Friday, 10 August 2012

Rainy-day paper mache

We haven't been doing nearly as many arts and crafts projects in the last year or so as when the kids were a little younger, but when we do it's not just a matter of pulling out the construction paper and crayons anymore; when we craft now, it's a major production. Paint, glitter, sequins and coloured stones, foam cut-outs and ribbon and fabric and pom-poms, popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners in every colour of the rainbow, paper and cardboard and scissors and glue. Plans are discussed and discarded and refined with the attention to detail of engineers until the final project vision is determined.

Our most recent rainy-day project was paper mache. I thought it would be a great, fun project to keep everyone busy and entertained for a few solid hours; I forgot how messy it would be, particularly with Baby so desperately determined to do everything his big brothers do.

We did a great paper mache project a couple of years ago on another rainy day stuck indoors. The boys made a pair of bowls; simple and straightforward. We covered the dining room table in newspaper and turned a pair of kitchen bowls upside-down on top. The bowls were covered in plastic wrap, then the strips of newspaper dipped in the paper mache goop (1 part flour, 2 parts water) and placed on the overturned bowl. The boys got messy, there was goop everywhere, the bowls got covered, and everyone had a blast. Once everything dried we pulled the paper mache off its mold and the kids spent another happy afternoon painting their bowls. Small-scale project, simple concept, containable mess, no Baby underfoot.

kids crafts
Paper mache bowls

kids crafts

So I decided to try it again. This time, though, I asked the kids what they'd like to make. No parameters. Eldest Child wanted to make a platypus and his brother decided on a pirate ship. No problem.

To make the base shapes, we needed some good, rigid cardboard for the mold - thick enough to hold a shape and stand up to the moisture from the goop, but not so thick that it would be too hard for us to cut it and shape. We don't have a ton of cardboard just lying around the house, so we used beer cases. Classy, I know.

kids crafts

I probably should have considered the difficulty level of the feat of engineering involved in the shapes the kids picked before undertaking the project, but I didn't. I should also probably have given some thought to size and scale. I did not. But thanks to enormous quantities of masking tape we eventually had our molds made and began applying the newspaper strips and goop.

The paper mache portion of the project ended up taking two full afternoons because of the size of the projects and the awkwardness of the shapes - and even so there were patches of beer logo showing through in the end, which I thinks adds a real je ne sais quoi to a children's art project.

As an aside, if you are ever going to do a paper mache project with an infant in the house, keep the goop out of reach and be sure to pay attention to where any small drips might be; if there is any on the floor whatsoever, it will end up on the infant, and paper mache goop dries significantly faster on skin than it does on paper. And does not wash off that easily.

Once the projects were dry it was time to decorate.
Paint. Glitter glue. Stick-on gems. Pom-poms. Sparkles.
This was one blinged-out pirate ship and platypus.

And table, and floor.

And two children and one baby.

The sparkles wash off skin much easier than the paper mache goop, but they're never really gone. I am still finding glitter in Baby's hair, on the boys' (several-times-laundered) clothes, on the floor under the table, in the seams of the chairs. Craft glitter is like Christmas tree pine needles: it doesn't matter how many times you sweep and vacuum and scrub, it will never go away.

But every time you find some you'll smile remembering the fun.

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