My children are fascinated with the imagery of ancient Egypt, and one afternoon they asked if they could be Pharaohs. They seemed a bit surprised when I responded with a bright “yes!” and immediately set them to work making masks.
We started with an image search, an activity which has become a regular starting point when we have questions about the world. It was great to gain some shape and colour inspiration, but I didn’t see any need to provide complicated explanations about mummification or ancient history. Pharaohs are the “kings” of the pyramids in Egypt and that’s enough for three-year-olds, I think.
Our supplies for the project were: stiff white cardboard saved from a box (because I am that kind of hoarder), poster paint, gold glitter glue and some hat elastic. Each child had his own requirements for his mask: one wanted peep-eyes only and the other wanted his whole face to show. I drew and cut out the mask outlines, we mixed some appropriate colours and then the kids had free rein to design their mask however they liked.
This project provided an example of why it is best to let go of control. It would have been easy for me to try and dictate how a pharaoh should look, particularly when one of the boys basically painted his mask black. I was itching to tell him to do this and add that… but once the paint was dry and he added the gold glitter glue, his mask looked incredible and I was so glad I held my tongue. He was also pretty proud of it.
The other kid often spends more time mixing colours, for the fun of the experiment, than he does painting. In this case, he ended up with gorgeous turquoisey-teals that were entirely in keeping with the colours of a jewel-encrusted sarcophagus.
This was a quick and easy activity but it provided heaps of fuel for conversations, and the outcomes were clearly satisfying for the kids because they achieved something lovely on their own terms.