by Ruth Blanding
Summer is a time is for adventure, a time for fun and a time to spend lazy days with family. At our house, summertime is also a time for imaginations to run wild with ideas for crafting, creating and learning from each other. It is a time to build community and friendships that will last a lifetime.
As a homeschooling family, we spend a lot of time together and sometimes it can be tricky finding a way to make summertime seem different and special. It is our goal to get out of the house and into the sun every day. On the days when we don’t leave the property, though, creating new fun activities is the way to keep smiles on our faces and fun in our hearts. I love involving my children in nearly everything I do, and one of the things I do is spin poi.
Poi is a form of dancing that is exciting and challenging. Poi dancing originated in New Zealand among the Maori people. Though, in New Zealand, poi dance is mostly performed by the Maori women, the Maori men also use poi to build strength and coordination. There are two types of traditional poi; one is short stringed with the length going from fingertips to wrist and the other is long stringed from fingertips to shoulder. Poi can be made from many different materials. Some people fill their poi with tennis balls others use glow sticks or glowing LED balls specially made for poi dancers to practice with. Poi dancers put tails made from fabric or ribbons on their poi to show them the path that flames would take if they were practicing with fire. And, yes, there is the glorious art of fire dancing, my favorite, where your poi are lit on fire and you dance with them leaving amazing trails of light everywhere they flow. Fire poi is very dangerous and a person should have lots of practice before attempting to do this. There are some dance studios that offer poi dancing education and you can find lots of wonderful tutorials on the internet; my favorite site for tutorials and safety information is Home Of Poi. There is no age limit for non-fire poi; so long as you can swing them you can enjoy them.
When I started dancing with poi, my oldest son, Loki, was immediately enthralled. He would take my poi and swing them rapidly through the air with wild abandon. He loved them so much that I couldn’t practice without him sitting and waiting for his turn. I got him his very own set and he was thrilled. When they finally fell apart, I decided it would be much more fun to make our own practice poi. My kids all thought this idea was a hit and so did their friends. Before I knew it we had a Practice Poi-Making Party on our hands!
How to make poi…
Making practice poi is fun, inexpensive, and easy. All you need are a few materials, a place to make them and some open space to try them out.
-Fabric (I use fat quarters)
-Ribbon (for the tail)
-Cotton Filler Cording
-Small Keychain Circular Loops (we found ours at the local hardware store near the key cutting counter)
-Duct Tape (there are many colors so go wild!)
-Sewing Machine and Thread
-Cardboard Circle (slightly larger than you wish your poi to be when completed)
- Fold your fabric in half wrong side out. Trace the card board circle, twice, and cut out (this should give you four circles).
- Cut your ribbons. I cut mine twice as long as the length I want and then fold them in half; this makes it easier to sew them into the poi.
- Place the ribbon between the two circles centering the looped part and hold it in position with a straight pin. Sew the outer edge (using a 10cm seam allowance), making sure to sew over the ribbon twice to ensure it is securely in place, and leave a 1-1.5 inch opening.
- Turn the circles right side out. Fill with rice. The amount of rice you use is up to you; the less rice used the lighter the poi. However do not fill the poi too much or you won’t be able to sew them shut.
- Tuck the fabric, on the opening of the poi, into the poi and set aside.
- Cut two 22inch lengths of the cotton filler cord. (For adults 24-30 inches long depending on how long you want the poi to swing.)
- Take one of the circular rings and put the cotton cording through it. Fold the cotton cording about ½ inch and tightly wrap around it with a piece of duct tape; connecting it snugly to the longer strand of cording (repeat with the other cord).
- At the other end of the cording, make a loop big enough to put one or two fingers into comfortably and tape the lower end of the loop tightly with duct tape (repeat with the other cord).
- Using scrap fabric cut two rectangle pieces that are 1x3inches. Fold these in thirds so you have two long thin strips. Take the fabric strip, place it through the circular loop on the end of the cotton cording, and fold it in half so the ends meet.
- Take the poi, put the strip ends into the opening, and hold in place with a straight pin (repeat with the second poi).
- Sew the poi closed making sure to go over the cotton cording several times to anchor it into the poi securely.
- Go outside and give them a whirl!!
Adapted from the upcoming book Front Porch Summer Camp
Ruth Blanding is a freelance writer, doula and bodyworker who specializes in pregnancy massage and reflexology. She loves crafting, writing, cooking and spending time with her beautiful family. Ruth is the proud mother of three wonderful children (Loki 7, Azure 4, and Bodhi 1) as well as an avid unschooler/homeschooler. When she is not working on one of her many projects or playing with my kids, Ruth can be found on her blog at JoyInMomming.blogspot.com, on Twitter and on Facebook.