girls picked it up in a snap.

Stop Motion Animation for Kids: A super-simple tutorial for children *This is so cool. Love this 3D pirate ship puzzle they used in their project.

The key to creating a smooth video is to move the inanimate objects a very small amount between each frame captured. Give your kids a heads-up, but expect them to still make the mistake of too much movement between frames. If you notice your kids making this error, simply encourage them to preview their movie so they can see the error of their ways before they’ve invested too much time.

Below is the animation my daughter created using her Pirate Ship 3-D Puzzle and Play Set. I love the attention to detail she put in! For example, notice that the pirate is actually rowing out to the island. So cool.

Suggested Props

Again, the 3-D puzzles that Melissa & Doug offer are great for stop motion animation because of all the accessories that come with the different sets. Click here to see the different 3-D Puzzle and Play Sets currently available.

3D Animation Your Kids Can Rock 3D Puzzle Play Sets


Kids can also create fun animations with simple construction paper, too!

Stop Motion Animation for Kids: A super-simple tutorial for children *This is so cool. Love this 3D pirate ship puzzle they used in their project.

For our family’s next stop motion animation project, we plan to try using Melissa & Doug’s Super Model Sculpting Compound (a light-and-airy modeling “clay” that’s super-easy for kids to work with) to create our own cast of characters and adventures from scratch.

3D Animation Your Kids Can Rock Modeling Compound

The choices available for props are truly endless! Got a great idea you’ve used? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

This is a great family activity that combines technology, education, creativity, and play. There’s something here for everyone. But wait—that’s not all…

Benefits of Stop Motion Animation

At our house, our family doesn’t limit screen time; however, we are on a mission to teach our children self-moderation and balance. Of course, this is an ongoing lesson that will happen over the course of many discussions.

Not all screen time is equal. It’s important to teach our kids that engaging in creative play with stop motion animation, following along with a drawing tutorial on Art Hub for Kids, or playing Math vs. Zombie is different than mindlessly zoning out to Subway Surfers.

Tinkerlab explains some of the screen time perks of introducing your kids to stop motion animation:

  • Offers children ownership and autonomy in the film-making process
  • The creative constraint of the medium encourages problem solving
  • Encourages children to project and plan out where a story is heading
  • Fosters iteration and experimentation through trying and testing
  • Debunks the mechanics of how movie-making happens
  • It’s a simple, hands-on technology that young children can achieve
  • Supports storytelling

Talk with your kids about enriching ways they can use their screen time.

Share YOUR Stop Motion Animation

If you or your kids make a stop motion animation using Melissa & Doug toys, we invite you to share it with us on Facebook or Instagram (and tag us with #TakeBackChildhood or #CountlessWaysToPlay. Be sure to follow the Melissa & Doug Creative Arts & Crafts Pinterest board for ongoing inspiration.

3D Animation Your Kids Can Rock Pinterest Boards

Happy animating! We can’t wait to see what you come up with.


Zina Harrington

Zina is the author of Let’s Lasso the Moon and Becoming UnBusy, where she inspires parents and children to interact creatively and enjoy the beauty of everyday moments. Facebook | Pinterest | Blog | Instagram

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