Jul 27, 2010

DIY land of Oz

I mentioned in the previous post that we were going to watch the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz this weekend. Well, the kids LOVED it! I mean really really loved it. I thought we could try hacking together some sort of play set from the stuff we already have around the house, so that they can play make believe in their own little land of Oz.

You've probably noticed from some of our older posts like the Train table, the mermaid kingdom, dinosaur island, pixie hollow and more recently Care-a-lot, that my children are very much into making little worlds for their toys to play in. I'm all for encouraging this, because it makes for some very very cheap toys, and I think they get a lot of empowerment from making their own play things. It's nice that their first instinct is to want to build a specific place, rather than find out if there is one that could be bought. It might seem like a lot of work to facilitate this sort of project, but in reality it's pretty easy to just hack together stuff that you have around the place anyway. Sometimes you just have to think sideways to pull it off.

This time we started with making the characters for the story. The first ones we made were the easiest. The tin man was a playmobile dude, coloured with silver sharpie and with a metal frosting nozle glued to his head.

Three of the characters were made by altering Polly Pocket dolls. My kids love Polly Pocket dolls, and I have to admit they are quite cute despite the ridonkulous Alley McBeale head to body proportions. I hate the fiddly rubber clothing though! and who the heck owns rubber pajamas anyway!?! So it was somewhat of a relief when my mother inlaw bought the girls these strange mix and match Polly Pockets for Christmas, that you can snap together predressed body parts with. Much easier for them to play with at this age, although I do still get freaked out when I find rogue decapitated shrunken heads in odd places around the house. We were able to snap together the most suitable Polly Pocket bits to make Dorothy and the wicked witch. We coloured the witches skin green with a sharpie, and used a fine tipped black sharpie to colour her shoes and clothing. I loved that she had purple eyes and stripey tights already!

I made her a little felt hat and cape, because otherwise she looked like a halloween stripper witch.

Dorothy was another polly pocket, with a white top that we coloured the bodice in blue sharpie and made a little blue skirt for.

Her shoes and socks were originally white sneakers that we coloured with fine tipped sharpies, then the kids glued and dipped them in red glitter.

The scarecrow was hacked together from an old project that we'd done, which was making people out of beads. I thought the bead base would work really well for him, because he'd be floppy and hard to stand up like he is in the movie.

Glove fingers for trousers and wool tied for straw with a hot glued hat made from a scrap of spare material.

The cowardly lion was a bit of a challenge. I tried suggesting a plastic lion toy from the box of animals we have, but that was met with utter dissaproval and I was told that "No, he has to be a people-lion". How do you make a humanoid-lion toy on demand? If only we'd had some Thundercats handy! Instead we took the totally freaky approach of forcing Batman into a Hannibal Lecteresque kitty skin suit. Yes, Bruce Wayne is a closet furry.

Now this next picture... If this doesn't make you laugh then I don't think I can be your friend. I've been looking at him on and off for two days now and it still makes me giggle. I think it's the way he's standing. The kids think he is just the ticket though.

Glinda the good witch was a bit of an afterthought and was just another polly pocket with a carebear crown stuck on her. We've got a cute little Duplo scottie dog that makes a great Toto, but there's no photo of him, because he's gone missing.

So, we had the cast sorted. Now we needed the set. The kids wanted to make the yellow brick road out of playdough, so that was easy. I just made a batch of yellow playdough. I think the bit of this whole escapade that I liked the most is the solution for making it look like it was made from bricks. We needed something to imprint a brick pattern into the playdough, so we went looking in the Lego box. My mum saved all my Lego from when I was a kid, and we have these pieces that are meant to be used as walls for house building. I don't know if they make pieces like this anymore, but we were able to bundle a few of them with other Lego on top to hold them together and they made a great brick stamper.

This was where we stopped for the day. They had already started to draw part of the Emerald City onto a sparkly gift bag, so we carried on with that the next day.

Luckily the kids were only interested in making the Emerald City, so we didn't have to figure out how to make the Munchkin city, or the witch's castle or anything else. As usual I started them off with a base made from stuff in the recycling bin. A couple of cardboard boxes with a few strategic exacto knife cuts to them were enough to build onto.

We used four gift bags from the Dollar Tree to make it all sparkly and green. They were easy to draw on with Sharpies and put stickers on. There was a bit of painting on the brown box insides too.

