Simon has been begging to do some paper mache. In fact, last week he was crying on the way to school, saying that he didn’t want to leave me. I got him calmed down with the promise of beginning our paper mache project that afternoon. Crafting is a pretty powerful bribe, huh.
He decided to make a rocketship and Roxanne, in her mature 7-year-old way, wanted to make a plain white bowl with a pink heart in the center. I didn’t have a plan for mine, except that I figured I should make one in case one of the kid’s projects didn’t turn out right. That way they could swap with me and still have something to show.
We mixed up a paste of flour and water and cut the day’s Boston Globe into strips. I blew up balloons for me and Simon, and covered the outside of a glass mixing bowl with plastic wrap for Roxanne. Then we got started dipping strips and covering our forms.
There is something wonderful for kids and adults alike about plunging your hands into gooey paste. We were rather messy, but it’s just flour and water after all. Completely washable and totally safe.
We left our forms to dry, balanced on paper cups to increase air circulation.
In the morning Simon was disappointed that the strips on her balloon weren’t flat and smooth the way mine were. So we switched balloons and then cut and taped on some cardboard fins and a nose cone for the rocketship.
That afternoon we tore up some paper towels and mixed new flour and water paste to make a second layer. In the end, the bumpy balloon was made flat again by the paper towel layer.
It took several days for the paper towel layer to dry and I was beginning to worry it might never fully dry. We decided to pop the balloons, take the bowl off the plastic wrapped mixing bowl, and put the forms in the cooling oven one evening after dinner. That did the trick!
We painted them with washable tempera paints. Simon and I mixed a special bright green and a nice, cool gray for the rocket. And Roxanne mixed a pinky purple for her heart. She couldn’t resist making a few dots, too. I decided to make mine into a squash. I painted it orange.
Finally, we covered them in glossy Mod Podge Simon tore some yellow tissue paper and glued it in the hole left by the balloon to look like fire coming from the bottom of the rocket. And I made a felt stem and leaves for the squash.
Simon is taking the rocketship to school tomorrow to show her classmates. And Roxanne’s bowl is on her bureau, full of treasures.
I think one of the reasons my kids like projects like this one is the feeling that they are making something real. It’s the same feeling they get when they sew something, or do woodworking, or make something from kiln fired clay. It’s not just playdough or glued together construction paper (even though those things play a big role in their daily creativity around our house). This is a real toy, or bowl, that they can use and play with. It’s the definition of “craft” – useful and artfully made. I couldn’t agree more.
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