Thursday, 29 December 2011

Creativity with Cardboard Boxes: Tent and Indoor Camping


Hope you all had a great Christmas, we have had and still having some lovely relaxing time with friends and family, but just time for a quick idea as to what to do with those left over cardboard boxes.  Did you have some cardboard boxes or cardboard packaging left over from Christmas?  Here's some fun we had with some cardboard packaging kindly donated to us by a friend a little while ago.  You also might like to check out our cardboard box house for more cardboard box fun too.


So what should we play?


Camping!
When the weather's not really nice enough for camping and tents in the garden, what better than to bring the camping indoors.  This box was huge and pretty much filled the room, but great for lots of play.


I propped the two halves of the box up into a tent shape and tied them together with some string through a hole I'd made in both parts, to stop them sliding apart.


Little Chick then got busy filling it with rugs and cushions, books and toys.


And with an entrance at both ends there was lots of fun going in one end and coming out the other!


We pretend cooked our tea on a camp fire and we sang songs round a pretend camp fire.  We had fun drawing the curtains and pretending it was night time and going to 'sleep' in our tent.  


Whilst Shoeshine was having her name Little Chick and I sat in the opening of our tent eating biscuits and reading some of our favourite camping stories.  We love Shirley Hughes' Alfie Goes Camping in The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook and Maisy Goes Camping by Lucy Cousins. 

The box is now stored in the garage and I'm thinking what else can we play with it.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Small World Play: Nativity Scene


Once the peg and pipe cleaner nativity figures were made, Little Chick was really keen to play with them so I set about making her a small world play nativity scene using one of our favourite things - Amazon cardboard boxes and packaging!


Everything is made from cardboard and secured with parcel tape - even the manger!  You might note that it looks a bit more like a house than a farm outbuilding. So if you're interested in reading why it's quite possible that Jesus was born in a typical middle eastern peasant home, rather than a stable I've written a bit at the bottom about this.  If that's not your thing just enjoy the creativity you can have with cardboard boxes!

There's a lower part of the house where the animals live, I added some wood shavings and some of our farmyard animals to this area.  Then the main living room is up a few steps where Mary and Joseph, their new arrival and the guests are and finally off the main living area is the guest room or guest bedroom.


Little Chick has really enjoyed playing with this, first all the people had to arrive.  To be honest she was a bit disappointed that the house didn't have a door but I said she had to just pretend (the figures are too tall for the box I used to cut a door in the side).

Once all the people had arrived she said it was time to put Jesus to bed in the bedroom, she said Mary and Joseph could go in there too but only if they were very quiet - made me chuckle!


Then everyone needed to go to bed but it was a bit of a squash and a squeeze!  And so the stories continued, it was lovely watching her play and retelling the story and adding bits and pieces here and there.

----------------------------------------

So why a house and not a stable?
As a Christian family we would love our girls to learn all about the significance of Jesus' birth as part of Christmas preparations and celebrations, but it seems all so often that this wonderful story is so removed from the culture and reality of the time in which it was set that it is told a bit like a fairy story.  I was really struck reading a middle eastern scholar's take on the Christmas story recently, that it got me thinking about how we retell the story to our daughters as they grow up.


Perhaps with the traditional retelling of the story year on year we lose our ability to question our preconceptions of what is actually going on in the story.  Was there really no place to stay other than a stable, when Joseph was returning to the village of his origin, with many extended family there, in a culture where family origins and lineage were very important and honoured with open hospitality?  Was it really only Joseph and a few animals that assisted Mary in her delivery of the baby with the Jewish community refusing to help a young Jewish mother give birth?  Mary also had relatives nearby (a few months previous she had visited Elizabeth in her home in the hill country of Judea, only a couple of miles out of Bethlehem).  If Bethlehem really was full, would they not have turned and carried on a couple of miles to stay there?


So what about the inn, the manger and the stable?
From our western perspective, the word inn means a commerical place to stay, an hotel,  pub with rooms, a b&b, a taverna, however the Greek word in Luke 2:7 that is commonly translated as inn is katalyma, not the ordinary word for a commercial inn.  The word literally means 'place to stay' and can refer to the guest room in someone's home.  Luke uses the word again in Chapter 22 talking about the upper room/guest room that the disciples will use for the last supper.  So it is possible then that Mary and Joseph were staying in a private home, but that the guest room was already full.  The word manger gives us a clue as to where they were staying.


At the time of Jesus' birth it was common place in village households to have a few animals.  These animals would spend the day outside in the yard but at night you brought them into the house to protect them from theft and provide heat in the winter.  So a typical Palestine village home would have a a main living/family room then off one end or upstairs would be the guest room and then down a few steps at the other end of the house would be a stable area for the animals.  The manager would either be a wooden trough or a sunken area of the floor of the main living room next to the stable area.  So the animals could come and feed in the night if they were hungry.  So it is likely that Mary and Joseph stayed in the main family living room and baby Jesus was put to sleep either in the manager in the floor or a wooden trough manger that was moved up from the stable to the living room.


So you might think that these differences are not of huge significance, he's still born in Bethlehem, still visited by shepherds and wise men, so what is the significance? Perhaps it is this, that the story of Jesus birth is enriched with a plausible reality that celebrates humanity, humility and community hospitality at it's best.  Jesus' birth was not in a cold and lonely stable, but the manger was in a warm and friendly peasant home, nothing fancy, but surrounded by family and members of the local Jewish Community.



So that's where our thoughts for a nativity home scene came from.  I don't mind our girls learning and re-enacting the traditional interpretation of the birth in the stable but I think it's nice to add ideas from other perspectives too that enrich our understanding of the Christmas story.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Pegs and Pipecleaner Christmas Nativity Characters


We been reading lots of books of the nativity story in the lead up to Christmas and I was really excited when we were given this lovely kit to have a go at making our own nativity scene characters (thank you Grandad!)  The kit contains some wooden clothes pegs and stands, pieces of felt, some goggley eyes, bits of craft foam, pom poms and some pipecleaners.  So although we had the kit you don't need it to make these characters.  It is all common craft materials and if you have a craft supply at home it's likely you'll have all of these in your cupboard anyway.


The figures are really simple to make.  First you cut a piece of felt to the size of the body of the peg.

 

Next roll it round the peg and fasten with a pipecleaner.  This then becomes the person's waist tie.
  

Then you get another pipecleaner and wrap it round the neck of the peg, twist across at the back an bring the long bits back round to the front.  These then form the arms. 


Finally you add a headdress or cloak by wrapping another piece of felt round the head and neck and securing with another pipecleaner.  You could also glue on a bit of felt, wool or a pom pom for hair/hat/crown.  You could also draw on a face if you wanted to.  For baby Jesus there wasn't a mini peg or anything in the kit so I raided my husbands's wood off cuts and found a short wooden dowel, then wrapped it in felt and tied with a pipecleaner.
  

The instructions recommended using glue for the felt, but I found that it didn't really stick and just using pipecleaners was much more effective.  I also like the idea that we can take them apart and remake them next year.  

To be honest this kit is probably best suited to slightly older children although I think Little Chick who is 3 and a half could have done some if she'd have wanted to.  It's a great activity for fine motor skill development, manipulation and concentration, but it's very much a sit down and craft activity so probably not great for those who don't like sitting down and prefer running round getting messy!


Little Chick really wanted to do a glueing and sticking picture with the bits and pieces from the pack.  So whilst I sat with her making the nativity figures she spend ages using several pieces of paper creating some beautiful free flow pictures.  It was lovely to have some crafting time together enjoying each other's company.




She also added some stickers, sweet wrappers and glitter from our box of goodies (all the left over bits and pieces from previous craft and art activities.)


I know this is more of a craft for slightly older children but I really enjoyed making them and Little Chick was very keen to get playing with them once I'd finished making them.  I think they make a gorgeous set of Nativity figures just waiting for some imaginative play.  Watch out for more on this in my next post!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Christmas Wrapping Paper Printing


As we're preparing for Christmas one of the activities we've done is making some of our own wrapping paper.  This is a lovely simple activity that only requires some festive cookie cutters, paint, a large piece of paper and some open-ended creativity from your little one.  I love using printing techniques as little hands can do it from quite young without needing much help and I've found cookie cutters to be very good for printing as you don't just end up with big splodges of paint everywhere.


Little Chick got busy squeezing out the paints and choosing cutters. 


She chose blue glitter stars,


Gold sparkly Christmas trees, 


And green pearlised stars.


We then got out the big roll of paper we have, cleared the table and rolled out a big sheet.


She got busy printing


and printing


and round the other side of the table for more printing.  She spent ages choosing what she was going to print where and whether she was going to do stars or bells next.  I pretty much left her to it


until our wrapping paper was covered in beautiful array of stars and bells and Christmas trees.  


Once it was dry we used it to wrap a few presents. 


(Don't worry, don't think  I'm that organised to have wrapped all the presents by now!  These were just a few that need to be sent in good time).  We could have made the labels but I'd already got these from the 99p store and thought they looked nice with the wrapping paper.  I'd love to get a roll of some different coloured paper for doing this another time.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Christmas Salt Dough Table Decorations


One of the things we really enjoyed doing in preparation for Christmas last year was making salt dough decorations to hang on the tree, so I thought it would be good to make some fresh ones for this year.   Little Chick chose some star cutters and we set about making salt dough and cutting out the shapes.  But as ever my strong-minded daughter had her own ideas of what we should be doing.  And she was adamant that she did not want any holes in her lovely stars and she wanted me to make some hedgehogs and owls too (we've been reading a fair few of the Percy the Park Keeper stories recently).  So we had lots of fun making and shaping the salt dough and making a collection of salt dough table decorations together.
 

I love using salt dough, the possibilities with it are endless and it's really quick and simple to make.  Also I like using American cups for measuring so that Little Chick can do all the measuring, mixing and making herself. The recipe we used is from The Imagination Tree.

Salt dough recipe:
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • half a cup of water
Mix it all together and knead it, until it forms a pliable stretchy dough.  Then get creative with it, shaping it, rolling it, cutting it, moulding it.  When you're finished place on a baking sheet in the oven at 100 degrees C/ 200 F for 2-3 hours.


Little Chick loved being in charge of all the measuring.


There was lots of squishing and squashing to get the dough to come together.
 

Little Chick is not usually a huge fan of messy activities, but I think she really likes it if getting messy is part of the process of something else, like making biscuits or salt dough models.


We turned it out onto a floured worktop and she set about kneading it until it was a good texture for rolling out.


She then did lots of rolling out and cutting out stars.  Whilst I was instructed to make some hedgehogs and some owls.


We used some currants to decorate our creations (although as these have water in them it does mean that the salt dough models won't last as long and may go soft in the area around the currant.  I'm thinking of maybe trying some lentils next time for decoration.)


And here are some of our creations ready to go in the oven.  Little Chick did lots of stars and also a few mice and a snake (in the middle), whilst I did the owls and the hedgehogs.  Making the hedgehogs would have been a lovely activity for her to do, but she said she was too busy making stars - so maybe we'll do that together another day.


These are the owls I made.  The eyes are currants and the wings are made from two scales from a large fir cone.


These would also be great for a small world play scene or a story-telling time.  I think the little owls would be perfect for re-telling the story of Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, something we definitely need to do with them.  For the brown hedgehog I added some cocoa powder to the salt dough and kneaded it in.


Once they were dried we added them to a bowl with a few fir cones we'd decorated with glitter paint the other week.  You can paint and decorate salt dough, but this time we just left them plain.  Little Chick absolutely loves having her art on display around the house, so she loved having a bowlful of it on the table and I like it too!



With a bit of tinsel and some tea lights we've made a lovely centre piece for our Christmas table.  

So what to make with salt dough next? Has anyone made a salt dough nativity scene?

Come and share ideas and play at:
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