All afternoon they spent building this on the kitchen table and then playing with it. Other random things were added to the set up from around the house, like fake flowers for the field of pink flowers they run across to get to the city, the forest where they meet the cowardly lion, and a Duplo house that the witch could be squished by. Turns out Duplo dudes make really good Munchkins too.

I don't know how long the Oz fettish will last around here, but there are things we can keep adding into the story. I think it would be quite cool to make the hot air balloon from the end of the movie, or tape some fake wings on the couple of Duplo monkeys we have. I'm sure the kids will have more ideas too. Here's a shot from the back of the city. Yes, the scarecrow is in bed with a couple of munchkins.

This isn't one of the two posts I mentioned in my last post that I was meaning to get up on here. I just got caught up in playing the Oz game with the kids and thought I'd post about it while it was fresh and I knew where the photos were. Do any of you other bloggers do that? Have intensions of posting about things and then get distracted by shiney new games to play?

Jul 22, 2010

Sorry I've neglected you! and a bunch of total randomness

Wow, where did July go?! It's stormed past us here! I know it's not over yet, but the last three weeks have flown by, and I haven't posted anything this month apart from the Duplo post before this one. I do have projects that we've done this month that I want to post, but one of them needs some more photos taking and the other needs some video, but I can't for the life of me locate our point and click that takes video clips. Lame. This is how I end up with bazillions of unposted projects lurking back here. I have the attention span of a goldfish.

So in the mean time, I thought I'd share with you some of the nonsense that we've been up to. Not ground breaking stuff, but thought it'd give you an idea of the random happenings around here.

Dens and yarn and "Klob" houses.

My five year old's family tree she made (she sat in the trolley around home depot cutting out all those apple shapes from photographs, while we looked for bolts and screws to rescue the latest craigslist find) See the guy that looks like me with no hair? It was his birthday last week. Happy Birthday Dad!

We've been trying to add to the veggies we're growing in the yard without having to spend a lot of money on compost and pots etc. We were lucky enough to find a lovely family near us that were getting rid of a load of pots for free on Craigslist because they were moving house. When we went to collect the pots we found out that they also had a raised planter they were going to ditch, so Paul went back a few days later and took it all apart and brought it home. Last weekend I spent a ridiculous three hours in the yard, sifting through the six contractors bin bags containing a mixture of rocks and potting compost, pulling out all the rocks from it, to go at the bottom for drainage. It was a very windy day and the potting compost was bone dry, so although it was easy to fish out all the white rocks from it, I ended up looking like I'd walked away from an explosion in an instant coffee factory. It's all put together now though and planted up with tomatoes, peppers, basil, corgettes, bush beans and carrots. The kids did a wonderful paint job on it too!

We have a bit of an epic restoration project to handle over the next couple of weekends. We were lucky enough to score a free play structure from a local family who bought a house with it in the garden, but who's kid was too old for it. They had been trying to get rid of it for a couple of years, but no one who came to look at it could figure out how to take it apart. It took us quite a while to get it apart because a lot of it had been nailed together rather than screwed, but it's still structurally sound, so after I've done a lot of painting then we can saw off the bottom six inches that are rotten, and get it put back together for the kids to clamber all over. A lot of time to put in, but given that the thing would be nearly four grand when new, it's the only way the kids will be having one! With the paint, some replacement bolts and screws, and the cost of the Uhaul to go get it, I think we can bring it in for under $200. I'll let you know how it works out.

Also, thought you'd get a giggle out of our 4th July decorations. We never managed to get rid of our Christmas tree. It's just been sitting at the end of the porch looking sorry for itself, so the kids decorated it. I think we'll decorate it as a halloween tree next!

Multi-story car park improvisation

Upsidedown tomatoes in old containers seem to be doing well! I painted the containers black so that the roots of the plants are nice and toasty warm. They seem to like it :) The one below is a Folger's coffee container that I swiped from the local preschool's recycling bin. We have tomato plants growing in Creamer containers, soda bottles and animal cracker boxes too. Classy!

We've been doing outdoor movie nights on the weekends this month too. Paul was able to borrow a projector from his work, so we've just been dragging all the bedding out into the yard and having friends over to watch a kid flick with popcorn and fairy lights. I LOVE the atmosphere. We just project onto the side of the house, because it's a pale yellow. The last one we had we were babysitting for some friends, so we had nine kids. Here is my four year old and her two best four year old buddies huddled up in a storage box with blankets waiting for the movie to start. Sooooo CUTE! This Saturday if the weather allows us, we're going to do the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz.

