Lots of us are following the advice to stay at home as much as we can right now. This requires some special skills to keep ourselves healthy, in heart and spirit as well as keeping fit. It can be especially challenging to stay at home with kids and their burgeoning energies. And it’s challenging for the rest of us to feel like we have something positive to contribute to a world with a new shape.
Enter the toymaker. From my little corner of the world, here’s a small thing I can offer. A craft project designed to be more of a prompt than a coloring sheet. Something kids with scissor skills can do themselves, but a project that’s adaptable to different levels of involvement for younger children as well. Something that we young-at-hearts might like to make, too, maybe to send through the mail to show someone we’re thinking about them. Something that requires zero special supplies (just paper, scissors and glue) and encourages reusing everyday things around the house. Something not too specific, so there’s room for imagination and creativity to engage. Something that could be the start of a who-knows-how-big project that will be remembered long after.
Years ago a tiny plastic tea set with cakes and forks and little boxes got me started to make a teddy bears’ picnic set using a doily as the picnic cloth. I challenged myself to make a couple of little bears just out of construction paper, glue and crayons.
As humble as they are, this set became a special toy that only came out on special occasions with the motherly challenge to “be sure to keep all the little pieces together”. Over time the little bears evolved into a cat figure that became a free pattern on this blog.
For this special spring I’ve expanded the cat pattern, adding a bunny and a bear and making the animals in two sizes.
You can print out the pattern on any heavy paper stock or print it on text weight paper then glue/collage to thin cardboard (like cereal boxes, for example). The figures are purposely simple so they can be completed with paints, markers, pencils, collage or pens, as you like. They have no defined characters–they can become whatever they are imagined to be. Scrapbasket toys are made with whatever you have around the house and don’t require a trip to the crafts store.
My first group of cats had no face detail but were joined together as a valentine garland. These used mini-brads to make them poseable, but you can as easily just glue your animals’ arms and legs into position like my first bears if that’s what you choose.
Go ahead and raid your paper recycling for inspiration. This cat was made from Uppercase magazine’s colorful postcard inserts. I tied some strands of thread into a bundle and glued it onto this cat with black sequin eyes.
Once you’ve made your basic animal, you can add clothes made from paper or fabric. You can make all kinds of accessories, furniture, houses, towns, cities…the sky’s kind of the limit here. I can imagine this being the start of who-knows-what. I keep picturing that cat with a mane, becoming a lion. I see stories unfolding around characters with unusual names populating a world that springs from the imagination at your house.
I see generous members of our craft community, like Charlotte Lyons, @housewrenstudio showing us how to make castles from our empty oatmeal boxes (in her instagram stories) and I see these little animal characters feeling right at home there.
If you’re up for something more elegant and ambitious. there are some lovely antique French paper model kits being offered for free download by Castle in the Air. Another example of the generous spirit of our creative community! Wouldn’t the little animal characters have fun in the antique toyseller’s world?
Please be sure to let me know if you decide to make some paper animals from your scrapbasket…I’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories.