Aug 21, 2009

Indoor camping

We've been building dens a lot recently. Lots of upturned furniture, cardboard boxes and bedsheets! Far too much fun!
The culmination of the various dens was a hunormous one made from an upturned papsan chair, two plastic pipes from the garage, an elderly ikea chair (that we affectionately refer to as the "soul glow chair" because of the stain on the headrest that I can't get rid of), a play rug, an old cardboard box that used to be "the independence day house", and before that, "Thomas the tank engine-sort of", and a bunch of bedsheets.
It was an uber den! Porch, two internal doors, a middle room and a bedroom at the end.

After that the kids wanted to "camp out", so we made a little pretend camp fire.
I put a load of the moss circles that we used for the indoor picnic around the front of the den and the kids coloured in some fire to add to the wood pile.
We pretended to toast the most pathetically miniscule marshmallows ever and they wrapped up a load of play food in tin foil to bake on the edge of the fire.I figured we should probably have a go at making some fake smores. Is that how you spell it? I'd never heard of smores until I came to the US. There was to be no real melting on the pretend fire, so we just sandwiched the marshmallows in the graham crakers with nutella. The kids saved a couple of the graham crackers with the chocolate licked off for their dad. It's the thought that counts right?
The kids brought along the chipmunk I made ages ago, because there are always chipmunks when you go camping. I'll have to make a racoon and a grisly bear next I suppose, unless we pretend that we are camping back in the UK, then the scariest animal I'd have to make would be a badger, but then again to make a realistic simulation of camping in the UK I would have to screw the sprinkler into the livingroom ceiling.
Making dens is great fun! I think I want to go get some more of those plastic pipes, because they were only 79cents each and we could make a cool teepee with a few more! Is it bad that I find myself looking longingly at plastic plumbing connectors in Lowes like they are tinker toys?

Speaking of Lowes, it's another build and grow workshop for free tomorrow. Building a mini school bus this time. I think that's the last of the summer series though, so it'll probably go back to being once a month rather than once a fornight.
Have you got any killer den making tips? My kids are getting such a kick out of the livingroom being entirely consumed by this structure.
Fangletronics hero is busy making a pretend flickering flame doodad with LEDs for the kids to put under the pile of wood in the campfire for a more realistic indoor campfire in the dark! Whooo!

Aug 20, 2009

The music tree

Just a wee post. not the usual squillions of pictures. I just wanted to post about this quickly because it's given a lot of joy to my kids and their friends.

My older daughter always oooha and ahhhs when we pass a house near us that has a load of wind chimes on the porch. She asked last week if we could make some wind chimes, so awesome husband hacksawed up some copper pipe, drilled a couple of holes in each tube and hung them up in the kitchen for a while for the kids to bash with xylophone sticks (you can see it strung between the cooker and the door on the terrifying scarecrow post)

Well, on the weekend we found two proper wind chimes that were quite old and grotty for cheap in a thrift store, so we brought them home and separated them into individual chimes. I'm not a big fan of metal wind chimes to be honest, especially with the wind we sometimes get around here. I would worry about it being noise polution of the clangiest incesant variety for our three neighbours, so separating the chimes out meant that when we hung them outside they wouldn't make a din in the wind, but the kids could interact with them to make tunes themselves.

We hung them all up along with a few metal dessert dishes and a couple of elderly tambourines on a little apple tree at the corner of our house. They are tied with string to clips I pulled off a dollar store hanger for drying clothes, so we can move them around or bring them inside if we want. Now the kids can play the music tree with their freinds and if they have wooden spoons to play it with then the sound is lovely and muted and not quite so clangy as metal on metal, so the neighbours aren't going to emmigrate or throw bricks over the fence at us. I have quite a few wooden spoons in the craft bin, so the kids were able to make collaborative noise with their freinds this week, which was really quite funny, watching them choose songs to sing and then making very careful and utterly tuneless noise to go along with the already hilariously out of tune preschooler choir attempt.
I think I'm going to tie up a clothes line from the tree to the fence and see if the kids can arrange the chimes on the line in order of pitch. That could be interesting.

