One of my favorite things about living in Japan is the fact that my children have learned so many beautiful crafts at school on a daily basis. Their Japanese kindergarten, which each of them attended until age 7, was completely play-based and all the children burst out of school every day with recycled shopping bags filled to the brim with playthings they made. Our job as parents was to regularly provide the school with clean, empty recyclables (milk cartons, plastic bottles, shopping bags, miscellaneous boxes and ribbons and papers), and to find a place for all these treasures once they came home. The best thing about making your own playthings is that your child learns to see treasure in trash and found materials, and gains confidence that he can always make something for himself to play with. Daily crafting gives fine motor skills a real boost, too.
My younger son Daniel graduated from Japanese kindergarten this past spring. Graduates are sent off at a beautiful ceremony and party. Parents work in secret for weeks beforehand making all sorts of handmade paper creations to adorn the party room. My favorite decorations were the garlands of tissue paper flowers like the ones shown above. These are a simple yet beautiful craft which both boys learned to do during their kindergarten years. These are quick and easy for little hands to make. My children love making these celebratory garlands for us to use at home for anniversaries or birthdays or just-because days. They're also beautiful on top of a wrapped gift in lieu of ribbon.
Here's how you get started.
Take a few sheets of tissue paper (5-10 sheets). Contrasting or complementary colors are nice. Lay them out flat on a table in front of you, stacked on top of one another.
Begin to fold them from one end, accordian-style, like a fan (very important).
When you've folded all the way to the end, fasten a rubber band or tie a piece of string to secure in the middle.
Lay it down on the table and begin fanning the ends out on both sides, as shown below.
Now start to gently separate the papers from one another and fluff them up towards the center one layer at a time.
You're done! Try this with different colors or different sized pieces of paper. The bigger the paper, the more sheets you'll need to fill out the flower. One neat variation would be to trim the ends of the folded paper with craft scissors to make little zigzags or wavy edges after you fasten it in the middle (but before spreading out the edges).
Let me know how your children enjoy this project!