Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
Powered by Squarespace
Live and Learn Categories
Live and Learn Tags

Entries in Make believe (4)


A very Wizard of Oz birthday

When I picked up The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the original book by L. Frank Baum, last fall I did so in the process of looking for good read aloud books to share with Calvin. I had no idea at the time how far that one book would take us. Now, about eight months later, we've read all fourteen of Baum's Oz books, our love for them has become a hobby—for both of us—and Calvin is starting to re-read the series to himself. 

About a month ago Calvin asked to have a Wizard of Oz birthday party this year, and so that's what we did. Before I explain our steps I need to mention that this was not based on the movie, but on the original stories by Baum and artwork of John R. Neill. I should also mention that we're not into hosting big parties with, prizes, gift bags, etc. just yet. This was a low key, enjoyable family affair. Calvin was part of every step of the planning process except for the cake, which was my gift to him, as you'll see below. Calvin's planning included a lot of great ideas that were just not feasible, as it should be in a (now) five year old mind, but we did make a lot of things happen.

Follow the yellow brick road! We used a water and cornstarch mixture (a one to one ratio) with a lot of food coloring to make our front walkway into the yellow brick road. Calvin made signs for the front, the first reading "welcome to Oz" and the second reading "welcome to the Emrald City" (his spelling).

Once inside the house you were in the Emerald City, and all the decorations were green. Calvin chose green balloons, table cloth, napkins, plates, cups, and streamers.

Guests (grandparents, and two aunts) had been asked to wear yellow, red, blue, or purple, as all the citizens of Oz live in one of the four countries of that land and always dress in the color of their country. On entering they were given party hats to match their color of choice, since pointed hats just happen to be the costume of all in Oz. They were also given green glasses (which we'd ordered from an online party store) because in the original book the Emerald City isn't actually all green, visitors were instead made to wear glasses with green lenses to make it appear so. Calvin and I were the only standouts—he was the Wizard, and I got to be Princess Ozma.

I think Calvin got the greatest kick out of these last two details, although he had a great time decorating with balloons and streamers, too.

The cake was also designed by Calvin, although he did not know it. It is really a map of Oz as described in the books and as drawn by Calvin on many occasions. The Emerald City in the middle, the yellow brick road, and the poppy field I made of fondant, but I frosted the rest of the cake in homemade organic cream cheese frosting, colored with standard food coloring (usually a no-no in my book, but sometimes it just has to be done).

The cake is based on the original books, and obviously I'm not a professional cake decorator, but the concept is a good one and I'm sure someone can improve on it. The things surrounding it are actually handmade dolls of the characters from the books. They were part of our birthday gift to Calvin, a part that I'm glad to say he truly loved. The wood dolls were hand painted by Fancie Fannies (and are delightful and beautifully done). I ordered them over a month ago and it was hard not to give them to him early! The Cowardly Lion and Hungry Tiger are Schleich, and the blue Woozy and the Wooden Sawhorse I made myself (and am very proud of).

We had a wonderful time at the party, but as with most of these events, much of the fun was in the planning and preparation. I'm calling this art because a lot of imagination, planning, and creating definitely went into it. I loved thinking through the creation of the day with Calvin, and taking the necessary steps to make it happen, too.



Making knights armor

Playing around in the middle ages this week Calvin has been on a knights quest. The instigator was a book called King Arthur's Knight Quest, which I picked up a while back at our library book sale. It's a hidden pictures kind of book and on his quest he's been finding the armor he'll need to rescue all of King Arthur's favorite knights. It's been fun, especially since he decided that finding the armor in the book wasn't enough and decided to make his own.

We started with a shield, which is merely an oval cut from corrugated cardboard. He painted and decorated it, then I added another strip of cardboard to the back, secured with hot glue, to act as the handle.

The helmet came next. This was a doozy of a project. Basic instructions came from the Usborne Knights and Castles activity book, but our first attempt at the helmet didn't go so well and we ended up scratching the job and starting over again the next day with some of our own ideas.

I used a measuring tape to measure around his nose to the back of his head then we marked and cut a strip of posterboard to length, plus an inch for overlap, and 3.5 inches thick.

We folded it in half and Calvin punched a hole, through both sides, about a half inch in from the long edge and almost halfway along the length. I then marked two cutting lines along the folded strip: a line starting at the bottom corner of the folded edge and arcing up to an inch from the bottom and finishing straight along the length, and another line staring about a half inch from the top corner of the folded edge and arcing smoothly up to the top edge. Calvin cut these out and they became the pointed tip at his chin and the slight dip below his eyes.

After the cuts were made we opened the strip and glued it together in the back, gluing the overlap front to back.

We used the tape measure again to measure the length in the back between the two holes, then cut out seven strips of that length plus one inch, six at two inches wide and one at four inches wide, and rounded at the ends. We punched holes in each strip, a half inch from the ends. We added the two inch strips to the helmet one at a time, lining up the holes to the ones on the helmet and tilting the strips until the bottom edge just touched the top edge of the strip below. Calvin held each strip in place while I hot glued it around the hole.

Calvin cam:

For the face mask we folded the four inch strip in half and drew the slits, then I cut them with a box cutter. Calvin then threaded silver colored pipe cleaners through the holes on the helmet, glued them on the inside, then threaded the face mask onto them on the outside and coiled the end of the pipe cleaners to hold them in place. This way the face mask can be raised and lowered.


The sword was made with the remainder of the gold poster board, which was silver on the other side. Calvin traced the shape then cut it out twice. I cut a long, thin strip of heavy cardboard and we glued it to the insides of the sword shapes, lining them up. We then glued all the way around the edges of the sword, and Calvin traced and cut out a hand guard using more of the leftover pieces. He decorated it to match the shield.

We still haven't worked out a way to make armor just yet, but if we do we'll be back. 


Making elephant ears

Wool felt, leftover from a previous project, black thread, and ten minutes after lunch. He said he wanted to be an elephant and so he was.

I cut a three inch wide strip, long enough to go around his head with two inches left over. I folded it in half and closed it with a finishing stitch all along the outside.

I cut two ears, using a printed map of Africa as a template (since African elephants have African ears), and Sewed them to the band with two rows of stitching, the ears laying flat and forward so that when he has the band on his head the stitching is hidden behind them. I finished with new sew velcro. Ten minutes to healthy elephant ears.

If I did it again I'd make the base of the ears much smaller, and I might even trim them away from the band a bit now.


Becoming pawns

We've been playing with Chess for a while now, getting to know the board, the pieces, the history. It's exposure that counts here, and a fulfillment of Calvin's interest, which is vast in its sweep. He has grasped the goal of the game, and the abilities of each piece, but it will be some time before he glimpses the deeper strategy I think. Right now we enjoy playing for fun. We brought home from the library sale today The Kids' Book of Chess, by Harvey Kidder. The Usborne book we have touched on the game's basics while the book we brought home today joins good story telling and illustrations with a general education on the game. Calvin loved it immediately and I see some King Arthur reading in our near future. He and Jon spent the afternoon creating swords and shields and then chasing each other around the house with them, acting out the role of pawns, better known as pikemen, or foot soldiers. I see the creation of a miter on our horizon as well.