Feb 20, 2009

Cardboard barbie house

This was a spur of the moment thing for my daughters on Valentine's day morning. I was babysitting my two year old's best friend that morning as well and I realised that although we had a load of barbie dolls (from garage sales) and some lovely clothes for them (that replaced the home made no sew ones from a while back. Thank you Shannon!) and even two barbie cars (from Savers and Goodwill), there was no place for them to hang out, so a barbie ranch was the plan (sounds like Hugh Heffner's summer house right?).

I used two large sheets of cardboard left in the garage, that I'd whipped out from between the layers of toilet rolls at Costco. Below you can see the shape that I cut out of the first piece to make the narrow roofed end of the house.

The second sheet was just bent in half and slotted into the first piece. Once they were scotch taped together I cut out some windows and a door. My four year old had fun measuring the cardboard with me and wanted to carry on measuring bits of the house once it was made.

The girls played with the house for most of the morning and I had time to make them some lame furniture out of other cardboard boxes in the recycling bin. barbie had a Cheezits box bed, a butter box chair and a ritz cracker type box bath to wash her two little girls in.
Yes, I always bath my children whilst wearing my most mahoosive ball gown.

I was totally planning on painting it white and letting the kids decorate it, but it only lasted for a couple of days before I had a load of kids around and it got inadvertently trampled. I'll probably make another one for them at some point though because it was very quick to do and maybe some more substantial furniture while I'm at it.

Shower curtain village play mat

I saw the idea for making a kid's play mat out of a dollar store shower curtain on a blog called My Little Gems, which is written by Sharla. I came across this craft and hence her blog because it was featured on Blissful Kids. I had six kids over and it was nasty rainy, so I needed something that they could help to make and play with for most of the afternoon.

I taped out the shower curtain onto the kitchen floor with some packing tape and then set about drawing on it with a black magic marker. The kids were right there while I was setting this up, so the drawing of the village layout was done whilst they were all giving input on what buildings we needed and where and i didn't have the time to look for and print out the cool photos and logos that were used in the original shower curtain play mat I saw.

I taped two sharpies to opposite sides of an old juice bottle, so I could use the contraption to quickly draw roads that were an even width. by the time I'd drawn half the village, the
kids had already started colouring it, so we kind of worked together and around each other with some kids colouring and some telling me what i needed to draw next on the map. There's only one photo of the project half done, because I had to keep drawing to keep up with the kid's requests for more roads and buildings!
You'll notice from the image of the finished play mat towards the bottom of this post that it's a bit of a weird town plan with roads going to odd places, but that's what happens when you are crawling around on the floor inbetween six kids that are four years old and younger and being directed by them! I resisted the urge to put in a couple of roundabouts for fear of confusing the American children :D, but as one of my mates pointed out to me, by doing this I have doomed another generation of Americans to repeat Chevy Chase's European vacation mistakes.because of the texture of the shower curtain (actually the packaging said it was a shower curtain liner?) it meant that we could colour it with crayons as well as perminent marker pens. The kids spent a long time colouring and when some of them got bored of colouring, we got the cars out to go on it, while others carried on colouring. One of the two year olds decided that the gas station/ grocery store needed some stock and went to get a basket of play food to pile up on top of it.

Last of all I got out a pack of traffic sign foam stickers from the dollar store and the kids kind of figured out where they should go on the roads. I left it taped to the floor overnight and my girls got up in the morning and carried on colouring it.

I have another shower curtain liner from the dollar store and the plan for the next floor map adventure is to spend an evening drawing a map of San francisco with all the famous landmarks on it, so the kids can colour it in and drive thier toy vehicles around all the places they know.
Maybe after we have done that I will do a map of Swindon to keep Duncan Happy ;)

Feb 15, 2009

Cardboard valentine's heart crowns

I've been trying to clear out the garage a bit and it seems we have a lot more sheets of corrugated cardboard lurking out there than I thought, so we got crafting with them.

I cut wide strips of the cardboard and measured them to the sizes of the kids heads, taping them in place with some left over red duct tape from the rocket ship project. The kids painted their crowns with red and pink paint and I cut out a load of hearts from the rest of the cardboard, which they painted up too.

I'm sure some of you must look at all the kids and all the paint in the photos on this site and wonder how it is that it looks so calm and orderly, well, it isn't always! On this occasion, my two little filth wizards earned themselves a break from the craft table due to over excited paint flicking at each other, we had another "incident" when one of the lads tried on his crown before it had dried. All the paint washed out of everyone's hair and off my walls though, so it's all good and ready to get messed up again soon.

I had a load of little red plastic straws left over from making the pirate jello boats a while back. I think they are actually supposed to be disposable coffee stirrers rather than straws, but they remind me of the tiny straws you'd get back in the UK to pop through the film on the cheap cups of juice at the newsagents. The ones that were so thin that a thirsty child would pop a vein trying to suck the juice up them fast enough. Anyway, these straw/stirrers are the perfect size to fit snuggly into the spaces in the corrugated cardboard, so we could thread the hearts onto them and then stick them in the crowns without any tape of glue needed and the kids could rearrange them until they thought they looked right. I reckon you could easily use a packet of wooden kebab skewers to do the same thing if you can't find these straw thingies.
Here's a pic showing the straws threaded into the spaces in the corrugated cardboard. You have to make sure you cut the hearts so that the channels in the cardboard are running vertically, or you'll have sideways hearts on your crown.
Once the crowns were dry, the little kings and queens of hearts glued hearts cut out of construction paper on the crowns too.
They worked out pretty well in the end, and the kids enjoyed it so much that I think I'll try doing a red white and blue version with stars on top when 4th July comes around too. I got a few pics of a few of the kids sporting their finished creations. The level of cute is rather high, especially with the urchin dirty faces they all had to go with them.

