During the holiday season, it’s fun to make unique crafts/toys and learn the history behind them. This weekend I had the opportunity to make vintage crafts at our local historical museum. There were a variety of hands-on projects to enlighten children of all ages – adults too! Here are a few that I felt were interesting and offered lessons for your class.
Dala Horse Ornament
A Dala horse (also known as a Dalecarlian horse) is a painted wooden horse statue that was used as a toy for children in Sweden. It is usually painted bright red with a harness and details in white, yellow, green, and blue. Back in the 17th century, these little wooden horses were sold in markets in the town of Dalarna, in central Sweden. They were carved from wood and painted in bright colors. Everyone in the family learned this craft and made these wooden horses as a source of income. In 1939, this craft took part in the World Exhibition in New York. After the exhibition, thousands of Dala horses were shipped to the United States and hence this horse became a symbol for Sweden. Your class can make Dala horse replicas from cardstock and decorate the classroom. You will need:
- Safety scissors
- Black marker
- A piece of magnet tape
- Print and cut out a horse for each child. Follow the sample in the photo.
- Invite the children to color the horses in red (or a color of their choice).
- Place a piece of magnetic tape on the back. This will adhere to any metal surface in the classroom and can be sent home to adorn the refrigerator in your students’ kitchens.
Feather Christmas Tree Craft
The first artificial Christmas tree made in Germany during the 19th century inspired this craft. Germany was concerned about deforestation during this time so this artificial tree became popular. The tree features green tinted feathers that were strung by hand to form branches on this evergreen replica. The idea was brought to the United States by German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Texas. Feather Christmas trees were then sold in department stores during the 20th century and today you can find artificial trees made from a variety of materials. You will need:
- Green Goose Biots feathers – Amazon
- Small red wooden beads
- Craft wire piece – heavy-duty
- Floral tape – brown
- Cover the wire piece with brown floral tape.
- Take one strand from the goose biot feather and place it at the top of the brown wire. Secure the feather to the wire by placing a wooden bead on top. The bead has a hole in the middle.
- Carefully wrap the feather biot around the wire in a twisting fashion. Secure the bottom with a small piece of brown floral tape. This makes one pick.
- The kids can each make a pick or a couple that can be tied together with red ribbon. This makes a nice ornament for holiday decorating.
The people of Germany would make a variety of lengths using this process and drill and attach them to a larger metal rod to create an artificial tree.
A thaumatrope is a circle with two images. When twirled the images combine to create an illusion. Making this craft teaches a lesson in animation. John Ayrton Paris, an English physician, invented it in 1825. This project makes a fun and unique toy to be played with by your students. You will need:
- Safety scissors
- Hole punch
- 2 rubber bands (you can use pieces of twine)
- Colorful markers
- Draw circles on cardstock. Tracing around a template is easiest for children.
- Cut out the circle.
- Draw pictures on each side of the circle. For example, draw a bird on one side, and a birdcage on the back. The kids can pick out their two favorite pictures that are associated with one another.
- Punch a hole on each side of the circle horizontally.
- Insert a medium size rubber band into each hole. Loop the band so it attaches to the circle.
- Have the child hold onto each rubber band and twist them. This will spin the circle and an optical illusion will appear. The drawings will spin into one animated picture. As mentioned above the bird will look as if it is inside the cage.