This Lilliputian-sized playset makes an irresistable present for a child, and it's deceptively simple to make -- just mount photographs and color copies of photographs so they stand up.
For tall objects, like trees and basketball hoops, attach larger bases and reinforce them by taping a wooden skewer or craft stick to their backs.
PHOTOS: Snap individual photographs of each family member against a white or light-colored background, with the tallest person filling the height of the frame. To maintain size consistency, mark foot positions of the model and the photographer with tape on the floor. (You may need to give your kids a creative explanation for this photo shoot to keep your gift a secret.) Photograph the outside of your house or apartment building, plus cars, pets, shrubs and whatever else you want to include.
ENLARGEMENTS: Once your film's developed, use a color copier to enlarge your house photo until it fills an 11- by 17-inch piece of paper. If you like, copy adjacent porches or garages onto a second sheet of paper. Cut out your home around the edges. While you're at the copy shop, enlarge any other objects, such as your car, that need it.
BACK PANEL: To make the three-sided background panel, use a craft knife (adults only) to first cut a rectangle from foam core. Determine the size of the rectangle by measuring the length and height of your house cutout, then add an inch at the sides and a few inches at the top for the sky. Next, cut two side panels, each the same height as your rectangle and a little less than half its length.
Use a yardstick to mark a slanted line down each side panel (see dotted lines on illustration, below). Cut with a craft knife. Tape the side panels to the rectangle. Then cover the front of the panels (the taped side) by gluing on sheets of blue card stock or construction paper. Leave a small space between the paper sheets along the tape line so they won't buckle when the panels are folded up.
Glue your house cutout to the center of the background panel. Decorate the panel with construction paper, photos, cutouts from magazines or drawings. Then stand the panel on top of a colored sheet of poster board that reflects what's in front of your house (green for a yard, gray for a street, etc.). Decorate.
STAND-UPS: Using scissors, loosely cut out your photographed subjects and any other images from magazines or catalogs. Glue them to similarly sized pieces of cardboard, let them dry, then trim more closely along the edges of the images. To make the photos stand, create triangular bases from 1/2-inch strips of cardboard. For each figure, tape or glue the triangle against the back side, 3/16 of an inch above the bottom edge (this tilts the standing shape back slightly so it's less likely to topple).