Jan 29, 2010

Giant homemade Geoboard

I didn't know what a geoboard was until a year or so ago, when I saw a plastic one in a shop. Here's the wikipedia entry for it here, in case you've never heard of them either.

I wasn't in any hurry to make one for my kids because they were still quite young. Then some time last year I saw a post on the "Crafty Crow", showing how "Mamma Jenn" had made one using cork board pins. My kids would be trying to pull the pins out even if I glued them in, so I wasn't sure about trying that.
Around this time my friend Jennifer found a large bit of board in the garbage room of her apartment block and brought it over for me, knowing that I like to make stuff out of other people's trash (thank you Jennifer!). This is the sort of board with holes drilled in, that you mount on the wall to put fixtures in to hang tools etc. I thought it would be perfect for a geoboard if we used some nuts and bolts to make the pegs.

We got a nice big box of 100 bolts and nuts and screwed them all in. The kids then got a rubber band ball each to take apart and use on the board.

We haven't done any specific learning excersizes with it yet. The kids are just exploring and playing with it making shapes. Interestingly they decided to use it to make mazes for their little toys.

Of course if you have the imagination of a three year old, all you need is a single rubber band.

At some point in the future the board will become more useful to teach geometry concepts, especially as we can remove the pegs and put them back in using different formations, but right now it's just cool that they are into imagining and exploring with it and it's no longer destined for landfill. Also, it's nice that it's big enough that four kids can crowd round and play with it at once, seeing as we often have extra kids about the house.

It's also fun for mum to play with ;) Doesn't take much to amuse me.

Jan 16, 2010

Glow in the dark walls, lightsabre update and a few thank yous.

I just wanted to give you a little update to the lightsabre post, because a lot of people have been asking about the little round LED push lights that we used. We only used these because I had four of them and the kids would all get something that was the same. It's a lot easier and looks a lot better if you just have a regular torch/flashlight, because the little bit of toilet roll fits better and also you can switch it on and off easily. Here's a decent one that we made with one of our earthquake kit torches and some electrical tape. Much better looking!

I also need to say quite a few thank yous, because there was some kind of new year blog award awarding frenzy it seems. So, thank you to these people below...

If there's someone I've missed then I'm very very sorry. I'm a bit burried under the emails that have been coming in since 2010 kicked off.

Lastly, and I hope you've stuck with me to here. I want to show you the fun we've been having with our new glow in the dark livingroom wall! Yeah, we painted a wall in our rental property with glow in the dark paint. I figure we can just paint over it when we leave right? There's a huge glow in the dark wall in the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and the kids love it. They have a big fixed strobe light that goes off once every 20 seconds, that creates your silhouette on the wall when you stand in front of it. The kids think it's awesome! Now we can do that at home with a camera flash!

We also wanted a kind of giant homebrew version of the Crayola glow station thingy, and for the cost of the toy, we got enough glow in the dark paint to cover a wall. The hubbins put his electronics knowhow to work and made the kids some great little UV light pens to draw on the wall with. Next i want to see if I can get some images laser printed on acetate, so they can "burn" them on the wall with the camera flash

You can read more about the wall, the light pens he made, and see more pics over on his blog Fangletronics.

Jan 11, 2010

Balloon and torch lightsabres

OK, ok, let's get this out of the way before we start. I know these look very inuendoish. Let's have no more mention of that!

First off, gotta give credit where credit is due. The idea for this larking around came from a post from a while back by Zakka Life, showing how they made lightsabres for her son's birthday party out of toilet roll tubes and modelling balloons. Absolutely fab idea! I've been holding off on trying this with the kids until the nights were drawn in and the weather was icky, so that we could experiment with using LED flashlights with it and maybe do a spot of Jedi light painting.

