29 June 2012

Marshmallow Building

I've seen marshmallow and toothpick construction around a bit on the internet, and we just so happened to have some mini marshmallows in the house, a bunch of toothpicks, and yet another rainy day on our hands.

It was so much fun!

Marshmallow and Toothpick Constructions
The marshmallows were just sticky enough, and firm enough and yet pliable enough to make really satisfying structures.

I started with a tetrahedron (triangular based pyramid), and then a house, and then something else made from more triangles and satisfyingly symmetric.

Miss 3 at first struggled to get the hang of it. She managed to get a lot of cotton bud type constructions, and then, with a bit of help she made a 2-D house. With a bit more help she started on 3-D structures that (in Mr Crafty's opinion) didn't worry too much about the laws of gravity.

Mr 5 instinctively started making things with lots of triangles, and had no problem building something big and fairly stable. He struggled more with not eating too many marshmallows.

We kept the structures until after dinner, and then broke them up and ate desert at the same time.

28 June 2012

Wedding Dress Ups

On the first day of the school holidays, the kids decided they wanted to stage their own wedding. I felt like sewing, and so decided to make a bow tie for Mr 5. I knew I only had a few minutes to make it, or it would spoil the enthusiasm of the moment, so while Mr 5 made sure that Miss 3 went to the toilet "so she wouldn't have to go in the middle of their wedding" and put on sufficient things to make her especially beautiful, I got to work whipping up a bow tie.

I cut two pieces of shiny fabric, one roughly 20cm x 30cm, and one roughly 10cm square. I turned the shiny side in and sewed along the length of each piece.

Turning them right side out, I sewed together the two ends of the larger piece, making a loop.

On the smaller piece, I sewed a loop of elastic, that was roughly the size of my neck (which makes a nice loose ift around Mr 5's neck + hoodie.

Keeping the elastic loop to the inside, I sewed the two ends of the smaller piece together.

Turning the smaller loop right side out, I slipped it over the larger loop, and ta-da, we have a bow tie.

The smaller loop then needs to be kept in place with a few small stitches. Ideally this would be a few nice neat hand stitches on the back side. Due to time constraints, I just put a couple of stiches through from front to back using my sewing machine. Not as elegant, but functional.

 Next we needed some rings. I used a bit of aluminum foil for them.

And finally a veil. Miss 3 originally didn't want one, but seeing as I already had my sewing machine out, and had some old lace curtain at hand, complete with a seem to the top all ready for elastic to be slipped through, I thought I'd make it anyway. I cut the material with a straight top edge (pre-hemmed) straight sides, and the bottom edge in a scooped shape. The material was about 60cm wide. The elastic I cut to be roughly the same length as one of Miss 3's headbands.

I threaded the elastic through, and sewed it into a loop. Done. And I was glad I did, as Miss 3 wore it for the entire day, and every day since.

The wedding went off without a hitch.

27 June 2012

Wooden Parking Garage

When my son was younger he was cars obsessed, anything with wheels was much loved. We started with a cardboard garage when he was 1. We gave him a commercial plastic garage when he turned 2, but it just didn't last even though he's a fairly gentle child.

Eventually I decided it wouldn't be too much work to make a wooden, more robust version. Unfortunately it's so long ago now, I don't have any plans etc to share. Only the pictures of a much loved and well used wooden garage.

26 June 2012

Woolen Snowflake

With the cold weather here we needed some indoor craft activities. I had some left over wool and thought it would be fun to make some snowflakes to decorate the room. After I made the first one, Miss 3 and Mr 5 decided they'd like to make their own. Miss 3 needed some help to hold it while she wound for the first half, and they both needed help to change colours, but once I wrote numbers on the sticks Mr 5 did really well winding by himself.

I started by putting a small roll of sticky tape between the paddle pop sticks to keep them in place. I then put a slip knot arond one stick and did a few cross overs in the centre to get the kids started.

The weaving went around first going over the top of the stick and then under: over 1, under 1, over 2, under 2 etc. We tried to tuck any joining thread ends to the back.

To finish I left a tail of wool to hang it up and tied a few knots. That was when the snow flake stopped being a snowflake and started being a kite. The kids took them outside and had a good run around.