Aug 16, 2009

Kitchen paper and baby wipe Kanzashi flowers.

I had never heard of kanzashi tsumami until recently, when I saw the book "Kanzashi in bloom" by Dianne Gilleland. I don't have a copy myself, but I was curious enough to look up the very old art form on the intertoobs and found several tutorials showing me how to get started. I'd still like to get a copy of Dianne's book though, because she seems to have a lot of ideas in it that would make great gifts.

Here is a simple set of diagrams showing the basic petal folds. I just used the rounded petals for the flowers that I made for the kidletts.

I've made a few fabric versions of these flowers using the different petal types with nice neat hand sewing, and rather enjoyed the process. The kidletts thought the flowers were very cool and wanted to make some too, but well, they are three and four years old and as simple as this craft is to pick up, it probably wouldn't be at all doable for them until they are at least around six or seven, because it's quite fiddly. I came up with the idea of making some giant kanzashi flowers from kitchen roll for them to paint. The kitchen roll is the sort that doesn't disintegrate when it gets wet, so they can paint the finished flowers without them falling apart or ripping.

I made them a giant kanzashi each by folding the the rounded petals and stringing them on a loop of crochet thread. The traditional kanzashi it seems are made very delicately with tweezers and rice glue, but that's far too much faffing about for a kid's project. Here's a nice video showing someone being terribly careful about folding a petal (I was not this careful at all, and didn't use any glue and didn't even do the end bit of folding in the underside of the petal, I just stapled them on the bottom after I'd strung them together)

Once the flower petals had been drawn together on the string and tied off, I turned them over and folded over where the petals joined and stapled them down together to tidy them up and make them more sturdy. so, kitchen paper cut into squares (four squares from each sheet), a bit of string and five staples. I made another flower with six petals too.

After the flowers were made, I cut a bit of dry wall shim from our stash (yup, we still have loads left even after making roads for the train table, dresses, and roman army costumes out of them). The kids decorated the shims before I cut them to the right head size and stapled on the flower.

Then they could paint them with pots of watered down food colouring and hang them up to dry. There was some crazy chromatography going on with the purple food colouring. It separated into purple and blue whilst soaking into the kitchen towel, which was pretty cool.

Here are the happy lasses in the finished headgear (with a sticker for the center of the flower, although one of those craft pom poms glued on would look even nicer)

After I'd made the kitchen towel flowers I thought I might try some out of dried baby wipes, because they have that fabric like soft texture. I stuck a handful of baby wipes out to dry and then cut them to be square. This time I wanted to make smaller flowers for the kids to make a bouquet for grandma, so I cut each square into four smaller squares, then made the flowers in exactly the same way that I had done with the kitchen towel. They came out about palm sized.

I'd died a packet of wooden BBQ skewers green ages and ages ago with food colouring, originally because I thought I might use them in the cardboard flowers craft we did, but in the end the pipe cleaners worked better for that, so we still had the green skewers handy. I used a couple of plastic beads to sandwich each flower onto the end of a skewer with some hot glue. Quick and painless way to make a stem for them.

Again the kids painted them up with watered down food colouring. They really got into this, to the point where after they had painted the first four, I ended up making them six more, so grandma will have a bunch of ten daisies. Maybe we should give each grandma five daisies though. Cool thing is that both grandmas are 5000 miles away and these are going to be nice and light to mail to them!

They are pretty well formed, even after being soaked and smashed by the kids painting them. I could give them a quick squirt with liquid starch I suppose if I was being picky, but really I think they are fine as is.
They might make a cute and inexpensive gift for a teacher too, and I'm sure they would look a lot classier if you used some nicer beads for the centers.

While we're on the subject of kitchen towel... They make totally mean magic carpets too!

Our house is one where you are free to express yourself. Consequently Aladin feels comfortable in his desire to cross dress. Poor guy, it's so difficult to find a smoking hot dress that looks good with a fez.