Feb 11, 2009

Homemade valentine's cards

This is going to seem a little insane to my mates back in the UK that read this blog, because the tradition of children giving valentine's cards and treats to all their friends at school is very much a US thing. Mind you, I've been out here for nearly five years now, so for all I know the tradition may have migrated across the pond by now.

Anyway, it's pretty much expected that kids even as young as preschool age bring a little something in for every classmate, which is a very lovely gesture to encourage kids to be sweet to each other, rather than the usual cries of "I don't want to be your friend anymore. We opted to make some of our own cards this year (last year the kids were a bit to young for this type of thing, so I just cut hearts out of the huge sheets of butcher's block paper that they had painted to use as cards)
I keep a pile of small scratch pads all around the house for sketch work I do, so I grabbed one of these and started folding the pages in half and drawing little cartoon pictures for the kids to colour in. I was expecting this to last for maybe ten minutes max, but the kids got totally sucked into it and so I kept wildly scribbling to keep up with all four of them colouring. In the end we had been doing this for over an hour and each kid had more than enough cards to give to all their classmates. I think we made somewhere between 70 and 80 of them!

I thought it might be a good plan for the future to draw out 8 cards onto one sheet of paper, so they could be printed and cut out for the kids to colour. These ones I did in the same style as the cut out food and robot parts I did last month, so that the little kids can get a tidy job colouring too. Just click on the thumbnail image to view the full resolution pic for printing.
I left the back of the cards white to try and save some printer ink, but still, if you have to do more than a handful then it would be a good idea to print one and photocopy from it rather than use up all your black ink. Ooh, and remember to select "fit to page" for printing too.

This is what they look like all cut out and folded...

I think my favourite is the Cutie Noodle one, because I call my kids that all the time.

I have some other valentine's crafts that I need to post, but I don't know if I'll get them up on here before valentine's day gets here. Too few hours in the day!!! I promise I'll get them up here eventually though. Hopefully in time for next year's valentine's day.

I must say thank you to Mary Anne at Thrifty Craft Mama for awarding me a blog award doodad. It's a butterfly award that you're supposed to give to "the coolest blog I ever know". Let's hope this of foreign origin and isn't a subtle comment on my lack of spelling and grammar.
It came with no instructions for passing it on, but I feel like I should share the love, so I'm sending you to Style Rookie. I hope that my girls have even a quarter of the creativity and self awareness that Tavi has when they get to her age!

Feb 5, 2009

Easel painting

As much as my family enjoys all the cutting and gluing and colouring and drawing stuff that we do, there's something incredibly creative and delightfuly open ended about big sloppy pots of brightly coloured paint. The kids light up when the paint pots come out, especially if they have a canvas that is bigger than they are! We don't have any proper kid easels or anything like that, so there are a number of hodge podge solutions to this and they seem to work well enough that I feel no need to go out and find a proper easel for them.
There are a few ways that we try to accomplish sloppy paint play with minimal paint on stuff it's not supposed to go on. The favourite is using the make shift outdoor painting area. We picked up a cheap iron wall decoration thing from Goodwill that I think must have been used to hold glass containers with candles in at some point in it's life. It's had somewhat of a social demotion going from what I can only imagine was a gloriously classy diningroom wall to nailed to our fence and made to hold pots of kid paint. It works a treat though. We also picked up some cheap big bits of chipboard and secured them to the fence at the top with string tied to hooks that were screwed in. This means that we can take them in when it rains (but we've forgotten a few times and left them out and they still seem ok). Strips of butcher's block paper get covered in paint by the kids and then left to dry in the garage. It's all lovely and messy and fun. I strongly suggest giving it a go.
Of course, sometimes the weather is not so accomodating, or it's the depths of winter and it gets dark early, so in that situation we have resorted to using sheets of cardboard taped to the back of kitchen chairs and a towel on the floor.
It might seem silly to go to such lengths to let the kids paint when they want to, but I can't help myself, because the artwork that comes out of these experiences is just so lovely and full of energy and imagination. The pictures below were painted by my four year old.

If you've visited my blog before then you probably have noticed that the kitchen, where a lot of the crafting takes place, is covered in artwork by the kids, but it does make it's way into all the rooms in the house, even our bedroom. I really do love it that much. Part of me hopes that the kids will never totally give up the abstract types of pictures they make at this age. There's something very special about them.

When we have a huge number of kids then we get out the old bedsheets and they paint them on the floor or strung up on the outside of the house. You need to weight the bottom of the sheet out away from the wall, so that you don't end up with paint soaking through onto the wall, although with kid paint it comes off easily with a hose.
We always mix the store bought paint with a squirt of dish soap and an extra drop of water to make it go further and it also makes it easier to wash out of clothing too. After the fun has been had painting the bedsheet then you can just throw it in the washing machine and paint it again some other time.
I have to say that although we don't have proper easels, the school style no spill paint pots are something I would not be without. The older kids are fine with old yoghurt pots, but the two year olds really need that anti-spill design because I like them to be able to paint with minimal adult intervention and if one child tries to grab a pot of paint from another at any point then no one ends up wearing it, which is nice.
Often covering the table in butcher's block paper is enough to keep them happy too. We got our roll from Costco well over a year ago, but when it started running low we couldn't find any more there. Smart & Final stocks different widths and weights of butcher's block paper rolls though and they all hover at around $30, which is a bargain for well over a year's worth of paper (probably much longer if you don't have a bazillion children using it every other day like we do).

Messy sloppy paint is by far the best fun to have when you don't have a specific craft lined up! The kids get so much more of a kick out of it than they do from those teeny little water colour boxes.