25 June 2012

Sticker Book

My kids are always getting stickers, as rewards, or from the fruit shop, or from the school banking, or dentist. What ever they are, the kids love them. But the great question is what to do with them all that keeps the walls and furniture sticker free.
Miss 3 and I decided to make a sticker book. We took 4 pages of different coloured paper, and made them into a book in much the same way as the fairy book we made a few days ago; stapling to the outside from the centre of the book, folding over the staple ends, and covering the staple ends with sticky tape to stop them from catching on anything.

And then Miss 3 could happily stick stickers to her hearts content.

After a while I decided to get a bit educational on her, and add a counting activity. I drew some boxes and wrote a number under each box. She loved sticking the right number of stickers in each box and then she drew her own boxes with numbers on another page.

24 June 2012

First Shorts

This is my first ever attempt at sewing pants, and except for a minor glitch when I sewed the two legs together, it was really easy (even for a beginner sewer like me!). I used the lovely tutorial and free pattern from Made, which I found through Becced, and the fabulous fishy fabric which I'd bought a remnant of the other day. The length of the shorts was dictated by the size of the fabric, which lucky for me was exactly the right length.

Mr 5 was suitably pleased.

21 June 2012

A Marble Race Machine Cake

So here it is. The most adventurous cake I've ever made: a marble race machine cake. Designed for a round lolly to roll through it and out onto the top of a cup cake.

And it actually wasn't as difficult to make as you'd think.

I baked 3 cakes in a bread loaf tin, and froze them. I then cut them into flat sided rectangular blocks. I then cut some tracks into them, which was a little fiddly. The tracks went something like this:

I stacked it all together (using chocolate butter icing as the glue) and tweaked it until a Jaffa/Malteser would roll down without getting caught. I used icing to stick wafer biscuits onto the back to stop the Jaffa from flying out at any stage. There are more wafer biscuits under the bottom of the front of the cake, because it was doing a small leaning tower impression. Finally the whole thing was held in place with some skewers from top to bottom, and a few tooth picks for any pointy bits that looked like they needed a bit of extra support (i.e. where the track turned and under the spout at the front).

The decorations were made from white chocolate or mint chocolate biscuits. I melted the white chocolate into a sheet 2 or 3mm thick, and when it had hardened I cut the shapes out using cookie cutters. The gears were made using 2 circle cutters, and the tip of a star shaped cutter for the grooves.

And just to prove it really worked, here's a video from the front, and a second one from the back.

The kids at the party each got their own cup cake (topped with a lolly snake to make a catching ring) and rolled their own Jaffa through the machine to top it. The Jaffas worked better than the Maltesers perhaps because they're smaller and sugar coated. 

The birthday boy was very very happy with it. Mission accomplished. :)

20 June 2012

Rocket Cake

Here's my version of a rocket cake I made a while ago. I stuck sparklers in marshmellows at the bottom for the blasters (I'm sure that's not their technical name!). I used choc-mint biscuits for the big circles on the front, because they are covered in chocolate and so wouldn't go soggy in the fridge over-night.

19 June 2012

Home Made Personalised Fairy Book (with free story)

Home made fairy book

Over the last few days Miss 3 and I have been enjoying making our own book together. The story is one I made up on request about a week ago, and then refined as she requested it a few more times. It's nothing fancy, but it suits my little want-to-be fairy. In fact Miss 3 came up with the book title and main theme of the book herself.

Originally I had plans of writing it out and drawing the pictures myself and then letting her paint in water colours on the pictures. But Miss 3 really wanted to write her own name into the right spots, and draw the pictures herself, which made it a lovely shared project.

I'll share the words here in case anyone else would like to make it, but isn't too keen on inventing a story themselves.

I took 5 pieces of paper, and folded them all in half to make a book shape (with 10 pages). Keeping the pages folded together (but not stapling them yet, so painting would be easier), I wrote the text on the left page, and Miss 3 drew on the right page. I added some borders for fun, and after painting and drying, stapled the finished book together. As a last step I covered the book in plastic contact, just to make it last a little longer.

home made fairy book

Here's the text, just replace the blanks with your own little fairy's name:

When ... Wanted To Fly 

Page 1
Once upon a time, there was a little girl called .... . More than anything in the world ... wanted to fly.

