There’s something about the world in miniature.
I spent a few hours this past week at the Hoover Dam. The dam and the nearby bridge that spans the Colorado River are immense. But my favorite part of the trip there was checking out a scale model of the tributaries, reservoirs, and dams along the Colorado River Basin made of plaster of Paris, all painted and labelled (there was even an excellent, ridiculously dated audio show illustrated with different spotlights highlighting the areas discussed). You could look across the topography of the Grand Canyon, past Las Vegas and across the southern valleys of California to Los Angeles – there was even a little strip of the Pacific Ocean at the other side of the room.
Models and miniatures have a magic to them, especially when you are little yourself – I used to have a zoo of tiny plastic animals when I was a kid, as well as a mini longhorn ranch, a dollhouse, Legos, GI Joes, and so on. Being a kid is mostly spent pretending you are bigger than you are. My cousins Liv and Brenna are the same way – they can spend hours playing with Polly Pocket or building houses for fairies out of leaves, twigs, and tiny objects.
When I saw this brilliant mini-kitchen set on Made By Joel, I knew it was just what I wanted to make for Liv’s sixth birthday. I set off to my local Creative Reuse Shop (you have one of those, right?) and hunted through the “random” box for odd bits of felt, thin colored foamboard, and a tiny cap to use for a soup pot.
But after I made the kitchen set I had a moment of self-loathing. I made a kitchen set for a little girl who isn’t even that interested in cooking? What is this, the 1950s? I decided to make a science lab too, probably a better choice for Liv in the first place, as she loves doing experiments: earlier this summer she planted every seed she could find in the house, is always adding weird stuff to her plastic aquarium, and is fascinated by insects.
I had a ton of fun making these tiny sets. Hopefully Liv has as much fun playing with them.
what you need:
wire / needle-nose pliers I used thin metal paper clips, straightened them out and then bent them into the shapes of a test-tube holder, microscope stand, whisk, etc. using a pair of pliers (needle-nose pliers are great here; I only had a thicker pair and it was pretty frustrating). I also used an emeryboard to file off the sharper ends of the wire per Made By Joel’s suggestion.
mint tin I had two mint tins, one a bit shorter, for the two sets. I cut out foam that was sticky on one side for the tops (although it is not necessary) and then painted them with non-toxic acrylic paint and painted the designs on with a medium-tip black marker.
thin foam / felt I used these for the food and cutlery in the kitchen set as well as the lab goggles and beaker in the lab kit. The eggs are pieces of foam with a yolk of yellow paint in the middle.
bits of wood I used thin, tiny pieces of wood in the shape of trees found at the Creative Reuse Store for a little skillet – you can paint this black if you like. I also carved tiny test tubes out of twigs (I obviously really wanted test tubes), painted them white, and drew on measuring lines with a marker. The microscope is also a piece of wood painted black. Pistachio shells painted blue with a tan interior are great bowls.
various objects Look around and see what you can find! I made a tiny box out of cardboard, petri dishes out of plastic beads, . Look for things that could stand in for cups, bowls, and cutlery. Look for inspiration in your junk drawer. You can also make things out of oven-bake clay.