Monday, July 1, 2019

"Mummy? Is That You?"

Oh, the vibrant beauty and rich mystique of ancient Egyptian culture! Here, solemn ritual meets engineering wonder with enough of a dose of creepiness to satisfy a pair of 10 year old boys at Grandma Camp! Their 8 year old cousin doesn't mind either. She's a team player all the way, part of one trio of campers I entertained last week, striving for a satisfying combination of historical learning, crafting, and deliciously gory fun!

Kids of that age still look forward to their turn with grandma, but they're ready for intrigue and  challenge. Fuzzy puppets don't cut it anymore, but "mummy making" checks off every box...(oops! I mean sarcophagus!).

The best intro to this topic arrives via generously illustrated books. I use them to briefly describe the attention given passage to the afterlife by upper class people of this culture: upon arrival, the person would "need things" - a remarkable stash of supplies dutifully buried with the body of the deceased. The centerpiece of all this finery is the burial capsule - a sarcophagus - the first word on a list of terms we're now as comfortable with as a seasoned Egyptologist!

Kids page the books, intrigued by what they see. Nick's been a fan of mummies for a half dozen Halloween seasons, but even he had only vague ideas about what lies beneath layers of linen wrappings! He joins his brother and cousin, completely absorbed, marveling over fascinating discoveries.

I'm surprised and impressed at how this trio immerses themselves in the material. For 20 minutes or so, only the sound of silence accompanies awakening understanding of the mummy-making process!

Supplies for assembling - and filling! - our own sarcophagus chambers appear, and we're on our way! Grandma's research has unearthed an authentically well designed paper replica. Presented as a pencil case, this free printout at Lonely Planet Kids is a worthy learning tool, employing math and crafting skills in the process of construction.

A two page pattern, printed on brown card stock, goes to each junior archaeologist. Kids choose paints or markers for color, consulting books for authenticity. Tiny stick-on "jewels" accent their work. (Find these at major craft stores in the sticker aisle.)

Each of the children carefully chooses colors and paints with pride. I am pleased, attributing our success partially to my purchase of quality materials. Sable size 2 rounds make a fine point, and the young artists comment on how easy it is to stay within the lines as they apply craft acrylic paint.

Once complete, tops and bottoms are carefully cut, dashed lines scored and folded, corners glued, and coffins are ready for occupancy!

But who's going to dream away inside each eternal dwelling? Well, grandma's got that covered, too! In fact, we have a choice! 

The easiest way to wrap and roll is with a simple home made stitched body, sized to fit the 6" coffin interior. I pass them out (eyes inked in for added spooky fun!) with 1/2" strips of muslin.

As we wrap, we secure additional "jewels" (amulets) within our folds because that's the way things were done in the waaaay long ago past! Some 4,600 years ago, to be precise!

A bit more involved is a body (6" height limit!) of collected twigs, glued together and topped with a salt dough head. This one sports tiny rice teeth for a nice authentic touch!

With dinner time approaching, we settle for "wrapping things up" 😉 with soft bodies, but as we "close the lid" on this project, our plans include returning soon to make life size stick mummies for Halloween use!

Hope you enjoyed our trip way back in time! Grandma's tired now. Going to lay down inside my sarcophagus. Wake me up in 4,600 years, please!

This is not a sponsored post.

Wonderful books on this topic abound. Choose one(s) illustrated with the process of mummification and views both out and inside the coffin. We enjoyed these volumes:

The Egyptology Handbook: A course in the Wonders of Egypt - The Templar Company Plc. 2005
an illustrated fictitious diary of "Miss Emily Stone's" ill-fated expedition to find the tomb of Osiris

Mummies - National Geographic Kids - Elizabeth Carney 2009
32 pages of graphically photographed mummies representing several cultures and preservation methods

Pyramids and Mummies - Simon and Schuster - Anne Bolton 2007
large, triangular shaped, and informative - features fold outs and pockets of extra goodies (our favorite of the batch!)

Kids Discover Magazines - Mark Levine, publisher
Pyramids, Ancient Egypt, and Mummies titles - lots of info in a very appealing format for children

Fictional fun reading: 
Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine - Scholastic, Inc. - (grade 3-5 reading level):

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb - 1993
The Return of the Mummy - 1994
The Mummy Walks - 1999

Suggested list of terms to learn: Egyptology, sarcophagus, canopic jar, pyramid, Book of the Dead, pharaoh, mummification, linen, amulet

Lonely Planet Kids (AU) is a terrific source for educational inspiration and project ideas. Look here (on the blog) for excellent free printables on a variety of topics in science, nature, and history.

Salt dough recipe for mummy head: Mix and knead 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup water - air dry, bake at 300F for one hour, or microwave in 10 second bursts before painting - for amount needed for 2 or 3 mummy heads only, mix 1/4 cup flour, 1/8 cup salt, and 1/8 cup water


  1. Oh my goodness, the three oldest are really growing up right before our eyes. And, I LOVE the shirts. :-) Now, that I have that out of the way, I can applaud you and your efforts to bring quality learning experiences to an all encompassing fun filled week. I hate to repeat myself, but if there was a Crafty Grandma Contest, friend, you'd win it hands down, and the rest of us would stand and applaud at the ceremony. Once again, you did a spectacular job at Grandma Camp. :-)