Well, here we are, in the midst of the covid-19 crisis and my family is facing the same reality as everyone else—being stuck at home, climbing the walls, with no work or school. I work a lot at home (that’s the life of a writer), but I’ve also had many of my creative writing classes cancelled, which means all my students are stuck at home, too.
There is only so much Netflix to watch, so many books to read, so many games to play—so I want to introduce some fun hands-on activities to help keep hands and minds busy.
The first one is building dragon eggs (or, if you prefer, magical creature eggs). I’ve built tons of eggs over the years, ranging from very simple and small ones to ones that are giant and complicated. I build them as props to help me imagine key elements in my books, to help my creative writing kids to be inspired, or as for treasures to use in my family’s annual dragon egg hunt.
I’ve also helped hundreds of kids build them as part of my creative writing classes, my art therapy classes for at-risk teens, and in my writer/artist residences in Canada, Korea, and Thailand.
There are two simple approaches to making dragon eggs that you can roll out with your kids, and, in this post, I’ll introduce the first one . . .
Dragon Eggs: The Sticker Approach
This is the style that you can use with the youngest of kids. My two-year-old, Hiro, even made one of these—admittedly, I did the painting, but he did do all the sticking.
What you will need:
- Eggs (real, plastic, or cardboard)
- Black paint
- Gemstone stickers
- Metallic or glitter paint
- Paint brushes
- Mod podge
First, let’s talk about the eggs. You can use plastic ones from your local dollar store (at this time of year, they are highly available), or cardboard ones (usually found at a higher end art supply or craft store), or actual eggs.
In the case of real eggs, you need to poke a hole in both ends, blow out the yolk, rinse the insides with hot water, then bake them at 325 degrees for twenty minutes to “cure” them. Real eggs are obviously more delicate than using the plastic forms, but they will work.
Once you have eggs sorted, follow these steps . . .
Step 1: Apply the stickers
Once the egg has been given a base color, apply the gemstone stickers. The only issue here is that if you apply the stickers, then change your mind and peel them off, they won’t stick as well upon reapplication, and you may need to use white glue to keep them down.
The great thing about the sticker application is that you can do it really randomly (like my two-year-old) and still produce an interesting pattern that makes the egg feel more magical.
Step 2: Paint with mod podge
In truth, you can just paint the egg at this point with your metallic or glitter paint, but a coat of mod podge will really bind the gemstones to the egg form and ensure its durability.
Also, the mod podge works its way into all the cracks and crevices, filling them in and making the surface just a little less bumpy. Don’t worry, it will dry completely clear!
Step 3: Paint black
After a lot of experimentation, I have found this produces the best final result. By painting the eggs black, you provide a rich base and makes whatever colors you apply over top to be more vivid and vibrant.
Step 4: Paint with your chosen colours
Once the black paint is dry, apply your chosen final colors. I find that metallic paints are the best, because they really make the eggs look distinctive or interesting—in other words, magical.
I often like to dry-brush the metallic paint on rather than glop it on because, once again, it allows a vibrant and interesting finish. But there are no rules here! Some students like to leave the acrylic gemstones gleaming through.
From our recent hatchling workshop at the kitchen table, this is Hiro’s egg:
And this is mine:
I actually think Hiro’s looks better, with the dispersion of bumps and shapes!
Step 5: Seal
This step is optional, but I usually like to add another coat of mod podge, just to ensure the paint or jewels don’t chip off. You can also simply spray with a finisher (you can buy these at any art store), but I find mod lodge does the job just as well.
If you’re looking for something extra to add to this project, well then there is plenty of storytelling and writing you can do. In my creative writing classes, I often ask my students to write care instructions. You can download the project sheet here.