Sep 30, 2009

Halloween is coming!

Our friend Marcie used to sing this to the girls and they still love it...

(to the tune of I'm a little teapot)

Halloween is coming.
I like it the most.
You be a goblin.
I'll be a ghost.

When we get together,
you'll hear us say...
It's trick or treat today!

Sorry posts have been a little sparce this month. I've been working with the kids on stuff for my older daughter's 5th birthday party, which is this weekend. I'll have plenty to write and tell you about when it's done and dusted, but until then I remain up to my armpits in either Crisco or papier mache.

Seeing as October is here I thought I'd give you the links to the Halloween related posts from last year (some ones that might help with DIY costume making etc).

Milk jug trick or treat pumpkin pots

Milk jug bat masks

Paper pirate swords

Cardboard roman centurion costume

Gift bag robot costume

Maybe there are more that are relevant back in the archives, but those are the ones that I can remember right now. I plan on overhauling the limited catagories I have for posts in this blog soon, so that should help people to find what they are looking for a bit more easily.

So in the midst of the party prep, I thought it would be fun to print some halloween decorations. I had the idea of printing pumpkin shapes using an apple that was cut in half. The idea seemed so simple and effective that I was pretty sure I couldn't be the only person that had had this idea, so I googled "apple print pumpkins" and found that last year the Crafty Crow had linked to Mom in Madison, who had done this craft idea before. We didn't cut out the jack o lantern face from the apple when we did it. The kids just drew faces on them in black crayon when they were dry. I'll see if I can get a nice pic of them up on the wall when we have put them up.

We also did some frankenstein's monster hand prints with goggly eyes. I didn't have any black paint handy to do the more usual hand print bats or spiders, so we improvised with the green paint for Frankybaby.
Last Halloweeny type thing from this week was making a couple of stencils for my older daughter's teacher. The class needed a haunted house stencil that all the kids could draw around and cut out, so it had to be pretty durable. The really thick cardboard from the back of a large colouring book turned out to be ideal (I kept that cardboard when our colouring books were finished thinking it had to be useful for something). The shape was cut out with an exacto knife and then I put a good thick coat of polyurathane varnish on it to keep it water proof and even more durable. The varnish soaks into the cardboard and so the points of the roofs etc are very hard and will not be easily damaged through use. Hopefully it will last for a few years worth of halloweens.

Sep 14, 2009

Two types of homemade balance scales from recycling

We've had a bunch of recycling and craft stuff out in the kitchen 24/7 since the beginning of last week, and so lots of random bits and bobs have been made by both me and the kids. I put my back out and so many things have gone by the wayside the last few weeks, including the blog. Hopefully I will pick up steam again now that I'm feeling better. I think it was Thursday that we experimented with weighing things.

First I used three BBQ skewers, a drinking straw, a cotton reel, two empty pots of apple sauce, four old popsicle sticks, some string, a coffee stirrer, a little bit of styrofoam, a cardboard box, four plastic beads, and a few wooden beads that were lurking around to make a table top weighing scales that the kids could put together and take apart themselves. Here are the parts that I made for the kids to fit together.

The poles go through the cardboard box, with the beads being underneath to hold it steady. Then the two straws with the bamboo skewer glued into them are threaded through the center of the cotton reel. Then the two straws are fitted over the two poles, so that the contraption that is glued around the cotton reel pivots on the BBQ skewer. Then the pots are hung on either side (they are held on by hooking the string over the green plastic beads). I could have made it more sturdy, but I wanted the kids to be able to build it, take it apart, store it flat and build it again later.

We just used what we had handy, but there must be a bazillion different ways to make a simple device that you can compare the weight of two things with. The little red coffee stirrer with the styrofoam arrow made it easier for the kids to see which was heavier when it was a close call between the two weights.

I provided the kids with a bunch of different objects to try weighing, some small and heavy like coins, some larger and lighter like corks. It wasn't long before they went off to find other things they could put in the scales as well, like small plastic princesses and toy animals.

Once they had played with that one for a bit and we'd tried a few different activities with it, we set about making a larger scales that could hang in the doorway. This one was even easier to make. All we used was a plastic coathanger that had hooks on either end, a wooden bead as a weight on a string to always mark straight down. Then I glued on a bamboo skewer with an arrow at right angles to the bottom of the coathanger, so that it would point to either side as the coathanger pivoted. We hung two cardboard strawberry punnets on the hooks at either end of the hanger.

The kids played filling the buckets with various stuff to see which was heavier.

Later that night I figured why not make it into a proper game, so I got out some larger matching buckets to hang on it and drew a little dial that could be threaded over the weighted string that the wooden bead was hanging from. I had to cut the bamboo pointer a bit shorter to read the dial. It wasn't going to be accurate to read for real weight measuring units because the dial was too low for where the scales were pivoting from, but the kids were able to see who's bucket was heaviest and how many "points" they had won. Notice that because the dial is below the pivot point the pointer points to the lighter side, hence colouring the sides to match the buckets, so the kids could see who had won more easily.

If I was doing this again (and we probably will) then I'd loose the wooden bead thread and instead thread a dial onto the string that the hanger was on, so the center of the dial is where the hanger pivots from and have the pointer pointing upwards. That way the pointer would point to the heavier side and also if you had proper weights then you could calibrate the dial (with older kids). Kinda like this...

Anyhoo, they still had a tonne of fun with it and discovered that wooden blocks are infact heavier per unit volume than barbies. Barbie is not as dense as wood! I still don't know whether she is as thick as two short planks though (have I just confused all the Americans reading with that one?)

Sep 4, 2009

Kid's handwriting into computer font.

My two girlies are three and four years old, and they are at that point where they can write letters and numbers, but can't yet read and write sentances, so I thought it would be very cute to make their "handwriting" into a font for the computer, so that we could use it for them to dictate thank you notes.

A freind of mine sent me a link to this site (thanks A!) that offers a printable template that you fill in with a marker, scan and upload to them. From this they will transform your handwriting into a font for mac or pc that you can download and use as you like. For free! Thank you Fontcapture!

I printed out the template and my four year old filled in the characters that she knows, upper and lower case letters, numbers and an exclamation mark, full stop and question mark. We didn't bother with half the template sheet because we don't need all the extra characters for a full font.

I scanned it in, uploaded the image (a png file) and then extremely quickly (a minute or less) we had the font downloaded and installed to use. Brilliant! Here's my four year old's template sheet...

and here is a little thank you note dictated in the font...
The kids spent a good half an hour playing on the computer just typing letters and numbers in the font made from my four year old's letters. I'm part way through making a font for my three year old too. She is too young to be able to fit her letters in the spaces on the template sheet, so I'm getting her to write her letters and numbers on plain white sheets, then I'll scan them and cut and paste her characters into the template on the computer. She's done her uppercase ones, so we'll do the lowercase and numbers another day. Here she is working on some of her uppercase letters. She wants to do everything her big sister can do. It's ridiculously cute.I think this will make a very sweet keepsake. It might even be nice to see if they want to dictate a "journal entry" every now and again, even though they are too young to write sentances themselves. If the service is still available in the future then I will definately be getting them to fill in a template sheet once a year to have a font per year of their young lives like a little time capsule (I am a sentimental fool).

It really does make it far too easy to create a basic font on a whim. Here's one I made for the girls in just ten minutes, kind of like the bubble writing that I did for the lowercase and uppercase floor game a while back.