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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dragon Egg

I like to make beautiful things, and I like to spend time with my children, so over the years I've done a fair amount of creating with them. That may sound really sweet and homey, until you add the perfectionism that I, and my children, both tend to. I always start with good intentions, but too often what should be a beautiful mother child moment deteriorates into tears. Or used to. My oldest is now nearly thirteen (gasp), and I'm finally learning how to better gear the projects toward their ability level (and how to keep my mouth tightly, firmly shut during the process, but that's another post) to minimize tears and make creating fun and satisfying all around.

So for Michaelmas, while the older kids in our homeschool co-op sculpted dragons out of clay, the group that I co-lead, the 1st-3rd graders, kept it simple. We colored dragon eggs. Simpler shape, simpler activity, and the kids' part is done in ten minutes or less. With beautiful results. I'm indebted to Living Crafts magazine and their Summer 2011 article called "Boatmaking with Children", for the inspiration behind this project. We were coloring wooden eggs, not boats, but the finishing process was the same.

We started with beeswax crayons and just let the kids color the egg however they liked. We did divide the crayons into a bowl with warm colors, and a bowl with cool colors, and explain to the kids that their eggs would look better if they stuck with one or the other, but they all ignored us. And that's fine, this is not a craft that has to be done just so. Do explain to the kids, though, as we did, that detailed designs aren't going to show up, the colors sort of get blurred together during the finishing. After coloring, the egg is pretty, but you have to bake it in the oven for the magic to happen:

Place egg in an oven safe bowl or dish, then place in a pre-heated 200 degree oven for twenty minutes.
When it comes out, it will still look pretty much like it did when it went in. But while the egg is still warm, dab a tiny, tiny bit of vegetable oil on a paper towel, it doesn't take much, and gently rub your egg. The color will spread and soak into the wood, and when the oil dries, the egg is no longer waxy to the touch, and it just glows with beautiful color:

Now, Michaelmas is past for the year, and it's a long time until Easter, but this method of coloring and finishing with beeswax crayons can be applied to anything wooden, and it's really a very kid-friendly craft, even for the little ones, so the possibilities are endless. I'm sure there's a Christmas-ornament coloring project in our near future.