When we moved into our new house, the walls in my newly three-year-old’s room were bare, the furniture lackluster. I wanted to make it magical and special, but I wanted it to be completely her own too, so I’d been waiting to see more of what she loves and get a better idea of her favorite things. And then one day before her nap, we lay in bed, our eyes closed, and she told me of the imaginary fireflies that flew in her room, the purple walls, the giant flowers, and the story she tells on repeat of the fox in the woods. She loves the woods. During some sweet moments I’ll catch her before her nap just staring out the window out past the garden, dreaming up all sorts of adventures with that fox. My husband and I have gone into her room numerous times to pick her up and move her back to her bed after she’s fallen asleep at the windowsill, having drifted off to the sight of the woods and garden.

After her nap that day I decided to surprise her with a fun craft for her room. We started with the beloved fox.

I tried to remember how to craft a papier-mâché sculpture, and we grabbed what we could in our cozy quarantine house. As I rummaged around trying to find bits of paper that I could use as a base for the fox, I came across a mess of a pile of scribbles she’d drawn out over time, squiggly lines and colors and some smiley faces, a crushed paper-chain link garland we’d made for her dad’s birthday, and a crumbled-up treasure map we’d made together. I’d kept all her meaningful pieces safe and hadn’t had the heart to toss a single thing from this pile of doodles and torn-up pages we made. I thought this might be a perfect stuffing for the fox. Almost like a time capsule of sorts. And I’m so excited to eventually tell her about all the little special things stuffed inside that are so filled with joy.

I crumbled up these papers into a big ball, wrapped them in aluminum foil, and started to sculpt the fox. “What about the ears, Momma!” “Don’t forget the whiskers!” She helped me all the way until our big tin blob started to resemble a fox.

After that was the most fun part, a plethora of little giggling moments I’ll always remember: a simple sticky recipe to make your own glue for the papier-mâché. She helped me measure out the ingredients, and I stirred them together on the stove till we had a big boiling bubbling pot of goop! We let the glue cool while we found scraps of paper from around the house, and then we dipped each piece into the pot, squeezed off the excess glue, and slapped it onto our fox. Oh, the joy of mucking paper strips into a big gooey pot with a three-year-old. We laughed and smiled all the way. As we placed the paper on our fox, we thought up a name for it. Fig, she calls it, after one of her favorite characters. We had such fun making that fox. I managed to create an open mouth for it, and when I came back from helping her baby brother she’d added a tongue lapping over its teeth, making it look like he was happily grinning.

After we let her fox dry for a few days, I mixed burnt umber and some Venetian red watercolor paint and we started painting. As the days went by, I left the brush out and a little bit of water so she could paint some more. She just loved this fox, and each day she would add a few more spots. And there was no mess, as she just used the water to move around the paint that was already there.

Finally, it was done! The fox sprung to life, and we took her right up to her room. She lives on the shelf now, and my daughter tells me that the fox helps chase away her bad dreams.

It was such a delightful project. It still makes me happy thinking of all the good memories tucked into the stuffing inside and all the magical memories we had making it.

Next I think we might try to make giant bluebell flowers out of paper and wire, so that she can feel like a little Thumbelina—and we can make all her garden room dreams come to life.

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