Christmas, Snips And Snails

Brown Paper

About 20 years ago, someone gave me a big roll of brown paper.  I lugged it home thinking I could do something artsy with it, although I had no idea what.

So I stuck it in the back of the closet until such time as an idea came to me.  And there it stayed for about 10 years until I moved and stashed it in the back of yet another closet for another ten years.  Then I had a child.  And an idea.  And the brown paper was finally put to use.

About once a week, Sean and I will get out the big roll of brown paper and stretch out six or eight feet on the floor and make something. Because that’s what we do. We make stuff.  We’ve got crayons and markers and we are not afraid to use them.

Last year, he was really interested in the rain forest, so we read a book on the rain forest and we learned about the various animals that inhabit each layer. Then we rolled out about 8 feet of our trusty brown paper and drew a ginormous tree and worked together to create a verticle mural of the rain forest from the river to the canopy.  It was fun and educational and a great way to kill a rainy afternoon.


The year he was four,  around Christmas time, we rolled out the brown paper and I had him lay down on it so that I could trace his outline.  Then he painted and drew himself as a Santa and we cut it out and displayed it on the wall.  You deck your halls with boughs of holly, we deck ours with dwarf-sized brown paper Santas.  We made another brown paper “Seanta” last year and again this year and it’s been fun to see how he has grown, physically and artistically.


Twenty years ago, I had no idea what I would do with that roll of brown paper.   The roll is almost gone and I still don’t know what I’ll do with it from day to day, but I know it will be something.

27 thoughts on “Brown Paper

  1. I LOVE the brown paper Santa idea! How long do you think you can get him to keep doing this? Makes me want to buy a roll right now and give it to my grandchildren. Such a treasure.

    We started marking heights on the back hall wall when our sons were in junior high. Their friends jumped in on it, too. When we remodeled, the contractor covered it with brown paper (!) and I dared anyone to get so much as a speck of paint on it. This Thanksgiving, we started back at the bottom with our grandchildren’s heights.

  2. I’m stuck on the industrial strength sized vat of crayons. I must inform my wife; this may sew up Christmas for at least one of our family members.

  3. What a fantastic idea. Such sweet memories you are making.

    Now tonight when my son gets home from wrestling, I’m going to make him lie on some brown paper so I can trace him.

    Maybe not.

  4. Wow, this is such a great idea. I’d be buying more brown paper and see how many years he’s willing to let you trace him. I LOVE this.

  5. My problem with stuff like that, the great mural and the santas, was I never wanted to throw them out. Each of my two daughters now has a child of her own, and I came across a bag the other day with some of their drawings. I think the time has come to finally get rid of them.

    I read somewhere that a good way to stop the pack rat mentality to go overboard with hoarding is to photograph some things, if all you need is the memory, instead of keeping the actual physical artifact. So I tried doing that this summer when my granddaughter came to visit. She had a few inexpensive souvenirs of her trip that were nice momentos, so I took pictures of them. I also started a blog for her so that we could have a record of her special moments, complete with photos, instead of needing to keep a photo album – which doesn’t usually have room for commentary.

    My younger daughter came up with a fabulous idea, too. For her son’s 1st birthday, she compiled a book online of photos from birth to his 1st birthday party and ordered it from one of those online photo services websites. She got each of us a hardback version and a large paperback version for my mother. She hopes to do this every year so that, by the time he is an adult, there will be a library of his life.

    Oh, and I heard that you can get end rolls of unused newsprint paper from some newspapers’ offices for practically nothing, which can be used the same as brown paper. For parents of creative children who love to draw, paint and color, these are enormous money savers.

    Still, that mural and those Santas rock. I just can’t imagine throwing out stuff like that…which is why I still have my kids’ drawings after they have kids of their own. Sigh.

  6. I’ve tears in my eyes reading your post. It’s beautifully written and I can imagine the joy that brown paper brings you both. Not the mention the memories you’re creating.

    Of course, I might also be tearing up because my Little Man gave his soothers to Santa today because he’s “a big boy now”. The plan was to wait until Christmas Eve, but he decided today was the day, whether Mom was ready or not.

    Thanks for sharing your memories – I just love those Sean-size Santas!

  7. We used to cover our kitchen table with freezer paper (which can be found in the grocery store near the foil and plastic wrap) and tape the ends under the table to hold it in place, then decorate it with markers, crayons and stickers to make a “tablecloth” for family gatherings, holidays, superbowl parties ect. I’m so glad I read your blog so I can “revisit” some of these memories ,especially now, as my oldest son will be graduating high school in June. I call myself sentimental with the emphasis on MENTAL!!

  8. Oh, great stuff AM! For those readers who fear the overload of Santas and brown paper murals, rolls them back up – and be sure and take digital scans of all artwork. Then keep only a few – but have the memories forever for browsing…

    LOVE the Seantas! Adorable!

  9. What an excellent post. The yearly brown paper Santa is such a great idea and what a fantastic family tradition.

  10. Seanta! Hahahahahaha! I don’t even have kids and I love this idea! Do you think it loses some of the charm if I try to trace my husband instead?

  11. So! Awesome! I want a giant roll of brown paper! Once when the kids were little and we lived in Oregon, Donn brought home some paper photographer’s backgrounds and we had so much fun with those! LOVE the Seantas! 🙂

  12. Love it! Hubs teaches 5th grade and every year at the end of the school year they do a grade level science project. They turn the entire science lab into the rain forest. From top to bottom! It is really cool. Then they give the other grades a tour. I love to go look. Last year they changed it up a bit and did the ocean. They even made a few boat bottoms and hung them from the ceiling. It was amazing!

  13. This is great! What sorts of fun things like that did you do with Sean when he was itty bitty? And if you don’t mind me asking, what did your schedule look like when he was really small? How did you fit in fun things/play time like that with other stuff, naps, etc…?

    * * *
    Basically our scheudle was this: play, nap, play, grocery store, play, nap with a few meals in between. We play with Tinker Toys, Legos and puzzles and of course paper/crayons. We cook. We do a lot of pretend and made up games. He likes to pretend a lot – grocery store, pretending to be on a boat, pretending to fish, cook, work in an office, restaurant, etc.

  14. I look forward to every post of yours. You are such a great mom. The world needs more mom’s like you.

    This is a lot like what I did with my kids and my 6 yrs of daycare at home. I would do it every day still.

    Kids are just the best thing God ever invented.

  15. I love how you combined reading and art into one project. I want to do this with Michael RIGHT NOW, but seeing as how he just learned to crawl I may need to wait some. I’ll continue looking to your blog for great mother/son projects, though. Jedi Mom, I am your padawan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *