05 Oct DIY dolls and puppets for Krishna conscious play
I believe that making puppets and dolls for our children is a much better option than buying them. Of course, we can not make all the toys, and we can not avoid buying the toys from time to time or receiving them as a gift. But, making a toy for the child is an act of special care and love that child is going to remember because we give a message to the child that it is worth our special effort. We also model the importance of handwork over machine-made products, which I believe is a needful remark to today`s automated world. And we can choose the materials for our handwork to be natural and child-friendly, that is not always the case with the ready-made toys from today`s commercial market.
I have made varieties of Krishna conscious puppets for my kids over the years that I want to share with you in a few articles, starting from today. But before that, I would like to highlight an important fact that you might be missing: there is no need for perfection, the young children need simple things. The rule is – the younger the child, the simpler the visual presentation. There is absolutely no need to spend hours to make the puppet of Krishna with so many fancy details with the hope that we will delight the child. Most probably, the child is not even going to notice all those details because his consciousness is not ready to perceive the details yet. At a young age, the children perceive the whole picture and the overall sensation of their surroundings. When playing with things and toys, they use a great deal of imagination that gives them another kind of perception. We can not explain logically why a child is attracted to some things and not to others. I remember when my daughter was very young, she had not noticed the beautiful Radha and Krishna Gopal soft toys that we bought in Mayapur. I would put the dolls in front of her, but she was absolutely ignoring them. But later, when she was about 4 or 5, she had started finally to play with them and to love them more and more, until the point they become her favorite toys. Before that age, she preferred smaller toys that could fit into her hand, like the wooden peg dolls. So, let` start with them.
Wooden peg dolls are great for making table puppets for children. They can easily fit into the child`s hand, they can stand stably on most of the surfaces, they are natural, and you can make more of them as a set. I ordered the peg dolls from our local carpenter, and then I painted them with acrylic paint. I made a doll of Krishna, Balarama, four cowherd boys, Mother Yashoda, and Nanda Maharaja. First I painted them with basic color – blue for Krishna, white for Balarama, yellow for all others. Then I had to wait for it to dry. When it dried, I pained all other details – first dhoti`s and sari for mother Yashoda, then the belts, hair, hands, then garland, and the face in the end. It is quite a slow process because I had to wait for each layer to get dry. I finally varnished them with two coats of varnish (I used ecological water-based colors and varnish). It took me two-three days to complete them all, but it can be done in one day if you can spend more hours continuously on this work (what I usually can not afford).
But, as I said in the beginning, if you make these dolls for children younger then four years old, you can paint them more simple, or you can draw a basic design on them with pencils or markers, or you can draw only the face and tie the fabric around the body as dhoti. The first two dolls I made prior to this set were Krishna, Balarama, and two cowherd boys painted in one color only (blue for Krishna, white for Balarama, and yellow for the cowherd boys) and the simple face. The kids liked them and did not notice that something is maybe “missing”.
But later I had a desire and enough time to “expand” the family and to add more details, but still in a simple manner. My kids enjoyed playing with these dolls a lot, and we have made a table – theater of Krishna`s pastimes quite a few times. Because they are small, you can use wooden or some other blocks and loose parts to build a house, a playground, a forest, or a garden for them. Children can play with them inside the house or outside on the sand and ground (you can wash them but not too often) – so many possibilities for play and for storytelling with these dolls. It was worth spending a few days making them, to be used later for years. Only just around the age of six, the kids had stopped to show more interest in the peg dolls.
A Mataji form Mayapur (unfortunately, I forgot her name) has been making and selling these dolls for many years, I do not know if she does it still now. She makes many sets according to pastimes of Krishna in Vrindavan, Krishna in Dwaraka, Rama-lila, Nrisimha-lila, etc. They are super beautifully painted because Mataji is an artist. They are a little smaller than our peg dolls and much fancier. If you have a young child I recommend you buy these dolls, they will be used for many years and assist in your child`s development of Krishna consciousness through play. Or better, if you have some time and goodwill, paint or pencils, and a carpenter nearby, try to make them yourself!
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