Lastly, my kids painted a huge picture of me today! I'm so flattered! My four year old drew it and they both painted it together. I look terrifyingly Tim Burtonesque in it (apparently those are gardening gloves, and yes, my farmer's tan is pretty much that bad!), but dang, I wish that skirt was real! I'd wear it every day, just look at the colours!!! It's taller than I am by about 6 inches. Maybe I have killer heels on under the skirt?

Anyhoo, just wanted to say hi really, and promise to post some real Filth Wizardry projects soon :)

Also, while we're chit chatting... Here are a few more links to some people that have tried our projects and blogged about them :)
  • The Addams family made a playdough mermaid kingdom here. Just look at those gorgeous wooden mermaid dolls!
  • The Owens family made a stained glass window with tissue paper here. Seeing that made me wish we had some Nepalese Prayer flags like my inlaws have to hang in the house or the garden.
  • Lady Hawkes-Fenster blogged about using our print and cut out robot parts from a looooong time ago here. Good to see that even ancient FW posts are still of use to people!

  • Over at Handmade Beginnings, Eva made some tshirt skirts like my girl's easter ones, with the iron on plastic bag decal technique, here. She found perfect party bags for it!
I hope August doesn't dissapear as fast as July has been doing!

Jul 16, 2010

DIY spinny spellers and repurposing Duplo bricks

Almost a year ago I made a couple of DIY spinny spellers for my kids, because they were learning to sound out letter combinations and blend sounds to start reading. The spinny spellers you can buy are all upper case letters though, and I wanted something that was lower case, so I just used a bit of dowelling and some wooden beads and some letter stickers we had handy.

It worked a treat and I agreed with my older daughter's kindergarten teacher that it would be a good tool for the classroom, so I've got a box of wooden blocks that her husband kindly cut and drill pressed holes in, plus a bunch of dowelling and all the left over wooden beads from a thrift store find, to make over 40 of these things. I'm hoping I can get my act together and find some appropriate letraset cheaply to put letters on all the blocks and varnish them. I was going to try this method (which is very cool), but with nearly 500 surfaces altogether, that would take my until the kids were in college!
Anyway, as well as the spinny speller hackathon, I've ended up making a set of creative spelling/reading/story making blocks from our Duplo bricks. I wanted something with a bit more freedom than just the three blocks of the spinny speller. Something that could grow with the kids ability. We are lucky enough to have a good amount of Duplo because my mum saved all mine and my sisters, and we scored a couple of cool garage sale sets too, plus uncle Chris gave the kids a zoo set. Their dad stole a few of the bricks to make traffic lights for them a while back, but we still have lots we can use.
The kids are now preferring more and more to build with the smallest scale Lego, but the Duplo still has so many possibilities for them as they get older.
All I did was sit down one evening with a bunch of white stickers and write out a load of easy words. Sight words and words that my kids can already read or sound out. It took a while to write and cut them all, but it was very cheap, and we were lucky enough to have a mate we'd not seen in years staying with us that night, so we all sat around and chatted until about 3am while I stuck all these words on the blocks. For some of them I put the opposites on the other side of the block, like "love" and "hate" or "big" and "small" and for others I put complimentary words like "his" and "her", so that the kids could change sentances they made easily by switching around a block. I had a couple of long blocks, so used them for entertaining long words.

The kids have enjoyed them a lot. We started out making story walls together, and then when left to their own devices they started making funny sentances stacked up vertically.

For my younger daughter, who is four, I made another set that were in a different orientation, that would work a bit more like an extension to the spinny speller. They just had vowel bricks with a different vowel on each of the four sides, and consonant bricks with four consonants on each side. I also made a few bricks that had combinations like "ch", "sh", "th" etc, because she's learning those sounds in words too.

I drew a load of pictures in black sharpie that the kids wanted to colour, then they sat with the letter bricks making the words that went with each picture.

They also made words to go with pictures in books and little toys they have.

Of course the Duplo bricks can still be used in regular building play, but this adds an extra learning possibility to the play. The really seem to like the idea of "building" a word or a sentance. I really think that Lego should just make sets like this. The kids were so into building with the words and it would be great to be able to buy grade level appropriate sets or character story telling sets. Limitless!

We're still having fun with all the card and hole punching Lego crafts from a while ago too. I should get my act together to post you some new vehicle kit print outs of something else interesting from our experimenting.