Maggie reminded me on Saturday that September is half over and we still haven’t decorated for fall. “Get ready for tomorrow,” she told me. “We’re making a scarecrow.”
Once a simple and practical tool to keep troublesome crows from disturbing and feeding upon recently cast seed and growing crops, the scarecrow has become an iconic symbol of harvest season and a guest of honor at fall festivals. That’s quite a feat for a being that hails from such humble beginnings!
Stuffed with straw and adorned with old and tattered clothing, the scarecrow is fairly uncomplicated to create. Additionally, it kicks kids’ creative juices into full gear and makes for a fabulous family weekend project. Raid Dad’s closet for some old clothes, pick up a few straw bales, and you’re ready for an afternoon of fall fun!
If you prefer your straw man to be standing, a support will be necessary. This can be accomplished by creating a wooden frame. Center a 5-foot stick near the top of an 8-foot stick and fasten together using screws or cord. The shorter stick will serve as the shoulder supports for your fella. You can also opt to have your scarecrow sitting atop a few straw bales in your front yard.
Dress your wooden stick cross with a long-sleeved shirt. Button it up and gather the bottom of the shirt around the stick. Tie it closed tightly using twine or string. Do the same with the shirt cuffs. Now have the kids have a heyday with stuffing straw down the neck of the shirt, being careful to fill the sleeves and torso.
If you have access to some old overalls, perfect! If not, you can make do with some old jeans. You’ll need to cut a hole through the seat of the pants for the support stick if your scarecrow is standing. Cinch the cuffs closed with twine, wire or rope, and enlist the kids’ help again with stuffing the legs with straw. Jeans can be safety pinned to the shirt to keep them from falling down. Modesty is a virtue even in the scarecrow world.
Old gloves can be stuffed and tied in place on the ends of the horizontal support stick. Your scarecrow now has hands! If your scarecrow will be sitting, use large safety pins to fasten the stuffed gloves to the ends of the shirt cuffs. Boots can easily be slid onto the stuffed “legs” of your scarecrow.
No scarecrow would be complete without a face! An old pillow case stuffed with plastic bags to fill it out works well. Cinch it closed around the top support stick and fasten it tightly with twine or wire. Another option is to stuff one plastic bag with additional bags until you have the desired head size. Cut a wide circle of burlap to cover the bags. Cinch it closed and fasten it to your scarecrow. Safety pins come in handy for this step as well.
Now comes the fun part! Put your markers to good use drawing a face for your scarecrow. Do the kids want a friendly scarecrow, or would they rather have a straw man who could scare away the bravest of crows? Get creative with the facial features. Large buttons can be sewn or glued on for eyes. Paint, glitter glue, scraps of cloth and many more household items can be employed. Use your imagination and have fun!
Top off your creation with a fun hat and place him in your yard. Make sure he has lots of pumpkins and gourds to keep him company!
For a creative spin on the traditional scarecrow, consider some of the following ideas:
Is Dad a Vikings fan? Perhaps he has an old jersey he wouldn’t mind loaning to Mr. Scarecrow for the season.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Who says scarecrows have to be men? Who says they have to be human at all? Use an old costume or colored clothing to create a scare-dog, scare-monkey, scare-tiger, or any other animal you and the kids can agree upon.
Super Hero Scarecrow
What do little scarecrows dream of being when they grow up? Caped crusaders, of course! Add some fun to your scarecrow by letting him don a cape and a mask.
Kids’ Book Characters
Recreate the Cat in the Hat (don’t forget his red and white striped top hat!), or build your very own Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat. Seasoned scarecrow makers might feel inspired to recreate Max and the Wild Things.
Mother Goose is a wise old woman full of ideas galore! Little Bo Peep, Little Miss Muffet, Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty… Just watch out for Jack be Nimble – jumping over candlesticks isn’t advised for those with straw stuffed into their breeches!
In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…
An R2D2 scarecrow? Yes, I’ve seen it – standing next to a C3PO straw man. This will require some ingenuity. And lots of gold spray paint.
Working Class Scarecrows
Hey, the scarecrow community needs fire fighters, police officers, doctors, bakers, and train conductors just like the human world does!
The internet is a wondrous resource for scarecrow ideas of all kinds. If it’s your first scarecrow building adventure, you might want to aim for simple. Get your feet wet and figure out what works best in your yard. Next year you can blow the neighbors away with your scarecrow extravaganza!