The Paper Locket


I was walking around the cafeteria---a space we convert daily into an afterschool program---when I noticed one child working intently with paper, scissors, and a few other materials. The collection of materials piqued my interest, so I walked over to take a closer look.

Having a rich collection of materials invites children to create new work and explore the possibilities the materials have to offer. Children often gravitate toward a favorite material and combine that with a new material they are interested in exploring. In years past, the children have gravitated toward recycled materials, but this year the children are using mostly classic materials like paper, marker, scissors, paint, and glue.

The child had a collection of materials including markers, copy paper, and construction paper. When I asked what they were working on, the child shared they were creating a paper locket. As I inquired further, I discovered the child used white paper and a green marker to draw a picture for the locket. When I asked, “what did you draw?” The child said, “This is a picture of my family.”

Children enjoy drawing images of things that are familiar, pique their interest, or have a meaning to the life they are living now. Their drawings are very much in the moment and change as they have new interests and wonderings. Drawing is one of the first mediums of expression for children from a young age to the school age children I engage with everyday. The only noticeable difference in their drawings as school age children mature is the addition of more words to explain what the drawing is about and the addition of word bubbles so the characters they draw can speak.

Next, the child used a new piece of construction paper to cover the original picture they created. The child carefully folded, cut out, and taped the construction paper over the original drawing to conceal it.  A paper locket was born.

As I watched this child work, I was wondering if the paper locket was the original idea when the work started or was the addition of another piece of paper an adaptation of the picture the child created. Would the child have created a locket if the picture were of a cat instead of their family?

Afterward, the child started searching for a method to keep the paper locket closed. Together we brainstormed several options like tape, and other items that could act as a closure. After some thinking, the child decided to use a paperclip to keep the locket closed. Together, we searched for and found a paperclip. Then the child used scissors to trim the construction paper, so the paperclip would fit over the locket.

Our conversation about how to keep the locket closed was interesting. The first thought was glue, but then the child realized it would not open without tearing the picture. Then the discussion revolved around different types of tape and it was decided those also would tear the picture or the locket cover. After trying to fold the locket closed and then having it pop open, the paperclip idea was proposed. The decision making process may seem simple to us as adults, but real thought and consideration went into deciding what closure would work best for the paper locket.

As the work continued, the child decided to attach some string so they could wear the locket. Together we searched for yarn. We found several different types and textures of yarn. The child found a color and length of string they liked and proceeded to punch a hole in the top of the paper locket. The child threaded the string through the hole, and tied a knot at the end to create the finished locket.

Sometimes school age children become distracted and the work they have started is discarded for something more interesting. The process of starting a work and seeing it to fruition takes different forms depending on the child.

The child loved the locket and wore it for many days after, opening up and looking at the family picture located inside. The possibilities of paper invited a child to create an item they now cherish. With their own hands and an idea a child created a keepsake. How long will this be special? It could be a week it could be a lifetime. What is always special is the opportunity as an educator to observe a child create something with such meaning, and see a glimpse into what is important to them in this stage of life.