a peek inside the fishbowl

03 Feb, 2009

Ancient scroll: It’s easy to make your own!

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|File under crafty

DIY ancient scroll

Before I launch into the nitty gritty I should mention that the actual scroll idea was Sarah’s. She’s always doing this kind of thing. She’s very much into “drop everything and do art” philosophy,  i.e. Suddenly (usually in the middle of my making dinner), she’ll announce that she’s going to make a toy, or an ice-fishing pond (which she did, complete with fur-lined Inuit-style hood, all out of paper), shoes out of tissue boxes, masks, glasses made of twisted wire… etc etc. That girl is such a creative kid. She’s always amazing me with her creations.

ANYWAY, one day a couple of weeks ago she decided she was going to do some “Chinese writing” and make a scroll. As an afterthought I offered to age it for her so we could pretend it was an ancient scroll … the kind you’d find in a treasure chest, for example. The idea went over pretty big. Yay! I like being the fun mom.

You can do it too.

How to make an ancient scroll

  1. 1. Decorate a plain piece of printer paper with a waterproof marker. Use your imagination (if you are 8 or under this step will be very easy for you)! Write a letter in curly cursive or other fancy lettering. Sarah made up some some Chinese text … but you can write your letters using hieroglyphics, or in Inuktitut, or some other language.
  2. 2. Take a break and make yourself a cup of tea. (Black tea works great.)
  3. 3. When the (used) teabag cools down a little bit, let your child wipe it across the sheets of paper. Let dry. (Pro tip: crumple the paper first to give it a worn look)
  4. 4. This next part is only for grown-ups. Grown-ups: light a small candle and run the edges of your paper along the flame. It’s best to do this over the kitchen sink …  the ashes have somewhere to fall and if you get an accidental flare-up you can drop the paper or douse it pretty quickly. It’s up to you how much burning to do.

DIY ancient scroll

  1. 5. Shake off the extra ash and make sure no part of your scroll is still smouldering.
  2. 6. Tie with ribbon. Your ancient scroll is done!

Wondering how a kid could incorporate this into their playtime? How about using this technique for:

  • invites to a pirate- or explorer-theme party
  • clues for a scavenger hunt (we did something similar for a birthday party)
  • “props” for dress up
  • secret messages between friends and family
  • … or just for fun!

DIY ancient scroll - done!

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10 Responses to "Ancient scroll: It’s easy to make your own!"

1 | Siobhan

February 3rd, 2009 at 3:32 pm


While I am always a fan of setting stuff on fire, there is an alternative to step 4 that the kids can do themselves. You can tear a strip off the edge of the paper, then use a brown stamp pad to colour the edge of the paper. A brown marker might work too.

Meanwhile, I don’t have kids, so next time I want this effect I’m going to try it your way… :)

2 | andrea

February 3rd, 2009 at 3:41 pm


Good point Siobhan (nice to see you here!)
I’ve done it that way too – with both the marker and the stamp pad – and it certainly does the trick!

And it’s safer too! :)

3 | Mark

February 3rd, 2009 at 4:22 pm


You omitted an important step (and of course it’s the one I contributed). Before doing the tea bag step you need to crumple and uncrumple the paper several times and then reflatten it by sliding it back and forth over a table edge. Gives it that authentic aged look !

4 | andrea

February 3rd, 2009 at 4:34 pm


Yah yah. You can do it his way too. :)

5 | Scattered Mom

February 3rd, 2009 at 7:17 pm


These also make great party invitations for a pirate themed/treasure hunt party. :)

6 | Shirliana Glassberg

February 3rd, 2009 at 9:23 pm


What a great idea! I can’t wait to do this with my Amelia! Thanks for sharing.

7 | DaniGirl

February 5th, 2009 at 11:39 am


I remember doing this in school when I was a kid. I made up a pioneer “newspaper” to go with a project I was doing. I was thinking of doing something similar this summer for a scavenger hunt for the boys. What fun!

8 | Ryan

February 8th, 2009 at 11:13 am


Her Chinese is pretty good! Better than mine when I actually try to make characters. I had to looks twice to see if they were the real thing and I had missed a post about her taking Chinese classes. OK, maybe a bit of exaggeration, but not much. Looks terrific.

9 | Susan

September 23rd, 2011 at 2:43 am


Thank you for your advice it was awesome, worked great for me and my son, we were at a loss for how to do this and this worked , ty, ty ty

10 | ronay

February 10th, 2013 at 2:15 am


im making a scroll for the inside of a bx for my man for Valentines day. What do i use for the edges of such a small scroll?

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (16) and Sarah (14). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times, and a regular contributor to MediaSmarts.ca. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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