Have your kids conkers gone wrinkly? When autumn comes around my kids just can’t help collecting bucket loads of shiny horse chestnuts, but they start to loose some of their charm once the shrivels (as we like to call it) sets in. There are only so many games of conkers we can play, so, to avoid being buried alive by these puckered leftovers, we’ve found other ways to make use of them. One of our favourites is to turn them into Conker Comets… Probably the most fun you can have with conker – and it makes a great bonfire night craft too! Read on to see how we do it.
Conker Comets is a game that, when I was small, I was convinced my siblings and I had invented. We would wrap a conker in the centre of a rectangle of tissue paper or some crepe paper streamers, tying it tightly so that the paper formed a long tail. Then we’d take turns seeing how far we could throw it (alas, young hooligans that we were, it is possible that we may have used each other as target practice…).
Of course, we weren’t quite as original as we’d thought, and when looking for more conker ideas recently I found almost the exact same game on the fabulous Red Ted Art blog. Her version (inspired an idea on the German blog Labbe) has the tail inserted into a hole in the conker rather than being wrapped around it – something I must admit we never thought of! This would seem to work particularly well with fresh, smooth conkers, and would be a great way to make use of our fancy-pants conker drills, so next autumn we’ll definitely be trying that method out. You can see it for yourself here:
However, by now even our best conkers are now looking past their prime, so while we tried the other method just to see how it worked, this year we mostly stuck to our tried and tested way of doing things. The benefits of this method are that it is REALLY easy – even very young kids can have a go at wrapping their paper around the conker and tying it with an elastic band or bit of ribbon, and they get to practice both fine motor and scissor skills during the ‘making’ as well. The finished comet is also easy to throw and very secure – there’s practically (never say never) no danger of it coming apart during play.
This was, hands down, the kids’ favourite conker activity, so I highly recommend giving it a go. They are really, really satisfying to throw, and look very pretty flying through the air! The kids say they look a bit like firework rockets so we’ve taken to doing it around the end of October/early November as a Bonfire Night craft. If you fancy making your own, this is how…
Instructions: Wrapped Rockets
(AKA the Rhubarb and Wren Special)
Cut some long and narrow rectangles of crepe paper, tissue paper or cellophane (pretty!) – or alternately cut some lengths of crepe paper streamers.
Place your rectangles in a pile, fanned out in a rough star shape – so just the top of each rectangle is overlapping on the pile. If your paper is different colours, bear in mind that the paper at the bottom will be on the outside of your comet tail, while the top piece will be in the middle
If using crepe streamers, you can make the tails any length you like – long tails look spectacular flying through the air. Whereas using smaller A4 or letter-size sheets makes for a slightly weightier comet that is easier for very young ones to throw (and these short-tails still look really cool!).
Put your conker in the centre of the star, and gather the paper tightly around it, giving the tail a twist to hold the conker in place. Secure with an elastic band, string, ribbon or bit of wool under the conker, so that it’s securely contained, with a long paper tail.
Shred the tail into thinner strands. You can layer a couple of different coloured sheets to get a multicoloured tail, and you can tie ribbons (curling ribbons are perfect) onto it as well, for added streamer-y-ness. Older children may want to shred their paper BEFORE wrapping the conker in it, as that way is easier to get even strips. Younger children will probably have more fun just snipping away at the tied tail. I quite like the uneven and more organic look you get that way, but we made some both ways to show the difference.
Take your Wrapped Rocket conker comet outside – somewhere with a long, clear stretch – and chuck it as far and high as you can*. Watch it fly!
Instructions: Holey Hurler
(or Wot Those Other People Made)
For an alternate way of making these, what follows is the version I found on the brilliant Red Ted Art and Labbe blogs, so do check out their instructions, which are full of great ideas. However, for the sake of completeness, this is our interpretation of their alternative way to make conker comets.
Make a hole in your conker (these fabulous tools make it much easier and safer for kids to do).
Make a long ‘tail’ of paper strips or ribbons, and twist the end tightly.
Insert your tail into the conker – we found that the fit was usually tight enough to hold it securely, but you could use a bit of glue in the hole if necessary.
Take your Holey Hurler conker comet out to the testing field, and hurl!*
*Please ensure your throwing space is clear of people and animals – nobody wants to be hit in the head (or anywhere else) by a conker comet! We found shouting ‘Comets Away!’ as we threw them cleared the area pretty fast.
Once we had a few comets, we had a lot of fun seeing which flew the furthest/highest/fastest. The kids also had great fun trying to hit our paper sun earth and moon targets (made from cardboard circles covered in paint, glitter and left-over tissue) – a direct hit was a ‘burn up!’, ‘Mooney’ (for extra hilarity) or ‘extinction!’ depending on which target got hit. Having a target kept them playing longer than they might have otherwise, and also, ahem, kept the comets from flying in unexpected directions…
And as for which comet turned out best? Wrapped or Holey, the long tails of the streamer-made comets looked spectacular, but were more difficult to throw if there was any wind about, whereas the shorter-tailed comets made with A4/Letter sized tissue paper were excellent fliers in any weather. We did have a few Holey Hurlers lose their tails (none of the wrapped versions came apart) – but it was extremely windy on our test day. Ultimately, the kids decided that the results were inconclusive and so they will have to carry out much more testing before they can make the call. Which makes the whole thing a win in my book!
Looking for more autumn fun? Why not check out some of our other activities: