The answer to your question really depends on how detailed a model
you want to make. You can make a model boat out of just about anything
that floats - my brother and I used to cut pieces of styrofoam into a
boat base, and stick a straw in it, with a piece of paper taped to the
straw for a sail. We were very little at the time, I'd guess around 4
and 6 years old, so this is a very crude model, but they do float, and
they do sail if there's a little wind.
If you want a bit better model, I'd suggest balsa wood for the
hull (you can get it at most hobby stores) - it's lightweight and
fairly easy to cut. Dowel rods can be used to constuct the masts (these
can also be found at hobby stores), and the sails can be made out of
cloth (something light, with a tight weave - linen works pretty well,
so does canvas). Wood glue works wonders for holding the dowel rods and
the balsa wood together, especially if you cut little niches so that
they fit together a bit. Glue doesn't work to well to hold the cloth on
- here's a little trick: Buy some plastic snaps (you can get these
pretty much anywhere you can buy cloth). Glue one part of the snap to
the wood (superglue works best, but have a parent help you with that)
and sew the other half of the snap where you want the cloth to attach
to the wood. Do this anywhere you want the sail on, and you'll be able
to snap it right on to the boat.
Hope these suggestions are useful!
(republished on 07/17/06)