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JENNA AND THE KITTENS:
A Discovery Process For Working With Children
March, 2002

As I recall, the very first Grandchildren's Project came about when Joel asked me to help him make a tent "and some stuff" for his GI Joe. Alas, in the early days I didn't think to take pictures of the very early projects when Jenna, Joel and Joseph painted and filled personal treasure chests and hutches using the unfinished trunks and hutches from Michaels. And unfortunately, I did not think to take pictures as she worked on this little project. I am just thrilled that I have this picture of her with her little project.

Five year old Jenna spent a Sunday afternoon with me in March. "I want to do a project, Nana."

"Okay, let's see what we can find to do." My eye fell on several inexpensive little resin animals - Something Critters - that I had bought at Pic'nSave once.

"You may pick one," I told her. "And we'll do a scene."
She chose two black and white kittens sitting side by side. I asked her: "What do kittens like to play with?"
"Yarn balls!" she said.
"Okay, then, do you want to make yarn balls?"
"Yes!"
I showed her some real yarn first. "Would this work?" I asked.
"No," she said. "It's too big."
So we looked through my collection of threads and smaller yarns and she picked a type that looked okay with her kittens and in her favorite colors - purple, pink and yellow.

I demonstrated each step, then she followed my directions. First, I inserted two flat toothpicks into the hole of three ¼ inch wooden beads to serve as a holder.

"Remember how we used the paintbrush when you painted your treasure chest?"
"Yes, we need to get it wet first, then wipe it on the paper towel, then put it in the paint."

First, she painted the beads in colors to match the yarn and poked them into a piece of styrofoam to dry. Then she covered a bead with glue and poked the end of the yarn into the hole in the top, then wound the yarn around, turning the toothpick to cover the bead with yarn.
We left tails on the balls about two inches long.

"That's too long, Nana."
"Yes, it probably is," I said, "but let's leave it until we decide how to use the yarn balls, okay?"
"Right."
"Now what do we do with our brushes?"
"We have to clean them," she said, and sloshed her brush in the water, then carefully pressed it dry with a piece of paper towel. "We have to take good care of our brushes so they don't stick out funny," she said.
"Right," I agreed, as I cleaned my brush, too.

"What do we do next?" she asked, cocking her head to one side and looking at her cats.
"Hmm," I said. "Well, what do kittens like to sit on?"
"A cushion," she said. "Let's make a cushion."

I let her choose the fabric for her cushion, pink and white.
"Notice how when we sit on something it mashes it down?"
"Yes."
"Then, we need to kind of hollow out the cotton in our cushion so it looks like the kittens are really sitting on it, right?"
"Right." She carefully pulled the cotton away from the center so that there was an indentation.

Next, I cut a square of the fabric, leaving about a half inch for gluing, and a piece of paper for the cushion's base. ("I'm not too good at cutting yet," she told me.)
I told her, "Now put a dot of glue in the center of the paper, then lightly press the cotton in place. Then we'll turn it over."
I applied glue along one edge of the back of the paper, and she did the other three. I demonstrated how to fold the fabric over the glued edge, first one side then the other.

"Notice," I said, "how when the two edges come together you have these little ears sticking up?"
"Yes."
"Well, when you get all the sides glued you'll have how many little ears?"
"Four."
"Right."

She carefully pulled the fabric over the glue, pressing it firmly in place. "Now, cut off those four ears," she said. I snipped off the ears and told her, "See, this is called a mitered corner. Now you can turn the cushion over and put your kittens on it."

"Oh, wow, it does look like a cushion." She put glue on the bottom of the kittens and then carefully set them in the center. "I need to press them down hard, don't I?" she asked. "so they're really mashing it down where they sit."

She decided where each of the yarn balls would go and glued them into place; two by the kittens' feet and the purple ball behind them, its tail looping over their bodies as if they were entangled in it. Once the balls were in place, I snipped off the excess yarn.

I thought about making a collar or a bow for the kittens, but decided to stop at that point before she got too tired. "I'm about ready to watch Jumanji; how about you?" I asked.
"Me, too."

I let her choose her container - a clear plastic box or a clear domed half-egg. She chose the box. Luckily, the cushion fit perfectly; next time we'll pick the container first!

"You need to have your name on this," I told her. I wrote on a label, Made at Nana's House, 3/10/02. Then she printed her name: Jenna. We stuck this onto the bottom of the box lid. She glued the cushion into the lid, then covered her scene with the box. We looked at it.

"It needs something, doesn't it?" I asked. "How about a bow on top?"
"Yes, it needs a bow." We used a piece of soft multi-colored lace in pinks and purples (I made the bow), and she chose inexpensive ribbon roses in gold, purple and pink to glue at the bow's center. The bow was glued to the top of the clear plastic box.

The last thing we did was to take her picture as she held her project. "It's beautiful, Nana. I will always keep this."

What better compliment can a miniaturist - or a grandmother - hear than that?"

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