Traditional toys have fallen out of favor since the arrival of hundreds of brand name play options. We think of the wooden rocking horse with a nostalgic smile as our child gallops around on a plastic Hogwarts broom complete with flashing lights and sound. We wince as we pay exorbitant prices for the latest trend, the playground ‘must have’. We struggle to remember what we did before the advent of 24/7 children’s programming and video games.
The argument appears to be that children have changed and no longer want these old-fashioned toys. This does not have to be the case. A parent who catches a child early enough will have a child happy to play with toys that did not come from major names and chains. Children want to have fun and that has never changed.
The wooden spoon doll has been a staple of the toy box for generations. It is simple to create and comes with hours of play value. Best of all it costs next to nothing to make and your child can be involved in the process. A child who has created the toy it plays with has pride in their achievement. That toy will last far longer than any shop-bought product simply because the child has an emotional investment in it.
The first action is to get your wooden spoon. Always use new ones. Wood is very good at retaining anything used on it and an old spoon may harbor hundreds of potentially harmful germs. New spoons are inexpensive and you will likely pay pennies for a triple pack. The added advantage of a pack of spoons is that they usually come in three sizes per pack. Already you have Dad, Mum and baby.
Involving your child is a must but take note. When gathering your materials make sure they are age appropriate. Having your toddler swallowing sequins or chowing down on glue is not the way to go. When undertaking any craft activity there should always be constant parental supervision. Safety first is the maxim.
Gather a selection of any or all of the following materials.
Wool, material, pipe cleaners, paint, marker pens, safety scissors, Velcro, ribbon, P.V.A. glue and anything else you think might be useful to dress the doll.
Cover your table and your child against spills. You can concentrate on one spoon or have a spoon each which allows your child to take their lead from you.
Deal with the face first. Markers can be used to draw on a face but there are many options. If your child loves Dora the Explorer or Barney or even Spiderman, find a magazine with the correct face in it. Cut out the face and apply it to the bowl of the spoon. Et voila, instant character doll. A quick coat of P.V.A. glue over the top acts like varnish and seals the face in place. Buttons, sequins and fabric can all be used to create a face.
Next we deal with the hair. Wool is fabulous for this as it comes in a variety of colors, can be cut to any length, plaited, tied or left loose. A great source of wool is your local thrift shop. Many knitters donate their ends of balls and these can be a few pennies to buy. Ask family and friends as some may have odd bits of wool they can donate to the project.
Decide on color, style and length and then cut the wool into the required pieces. The pieces can be knotted together in the centre and glued to the tip of the bowl or glued on individually. A lovely messy activity your child will enjoy. Try to allow them to do as much as possible for themselves. Only step in if they are really struggling. It doesn’t matter if the hair is uneven or more glue than wool. What matters is that they do it and gain a sense of independence
Pipe cleaners are no longer the nasty, sharp, wiry things from our youth. Now they are child safe (with appropriate supervision) and come in many colors and styles from glittery to neon pink and furry. These can be picked up online or at craft shops. You really only need pipe cleaners for the arms as legs on wooden spoon dolls are optional. Wind one around the handle of the spoon about 1/3 of the way down from the bowl. Repeat with the second and get your arms pointing in the right direction.
Now to clothing and this is where you can let your child’s imagination run riot. Again, the thrift shop is your source for cheap fabric off-cuts or clothes that can be cut up, ribbons and all kinds of items that might be useful for dressing the doll. A word of advice – If you do choose to use cast-off clothing, cut it up before you put it on the table. A child with a pair of scissors and the idea that it’s ok to cut up clothes because mummy did it is not what you want from this exercise.
Simply cutting two squares or rectangles of fabric and gluing them together, leaving a gap for the head and arms, creates instant clothes. Tie a piece of ribbon around the middle for the belt and you are done. However, most children will want more than this. Barbie has an entire wardrobe and the chances are Miss/Mr. Spoon Doll will require the same. This is where Velcro is invaluable.
A simple paper pattern in the shape of a skirt, t-shirt or dress can be laid onto the material and drawn around with a marker before cutting it out. Prior to sticking (or sewing if you are so inclined) the pieces together a little planning needs attending to. Take the back of your proposed dress etc and cut it up the centre. This will leave you three pieces. Glue or sew the front to the two back pieces on the right and left seams but leave the centre back seam open. Apply Velcro to the open back seam and you have a piece of clothing than can be easily removed and fitted, even by small hands.
Buttons, sequins, ribbon and fake flowers can be applied as extra decoration to clothes. The cup from a box of eggs can be decorated with paint or fabric and turned into a hat. Cut a small square of Velcro and apply to the back of the spoon ‘head’. Apply the matching piece to the hat and it will stay in place. A piece of ribbon tied through two pierced holes in the hat can be tied under the chin or around the neck of the doll.
Legs and feet are not traditional with wooden spoon dolls but can easily be added with the same pipe cleaner technique, attached about 2/3’s of the way down the handle. Feet can be added with cardboard glued to the end of the pipe cleaners or simply shoe pictures cut from magazines.
These are the basics for creating spoon dolls but the options are endless. Animals, birds, insects, just about anything can be created. Try making a cardboard box doll house for the spoon family and you add hours more fun and possibilities to both fun and education with your child.