Thursday, June 28, 2012

Only Cavemen Can Write on the Walls

Do you remember making dioramas in school? They probably involved a cardboard box, a few lessons about habitats, and begging your mom for craft supplies. I made my first diorama in third grade for an open house. This was back when open houses meant your parents came to your school to inspect your work. If you made a convincing case, you could generally count on a trip to the ice cream shop afterward. So this was a big deal. Anyway, my diorama involved turned a shoe box into a desert, I think because we had a sand box in the back yard, which meant half my work was already done. I stole a camel from the nativity set (The wise men were already there. What did they need a camel for?) and borrowed my mother’s compact mirror to look like a pool of water in the middle of the desert. (Or in case the camel needed to reapply mascara.) I don’t remember what grade my teacher gave me, but I’m sure I got ice cream.

Not wanting my kids to miss out on this childhood pleasure, I had them use a Safari Ltd Toob to recreate a prehistoric world. We used the Prehistoric Life set, which includes a dozen small figures from the Pleistocene epoch. How do you pronounce Pleistocene, you say? I have no idea. I had to look it up just to have a shot at spelling it right. Here’s a look at the toys: 

You won't see these at the zoo
First we got out our encyclopedias to figure out which of these creatures should be eating the trees and which ones should be eating each other. Yes, we have encyclopedias in the house. Yes, I know there is a thing called the Internet. But I don’t need my six-year-old seeing ads with women in bathing suits trying to sell a granola bar or whatever.
Brennen finding information without seeing advertisements for online dating sites

Then we got out the glue, which led to an immediate feeding frenzy. Why do kids assume glue tastes good? In fact, how do kids innately know that some things taste better than others? Put a plate of carrots and a bowl of jelly beans in front of a child, and they go for the jelly beans every time. But I digress. Some of the glue actually made it where it needed to go.  

Princess Glue Stick
Sir Sticks-a-lot
Check that. A lot of glue. No amount of coaching can get a two- and four-year-old to use less glue. If the bottle is not empty, they need to apply more glue. Or eat more of it.

Once we had the thing looking colorful, the kids grabbed rocks, sticks, and leaves from the yard, driveway, and my wife’s landscaping to give their diorama a more realistic feel. 

My three children deciding the fate of a Woolly Mammoth

Then came the tough part: deciding where to put all the realistic replicas. My oldest insisted that each animal be engaged in some sort of life-or-death duel with another figure (including the Saber Tooth Tiger battling a volcano). My daughter wanted every animal blissfully munching leaves. In the end, we didn’t glue down the animals at all, so everybody can play with the diorama as they wish: Death Match, Vegetarian Delight, or anything in between.

Brennen insists that one of the animals should fly

As you can see, the final product looks great! Plus the kids have a toy they can rearrange and play with over and over again. I was so impressed, I decided to take them out for ice cream. Maybe it will mask the glue flavor.

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