Have your kids conkers gone wrinkly? When autumn comes around my kids just can't help collecting bucket loads of shiny horse chestnuts, but they start to loose some of their charm once the shrivels (as we like to call it) sets in. There are only so many games of conkers we can play, so, to avoid being buried alive by these puckered leftovers, we've found other ways to make use of them. One of our favourites is to turn them into Conker Comets... Probably the most fun you can have with conker - and it makes a great bonfire night craft too! Read on to see how we do it.
Conker Comets is a game that, when I was small, I was convinced my siblings and I had invented. We would wrap a conker in the centre of a rectangle of tissue paper or some crepe paper streamers, tying it tightly so that the paper formed a long tail. Then we'd take turns seeing how far we could throw it (alas, young hooligans that we were, it is possible that we may have used each other as target practice...).
Of course, we weren't quite as original as we'd thought, and when looking for more conker ideas recently I found almost the exact same game on the fabulous Red Ted Art blog. Her version (inspired an idea on the German blog Labbe) has the tail inserted into a hole in the conker rather than being wrapped around it - something I must admit we never thought of! This would seem to work particularly well with fresh, smooth conkers, and would be a great way to make use of our fancy-pants conker drills, so next autumn we’ll definitely be trying that method out. You can see it for yourself here:
However, by now even our best conkers are now looking past their prime, so while we tried the other method just to see how it worked, this year we mostly stuck to our tried and tested way of doing things. The benefits of this method are that it is REALLY easy - even very young kids can have a go at wrapping their paper around the conker and tying it with an elastic band or bit of ribbon, and they get to practice both fine motor and scissor skills during the ‘making’ as well. The finished comet is also easy to throw and very secure - there’s practically (never say never) no danger of it coming apart during play.
This was, hands down, the kids' favourite conker activity, so I highly recommend giving it a go. They are really, really satisfying to throw, and look very pretty flying through the air! The kids say they look a bit like firework rockets so we’ve taken to doing it around the end of October/early November as a Bonfire Night craft. If you fancy making your own, this is how...
Instructions: Wrapped Rockets
(AKA the Rhubarb and Wren Special)
Cut some long and narrow rectangles of crepe paper, tissue paper or cellophane (pretty!) - or alternately cut some lengths of crepe paper streamers.
Place your rectangles in a pile, fanned out in a rough star shape - so just the top of each rectangle is overlapping on the pile. If your paper is different colours, bear in mind that the paper at the bottom will be on the outside of your comet tail, while the top piece will be in the middle
If using crepe streamers, you can obviously make the tails any length you like - long tails look spectacular flying through the air. Whereas using smaller A4 or letter-size sheets makes for a slightly weightier comet that is easier for very young ones to throw (and these short-tails still look really cool!).
Put your conker in the centre of the star, and gather the paper tightly around it, giving the tail a twist to hold the conker in place. Secure with an elastic band, string, ribbon or bit of wool under the conker, so that it's securely contained, with a long paper tail.
Shred the tail into thinner strands. You can layer a couple of different coloured sheets to get a multicoloured tail, and you can tie ribbons (curling ribbons are perfect) onto it as well, for added streamer-y-ness. Older children may want to shred their paper BEFORE wrapping the conker in it, as that way is easier to get even strips. Younger children will probably have more fun just snipping away at the tied tail. I quite like the uneven and more organic look you get that way, but we made some both ways to show the difference.
Take your Wrapped Rocket conker comet outside - somewhere with a long, clear stretch - and chuck it as far and high as you can*. Watch it fly!
Instructions: Holey Hurler (or Wot Those Other People Made)