It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Craft Time

An architect friend recently gave me a box of scrap paper and cardstock in varying weights, from flimsy right up to foamcore. Another friend gave me a pile of neatly folded, used wrapping papers. I am, as ever, the grateful recipient of the effluvia of my friends’ cleaning efforts.

Today looked to be rainy and chill, so out came these donations, along with a pair of scissors for me, a box of markers, and a few glue-sticks, all arranged enticingly on the table.

“Hey, guys! It’s craft time! We’re going to make something today!”

With a whoop of approval, the children converge on the dining room table, now a cornucopia of colours and textures. Zach, Darcy, Arthur, and Katie sit at the table. Alice, who hasn’t yet gotten the hang of benches – they have no backs, dammit! – sits in her high chair, drawn up to the table.

The children watch with interest as I take a piece of sturdy white cardboard.

“I’m going to cut it out like this,” I say, scissors slicing decisively through. “It will be flat at the top,” I run my finger along the flat edge, “and curved on the sides, see?, with a point at the bottom. There! Anyone know what this is?”

We’ve been reading books and looking at lots of pictures about knights and castles lately, so the concept is familiar. Arthur recognizes it. “A shield!”

Yes, indeed! So what we’re going to do, see, is decorate our shield with the wrapping paper. Not authentic heraldry, true, but attainable individuality. And good fine-motor activity. Plus lots ot sticky glue. The children will tear off bits of paper, rub them with the glue-sticks, and apply them to their shields. They’ve used glue-sticks before, so only a few reminders are needed: apply the glue to the back side of the paper, hold the paper steady with your other hand while you rub, gently and in the same direction, and turn it over to stick it on. The basics. (More complicated than you realized, huh??)

I hand each child a shield. Katie and Alice, too young to do the next bit, are handed a marker apiece. Alice looks at the shield on her tray and the uncapped marker I’m holding out in shocked disbelief. Am I kidding her? She’s in a high chair! High chairs are for eating. What’s with the inedibles? She draws a deep breath, preparatory to full expression of her outrage. A quick scattering of goldfish (now trans-fat free!) on her tray amidst the craft supplies mollifies her. Chewing, she picks up a marker and happily scribbles away.

Tearing the paper bits is the new and tricky bit. I demonstrate the technique. “Just use your thumb and finger from each hand. Put them close together, and make a little rip, like this. That’s the hardest part.” I repeat this four more times, giving each one a paper with a tiny rip on one edge. “After that, it tears really easily. You try it.” Much gleeful tearing among the older four. Alice prefers her food-and-marker combo.

Bet you never realized that tearing had to be taught. Bet, in fact, you’re reeling in shocked disbelief that I’d do this deliberately! Rare indeed (or obsessively monitored) is the child hasn’t torn a few pages from a book or three by the time they’re two and three years old. No one had to teach them to do that! True. The brute force clutch, crumple and yank they have down pat. But a controlled tear, to actually create a wee shape in a piece of still-smooth paper? No.

And in fact, Arthur is the only one who can yet manage the starter tear, and even he prefers that I do the tearing.

They work away at this for much longer than I’d expected, a full 40 or more minutes. At the end, we have five wee shields, each a cheerful blaze of seasonal colours: birthday red, Christmas green, baby shower pink and blue, anniversary silver. Shields for every occasion!

As the tots sleep, the shields are lined up before me, each labelled with their owner’s name and honorific. We have:

Sir Arthur the Inquisitive
Sir Katie (equal-opportunity knighthood in this realm) the Vocal
Sir Alice the Radiant
Sir Zach the Joyous
Sir Darcy the Unyielding. (He may be quiet, but he’s adamant.)

September 23, 2005 - Posted by | Alice, Arthur, crafts, Darcy, George, individuality


  1. Play fair, ive had to have multiple visits to to decipher some of the words 🙂

    oh well, at least my vocabulary has been stretched a little further

    Comment by Si | September 23, 2005 | Reply

  2. “Had to have”, thats bad, even for me, should have been “Had to make” 🙂

    Comment by Si | September 23, 2005 | Reply

  3. Maybe I shoud put the dictionary as a link in my sidebar? I is who I is, vocabulary and all. Isn’t it nice that I assume the rest of the world is (ahem) just as smart as me???

    Comment by Mary P. | September 23, 2005 | Reply

  4. No need to have it as a link, its down as a permanent link in my browser 😉

    Comment by Si | September 23, 2005 | Reply

  5. You must admit, “effluvia” is not yer everyday word. Not even around our house.

    Comment by Q | September 23, 2005 | Reply

  6. I know, I know, but I like it! And how often do you get to use a word like that??

    Comment by Mary P. | September 23, 2005 | Reply

  7. everything needs to be taught. Did you know there are 16 seperate movements involved in standing up from lying flat on your tummy? And thats assuming you do it in the fewest movements possible. We take so much for granted, but children are learning new things ALL the time.

    PS thats why I love sending my kids to day care – glue & marker pens

    Comment by Mrs.Aginoth | September 23, 2005 | Reply

  8. Si, Q: I just went to, myself, and discovered that I didn’t use “effluvia” quite right, anyway!! So much for my much-vaunted vocabulary!! Joke’s on me! LOL

    Mrs A: The thing I’ve learned over and over in this job is just how complicated “simple” tasks really are! And it’s such fun to teach them. Last week, we all learned to gallop. This week we learned to tear. Next week? Hey!! Maybe I’ll teach the boys to LEAVE THE TOILET SEAT DOWN!!!

    Comment by Mary P. | September 23, 2005 | Reply

  9. It’s a little known fact that putting the toilet seat down requires 31 separate movements. (Almost twice as many as standing up from a prone position.)

    That’s why some men never master the art.

    Comment by Q | September 23, 2005 | Reply

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