day 1 – making paper people

Remember paper dolls? Grab a sheet of paper from the recycle pile beside your computer. Cut it in half so it’s about A5 size and make a concertina fold in four or six even sections. Small children will need help with this but if it’s a bit messy that doesn’t matter – kids learn from things that don’t quite work. Draw a figure – a princess in a ballgown, a dog, a cowboy or superhero, a clown – whatever your child’s into at the moment. MAKE SURE the figure touches both side edges in two places if possible. These contact points can be hands, the toes of shoes, bent elbows, skirts, the brims of hats, etc. Cut the figure out. DO NOT CUT along the contact points.

Children love to draw the faces, and then decorate and dress the people. A pencil or Biro will suffice but this can be the time to bring out coloured pencils, felt pens, and paint if you’re up to it. Have you got craft glue? Scraps of fabric, used wrapping paper and paper doilies make good ‘clothes’ so put newspaper on the table and stand back. It’s also an opportunity to dip into that leftover stuff: sequins, wool, feathers, braid, buttons, etc. You might like to gather this stuff in a shoe box for future use.

Ask questions along the way. Why has the guy on the end got a sad face? Would the cowboy in the middle like some rope? Or how about some cowhide chaps? Your child will start telling you all sorts of stories about the people, and you’ll be able to add to their knowledge too. You’ll be surprised at the details these interactions might add to the paper people. Don’t think of this as an Instagram opportunity, though it may be. The important bit is the time and fun you guys have making this. If the result is barely recognisable as a row of human beings it doesn’t matter.

Published by Dr Toni Risson

Dr Toni Risson is a storyteller and a cultural historian who has penned everything from children’s picture books to a PhD on the Magic of Lollies. An expert on the Greek cafe phenomenon, Toni curated Meet Me at the Paragon for the State Library of Queensland, and her latest book, Brisbane’s Greek Cafes: A Million Malted Milks, was a finalist in the 2019 Queensland Literary Awards. Having encountered the elegant Paragon Cafe in Katoomba as a child, Toni developed a fascination with silky oak panelling, bevelled mirrors and Art Deco wall lights long before she understood the stories behind Australia's iconic Greek cafe. She continues to document our lost café culture.

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