Kenyan crafts for children to make

Written by kim hoyum
Kenyan crafts for children to make
Shields and spears are symbols of Kenyan culture. (Getty creative)

Kenyan culture is diverse, and the country is a melting pot for many tribes and peoples. Children's crafts can educate kids about Kenya and provide some fun. They are based on tribal and trade customs, and are relatable to cultures throughout Africa for future learning. Have kids make a mask, shield and spear, kigogo game or shell jewellery for a Kenyan experience.

Masks and shields

Cut out shapes from a 60- to 100-cm (2- or 3-foot) cardboard box to create a tribal shield or a smaller 30-cm (1-foot) box to make a ceremonial-style mask. Separately, trace face pieces, like eyes, nose, mouth and ears, and glue them on. For a shield, you can do the same for a pattern of abstract or animal designs. You can trace several layers if you want them to protrude more, or you can make larger features out of folded cardboard. Another method is to use papier-mache to stick the pieces together; then cover the mask or shield with it for a rougher surface. Just make sure to let the papier-mache set long enough. Use poster paint to create stripes, dots and other markings; then, if desired, you can punch holes in the sides and attach raffia or yarn for hair, stringing a handle across the back. For Kenyan art styles, choose designs from the Masai, Kikuyu, Luo or Akamba tribes. Some children may want a spear to go with the shield; attach a cardboard point on a wooden stick or dowel and tie a leather carrying thong to it.

Kigogo game

Kenyan crafts for children to make
A carved wood kigogo board, also known as "mancala," is shown with glass gemstones. A homemade version can use egg cartons and dried beans.

Also known as "mancala" or "oware" in different parts of Africa, this game is easy to make with household materials and provides kids with a game to play afterwards. In Kenya, it is called "kigogo." Use egg cartons and dried beans or small stones for counters. With tape or staples, attach one extra egg cup to each end of an egg carton with its top cut off. Paint the kigogo board in coloured poster paints and let dry. Each player will need 48 beans or stones to play. Game instructions can be found online or in the Resources section. You can also use candy or beads for the counters, extending the fun by letting kids eat the candy afterwards or use the beads they win to make a bracelet.

Cowrie crafts

Cowrie shells were one of the first African currencies and are still symbolic of wealth and fortune. They are a popular accent to Kenyan crafts and are used on everything from drinking gourds to handbags. Younger children can string cowrie shells on a leather thong to create bracelets or necklaces, while older children can embroider them onto a leather pouch. For jewellery, tie knots on either side of the shell, keeping it in place. You also can intersperse the shells with colourful beads. Cowrie shells can be found in bulk at craft stores and sometimes come with predrilled threading holes. You can thread leather, string or wire through each end of the cowrie without drilling holes, if you want them to sit end to end. If you want them to dangle from a thread and you don't have the predrilled kind, you can make small holes with a handheld power drill, but don't let kids do this. Wear work gloves and goggles; using a craft vice to hold the shells will also increase safety.

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