30 May 2012

Coffee Table Road

This is one we've done quite a lot of over the years, especially when Mr 4 was heavily into cars. Just cover the coffee table with a large sheet of paper, draw a road on there and let the play begin. As the play progresses the kids usually ask for some other things, like a school or park or more traffic lights, but they also really enjoy adding their own drawings to it. We've even sometimes drawn train tracks for the wooden trains, with stations etc. Depending on the age of your child it can also be good to have different coloured car parks for different coloured cars.

29 May 2012

Handprint Table Top

One from the archives. Our coffee table needed a new top, and my toddler had some cute little toddler feet and hands just ready to make prints with. I started by painting the table top with an off white, then I put the prints on (with the help of said toddler). I then drew boxes around the prints and painted them in (light shade on two sides, darker on the third side and darkest on the forth side). Finally I finished it with varnish, and wrote a name and date on the underside. Nowadays it's not looking nearly so new, has a few scratches and pen marks on it, and regularly has glue and playdoh smeared into it, but I still enjoy seeing those little hands and feet.

Cars, Roads and Construction Site Cake

This was such an easy birthday cake, because I could just make it around the bulgy shape of the cake as it came out of the oven. The tiny teddy cars were made out of little slices of iced cake, with a teddy biscuit pushed in. The wheel were M&M's and the headlights were made from piped icing. The traffic lights were made out of jubes on tooth picks (I cut dinosaur jubes into squares). The grass beside the road had green died coconut sprinkled on for extra effect. There were 6 little party guests, all very happy with their teddy in a car.

27 May 2012

Outdoor Footprint Painting

From an early age, my daughter has loved to paint. And outdoors on a big piece of paper is definitely one of her favourites ways to enjoy it (I think because she's allowed to get paint on as much of her as she chooses). Even my son really loves it, despite the fact that he's never enjoyed getting messy. Take a big roll of paper outside, fill a tray with paint, and away you go. I also put out a clean bucket of water for my son so he can be in control of how painty he is. Great for hand prints, foot prints and even nappy prints. Just watch the foot prints, as paint underfoot can get very slippery. At the end it's just a matter of hosing down the ground and children. This is can be as much fun as the painting was!

25 May 2012

Simple Plane or Car Games

Here's a list of games I've collected (with our upcoming long-haul flight in mind), which are suitable for preschoolers in a plane or car or even in a tent on a rainy day. They should need nothing more than your body, or pens and paper (and the occasional piece of sticky tape).

Travel Games for Kids:
1. Odds and evens (pick odd or even, then stick out 1 or 2 fingers like scissors paper rock, count your fingers and your friends fingers to see if the total is odd or even).
2. Find 3 things starting with the letter…
3. I spy.
4. Thumb wrestling.
5. Stretch and wriggle. Find all the body parts you can wiggle.
6. Randomly select two body parts and try and touch those two body parts together. (Maybe make a spinning wheel with lots of body part names, or write lots of body parts down and close you eyes and pick, or get two people to choose one part each).
7. Try and guess who I am.
8. Write the alphabet, fill in an animal starting with each letter.
9. Write the alphabet, fill in a food starting with each letter.
10. Write the alphabet and find something you can see starting with each letter.

11. Draw a picture of things you might expect to see at your destination.
12. Draw a picture of a zoo.
13. Draw an outline of one or two people and then fill them in.
14. Draw an outline of a scene and then fill the picture in: a beach, the sea, a campsite, a garden, space etc.
15. Paper bag mystery. Put something in the spew bag and you have to try and guess what it is.
16. Guess the letter. One person closes their eyes, and the other draws a letter on their palm or back or foot. Could also be done with numbers or shapes.
17. Guess how many seats. Count them.
18. Hangman.
19. Naughts and crosses.
20. Close the square.

21. Make finger puppets.
22. Make a finger puppet movie.
23. Make paper clothes for a doll.
24. Make a puzzle (with square pieces).
25. Travel memory. Look at a plate of objects for 1 minute, then take the objects away and try and draw as many of them as you can.
26. Mr squiggle. Draw a few squiggles on a page and the other person has to turn it into a picture.
27. Make a scavenger hunt from a magazine.
28. Find something of every colour of the rainbow.
29. Find something in the shape of a circle, square, triangle, oval, rectangle, trapezoid, arch.
30. Tell a fairy tale from your head: 3 bears, Gingerbread man, 3 billy goats gruff,etc.

31. Tell a book from your head: any bedtime story you've told enough times to roughly remember by heart.
32. Make paper houses.
33. Make a mobile phone or robot out of empty fruit juice or dried fruit boxes. 

Mom's Mini Van and this site have heaps more travel game ideas.

Do you have any other good travel games?

24 May 2012


Once again I was inspired by one of my favourite blogs, MiniEco. This time we made sun catchers. The kids had a great time, although didn't always get the concept of gluing things on the back-side of the black paper, and Miss 3 struggled with the idea of covering the holes, preferring instead to glue paper around them. But we all had fun doing it. The kids also loved it when I cut out their names, and filled them with different colours. We used a combination of tissue paper and cellophane, because that's what we had in house.

23 May 2012

Ruffle Skirt

If a poor workmen blames his tools, I'm thinking my new sewing machine rocks! This skirt was a compilation of things I'd never tried before. But it was actually reasonably easy (Except for ruffling the brown material, which didn't pull easily for some reason). The brown material was about twice the length of the layer above, but could easily have been longer. There is a white cotton layer under the layer of the shiny material, to make sure that the skirt wasn't see through, and also wasn't scratchy. The waist is simple elastic.

Here is a beautiful simple tutorial on on how sew ruffles.

Notice the fairy wings I made a few days ago that haven't yet left the fairy's back (except at night). Luckily they should be fairly easy to wash!

21 May 2012

Fairy Wings

I made Miss 3 some fairy wings a year or two ago. I think they were super sweet, made out of old lace curtains with red edging. I used some wire to give the wings shape. Unfortunately the wire didn't have memory, so after a bit of playing or a car trip, the wings looked more like something that belonged to a butterfly that had been dead for a few weeks. Not that Miss 3 cared, but I felt it was time for some new wings.

I know you can buy fairy wings very cheaply in the shops these days, and I know Miss 3 loves the girly pinks and purples and sparkles that they tend to come in but they're not really in my taste and, if I used things I already had lying around, the homemade option would be cheaper.
Butterfly Wings
Soft Fairy Wings
First I made Miss 3 a pair of butterfly shaped wings (with upper and lower wings). However I didn't take any photos of how to make them, because I was making it up as I was going and I wasn't sure how they'd turn out. Mr 4 then wanted to join in the fun, and so he ordered some wings with only one round wing either side.

How to Make Soft Fairy Wings

Make a pattern from paper, and cut out the shapes from your fabric (I used an old lace curtain) leaving a 1cm edge for sewing. The lace curtain was folded double for the set of wings in the left photo, and folded to 4 layers for the right set of wings. I found that wings that are roughly the size of a tabloid newspaper (double spread) to be a good size for the kids.

Sew the lace together, leaving a 20cm gap for turning it inside out and stuffing.
Cut a piece of wadding to size. I included an extra piece of wadding for the area between the shoulders, to give a little more strength and help the wings sit flat against the back. In the photo below the extra piece is a triangle, in the butterfly wings it was in a heart shape.

Turn the fabric so the hem is on the inside, and push the wadding into place. Sew the wadding in place using what ever pattern suits your fancy. I used straight lines and a rim around the edge for the wings in this photo, and some circles and tear drops for the butterfly wings. Tip: at this point I found the lace was tricky to pull into place for sewing, as it kept getting caught on the dog feed. If you put a piece of paper over the dog feed you can slide your fabric in place much more easily. Pull the paper out before beginning to sew. Alternatively drop the dog feed down while you feed the fabric into place.

Attach elastic shoulder straps using a zig-zag stitch. At the top edge, the elastic should sit approx. mid shoulder blade for the child. This helps the wings keep their shape (and makes it easier for the child to put them on). 

These wings are so soft that they can fit in the car seat, turn somersaults, and survive rest time, without getting uncomfortable or out of shape. I certainly have one happy little fairy!

20 May 2012

Homemade Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle

One day I was reading a board book to the kids about different tools, and trying to tell them about a jigsaw. Suddenly I decided the best (although perhaps not the quickest) way to teach them this was to make our own jigsaw.

I got a scrap piece of MDF, and we drew our pictures on in pencil. We each painted our own objects in the picture, and when the paint was dry, outlined the shapes with a black marker pen.

We took the picture outside and I cut it up with a jigsaw (while the kids mostly ignored me, except for occasionally asking me if it was ready yet). When it was all done, and dusted off, we got do do our own puzzle! 

It was a bit tricky to do as my inexperienced jigsawing made the pieces quite a loose fit, but that was definitely outweighed by the pleasure we had of making it ourselves.

19 May 2012

Cardboard Parking Garage

This is another one from the archives. Back when our house was filled with nappy boxes galore, and Mr 1 was obsessed with anything with wheels, I made this simple parking garage. I later made a wooden one which was more durable, but this nappy box garage was very very well used until then.

I took 2 nappy boxes, cutting them in half. On the top two box-halves the front wall was cut open, leaving an inch around the edge to give strength. The ramps are cut from each deck, and folded down to be sticky taped in place. The door at the bottom was cut only on two sides so that it could be lifted up. The whole thing was held together with sticky tape.

18 May 2012

Coloured Sand

This is one we made for a birthday present for a little boy who loves craft (although I made sure there would be some leftovers for us to play with).

We got some sand from the sandpit, and sifted out anything large. We divided it into five approximately equal amounts and put it in large freezer bags. We then added food colouring and shook the bags until everything was bright. We poured them into dishes to dry. Finally we bought some cheap salt and pepper shakers and added the sand, ready for making sand pictures.

We also did some coloured rice at the same time, using the same method.

As you can just see at the top of the photo, the kids had a very hard time keeping theirs hands away from it.

16 May 2012

Simple Skirt

This is my first attempt at making clothes. (Hooray for my new sewing machine!) I used the instructions from this tutorial and but sewed the waist shut with elastic, rather than having a ribbon tie. I also added a little ribbon and button embelishment to the hem.

Dora Castle Cake

I love birthdays and I love dreaming up birthday cakes. I was very pleased with how this one turned out. The base is made with 2 square chocolate cakes. I trimmed the side of the cake where the two cakes join to make them sit more neatly together, and then put one of the trimmed pieces as the bottom of the moat.

The castle is made with 1 rectangular cake cake cut into two matching squares. The squares went on top of each other. The trimmed off pieces were used to add to each side of the castle, so I ended up with a cube shape with missing corners where the towers needed to fit. 

The towers were made of small sponge rolls, and the two towers on the top were made from one sponge roll cut into two different length pieces. I dipped small ice cream cones in white chocolate and dusted them with sprinkles for the spires. (I used chocolate to stop the the cones from getting soggy, however they weren't very tasty so runny icing would have also done the trick). The flags were made by gluing some rectangles of pink wrapping paper to cooking skewers. The skewers were then pushed right through the cones and sponge rolls and cake to keep everything in place.

The left over white chocolate was spread on baking paper and I swirled a bit of pink food colouring through to get a marbled effect. I cut out a door shape from the chocolate when it set. The bridge was made from pink wafer biscuits. The whole cake was iced in a thin layer of butter icing, and decorated with tiny marshmallows, sugar flowers and M&Ms. The grass was sprinkled with coconut that had green food colouring rubbed through.

The birthday girl loved it (and so did Mr 4)!

15 May 2012

Butterfly Craft

I saw this being done at the local museum a while back, and adults and kids of all ages were all really enjoying it.
Draw (or trace) an outline of half a butterfly, with a dashed fold line down the centre.
Fold the paper down the fold line, and cut around the butterfly outline

Punch a hole in the centre of the fold line

Cut shapes from coloured paper and glue them on to decorate your butterfly. You could also use pens, paint, glitter, stickers, etc.

Take a chenille stick and twist it to give a finger-sized hole

Thread the legs of the chenille stick through the hole in the centre of the butterfly. The finger loop should be on the plain side of the butterfly.

At the head end of the butterfly, fold the chenille stick over the edge of the paper
Top side
Bottom side

Ready to fly!

14 May 2012

Cut and Paste People

Never underestimate the appeal of cutting up a piece of paper and sticking it on other piece of paper.

On this occasion we cut parts of people out of an advertising flier and Miss 3 stuck them together on a plain piece of paper.

13 May 2012

Plane Activity Tray

We are planning on taking the kids on a long trip later this year. It will involve almost 60 hours of planes and airports, 6+ hours of trains, and a wedding reception, amongst other things. I'm not terribly worried (although a little more worried now that I add it all up and write it down in black and white) as I'm sure I can plug the kids into various electronics for most of that... but where's the challenge in that?

So I have been trawling the Internet looking for activities and ideas that can make the trip more enjoyable.

One thing that I saw and really liked the look of was an activity tray. I also liked the look of this table cover. I am still plotting a way to combine the two, but first I wanted to have my own attempt at an activity tray.

My guidelines were something slimline that could potentially fold behind the tray on multiple different types of aircraft, and yet a tray that was as big as possible. Preferably something big enough to fit the food tray on, so no knives and forks would be making a dash for the floor.

This is what I came up with:
Plane activity tray, Mark I.

I took the dimension of the aeroplane tray table to be roughly 24cm x 42cm.
I chose sides for the tray to be 3cm on the back and sides, but I wanted a lower front (2cm), so the kids wouldn't have to hold their hands so high to reach things. 

I took an old drop mat and cut it to size leaving 1cm around the edge to sew (so I cut a rectangle of 32cm by 50cm). I then took pieces of old laminated paper and cut them into 4 pieces; 2 to fit the sides (24cm x 3cm), and 2 to fit the back (21cm x 3cm). The back was made from two pieces, not one, as I wanted to leave a gap in the middle of the back so that the tray could be folded smaller than an a4 page, and easily fit into a backpack. I made sure the laminate pieces were a fraction on the small size so that they wouldn't interfere with any folding lines. I then folded the edge of the drop mat over (1cm) and sewed the laminated paper in place.
For the front edge I glued a fine strip of batting along and folded the edge over and sewed it into place. Again I left a gap in the batting in the middle of the front edge for easy folding. This made the tray more comfortable to lean wrists on and yet stiff enough to provide an edge. I am worried however that it also makes it too bulky to fit behind a closed tray.

Plane activity tray, folded in half ready to carry

The corners were the tricky bit. I had originally planned to use velcro, but the velcro I had was such poor quality, and the size of the corners was so small, it just didn't grip well enough. So (thanks to some inspiration from Mr Crafty) I decided to sew a loop of ribbon a little way from the corner, which the folded corner can be neatly tucked under. In the next prototype I think I'd use elastic instead of ribbon to made it even easier. To make the front corner a little easier I prefolded the top corner down and stitched it in place.
Front corner, folded
Back corner, folded

Front corner, unfolded
Back corner, unfolded
We then trialled the finished product at the dinner table, as a drawing tray and also as a bead threading tray. It worked well, although it didn't managed to catch strings of beads that were dropped half a meter away from it...

Edit: I made a second one with some improvements. Find it here.

12 May 2012

Paper Flowers

I was decorating an outdoor space ready for a birthday party recently. We really wanted to hang some balloons but didn't have any on hand, and so we decided to try our hands at making something with paper instead. We wanted something that we could hang up and that would sway in the wind a little.

I had been looking at these beautiful paper tulips and thought that was a good place to start. We had two things to consider: that we only had white paper available, and how would we hang them? We decided a yellow flower center would look nice and add colour.

To make the yellow centre, we took a tissue and dipped two sides in watered down yellow food colouring. The tissues were then hung up to dry for a couple of hours. When they were dry, we tied string around the centre of the tissue so that it looked like a bow, and threaded the string through a hole in the bottom of the flower. We made 3 different sizes of flower to add some variation, and hung them around in small bunches.

If anyone uses this idea, I'd love to see what improvements and variations you come up with.

10 May 2012

Playing with Ice

This is a great activity for a warm sunny day. First we filled a couple of muffin trays with water. We put food colouring in the water, mixing up a slightly different colour for each hole (although the colours were difficult to see against the dark muffin tray, it did make them prettier in the water). We then collected a variety of small things from flowers and leaves to plastic toys, old shells and coins, and dropped one in each hole.

And then for the most difficult part of this activity: waiting for it all to freeze.