Page 2
Every day she put on her wings and jumped into the air as high as she could. But every day she would land *plof* back on the ground.

Page 3
One night, when all was dark and quiet, and everybody in the house was asleep, ... opened her eyes and saw a light shining beside her bed.

Page 4
When she looked closer she saw it wasn't just a light, it was a fairy!
"Hello!" said the fairy, "I'm your special wish fairy and I can grant you one wish for whatever you want."

Page 5
... didn't even have to think about it. She knew right away what she wanted most of all.
"I'd like to fly." she said.

Page 6
The fairy reached into her pocket and took out a handful of magic fairy flying dust. She sprinkled the dust all over ... from her nose to her toes.

 Page 7
Then the fairy took ...'s hand and together they flew out the window! They flew high up into the sky. Below her, ... could see all the tiny houses and the tiny streets with their tiny street lights.

Page 8
They flew around until it was very late. Then it was time to go home. They flew back to ...'s house, to ...'s room, and to ...'s bed.

Page 9
As ... lay in bed, the fairy tucked her in and gave her a tiny fairy kiss on the tip of her nose.
... fell asleep with a big smile on her face.

The End

18 June 2012

Pirate Accessories

Some simple accessories can turn a mundane morning into a pirate adventure. Grab the trusty washing-basket boat, make a treasure map, and off you go!

17 June 2012

Kitchen Chemistry

One afternoon Mr 4 asked if we could do a science experiment, something he loves. He wanted to mix milk with water and see what happened. Seeing as I didn't think that would be a particularly long lasting or exciting experiment, I decided to also start another experiment with oil, vinegar, food colour and bi-carb of soda, at the same time.

First I put the oil and vinegar in the container and looked at the layers with the kids. Then I added a few drops of red food colouring, and we admired that for a while.

We shook it and the food colouring went into the vinegar but not the oil. Then we added bi-carb for a bit of fizz.

The kids liked that, but wanted to know what would happen if we added it all to the milk and water experiment. At first we got some interesting pink patterns.

And then we went and hung out the washing and had a play. When we came back, it had turned into this interesting (although somewhat icky) separated mixture. This was then carefully saved for Mr Crafty to see, although I'm not sure he fully appreciated it ;).

14 June 2012

Bottle Cap Stamps

I once saw an idea to stick foam stickers on bottle caps to make your own stamps. We didn't have any foam stickers left, but we did have the empty sheet that a set of foam stickers came on, so the whole family spent a happy morning chopping it up and sticking it in different shapes on bottle caps and then stamping with them. 

Speaking of bottle caps, I have a big teapot filled with lids which are used for everything from counting and sorting games, wheels on cardboard box cars, buttons on things that 3 year olds think need buttons, and even once as sushi on our very own sushi train. A wonderful versatile and free toy!

13 June 2012

Cornflour Salt Dough vs Cornflour Soda Dough

Cornflour Clay

I wanted to try making cornstarch dough after seeing the beautiful mushroom and beads by 5 Orange Potatoes. Her recipe calls for equal parts cornstarch, baking powder and water, mixed with half as much salt. That seemed like a lot of baking powder to me, so I searched around and found another cornstarch dough recipe for 2 parts salt to 1 part cornstarch plus water.

I decided to try and make both.

I was feeling a little lazy and so I didn't look up if it should be baking powder or bi-carb soda. In retrospect it was probably bi-carb soda, but seeing as I had more baking powder on hand, I used that. In the same way I assumed cornstarch was equivalent to cornflour. 

Both recipes were dead easy to make. The kids adored that it was fresh, home made and they helped to make it. Even better that they could keep and paint their creations when they dried.

The recipe with the baking powder was an opaque white colour (and a little dry and crumbly, I think I'd try and improve that next time). The cornstarch and salt dough had a beautiful slightly translucent white colour to it. I had a tiny paper cut on my finger, and working with the salt dough was like (to use a phrase) rubbing salt into a wound. Not very pleasant. Miss 3 had no problems with it, but I worried about the fingers of Mr 4 who suffers from eczema quite badly. The recipe with baking powder was not a problem and nice to work with.

