Stories in Tune – The Nutcracker – Part 2

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On Wednesday I wrote about the picture book versions of The Nutcracker we’ve been enjoying. Today I’m bringing you the fun and games we got up to alongside reading the books and listening to Tchaikovsky’s music.

We started by revisiting an old favourite – the animation as part of Disney’s Fantasia which is set to The Nutcracker Suite, Tchaikovsky’s own edited highlights of the full length Ballet.

Then we looked at some clips of different versions of the ballet. We didn’t find many where both the video and audio recordings on YouTube were high quality, but this is a clip, of the Russian Dance, the girls liked because of the costumes:

M and J did not actually know what a nutcracker was when I first brought out the Nutcracker picture books so our next activity was to try cracking some nuts of our own using a real nutcracker.

Cracking the nuts was quite a tough job for M (J couldn’t manage it at all), it was moderately dangerous (bits of shell flying all over the place) and created a lot of mess (the sound the hoover made in the evening was rather satisfying though!)

Lots of shells just shattered, but those that broke “cleanly” we used to create floating candles.

We melted candle wax in a small saucepan (you might want to use a pan you don’t use for cooking, or a bain marie) and poured the liquid was into split nutshells we had prepared by putting short lengths of string in each one.

In 10 minutes or so the wax had set in the nutshells and our candles were ready to float and light.

The girls were entranced by the tiny flames floating on the water!

Candles in the winter darkness were just magical, but other things you could do alongside reading different versions of The Nutcracker include:

  • Making boats out of nutshells, like these by Made by Joel.
  • Using nutshells to create Christmas decorations – Good fortune walnuts and Nut mice decorations both look lovely.
  • Looking at all different sorts of nutcrackers and finding inspiration to make your own – try nutcrackers.com, a commercial site selling amazing nutcrackers, the Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, and their special site for children, Kids Love Nutcrackers.
  • Reading the score of the ballet whilst listening to the music – the score is available to view for free in pdf format here.
  • If you and your kids are very familiar with Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker you could have fun listening to other versions of the music and seeing how it can be adapted:

  • Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn did a lovely jazz version of The Nutcracker
  • I love this boogie woogie version of the March, by B. Bumble and the Stingers (here’s a recording of Tchaikovsky’s March to compare it to)
  • Adults in particular might enjoy reading a current blog at The New York Times, called The Nutcracker Chronicles where the newspaper’s dance critic is documenting his travels across the United States to see different productions of the ballet

    Now this is where today’s post originally ended, but the girls have been listening a lot to the CD which comes with the Schulman retelling of the Nutcracker and when they asked if they could make their own sweet palace in Toy Land I couldn’t resist.

    I made building blocks out of toast which the girls then covered in icing to act as glue…

    They then set to decorating the palace with all the sprinkles and cake decorations and sweeties they could find. What heaven they were in!

    A palace of dreams, don’t you think :-)

    Wishing your coming days are also full of sweetness and sparkle!

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    2 Responses

    1. That pic of the girls in the darkness with the floating nutshell candles is beautiful.

      We have a puppet theatre kind of a book of The Nutcracker with stick puppets of all the characters, and also another book picked up recently at a book fair plus an audio version. Guess what’s going to be the flavour of the season now, so many thanks for all the wonderful ideas/resources – this is indeed a treasure trove!

    2. I hope you all have fun acting out the story Choxbox! (and eating at least your fair share of sweets, as seems only appropriate when reading The Nutcracker!)

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