The modelling balloons that I had were kinda skinny little ones, so I had to tape them into the loo roll tubes to work. Also, the flashlights that we had were those little flat LED ones, like this...
So I cut each toilet roll tube in half, so the length of the tube was shorter and you got a brighter result. You wouldn't have to do that if you had a regular shaped torch/flashlight though.
We've done this three times in the last week with three different groups of friends ranging in age from 2 to eight years old, and they all absolutely loved it! No one is going to get hurt fighting with balloons, and the photos that came from a long exposure with the lights off are too much fun entirely. It looks like we have aurora borealis in our livingroom!
It's impressive to note just how much leaping around was actually going on, because the longest exposure photo in this lot was eight seconds!

I made a couple of giant lightbulbs too, that the kids rather liked as nightlights.
For the cost of a packet of modelling balloons, this has provided a hunormously mahoosive amount of indoor entertainment. We'll be doing plenty more of it while we wait out the heavy rain that the next month or so usually brings.

Jan 5, 2010

Home made superhero fleece poncho-cape.

Sounds a bit odd doesn't it?

These were one of the presents that I made for my girls this Christmas. They are pretty into the whole superhero thing. They have Batman and Superman PJs and wanted capes, so I thought it would be a nice idea if they had capes that could double up as cold weather ponchos.

I used one yard of blue fleece for the superman poncho and one yard of black fleece for the Batman one. I got the little bits of yellow and red fleece from the remnants section, so they were pennies. I also used two 16" chunky zippers and two nice big buttons. I thought the kids would find it easier to do up and undo if I sewed in a hair bobble to close the button, rather than sew button holes (easier for me too, let's be honest).

The fleece appliques on the backs were done by hand.

Here's how I cut the shape of the cape to sew up. I used a piece of chalk and some string to make a big compass, so that I could cut out a big semi circle from the yard of fleece. I cut out a smaller semi circle for the start of the neck part of the pattern. Oooh, look at my grotty kitchen floor and seventies crockery!

From here on out you get a faux tutorial using paper instead of the actual cape, because it was all done at stupid O'clock at night with pants lighting and I didn't think you'd be able to make out anything of the black and blue fleece. so here's the semi circle with the little semi circle cut out in paper. You get the idea. It's far from rocket science, but as i was typing out what I did it started to sound more confusing than it should be if that makes any sense.

Then I folded the two sides in to meet in the middle, so that I had a quarter circle (as though looking at the poncho head on, flat on the ground) From here I cut the curves of the shoulders.

Next I openned the cape back up and folded it so that it was in half (as though you were looking at it side on, flat on the ground. From here I cut out a lower neckline for the front of the poncho. All cutting done.

Sew up the shoulder seams and hem all around to give it a bit more structure and stop the bottom of the cape stretching over time. Sew in the zipper and then you just have the collar to put on. I just cut a length of fleece from the left over, folded it in half to have double thickness and about one and a half inches height for the collar and sewed in the hairbobble while I was at it.

They worked out a great fit for my nearly four year old and just turned five year old. The length on them was good too, because it allowed them to crouch down without the poncho dragging on the floor.

The capes also had a lot of good movement to them when charging around being superheroey. I was going to cut arm hole slits in them, but as it turned out the capes were short enough that the kids didn't need them to be able to get their hands out
If I'd had more time and appropriate fabric then it would have been really cool to put a silky/satiny yellow material as a lining for them. I'll probably make more as gifts though, so I'll try that at some point in the future. I also want to make a very small wonder woman one with a felt wonder woman crown for a specific wee lass.

Here are some pictures of my two galavanting around on the hillside on Christmas day afternoon, rocking the cape/ponchos. Big filth wizard liked hers zipped up and little filth wizard opted for the open cape style.

Sewing isn't exactly my forte. I'm much more comfortable hand sewing than machine sewing (I'm hoping to change that in the future though), so if I can manage this then I think just about anyone can. I do have a fair bit of the yard left over, so if I can manage it then I'd like to make some indoor slippers that look like knee high superhero boots to go with the capes.