When it comes to gift-giving holidays (Christmas, birthday, etc), one of my main parenting goals is to teach that it’s better to give than to receive. One of the best ways I’ve found to get our kids excited about giving is to encourage handmade gifts. To me, there’s no better way to foster a deeper connection between gift giver and receiver than rolling up our sleeves and creating with someone else in mind. That’s why I was thrilled when my son was just as excited as I was about making this Wooden Acorn People project for his little sister’s 3rd birthday!
I first saw the idea in one of the Wild + Free monthly bundles, and Big C just took the idea and ran with it. (Also, FYI if you aren’t familiar with the Wild + Free Community, it’s an amazing resource for outdoor-minded parents of all types, not just homeschoolers!)
The only real cost of the project was the wooden peg dolls, which was pretty insignificant. I bought a package of 40 dolls in varying sizes for around $12 I think. We only made 17 or so, so we’ll save the extras for
whenever creativity strikes again when we inevitably lose some here or there. The rest of the materials we scrounged up from our art cabinet or gathered from nature walks.
You could make these dolls as simple or as complicated as you would like. We dragged the process out a little, but to be honest, they’d look awesome even if all you did was add a little acrylic paint. However, the nature items are a no-brainer, in my opinion! In fact, my favorite part of this project was watching the meticulous lengths my son went to to find the PERFECT materials to use. We spent weeks gathering acorns of all different sizes, to ensure we had a “hat” that would fit every doll juuuust right. Once we’d gathered all of our materials, we worked on them over the span of 3 Little Zu naptimes – one day for painting, one day for gluing on hats, and the last day for gluing on felt and accessories – beads, scarves, etc.
When we got to the gluing stage, I got a little more involved (Big C has seen me burn my fingers with the hot glue gun so many times he won’t go near it…probably a good thing!) But although I did the grunt work of the gluing, my son was still the mastermind – he was very particular about who wore what color felt, who got a bead, who got a scarf, etc. If I’m being completely honest, he spent SO much time on these dolls, that I started to wonder if my plan might backfire…What if he got so invested in these dolls he had trouble giving them up?!?
We finished them up about a week ahead of time, and my son’s anticipation leading up to the big day was simply delightful. Whenever he saw his sister playing with her little dollhouse dollies or any other type of small figurine, he’d elbow me and exchange a knowing glance. Actually, it was usually more of a loud whispering “Just wait til she sees her you-know-whats!!!” than the subtleties a glance would afford.
When the big day finally came, I’m not sure who was more excited – gift giver, or receiver, which of course, was the original plan all along! Her reaction was exactly what he was hoping for, and she played with them all afternoon, separating them into family groups. (Here’s the mommy one. Here’s her baby one. These are the Daddy ones. And so on and so forth.)
And my favorite part? There’s no one she’d rather play with her new acorn people with than her big brother. She may only be three, but I think in a lot of ways she does understand the hard work he put in to her gift. Now if only I could find something that tiny 3 year old hands could make to return the favor – because big brother turns 7 next week!