The Victorian era spanned from 1837 to 1901, during the reign of Queen Victoria. Before off-the-shelf ornaments and the widespread use of chromolithography printing became available, Victorians enjoyed decorating with homemade crafts and handcrafted ornaments. Keep kids happily occupied for hours with authentic Victorian paper dolls, ornament-making, découpage and paper chain craft projects.
Gilded walnut christmas tree ornaments
Victorians adorned their Christmas trees with home-crafted ornaments. One type of these ornaments is the gilded walnut. Children of all ages can enjoy this craft project. Buy several large English walnuts, gold acrylic craft paint, a couple of small paintbrushes and ornament hooks. Have the kids paint the walnuts with gold paint. Allow them to dry an hour or two. After they're dry, the kids can adorn the walnuts with glitter, ribbons or whatever small craft supplies you have on hand. Insert ornament hooks in the top of the walnuts when finished and hang the finished product on the Christmas tree.
Victorians used the craft of découpage, which is the art of cutting, pasting and then finishing with a layer of découpage medium such as Mod Podge (you can find this product in your local craft shop). You can découpage small pictures onto pots, vases, bowls, soaps or any flat item. Old jars are inexpensive and work well for a child's découpage project, and children enjoy applying pictures cut from magazines, old cards or newspaper comics. If you'd like the craft project to have authentic elements, access a variety of authentic découpage prints on the Virtual Victorians website (see Resources). Have your kids cut out prints, apply them by painting the backs with a small amount of Mod Podge (a small paintbrush works well), stick them to the jar, and then apply a layer of Mod Podge over the top to finish the item. Children can use the jars as a piggy banks, vases or special containers.
Holiday paper chains
Victorians began this tradition by stringing together scraps of coloured paper, and you can use homemade paper chains as decorations for several occasions. Elementary schools use the simple craft project to decorate classrooms, and kids love the activity at home, too. Cut several 2.5 cm 12.5 cm (1 inch by 5 inch) strips out of coloured construction paper. Children can tape or glue the ends to make loops, and each loop should link to the next. Kids can interchange colours and make the chains as long as they want. Use the finished product as garland.
Authentic Victorian paper dolls
Access a variety of authentic paper dolls from 1859 on the Victoriana website (see Resources). Print the paper dolls on heavyweight paper and cut out the paper doll figures for an extra-special craft project; your kids may enjoy cutting the dolls out themselves, if they're old enough. Provide scrapbooking materials, felt tip pens, crayons or whatever art supplies you have on hand. Children will love colouring, decorating and playing with their new Victorian paper dolls.