Category Archives: Crafty Activities

Hama Bead Pattern: Union Flag

The summer of Olympics and Diamond Jubilee have ignited an interest in flags with MG, especially the union flag so she’s been drawing and making flags and we looked up how the Union Flag is made from St Andrew’s, St George’s and St Patrick’s crosses.

Hama Bead Union Flag plus St Andrew, St George & St Patrick crosses (as squares)

My blogging completely slid over the summer holidays, plus MG and DG have a tendency to strip naked making photo taking opportunities few and far between πŸ˜† So I’m a little late to the party, so to speak, but I’ve never planned on being topical!

Thanks to Merry at Patch of Puddles and the Merrily Empire, we have the Hama Bead bug! MG mainly loves making rainbow patterns, DG puts beads on randomly. Other than plenty of beads, they love the Maxi Bead Set I reviewed here, and this transparent board for midi beads. For the Union Flag pattern, I used a large square board that came in this Dinosaur kit but this transparent square board would be perfect as the design can be viewed through it.

The gaps in the circle aren’t intentional, I just haven’t worked out how to iron the designs to make them robust enough for MG & DG’s playing yet!

After making my Union Flag design, I found that Merry had already done a much better and proper union flag at Bead Merrily plus almost identical square flag designs but I’m still posting mine up!

You can download the design here, I’ve tried to make it to match the size of the beads so it can be easily followed or put under a transparent board. You need to print it full size on a sheet of A4 to use as a pattern.

Hama Bead Pattern: Union Flag

Note: Links are not affiliate links and all products mentioned on this page are ones I have purchased myself. Please see my review policy.

Not-so-obvious craft & play cupboard items

There are a lot of obvious essentials for a craft box: paper, pencils, scissors, crayons, paints, glue… And less obvious but useful things like sponges, recycling for junk modelling, toothbrushes for painting… Here are a few more ideas of relatively cheap additions for craft and other play.

Stamps
1p stamps are a very cheap alternative to stickers. Okay, they’re all the same but a sheet of 25 1p stamps costs 25p and can be used for pretend post-office play, patterning, badges… Much cheaper than most sticker sheets! For 50p you can get 25 dark green 2p stamps for variety. Sheets of 25 available at most post offices.

Paper plates & cups
Slightly more obvious for craft play, paper plates are great fun for painting, drawing, sticking on, using as wheels for junk model vehicles, making giant caterpillars with, for tea parties (pretend or real)… MG’s current favourite is to take a dinner order and draw what you’ve ordered on the plates – great for both writing and drawing practice. Reasonably cost effective at about Β£1 for 25-30 plates from pound shops & similar.

Paper cups seem less available than plastic, and plastic will do, but I prefer paper for easier crafting – making puppet legs and arms, as a base for hats and noses… But my favourite is the hole-in-the-bottom make-a-mess craft like cup painting. I also want to try out sand painting with coloured sand, if the play sand I’ve ordered ever comes back in stock and there’s some dry days! Again available in pound shops, about 20 for Β£1.

Litter tray
I never would have thought of a litter tray, but thanks to this excellent post from Two of Everything, it’s on my wish list to add to our cupboards for sensory play.

Shot glasses & sauce bowls
These are great for ‘experiments’ like mixing vinegar and baking soda, colour mixing with food dies (especially when using droppers for fine motor skills). You can get around 40 plastic shot glasses for Β£1 or invest in a set of glass ones for heavier use. MG & DG’s Montessori nursery used (glass) shot glasses for the babies/toddlers to drink from as they are the perfect size for small children.

Sauce/dip bowls are also good for mixing experiments if you invest in some glass ones from eBay or similar. The only ones I’ve found in a pound shop were metal ones at 6 for Β£1 which have been great fun for kitchen pretend play but not sure if they’re much good for ‘experiments’ being metal!

Kitchen utensils
If you scour pound / cheap / charity stores you can get all sorts of different things for pretend kitchen play instead of buying a play set, and being ‘real’ they can be more fun. Milk pans are perfect as play saucepans, wooden spoons come in all sorts of sizes, silicone bakeware for mini loaves or chocolates fit with a pretend kitchen. Not to mention that a toddler will get hours of fun from a pan and wooden spoon for making noise πŸ™‚ Cutters can be used for play dough and fimo, and icing cutters give some lovely intricate craft results.

Dried foods
Lentils, beans, cous-cous, coffee, rice, pasta… All these dried foods are great for play kitchens and for filling trays with for sensory play. Value and own brand items can be very cheap, and in theory you can also wash and eat most of them afterwards too – they also vacuum up very easily!

What other “not-so-obvious” items do you use in craft and other play with children? Please let me know in the comments.

Blackwell’s Festival of Illustration 2012

One of the beauties of Twitter, for me, is that because I follow people / organisations I’m interested in, I find out about events that I would have missed otherwise because of not signing up to the right mailing list or looking in the right newspaper… One of these events was Blackwell’s Festival of Illustration, part of Oxford’s Art Weeks.

This was a whole day of author/illustrator workshops and other fun, which I planned to take MG and DG to as much as they could manage. We arrived just after 11am, with Emma’s talk starting at 11.30. She was setting up so we started to wander the children’s section and hit the Animation Station, where we got stuck for the next hour and a half!

MG loves drawing, although she is a little shy and takes a while to warm up. But once she got started, she was lost in the drawing and concentrated on it for over an hour. She got upset at one point because another girl drew a sun, but the point was to be a collaboration except because everyone was watching Emma she got the sole control until Emma finished! The video below is from the event, MG takes up the first 2 minutes 32 seconds with her drawing! The animation is a lovely idea, I find it fascinating how she approaches drawing and am thrilled to have this memory of part of her development.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKnWFsGW7cw]

I occasionally peeped in at Emma’s talk where she read the first Wagtail Town and a Blue Kangaroo book, plus drew pictures and there was colouring for the children. It looked like a great session from what I got to see!

It was now 12.30 so time to get food into MG and DG if they were going to manage any more of the day. Just as we were leaving we bumped into Clara and the lovely Rosi from Harper Collins who were about to set up for Clara’s session at 1.30. There’s a Wagamama just a couple of streets away from Blackwell’s and both girls love noodles so off we went. Yum πŸ™‚

We got back to Blackwell’s in time for Clara’s session where she drew Martha, Monty and Pip (and Paws!) but having forgotten to bring a pink pencil, coloured their ears and noses with lipstick instead.

Clara then read Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Love School, which MG had to listen to all the way through despite being desperate for the toilet! I managed to get her away after the story so we missed the instructions on how to make bunny ears but it was straightforward and the girls picked it up in no time. Sadly I neglected to take any pictures as we were all too busy making, and then we left the bunny ears somewhere *sniffles* but they were lovely.

MG and DG are big fans of Clara’s books, especially DG so we were all thrilled to get to chat to her afterwards. The girls completely ‘adopted’ Clara and were genuinely upset when we had to part. It was an utterly fantastic day. We completely missed Louise Yates because MG and DG were too tired for more sessions and needed to stretch their legs more. DG had a great time twirling with Martha Bunny, and somehow my girls managed to charm Clara into taking Martha home with them πŸ˜‰

A great day, and I hope there’s another festival of illustration next year.

Making Hats at Pitt-Rivers Museum

During the Easter school break, I took MG and DG to Oxford Natural History and Pitt-Rivers museums, something I don’t do nearly as often as I should considering how easy they are to get to. This turned out to be a fairly short trip in terms of looking at anything in the museums, because we found the craft area and the girls spent most of their time there making Wellington Soldier hats, or Pirate hats as DG has it – Arrr, mateys!

I shall write about how awesome both the Natural History and Pitt-Rivers museums are in another post at some point, but in summary they are wonderful with supportive staff, lots of interesting things to see and regular family-friendly events. As MG and DG get older, we’ll go to more events as they’re still quite young.

These Wellington Soldier hats are so simple to make and look great.

Materials:

  • 2 pieces of black A3 card
  • one long strip of card (any colour, about 5cm wide)
  • scissors
  • glue
  • lots of bits and pieces for sticking

Firstly, you need to cut the shape in the picture above from the two pieces of A3 card. It takes up most of the card length but a little less than the height. There were templates provided at Pitt Rivers for the children to draw round and cut. (I tried to create the template on my computer but I have zero artistic talent so failed miserably!)

Once the two sides of the hat have been cut, they need to be decorated however you wish. There were lots of beautiful parent-designs on the day, but I like to let my girls do their own crafts so they may not have perfect hats, but they’re theirs πŸ™‚

Once each of the two hat pieces have been decorated (one side only), put them together with the decorated sides outwards and staple the top edges together. Take the long strip of card and measure the child’s head, stapling a circle that fits the child together, then staple the circle card into the bottom opening of the hat.

Such a simple and effective craft, MG and DG thoroughly enjoyed it. Huge thanks to Pitt-Rivers’ for an idea for an easy craft we can modify and do again and again!

Little Pirate Wellington Soldier (who didn’t want her picture taken!)

I’m linking this up to A Mummy’s View’s #ArtAttackTuesday.

I [Heart] Martha Bunny

Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Heart School by Clara Vulliamy is being published by Harper Collins on 29 March. I’m almost bursting with excitement about this book! Before Christmas, Clara posted patterns on her blog to make felt versions of Martha and her bunny brothers Pip and Monty. Then there’s been a fantastic series of behind-the-scenes creating a picture book for the next in the series I Heart Bedtime. And yet more felt bunny making… And to top it off, she’s coming to my home town to share more bunny crafts. So when I got this Martha Bunny picture in my inbox, I couldn’t wait to have a go decorating her myself.

I decided to do a collage Martha. First there was cutting the shapes (poor Martha!) Then choosing magazine pictures, felt, paper, ribbon and just the right buttons to go together…

Oh, yes, the children were in bed asleep at that point. I was testing it out for them to have a go. Honest. It wasn’t because the picture was too cute not to play myself… I used the template to cut felt and paper pieces that were big enough to make the clothes, and cut lengths of ribbon that were long enough to use as trim for the cardigan, dress and shoes if needed. I printed out two more copies of Martha and went to bed. The plan was that I’d present the girls with the project after school the next day.

But I left everything in sight, so bunny making happened at breakfast time instead. And it was so much fun that we might have been a teeny bit late for school… All in a good cause I think!

MG also decided to do a collage, and she traced around the templates I’d cut out to make the clothes: a felt dress and different colours on each side for the cardigan. She also complained that mine was boring because I didn’t colour in the bunny so she decorated Martha’s legs, hands and face too. Ribbons for ears and buttons for eyes, wonderful! My children are a lot more imaginative than I am.

DG chose small pieces of shiny paper to decorate her Martha and stuck those where she felt they needed to be. Then I opened the button box, and she had even more fun. What I find interesting is where the pictures of the buttons were, she chose to line her buttons up and the same with the eyes but everywhere else she was freestyle. She had a great time choosing her colours and sticking everything down.

Huge thanks to Clara for creating Martha, and to Rosi from Harper Collins for sending us the picture to decorate.

Love Monster, Hate Printing

Hate is a bit of an overstatement, but I’ve gone with artistic licence for the title of this post!

Love Monster is a lovely book about being different and being loved for who you are, not for being like everyone else. I really liked the book, and enjoy reading it to the girls. But what I didn’t realise until seeing the video below is that the pictures are created by printing, which is why they have the lovely quality that they have.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5e8yxqht0i0]

On seeing this, I was inspired. This is generally not a good thing, because I have the artistic talent of, um, a cluster of colour blind hedgehogs in a bag… But still, I wanted to do printing! Printing! The girls would love that. Wouldn’t they?

Light sensitive etching plates and printing presses aren’t a feasible option so I started to think lino printing because I remembered doing it at school, but didn’t think that was a particularly safe option for small children. After some great advice from Zoe at Playing by the Book I decided to get 4 colours of water based printing ink, a brayer (or roller) and tried to get the girls interested in attempting printing using biro drawings on styrofoam.

It didn’t really work very well. The girls didn’t really get the idea of drawing on the styrofoam (pizza packaging in our case); I couldn’t find a biro or the paper embossing tools that I’m sure I have somewhere and the blunt end of a paintbrush wasn’t the viable alternative I hoped it would be (although pencils worked well); and one roller between two children (and 4 colours) meant arguments and lots of roller cleaning…

I had a rethink. Foam sheets! Then the girls wouldn’t have to draw anything, just needed some foam stickers to stick on and instant printing. So I invested in 2 more rollers, thinking this would be a huge hit, and we tried again.

The girls weren’t interested. Mighty-Girl did one print, and then was far more interested in making patterns with the foam stickers (and ‘painting’ them with the ink) and although Destructo-Girl managed some prints with help, she much prefered making handprints.

Mummy got completely frustrated that her brilliant idea wasn’t appreciated, and sulked. Looking back at the pictures, it looks a lot more successful than I remembered!

On the bright side, Love Monster is a lovely book that I can read again and again. And we have all the tools we need for attempting printing again, at some point in the future…

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Love Monster by HarperCollins for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Making Paint

Both MG and DG love painting. I’m not a huge fan of clearing up the mess, and it’s never really possible for them to fully clean the mess on their own, especially as it usually descends into an emergency bath moment…

Today while MG was at school I realised that I had a perfect activity for DG (now 2 years 7 months). I’d been letting the readymix paint get used up in order to replace the bottles with mixed powder paint that I’d bought “to save money” and we now had 5 empty bottles to fill. This is an excellent activity, and if properly planned (which of course I didn’t!) covers spooning, measuring, counting, pouring, funnelling, shaking – lots of motor skills for small children plus maths and science activities for older children. In Chez Chaos, what you usually end up with is mess!

In theory the process involves:

  • Unscrewing lid of powder paint jar (depending on age of child – I did this with DG because of the mess aspect)
  • Spooning powder into measuring cup (pouring from the powder jar was far too messy)
  • Pouring powder from measuring cup into funnel
  • Shaking or stirring to get powder from funnel into paint bottle
  • Counting number of measuring cups of powder required (our instructions said 2 parts powder to 1 part water but 3 parts powder to 1 part water made a better thickness for our use – with older children experimenting with consistancies would be great fun)
  • Measuring water and pouring into funnel
  • Screwing top onto paint bottle and shaking to mix the paint
  • Admire your work πŸ™‚

Did I mention the mess? Whilst I was taking a picture of DG spooning, she accidentally knocked the bottle and funnel over (we should have got the powder in the bottle before measuring the next cupful) and the powder went everywhere…

An emergency bath was in order, but DG loves baths so was quite happy with that.

I’m linking this up with Montessori Monday – Yes, it’s Thursday but we’re chaotic πŸ˜†
Montessori Monday

Here Come the Girls

Timothy Pope, Timothy Pope…

Yesterday evening MG found a cardboard tube and pretended it was a telescope, which led to reading Shark in the Dark by Nick Sharratt for the final bedtime story. “I want to paint my telescope” announces MG. Of course, I say, we’ll do that tomorrow…

So, as soon as she’s awake in the morning: “Can I paint my telescope? I need blue and yellow paint.” Ad nauseum, until I give in (about three minutes later, before we’ve even had breakfast…)

We have a messy art cupboard in the kitchen full of paints, paper and related paraphernalia. That “messy” belongs with “art”, not “cupboard”; it’s probably the tidiest part of the house at the moment. Generally there are things stacked in front of the cupboard door, so that DG can’t help herself to the paints πŸ™‚

MG had her cardboard tube, so of course we had to find one for DG. Blue and Yellow were requested, so that’s 4 paint pots: blue and yellow for MG; blue and yellow for DG…

DG prefered painting on paper, and soon smeared her hands everywhere (she’s left-handed, hence the brush is in her dominant hand: I know she’s a toddler and it’s too early to tell etc but she’s been strongly left-handed from around 10 months old much like MG has been strongly right-handed from around 10 months old…)

MG painted her “telescope” to be like the one in the book, and then painted an empty milk carton before moving onto mixing paints and creating these lovely caterpillars…

…that ended up being smeared onto MG’s hands shortly after I took the picture. The girls were in a tactile painting mood today. Mess turned into running to the sink to wash hands (and bodies); then paint pots and brushes. And when all had finished, it was time for a bath πŸ˜†

I’ve recently discovered Amber Dusick’s Parenting with Crappy Pictures blog. This post on art is so true for this household; we invariably end up in scenario two…

Ice Experiment Failures

I’ve been absent from blogging for a few days, partially through feeling too tired to concentrate in the evening and partially from the last couple of art experiments not going down well with MG and DG. As it’s the summer holidays, I’ve been concentrating on outside and art projects with them.

But this blog is Child-Led Chaos. The Child-Led I’m working on; the Chaos we’re good at! So here’s some failures from the last few days…

Inspired by Share & Remember I gave the girls ice cube paints. I liked how bright the food colouring + water paints looked, and that they were given paper and cloth to paint on. MG drew half a dozen designs in about 2 minutes before she announced she was bored and went inside.

DG didn’t like the fact that the ‘paints’ were disappearing. She didn’t understand it and it upset her. As for painting on a muslin cloth – oh, no, that was not allowed! Muslins are comforters for both MG and DG and although MG understood it wasn’t permanent, DG was having none of it. Neither girl was impressed or happy, so all in all a failed project. I’ll try it again some other time though!

The second inspiration was from The Artful Parent and Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas. I prepared a few balloons full of water in the freezer the day before but wasn’t going to use them because it was pouring with rain. However, being stuck inside created two very frustrated small monsters, so I set the ice, salt and food colouring out for them.

It was such a failure, I don’t even have pictures… DG tried eating the salt; her expression on spitting it out was priceless but I didn’t have the camera on me. MG piled an entire tub of salt onto her ice block and then coloured the salt with food colouring. The ice didn’t really crack too well under the salt, I think it wasn’t frozen enough? I don’t know what I was expecting but I don’t think it ‘worked’!

Both girls ended up covered in various shades of food colouring and the kitchen ended up smelling as I decided adding bicarbonate of soda and vinegar would make things more interesting for them (it didn’t)…

As I’m doing failures, here’s how the cake the girls made ended up:

So, CBeebies has been winning the ‘child-led’ aspect this week! Onwards and upwards… πŸ˜†

Splodgy Cup Painting!

Todays mess art experience was the trusty paper-cup-full-of-paint-with-a-hole-in-the-bottom. It probably has a proper shorter name, but I’ve gone for “splodgy cup painting”. This time MG and DG were involved in the setup so I have no setup pictures as we were too busy doing things to take pictures.

Materials needed: paint, water, paper cups (plastic will do), string (or similar), plasticine (or similar) and pencil.

For the uninitiated: take a paper cup (or three) and punch holes in either side at the top (pencil and plasticine method), tie string (or whatever you have – in our case curling ribbon) to create a hanging cup. Repeat for however many cups you want to use – three was plenty for my two small ones.

If you’re not already outside, relocate out at this point. Or somewhere you don’t mind covering the floor in paint. Or use a VERY large plastic sheet to cover your floor…

Put cups on plasticine balls and make a hole in the bottom with a pencil. Keep the plasticine over the hole in the bottom of the cup. Partially fill cup with paint of your choice – I used premix paint but any paint that can be made into a liquid will do. Add water until the paint consistancy is enough to flow through the hole at the bottom but not too watery. Repeat for all cups, trying to keep the paint contained in the cups until everyone is ready. Spread some large sheets of paper around, let small children pick up hanging cups, whisk plasticine off bottom of cups and stand well back…

Having never done this with the girls before, they wondered what I was up to when we were preparing but soon got into the swing of it (pun not intended :lol:)

This is how i envisaged the finished product looking (I did manage to sneak away one sheet to dry at this stage):

DG decided that extra water would be good in her paint cup, and MG chose to mix the red and yellow to make orange:

The extra water made things wetter and more slippery and after some foot painting I decided that we needed a tub of water to wash feet in. My jumped in with all her clothes, therefore clothes were discarded by the children at that point. DG decided that the foot washing tub was more fun than painting:

MG decided that brushes, and hands, and feet were more fun than refilling the cups:

MG squeezed lots of paint and danced through it but it was very slippery so she fell (not hurt, phew…) and ended up covered in orange from toes to upper thigh – which she happily washed off in the tub when DG came out for some paint dancing. Once they were happy with their work, they washed the bulk of the paint off in the tub, dried and I whisked them into a quick bath (there’s a theme to our art exploration here…)

I’m not sure how other bloggers make art look so neat and tidy. We’re just messy! The aftermath wasn’t too bad really:

I think a teensy bit of preparation, rather than just deciding to do this on a whim and making it up as we went along might have made this a bit less messy… πŸ™‚ Great fun, quick and easy to set up, best done outside in warm weather!