Parenting, Urban Making

The Making of Dragon Eggs

Or giant papier-mâché Easter eggs…

Rounded corner dragon eggsThis project is simple and low-maintenance – perfect for my 3 & 5 year-old children, and is easily adjustable for younger and older kids. These eggs are easily fancied up, with a smoother finish, stenciled-on shapes, dots, stripes etc. My goal was simply to have an activity for the kids with a final project that was 90% their doing – check. I also like projects that don’t entail waste – this one is great in that department except one piece that I’d love to find a way around, just haven’t figured it out yet.

Below are the supplies list, instructions, and a short personal reflection…

Supplies

  • small balloons – the one non-eco-friendly element 🙁
  • newspaper – any thin paper, like tissue paper will work
  • all purpose flour – or whatever you have, except whole wheat, I’ve read it can be problematic
  • warm water
  • any paint – we used good tempera, love that it washes or rinses off quick and easy
  • paint brushes – the art kind, not paint the walls kind
  • a decent amount of rags or kitchen towels and water for clean-up

Here’s the How To…

  1. Paper Shredding – dig out some newspaper from the recycle bin and tear them into strips. Try to go with the grain and teach the kids which way this is – otherwise the pieces can become miniscule. Tear these long strips in half a couple times. For reference you’re trying for pieces of paper about the size of the child’s hand, too much larger and it becomes hard to work with.
  2. Foundation – blow up the balloons to the size and shape your little ones like. I saved my lungs by using our bike tire pump. If I’d been able to find the balloon pump, that would have been handy too.
  3. Prep the Paste – the golden recipe is just good old flour and warm water. For 10 medium-sized eggs, we used around 3 cups of flour and a bit more water than that. Pour a little warm water into the flour, stir, pour more water, stir…until you reach a consistency you like. I prefer a little on the thicker side, something along the lines of a creamy soup. At first everyone wants to mix, however this quickly loses its appeal. Now is the time to pull out the immersion blender and voilá, everyone’s back to work AND those pesky lumps are gone. Any small blender|agitator will do, but good old stirring works too!
  4. IMG_0648Dressing the eggs – at this point the idea is to get the paper and balloon wet with paste and sticking together with the paper ultimately coating and fully covering the ballon. There are many ways to accomplish this, I savored the thought of dainty paint brushes delicately applying the paste to the paper and then to the balloon – that’s not how it went down in my house. Fingers and scooped hands were the preferred method of applying the nice warm goopy stuff to the paper and eventually to the balloon. IF possible leave the knot of the balloon exposed and conserve a little paste for patching up holes later on.
  5. Drying – at least overnight, if the little ones were especially liberal with the paste, possibly more. It helps to turn the eggs at least once.
  6. Removing the balloon – when they are dry, they are considerably harder than when you started. Give the balloon knot a gentle tug and pierce it – it will make a fun crackling and hissing sound as the air is released and it separates from the “egg shell.” Hang on to the knot and very gently wiggle it out of the hole. If your knot was covered, take your best guess at where it is and with good scissors perform a small operation to expose it. Add a piece of the shredded paper and paste to cover the hole and let dry. There was no patience for more drying in my home, the holes stayed so the egg’s inhabitants could find their way out.
  7. IMG_0658Painting, finally! This one is self-explanatory. One of my favorite parts about using paint is that we have only the basic colors – black, white, red, blue and yellow. I always ask what color they want to paint with and they invariably name a color that we’ll need to make. It’s their job to try and make that color. They get some interesting mixes, but I think it’s a fun and valuable lesson.
  8. Let the paint dry and your dragon | dinosaur | ostrich | giant Easter eggs are ready for play!

Children learn pretty quickly that these are not intended for throwing or rough play, but similar to the old fashioned real eggs that get painted in school, these are meant to be cared for and are best suited for a lively game of hide and seek.

If these are used for an Easter egg hunt many kids are accustomed to the plastic eggs with something inside and may be disappointed that these are not carrying any goodies. However, having made them and knowing there is nothing to open, my little one, had no such expectation and were equally satisfied with the eggs they found – big or small – painted or treat filled.

Sustainability Note – Once these eggs get their fair wear (and we do hide them for months), I can happily toss them into my compost bin. The balloon base is the only thorn in my side.

Reflections…

This is a skill development project as much for my kids as it is for me. While they are practicing manual dexterity, learning about the glue properties of flour and water and how it feels on your skin, figuring out how to make colors, and generally having fun – I am building my ability to let them make their own art without hovering, fixing, or micro-managing along the way.

polaroid dragon eggsMany of the balloons were not completely covered in paste and paper, and later many were not completely coated in paint. Though at first I tried in vain to point this out in hopes one of the two workers would fix it, no one cared but me, and that was my lesson. We were not trying to make Fabergé eggs, yet I desperately wanted the paper to lay flat, for them to use less paste, for the whole ballon to be equally covered and on and on. Eventually, I let go and focused on my own egg where I could happily apply all my compulsions, and then eventually that didn’t need to be perfect either. Take-away message: remember what you are really trying to do – create a fun, learning, shared experience. 

Inspiration came from…Not MarthaJumbo Paper Mache Eggs, and Ultimate Paper Maché.

 

 

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1 Comment

  • Reply Irena April 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Hello, Melissa! What a lovely project to do with the kids. I like that you keep only the basic paint colors on hand, and have the kiddos mix their own — brilliant! Also, I love your reflection, and that you finally discovered you could “happily apply all your compulsions” on your own egg! 🙂

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