Once the ice was frozen, we filled a tub with water, put the ice cubes in and watched them melt. It was interesting for the kids to see what would float and what would sink, and they though it was very exciting to watch the ice melt and see what melted first and see the treasures re-appear. But above all, they just enjoyed getting their hands wet and cold.

They enjoyed this activity so much we immediately made a few more batches, and we even made a couple of bowls of ice to take to kindy for their water play table.

09 May 2012

Water Colours and Ink

I've seen finished pictures like this before, but never quite knew how it was done. But a special birthday present was needed and so I thought it was time to give it a go.

I bought a permanent marker with a 1mm tip for the drawing, although Miss 3 pressed so hard with it, I could have chosen one with an even finer tip. I used some good quality heavy paper, cut it to size, and drew the border on. Then I gave the kids instructions to draw inside the border, and then to paint every bit of white inside the border.

For the paint I used watered down water colours. I could have perhaps made them less watery and achieved brighter colours. It was important to teach the kids to wipe the excess water out of the brush. I did want the colours to run together a little, but not with whole puddles on the paper.

Initially I tried to keep it to just primary colours (used for the bottom picture) but Mr 4 badly wanted green for the top picture.

I asked Miss 3 to draw her picture in lead pencil first (to make sure it was an interesting picture from an adult's perspective, not just a big scribble), and I had planned on drawing over her lines with the pen myself. Of course, being a very independent crafter, she ended up doing the pen herself. So in retrospect it probably would have been better to skip the pencil step.

Mr 4 wasn't in an arty mood and took a bit of convincing to get going, so I didn't push the point when he decided to only paint over his drawing rather than everything inside the border. Instead I let that be his artistic choice.

08 May 2012

Still Life Painting

Miss 3 loves to paint. She loves it so much, that most of her paintings are an effort to get as much paint on the page as possible, and then it quickly progresses to "finger painting" which is really whole handed smearing until everything is a homogeneous dark green colour. So this time I decided to try something different. First I sent her out to collect some flowers, and then we mixed up the right colours for those flowers, and away she went.

It really got her thinking about keeping the colours separate, and about the different parts of the flowers. 

She even went and got more flowers and had a second go, and only after that did she start hand painting. I'd consider that a big success.

07 May 2012

Making a Tree

This is such a simple and satisfying craft activity. So much so, that this time Miss 3 came up with the plan herself while we were out walking. Both kids collected leaves. I drew them a simple trunk shape on a big piece of paper, and then they spent a happy half hour gluing leaves on.

We even used a corner of an egg carton for the glue pot and cotton buds for glue sticks, so the tidy up time was minimal.

05 May 2012

Rainbow Taggy Toys

I have a bit of a soft spot for rainbows, and so when Becced posted this picture of a rainbow lion taggie at about the same time as we were expecting three new babies from friends and family, I just couldn't resist having a go myself.

They were very quick and easy, simply a matter of sewing on a little face (I used fleece and a little bit of embroidery so I wouldn't have to hem anything), pin around lots of ribbons, and then sew it together. I added some bells in the middle of the stuffing to give them an extra jingle. For more detailed instructions, here's a great tutorial.

The hardest thing was getting a photo of them without Miss 2 cuddling them.

04 May 2012

I-Spy Bags and I-Spy Bottles

I loved the look of these i-spy bags that are everywhere in the Internet. My kids thought the idea was very interesting, although they didn't really want to spend more than about 20 minutes with it (about the same time as it took me to make a second one). I think it kept my husband and me entertained for longer than the kids. This could be because Mr 4 has great trouble finding anything, and Miss 2 was too young. Or perhaps the coloured beads make it too difficult.

The finished objects turned out to be about 10 or 12 cm square. I first made the grey bag bigger (hence the big window) but it was too big for small hands. The big window does make it much easier to find the things inside though. The metal things are particularly hard to find, as they tend to sink down to the bottom of the beads.

I used the coloured beads because I had them in house, and also because they weren't a food product, and so wouldn't cause issues going through airport quarantine.

I also bought small bottles and some letter beads and made and an alphabet i-spy bottle. Again, it was too hard for my kids, and so didn't hold their attention for too long; they got far more entertainment out of sorting the letter beads onto chenille sticks and pouring the beads into the bottle. The grown ups played a little longer with it, and then I passed it on to a 4 y/o friend who loves looking for i-spy things and was going on an international holiday.
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