Sunday, 14 March 2010

kids costumes: elephant and giraffe

Words to bring dread to every parents heart - "we need costumes". Usually this is around Christmas when mums and dads across the UK are busy turning their offspring into kings, shepherds, sheep,angels etc etc etc. When we were in England this would be me too. The envelope would arrive stating which part your child had in the Christmas play and what costume they would be. The mums (and some dads) would start to gather in little groups as they discussed where little Lucy's angel costume came from last year and could anyone borrow it. Old curtains turned into capes, teatowels into headdresses, E-Bay scoured for any castoffs. This Christmas just gone we were at an International School and so there was none of this; it was quite surreal sitting in the hall hearing all the carols for the Christmas show, they have just started to play the ocarina in music lessons and so I watched my daughter play exactly the same songs as the previous year in the UK (where she started learning last year with exactly the same book!) but without all usual costumes and plays that have been part of every Christmas since they were in Nursery (so about 6 years since R was 2).
What they have here in Germany instead in the run-up to Easter is Fasching. This is a kind of carnival season. Each town has a different day for the childrens carnival the shops fill with costumes, wigs and face paints. There is even a womens night when women go out armed with scissors and are allowed to cut the tie off any man they meet. The school had a Fasching day when everyone had to come in costume and the theme was "jungle". Not particularly helpful when you have a wardrobe full of princess costumes and such. However the good news was that we were told about a month in advance so we had plenty of time to make something spectacular.
R and A chose what they wanted to be; a giraffe and elephant respectively. Having had a similar "the only thing I want to be is a triceratops" experience last year at World Book Day I decided to make animal hats for them to wear out of papier mache.
The first thing I did was collect together lots of cardboard and lots of tape.
Out of some corrugated cardboard I made a kind of "arch" to fit over their head from jaw to jaw. The end of the "arch" was then closed off with tape so that the measurement from front to back is the same as their head front to back. (the corrugations in the cardboard run front to back to allow it to curve in the arch shape)

Then I constructed a cardboard head for each animal that went on the top.

I used cereal box thickness cardboard for most of the head with corrugated cardboard wherever I thought it might be used to carry the thing (like the trunk or the jaw). Lots of tape is the key to holding these together. The trunk was made from rings of cardboard that I overlapped and stuck together to make the trunk curl upwards away from A's face so that 1. he could see and 2. he was less likely to hit anyone with it when he moved around.
What followed was a family craft activity with everyone helping stick about 3 layers of torn up newspaper over the heads. We used PVA adhesive that was watered down to the thickness of milk to do the actual sticking. There are many recipes for home-made papier mache paste involving flour and water that are cheap to make and easy to use but you have to take the time to "cook" the stuff in the first place and then it starts to stink if you keep it for more than a few days so you have to make several fresh batches if you want to do just a little everyday for a few weeks. Just watering down glue from a bottle is an awful lot more spontaneous. Then followed a final layer of torn kitchen roll. This helps "kill" the newsprint ready for decoration.

Painting came next and was again done by us all.

Finishing touches. For the giraffe we added a fabric neck with spots made from brown fleece and a mane made from fleece too. For the elephant we added big floppy ears made from grey fleece (attached to struts that I stuck on a part of the papier mache). Both hats then had ribbons glued in place so that they could be tied under the kids chins to make them secure enough for them to move about with them on.
They were a huge success and the drama teacher even wants to borrow them to use as inspiration for the Lion King production in the Upper school as the kids could move around so easily in them. The digital gremlins have apparently eaten some of the step by step photos I took of the process so I hope the above makes sense if you are inspired to make your own.

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