Eggs and Easter. It is a bit like love and marriage. You can’t have one without the other. While nowadays the eggs we associate with Easter are big and chocolatey, in the past real eggs were given as gifts after the abstinence of Lent.
Decorating blown eggs is a tradition many will remember from their childhood, but it is one that has fallen by the wayside.
It may not be particularly hygienic, but blowing eggs is a simple way to prepare eggshells for painting or dyeing with children. All you need to do is use a pin or metal skewer to pierce a small hole in the top and slightly larger hole in the bottom of each egg.
Holding the egg carefully, blow into the top hole until the raw egg flows through the bottom hole into a bowl. Rinse the eggshells carefully in warm water to remove any residual raw egg then leave to dry before decorating.
If you don’t have the patience for blowing eggs you can make a penny-sized hole in the top of the egg and empty the raw egg out by shaking it lightly up and down over a bowl.
This method leaves you with a larger hole than in the blown eggs, but is a faster method.
Plus it leaves you with raw eggs that haven’t been blown upon by small children and may still be used for cooking.
When it comes to decorating your eggshells, the possibilities are vast. Dyeing eggs with homemade natural dyes is easy and provides a wonderful lesson in nature for children. Basically anything that leaves a stain can be used as a dye. Red cabbage, carrot peelings, beetroot and onion skins are common ones.
To make a dye, boil your chosen substance with an equal volume of water and approximately two tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes then strain off the liquid.
To dye blown eggs, simply submerge the eggshells in the dye for anything from 20 minutes to several hours. The longer the shells are in the liquid, the more intense the colour will be.
To dye hard boiled eggs, place eggs which have been kept at room temperature into the dye. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes until the desired shade of colour has been reached.
Removing the eggs at intervals of two minutes will give you a range of shades.
Helping your children experiment with colours, techniques and patterns is cheap, educational and fun. Try using small rose leaves, herbs or daisy heads to make patterns on the eggs.
Before dyeing the eggs, lay the leaves or flowers flat onto the eggshell. Stretch a length of a stocking (a pop sock works perfectly) tightly over the egg, holding the plant in place as you do so, and then use an elastic band to secure the end of the stocking.
Dye the egg according to the instructions above.
Once the egg is dyed, remove the stocking and plant carefully and you will be left with the original eggshell colour where the plant was.
Artificial dyes are very simple to use and create very good results. Pretty designs can be made by placing stickers, for example star or heart shapes, onto the eggs before submerging them in the dye. Once the eggs have been removed from the dye and allowed to dry, the stickers can be removed. The covered areas retain the original eggshell colour.
A further old Easter tradition was to plant a small quantity of grain on Good Friday to ensure a good crop during the year. Using wheat grains you can grow your own Easter grass in the space of a couple of weeks.
Place a layer of wheat grains into a shallow container on a windowsill and water them each day. Within two days the first signs of germination can been seen. Within a week the grass will be several centimetres high.
The quick results make this an ideal Easter craft to try with children. This thick, fast-growing wheat grass makes the perfect base for an Easter decoration or table centrepiece when dotted with dyed eggs.