Have your kids ever expressed interest in making art on the walls? What about the walls of a cave, like prehistoric people? It sounded like an experience we were missing out on, and not being lucky enough to have any real caves in our backyard, we set about building one. Then came the fun of decorating it!
It all started with a book. I can recite Cave Baby by Julia Donaldson from memory, and truth to tell, I often do. There were a couple of weeks when every night, once the lights were off, Budster would ask for it, and I would whisper it into his ear. It’s actually one of my favourite picture books we own as well – definitely the kind I don’t get tired of reading, no matter how many times I did so over the last years.
In the story, a mischievous cave baby tries painting on the walls. His parents aren’t too keen on the idea of having the walls of their cave decorated with squiggles, but the baby’s art finds admiration in the eyes of a mammoth’s family. The story is good and witty, and the illustrations by Emily Gravett are charming.
So, after recounting the cave baby’s adventures for about the hundredth time, we decided to follow his example and create some cave art. Now, the problem was where to find the cave. We weren’t acquainted with any mammoths who needed a cave redesign, so we had to start by building the cave. The art project turned out into a building project, and we went hunting for a big box.
Are you ever jealous of those huge cardboard boxes people turn into amazing toys? I must admit sometimes I am. No such luck here since we haven’t bought any fridges or washers lately. The best we could find was a 22x22x21″ moving box, but all in all, it wasn’t a bad fit for my little cave man.
To make the box taller, I taped the bottom flaps together and reinforced them with another piece of cardboard (as you can see on the right picture). That’s how the box immediately grew about 10″ taller. Then I cut the cave entrance out.
I’m sure that for children who have a ton of imagination and can find figures of “mommy, daddy and me” in a splash of water on the floor, a box with an entrance is more than enough to symbolize a cave. As a matter of fact, Budster also turned it into a boat, a space rocket and a crib. Here he turned the box upside down and told me that he was going to sleep in it.
But if you and the kids find it interesting to give more cave-like texture to the cave, you can spend another hour and decorate it with crumpled brown bags. It was rather amazing to see how it transfigured the common u-haul box. The process is described in detail over at Raising Cajuns where I got the idea.
In the end, we got this cave!
The cave can be further adorned with leaves, flowers and branches, which we did outside. Everything is more fun outside on a nice summer day, isn’t it? We also created a little sign by pushing a hole out in the front of the box, sticking a branch into it and hanging a piece of cardboard from it.
Budster started with drawing on the outer walls and the sign.
Then he moved inside of the cave and continued leaving squiggles there. I recited some parts of the book for him and made a few illustrations of a mammoth, a bear, and other animals for Budster. For a more authentic experience, you can use charcoal with older kids and look at the actual pictures of cave art beforehand. I was surprised how graceful the shapes were and had fun, trying to replicate a prehistoric vision of a bear.
That’s how the cave looked when we were done with it – much homier!