A bar of soap is easy to carve even with simple, blunt, household tools, which makes it an extremely satisfying activity for a kid, who probably doesn’t get a lot of chances to carve something these days. If you make or buy organic, natural-ingredients soap, soap carving is also a wholesome activity, and it won’t add anything to the waste stream, because Mrs. Soap Creature up there is just going to end up in the bathtub tonight!
Here’s how to safely set up a soap carving activity for the kiddos:
Any soap that you choose, whether it’s store-bought or homemade, is going to be a usable consistency for soap carving. I’m fondest of giving the kids my own homemade crock pot hot-process soap to carve, because I know exactly what’s in each bar, and I know that each bar cost pennies to make. Sometimes, however, I buy handmade soap “seconds” from our local natural grocery store, for still less than a dollar a piece. Of course, conventional store-bought bar soap is also perfect for carving, if you’re comfortable with its ingredients and its perfume stench.
To set a kid up for soap carving, cover a table with newspaper (so that you can catch the shavings to make homemade laundry soap), and set out several bars of soap and several types of tools. My kiddos enjoy any number of the following:
- popsicle sticks
- butter knives and steak knives
- spoons (spoon end and handle end)
- linoleum cutter
- metal bookbinding awl
- nails, screws, and screwdriver
- unsharpened pencil
Some of these tools are sharp and some are blunt, and if you’ve got small children, you’ll be pleased to see that a kid can carve just as well with a popsicle stick as she can with a linoleum cutter. If you’ve got older children, however, you’ll find that soap carving is an excellent medium for introducing those more sophisticated sculptural tools.
My favorite thing about soap carving is that the result isn’t a useless piece of junk, and it won’t eventually be thrown away. Even if a carving sits on shelf to be admired forever, it will stay fresh and smell pleasant. And when a carving’s life is completely over, whether it’s at the end of the activity or years later, the fact that it’s made of simply soap means that you can incorporate it back into your life, with no extra burden on the waste stream.