In the photo above, the pink mushroom and balls were made using the salt dough, and the dolls house kitchen accessories and smaller mushroom were made with the baking powder recipe.

12 June 2012

Making a Wind Vane

We found this activity in a beautiful book "Feel the Wind" by Arthur Dorros. An excellent book for explaining what wind is to young children. 

We made this first wind vane together, and then the kids made a second one by themselves.

You need a pencil with an eraser, some cardboard, a pin and a straw.

Put them together, making sure you put the pin through the balance point of the arrow.

Take it outside and put it in the ground.

Using a compass, put rocks around to mark north, south, east and west.

11 June 2012

Crayon Bag

A carry bag I made for a set of Crayola dry-erase crayons and the black/white board they came with. The button is purely decorative, with velcro behind it. This is because it was a present for a 2 y/o girl, and I thought velcro would be easier for her to manage. Hopefully she won't mind that the giraffes are upside-down on the front of the bag!

10 June 2012

Make Your Own Magnifying Glass

This is not one of my projects, but I love the simplicity so much I just had to share. Science Sparks have instructions on how to make a magnifying glass out of a soft drink bottle and a bit of water. 
I tried it with my kids and it was fast, simple and very effective. They loved it.

08 June 2012

Magnetic Triangular Dominoes

I'm really happy with this magnetic triangular dominoes set I recently made. My kids have been enjoying using our Tantrix set, although it's a bit on the tricky side for Miss 3, and the pieces have a tendency to move around a bit when a new piece is added. I thought 3 sided dominoes would be perfect for them, especially if they were magnetic and therefore would stay where they were put (and give a satisfying click as they snap to the surface). And I just happened to have some old flat magnets that I was waiting to use to make something cool...

1. Take some old sheet magnets (our local real estate agents' advertising provide us with these free of charge :))

2. Glue a sheet of white paper on, to cover up any graphics on the magnet.

3. Print out some equilateral triangles (I used a free printable, and printed them at 250% size, so each triangle side is roughly an inch long). I used about 80 triangles.

4. Glue the triangles on the magnets.

5. Write all the combinations of 3 numbers on the triangles. E.g. [0,0,0] [0,0,1] [0,0,2] ... [0,1,1] [0,1,2] ... [1,1,1] [1,1,2] ... [5,5,5]

6. After a little experimentation I found I wanted to go back and make a second copy of all the triangles with 3 different numbers, with their numbers written counter-clockwise rather than clockwise. E.g. [1,2,3] compared to [1,3,2]. This makes it much easier to make a complete wheel from the pieces. Mr Crafty later told me he's played with a commercial version of this, and part of the fun and challenge of the game was that they didn't have the two versions of these tiles. That way if you did make a complete wheel it was a real achievement. This makes me wonder a little if the commercial version has been a little clever about which numbers to put where in these tiles. But for us, seeing as Mr 4 and Miss 3 are my target audience, I think it's much nicer to have the extra pieces.

7. Colour the numbers in. E.g. 0 = orange, 1 = red, 2 = yellow. Not really necessary, but lets face it, colouring can be a nice relaxing activity, and I have a soft spot for pretty coloured things.

8. Cut the triangles out.

9. Find a metal baking tray or metal surface to play on. We used our lovely Melissa and Doug magnetic chalk board, but for a great travel version you could also use a metal suitcase.

The kids (and their parents) really enjoy this one. And there even enough pieces to play two separate games at the same time. 

As an afterthought I covered them with small hexagonal pieces of clear contact paper. To protect them against wayward mothers who knock their glasses of water over on top of the pieces.. To do this, find a printout of hexagons e.g. this one, print it out to scale so that the triangle matches with 3 of the 6 corners from the hexagon, and wrap it on. A little fiddly, but it only took me an hour or so while I played a game with Mr 4 at the same time.

07 June 2012

Target Practice

Such a simple little game, this peg catapult delighted the kids. I taped a bottle lid to a clothes peg, and then I taped the peg to a plate. We rolled up balls of paper, and made some target plates. All that took less than 5 minutes, and then I could make dinner while the kids played. 

The inspiration came from here.
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