Aug 12, 2009

Indoor picnic

Don't you just love it when things just work out? We had a moment of that today, which made for a great game this afternoon. I was looking after my mate's three kids this afternoon, and when she came round to drop them off, her youngest had brought a picnic hamper with her to play with. Three of the kids wanted to play indoors with the Lego, but my three year old and her best mate wanted to have a pretend picnic on the grass with the baby dolls. I wasn't going to let the three year olds be outside on their own, and I wasn't going to let the other three kids be inside on their own either.

The fortuitous part of all this is that a couple of weeks ago, two mates of ours got married and as part of the reception decor they had these large preserved moss circle centerpieces on the tables, with cute little pretend trees holding the seating names. They brought them back and kindly asked us if we could use them for the kids to make something with. I said "yes please! I'm sure we'll find some things to do with them.", but I didn't really have a clue what at the time. I thought maybe I'd save them until Christmas and the kids could make cone shaped Christmas trees to decorate or something. They are dried, so it's not like I had to think of something to use them for right away.

Anyhoo, the moment was now, so I got the moss circles out of the garage and we laid them out to make a pretend park in the kitchen, and the kids set up the picnic there with the babies and some snack food and juice.

They decorated the place with some of the flowers I have from a broken dollar store lei. I should really get another one deliberately to break, because the flowers have been so useful in so many crafts!

Batgirl and her best friend played happily and a couple of the other kids came in from next door to check out the picnic (although the Lego pulled them back again after they had snacked)

I think these moss circles are going to be very useful for indoor picnicing when we have bad weather! I always wanted to make the outdoors indoors when the weather was bad. Back in uni one of the flats in our halls of residence in first year covered the floor of an entire room with sand in order to have a beach party in the winter. The moss was a lot easier to clean up than the sand!

Thank you Pat and Victoria for our indoor park :) I'll let you know what other weird things we use your stash of moss and tiddly trees for.

Aug 11, 2009

Toy cars and trucks from recycling

Last month I came across a really great tutorial on Origami Mommy, that showed how to make toy vehicles using straws, bamboo skewers and bottle tops to make perfect little axles with turning wheels. So very very cool! I have wanted to do this with the kids ever since reading that tutorial. I needed to find a spare evening to turn the contents of my recycling bin inside out and glue it back together again first though.

We don't ever have those cute little cardboard milk cartons that Origami Mommy uses in her tutorial because my kids chug milk by the gallon, and all the plastic bottles have been comandeered for another craft project, so I used any and all smallish boxes that I could find. There were butter packets, crayon packets, shoe boxes, candy boxes from last halloween, even some random boxes that I'd asked the lady stocking the shelves at Michaels if I could take home.

Lots of random bottle lids that we've collected too.

The bigger trucks worked nicely using a couple of Epson ink cartridge boxes as the front section.

For a couple of the cars I cut out triangles from the top corners of rectangular boxes and then folded down the sides and glued them to make a more carlike shape from the one box.

I had six kids over and it worked out that we had enough for them to make two vehicles each. They got decorating with sharpies and stickers and paint...

Gradually as the kids finished their cars and trucks I sorted out the wheels for them using a hot glue gun. You should go check out Origami Mommy's tutorial to see how the working wheels fit together. We used beads to make sure the bottle tops didn't come off. Here are a couple of underneath pics (please excuse the tea stained grout! I clearly have a drinking problem)

Some of the 12 finished vehicles. I love that they all wanted to make the trucks have faces like Mac from the movie Cars. As you can tell from the last two, I was running out of things to use for wheels!

Then they took them outside to draw chalk roads and race them.
So, thank you Origami Mommy, for sharing a top craft all the way from Japan, that rocked my kid's afternoon!
Next thing I want to do, probably when I have fewer kids over, is to help them to make some vehicles like these that have rubber band mechanisms to power them. My two are into the whole rubber band propulsion idea, after we made the wooden "power boats" at Lowes.