Dolls & Toys Make Believe — 24 January 2012
Nutshell Boats

Many a year ago, children had no toys. Imagine if you will, a time before toy stores and plastics, a time before electronic games. This was a time where children had to be resourceful and creative to occupy their long hours in the summer sun. Yes, of course there were chores and study, but aside from that, the toys of the day were little things the children found and combined with their rich imaginations.

The chores children performed included carrying wood, husking corn, gathering berries, leading oxen, carding wool, gathering
eggs and churning butter.  This work was often turned into play as children snag and skipped along while performing their duties.

When the children did have time to play, they enjoyed the same games that their parents and grandparents had played when they were young. And so it was, passed along from generation to generation. Technology may be speeding up, but I do not believe that we humans evolve as fast as the technology around us.

These wonderful little boats are a family activity that will connect you with your child and allow the space to slow down in a normally fast paced world.

You will need

Walnuts (how many boats do you wish to make?)
A large knife & board to open
Candle (we like beeswax)
A tooth pick or a small stick or twig
Paper, cloth or leaves
Water for sailing away

Use the knife to split the walnut carefully and remember to take the nut out. What you want is a perfectly shaped half.

Cut a small shape out of the paper or cloth to create a sail.

Your sail can be a rectangle or a triangle – get creative. It may be good to make several to try different shapes to see which sail best. Natural leaves make beautiful little boats but if you are using paper, you can also color or paint your sails.

Now, light the candle and drip some wax into the walnut. If you have candles left over from holidays or birthdays,  perfect. You are also recycling and making the most use of things (which is a very valuable lesson for children, especially these days).

Beeswax is really best for this, but any candle wax works.

Just remember to only place a small amount into the nut shell. Adding too  much wax will weigh them down and they may sink – we do not want that!

Thread the cocktail stick or matchstick through the top and bottom of the paper sail to form a mast.

Then insert into the wax before it cools.

You will have to hold it there for a moment. Yes, I know tape makes this easy, but I like to make the child hold it and wait, perhaps blowing gently while inhaling the sweet beeswax aroma. I have found small moments like these teach patience and reverence without any lecturing as it is all in the experience. Remember that it is the journey which is often more important than the destination.

When all cooled that the mast stands on it’s own, they are ready to set sail.

This is a great little toy, which amused all three of my children for hours and hours. They love to put them into puddles, so no stream or creek is necessary (though to see them go downstream and send them off with wishes is fun too!) If you do not have a puddle, then a large bowl, barrel, pail or even the bathtub works just as well.

Walnut boats are the perfect example of allowing a child the empowerment to make his or her own toy, use the imagination and natural materials that are fairy easy to gather and be deeply involved in play that soothes the soul and senses, from the beeswax, to enjoying the nuts, to having to carefully pierce their sails onto the masts, these little treasures inspire all sorts of wonderful imaginative play.

It is also magical how such simple things can become favorite and cherished toys. My children still have their small basket of their small acorn and walnut boats (the ones that were not sent away with wishes).

Here are some wonderful books to inspire toy making and play things from a simpler time…

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Kytka Hilmar-Jezek

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