This site is about kids and parents spending Jewish time together making stuff that is fun, cute (kitschy counts as cute), cheap, and most of the time, functional. I aim for kid-centric. I like to help enable even toddlers to participate in holiday prep.
But making Jewish holiday accoutrements for Lego and Playmobil figures out of polymer clay, I admit, comes close to crossing a line. My preschooler can do little more than make freeform shapes and blobby ovoids, and when presented with more than one color of clay will gleefully end up with gradations of grey. Still, because scale and verisimilitude have not really occurred to him yet, he has a great time “making useful things” for his figurines.
Scale and verisimilitude is my dealie. Whilst the child next to me has fun rolling and smashing and pinching and blending, I get to make miniature accessories to outfit three communities of toys in our home: Duplo, Lego and Playmobil. And of course, they all celebrate the Jewish holidays.
One more note in my defense: this stuff is fun for older kids, too. Even surly preteens in Sunday School enjoy crafting teeny-weensy ritual objects (as long as you don’t actually use the word “teensy-weensy”) to turn into magnets, key chains, or jewelry. And if you bring a few Lego or Playmobil figs into art class, they will not be able to resist picking them up and perhaps even using them to build to scale.
Re-creating an object is a multi-faceted enterprise for a little kid or a big kid or a busy parent. We have to see the real object first, and then try to mimic it in miniature. How many skills come into play making a mini-shofar, for example? And how many questions might the task elicit? What is the meaning, the history, the function, the sound of a shofar? What animals do the different horn shapes and lengths come from? And why do we make a round challah for Rosh Hashanah but a long, braided one for all the other holidays? And so on. Making stuff means our brains and our hands are kept pretty busy. What may look like fastidiousness and too-much-time-on-her-hands craftiness is messy, smart fun.
So, here is the latest installment of my Mini Fig Holiday Series. The Duplo pictures, I posted earlier, here. Note that, even for those of us who are overzealous with notions of appropriate scale, many of the same objects can work for Duplo and Playmobil people. Lego mini figs, however, are usually too small for much overlap. They get their own gear. (Not that many kids will notice or care, so don’t draw attention to it if you don’t fancy making smaller duplicates of all the Playmobil gear.)
Any of this will work with Fisher Price Little People, but they don’t have arms, so they aren’t nearly as fun to play with. Barbie works, too, but I leave Barbie to the master of repurposing a secular doll: the Torah scribe who created (and recently updated) Tefillin Barbie.
Background reading: See Making Toys Jewish, an earlier post, which has a few pictures like Playmobil hamantashen, Playmobil Passover characters, and so forth.