Three ways with walnuts

We've been wanting to make Walnut Babies and their Mamas for the last two years, ever since we saw them in the Green Crafts for Children...but this book is filled with so many tempting projects that it has taken us a while to work our way around to them.

I have a love-hate relationship with this book: I love the inspiring pictures and amazing crafts...but I really dislike the way that once you embark upon them you realise that the perfect creations pictured in the book, despite having children's hands artfully placed around them, cannot possibly have been made by children alone and that a high level of parental input is necessary...which is fine, because we wanted to make these together, but less fine in that I dislike there being so many stages where they have to defer to an adult and sit looking hopefully at me, dependent on someone else making it work for them (have you ever tried tying a ribbon around a small wooden ball...a tricky business even for an adult). Ditto trying to crack a walnut into two perfectly intact halves...the book says this is easy, but we spent an amusing half hour tapping the walnuts against the utility room floor in an attempt to get them to split into two unblemished halves (which was actually huge amounts of fun and the children loved it).

The walnut cribs have stuffing glued inside, a layer of fabric stuck on top for the bedding, ric-rac glued around the edge and then a ribbon tied at the head, with eyes and mouth drawn on below. We ended up supergluing the heads onto the cribs, as the repetitive decapitation was becoming upsetting. The Mama walnuts use whole walnuts, with aprons and apron ties glued around their middles, and a head scarf glued on above the face. Drawing on a ball is tricky...I love the expressions on the faces of Dinosaur-boy's family though.

Again, the book shows the cribs presumably blue-tacked to the spot, as once the weight of the head is in place the crib will no longer balance...I minded about this alot (inside my head) and they are propped against each other and the wall for the photographs you see here. Happily, the children didn't seem to notice their lopsidedness and in the evening spent several hours acting out stories with them and creating flower gardens for the cribs to rest in.

After we'd finished making the walnut babies, we decided to use the half-shells to make boats. I googled Walnut Boats and found a site called Made by Joel, which details how you can go about making them. In the course of the afternoon they sailed and sank a great many boats and enjoyed the process of making a sail, setting the boat afloat, sinking the boat, watching the colour run into the water from the sail and then...making a new sail again. Over and over.

And finally...Dinosaur-boy noticed that the walnut looked a little mousey when upturned:

And so walnut creatures were born.

While the children were creating flower gardens for the Walnut babies I returned to the Made by Joel site and practically passed out at the goodness I found there....this man is some kind of child entertainment machine (and I mean that in a completely complimentary way...I cannot imagine quite how wonderful it must be to be of this man's children and seeing how he makes something out of nothing for them nearly every day...magic before their eyes...he actually reminds me a little of my husband's father who has always invented things to amuse both his children and his grandchildren). Anyway, having crossed the walnut boats off the list, we can't wait to make these Made by Joel May Day flower baskets, a cereal box marble run and this amazing zip line toy, created from a paperclip, a bobbin and a button! And I found that we have already made freakishly similar dressed up people to those on his site (he made his back in February, so I'm guessing that we weren't the inspiration here!).

My American blogging friends seem to have already waved goodbye to their children...but for those of us in England, we have just one more week of the holidays's gone so quickly...and as I've named new school shoes and sewn on name tapes it has begun to feel like the week is just one big wobbly bottom lip (again, I'm keeping this one inside my head).

Florence x


  1. You always show the dearest little projects that you do with your children. You must have the patience of a saint--I would never be able to get that ribbon around the wooden ball :)

  2. When we were small we used to make things to fit inside walnut shells - little rooms or babies and animals. We all hated walnuts to eat but we had a great tree in the garden!

  3. Thanks for the link, which will provide many hours of fun, I think.

    And thanks also for allowing me to realise I'm not the only one who is dreading the start of school again - the children are wonderfully excited but I feel that the holidays have whizzed by, and I hugely resent having wasted two precious days trailing round finding school uniform and ending up feeling grumpy!

  4. I have made projects from that book with my children too. We have had fun but they definitely look nothing like the beautiful illustrations. We made the house and my daughter selected the most unsuitable unmatching wrapping paper for the walls and carpets. She liked it but I looked with longing at the co-ordinated one in the book. Glad it wasn't just me!

  5. I love those little walnut people! It's so sad for me though as my daughter is all grown up so I really can't have half of the things I want without seeming strange! Currently I want to crochet a rabbit and sew the little retro animals that I made in school, especially a cat and an elephant. I may be wrong but I kind of think I need a child to 'give' this sort of thing to rather than have them randomly lying around. I remember making things and there is some pressure to get things to look perfect (and the temptation to 'tidy up' childish creations). It's lovely though to come across the so called imperfect ones - they seem more authentic, when they are all grown up. I still have ornaments on the Christmas tree, that I can well remember making with my (rather impatient!) daughter. Your whole family seems very artistic and creative.

  6. Oooo, Let me tell you just how much I loovvvvvvvvvve these! I Do.
    The children have grown but I've always insisted the little girl in myself is alive and well. These would do the trick .

  7. Ah, I had forgotten the name tapes - I knew there was something that I had forgotten. My kids start on Weds and I only found out a few days ago that my daughter had got into her brother's school.

    The walnut people look really sweet. My kids are forever surprising me with their abilities, but I find it hard to come up with things that don't require adult input


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