Peg dolls: how we fell in love with them, how we learned to craft them, and what you need to craft your own!
Christmas 2022 - my mom was asking about a gift suggestion for my girls. I always try to think of NON toy items when asked for gift suggestions, and I had been wanting to teach the girls some handcraft skills ( a particular skill of making decorative objects by hand). I had been following along with homeschool Mama, Katrin Lotze (@dwell.in.wonder on Instagram), and I kept being drawn back to her posts about her girls crafting peg dolls that tied into stories or things they were learning about. She recommended some books and supplies, and I decided to organize our own basket of peg doll materials for my parents to gift my girls for Christmas. My mom found our old family picnic basket, and I did some minor repairs to get it ready to hold a treasure trove of crafting materials. I then ordered some of Katrin's suggested supplies on Amazon, and assembled the basket for them to open on Christmas day. Upon opening the basket from my parents, the girls oohed and aahed over the tiny wooden dolls, the brightly colored felt, the vibrant embroidery thread, and the book full of adorable ideas. My youngest and I proceeded to make a peg doll chicken and her chicks during the afternoon lull of Christmas Day, and our first adorable peg doll set was complete.
In the coming months, I expected the girls to dive into crafting and creating with the basket full of goodness that had been dropped at their feet. Turns out, they needed ME to dive into peg dolls with them (with all of my non-existent free time). It also turns out that they experienced a good deal of frustration when trying to perfect their fine motor skills to work with new tools (a hot glue gun, needle and thread, etc). I wondered if I had suggested this gift too early, in my own eagerness to see them create these adorable dolls. During the snowy winter months of the new year, I would bring out the basket, and creatively strew the supplies over our dining room table, hoping that it would catch their attention, and that they would be inspired to sit down and create. One morning, I finally dropped what I was doing, and sat down myself to create a tiny mouse named Mona. She was the main character of a beautiful book series that we had started reading, "The Heartwood Hotel," by author Kallie George. My girls exclaimed with delight as they recognized the character from our beloved family read aloud, and the moment I had been waiting for was happening at last. Their creativity was sparked, and they set to work on other characters from the book. My own creativity was sparked as well, and I spent the rest of the day reading aloud from the story and making other characters for the girls to play with. They scooped up these tiny figures, created little play scenes, and came up with endless suggestions of other things we could make - together. Ahhh, the missing piece of my plan. They wanted, and needed, my close and attentive guidance on this creative journey I had set us upon.
And so, we crafted together during the rest of the winter and into the spring. Our dining room table was most always covered with all of the supplies for making our darling dolls. We pushed it aside to get to other tasks that required the use of the communal area, and then the colorful mess would make its way back by the end of the day. Weeks turned into months, and our tiny set of Heartwood Hotel characters launched the idea for our first Children's Literature Workshop. I had begun to pull together other crafts that tied into the woodland theme of the Heartwood Hotel series. I had a vision in my mind of sharing this story and the accompanying crafts with other children and families. I threw the idea out to the world by sharing our creations on my instagram stories in early spring. Friends and acquaintances exclaimed with delight as they saw the pictures that I shared from our days of crafting, and many reached out, wanting to know more. I slowly realized that my love for children's literature could serve a greater purpose, and I booked my first literature workshop at our local Charlotte Mason school, Plumfield Academy. I offered the class to other homeschooling families, and it was filled almost immediately. During May of 2023, a handful homeschool families gathered together in the charming barn on the Plumfield Academy campus, and I led our first Children's Literature Workshop (I will be writing a separate and detailed blog post about these workshops, so stay tuned)! It ran once a week, for 4 weeks, and our days together were filled with laughter, smiles, book passages, crafting, and so much fun!
So that is the story behind how our family started crafting peg dolls, and how our love of this activity has spread to our friends and to our local homeschool network. Our peg doll journey led me to start creating Children's Literature Workshops for our local community, and has opened the doors to so many connections. Our family has discovered that stories and crafting go hand in hand. The two pastimes are a match made in heaven.
Perhaps the greatest takeaway for me from this experience was that it was so impactful for me to learn alongside my girls. It was not until they saw me having fun myself, getting lost in a world of creativity and imagination, that they then wanted to make the effort to join in. Several months later, after many hours spent with me by their sides, (encouraging, fixing, adjusting, helping), they are now both completely independent with this handcraft, and the pieces they are creating are becoming more detailed, and showcase their developing skills. I am amazed at what they think of creating. My oldest daughter crafted a pregnant doll to gift a family friend as we celebrated the arrival of their new baby. My youngest daughter spends hours on her own, crafting the dolls, and creating scenes for them with other materials she finds on nature walks, and around the house. We do a lot of reading together in our homeschool, and we are constantly talking about all of the peg doll characters that we need to add to our collection. This coming year, we are focusing on ancient history, and I am so excited to bring peg doll crafting into this learning experience. We also have endless ideas for more Children's Literature Workshops (my girls plan these alongside me), and they will ALWAYS, include a peg doll component.
Below, you will find some pictures of the peg dolls that inspired the idea for our Heartwood Hotel Literature Workshop, as well as a suggested supply list for you to gather what you need to craft peg dolls at home. You may already have some of these supplies at home, and you certainly don't need all of them to get started. But these are the supplies that we love in our own home, and I hope this list makes getting started a little easier for your family.
Our First Children's Literature Workshop Characters: The Heartwood Hotel
Suggested Supply List
Here is a suggested supply list to get you started with your own peg doll crafting journey at home. Don't forget, working alongside your children is so effective when teaching them a new handcraft. It can be frustrating to learn new skills. Patience is required, and the first creations may not be exactly what you had envisioned! If your children see you go through the learning process yourself, then they will be encouraged to try again, when they might otherwise loose heart and become disinterested.