Sunday, 25 January 2015

DIY Fabric Bird Pencil Toppers & Puppets

We're taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend & to help us record our observations we made these colourful bird pencil toppers. They'd make a great addition to any nature table, or any wildlife project, & what's really neat is that they make great puppets too!
Made from recycled items & a pencil these little birds are frugal to make, making them a perfect craft for a large group of children. We made these recently at an after school club & the creations the children produced were just beautiful.
To make them we used: A cardboard box, scraps of colourful material (we used felt), gloopy glue (PVA glue) , googly eyes, sticky tape, & a pencil.
We started by cutting our cardboard box into smaller sections, & then drew around a simple bird template before cutting it out. You can find a variety of bird templates online.
Then we attached the pencil firmly to one side of the cardboard. We used a thick tape, but plenty of cello tape will work just as well.
Before cutting our fabric we thought about the types of birds we wanted to make & had a look through a bird spotter book, observing the colours of the feathers & beaks. Once we had chosen our bird & found our scraps of material we cut out small feather shapes to decorate the bird templates. To create the feather shapes we suggested the children cut out 'eye' or oval shapes.
Now to decorate the birds! We found it easier (& quicker) to cover one side of the template with glue & then stick on the feather shapes.  The Big Garden Bird Watch guide offered us a great image to refer to when we made out little robin.
When we had completed one side we carefully turned the bird over & decorated the other side. You could wait for the first side to dry before decorating the second, but it's not necessary, just make sure you have the table top covered. We made beaks using small triangles of felt & stuck on along with the eyes.
We loved making these & soon had quite a collection!
Yesterday they came in very handy for filling in our Big Garden Bird Watch activity sheet which Minnie loved.
These pencil toppers have been so much fun to create & use these weekend, & I'm sure they'll be popular for many weeks yet. Minnie is already talking about doing a puppet show with them & acting it out in the garden!
Making them gave us a great opportunity to study our local wildlife in a different way, as we checked garden bird books & studied the birds feathers & features before creating our own birds. As we made them we were able to talk about the different birds, their habitats, food, & the impact of weather conditions on the wildlife in our garden. It also made us consider what we can do to help the birds more in our own backyard.
What a cute way to celebrate the wild birds in your garden & encourage an interest & care for local wildlife too!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Make your own Worry Monster - ideal for helping kids with anxiety or sleep issues

These little monsters just love worries! In fact the more you give them the happier they are!
Designed to help alleviate anxiety & reduce stress in young children, these DIY Worry Monsters offer children a simple way to express & release those negative emotions.

If you have a child who is experiencing anxiety whether due to a new situation, a change in a familiar routine, friendship issues, or sleeping difficulties, you'll know the impact that this anxiety can have on their life. Issues which can often seem insignificant to an adult can be momentous to a child & sometimes so overwhelming that they become unable to verbalize or even share those feelings. These Worry Monsters offer a space to let go of those anxieties & hopefully encourage children to feel calmer once again.

To make each monster we used; a container with a lid, one A4 sheet of paper (we used green), sticky tape, scissors, coloured sticky dots, 2 small circles of white card, googly eyes, & pens. 

The neat thing about these monsters is that children can create them themselves, making each monster unique & looking as ugly, or as silly as they wish. Children's imaginations can run wild.

We used a moneybox style container for our mini worry monster as the top gave us a neat posting slot. We started by cutting a length of paper that would cover the sides of the can, making sure we added a 5cm boarder to the top. We then cut a zig zag pattern along the boarder to give our monster some spiky hair. With the remaining green paper we cut out some monster arms to add a little later. There are no specifications really for these monsters, the arms can be any shape or size. 

Using the sticky tape we attached the paper to the container making sure it was a secure fit. We then attached the arms in the same way, along with the two circular cards & googly eyes. With pens & sticky dots we added a few funny monster features & our monster was ready to collect some worries! 

These monsters are ideal for a range of age groups, & those who are unable to write their worries independently could draw their feelings on paper. If that's not appropriate then they could always use the paper to express how they're feeling, e.g. scribble on it, scrunch it up, or even rip it up & feed it to the monster. The main thing is that their worry has been released.

It's helpful to encourage children to think that when their worry has been posted into the Worry Monster then the worry has been taken away from them, hopefully instilling a sense of peace. It's helpful too to remind them that any number of worries can be added at any time, not matter how big or small they may seem, the Worry Monster is always there to eat up any negative feelings they may wish to share with it.

And just like worries, Worry Monsters come in all shapes & sizes! Smaller Worry Monsters can be carried around in a bag if needed, or tucked away somewhere safe. We discovered that a Pringles can enabled us to create a great big worry monster with plenty of space for lots of paper!

Of course it's up to you whether you read the scraps of paper that the children post into the monster. If you do I would just think about how you handle your response. The Worry Monster offers a safe space where a child can unload & share some things which they might not be able to express verbally with anyone else. So discussing what you've found might not be the best way to help, but respectfully offering support with certain situations if needed might be more positive.

 I know several children who have made these Worry Monsters & now keep them under their beds just in case they have a nightmare, or worry at night.

The reassurance these simple monsters can offer has amazed me. I know of one little boy who used to refuse to walk past a certain garden on the way to school because a barking dog was causing him distress. After making one of these monsters his mum told me that he was able to walk to school with less anxiety & stroll past the house with the dog when he had the worry monster in his school bag. He told his mum; "The monster eats all my worries, & they go in his tummy instead of mine." 

Of course these Worry Monsters might not work for all children & all situations, but they are fun to make & might just make a difference.

If you found this helpful you might also like our Mind Jars or our Magical Calming Spray.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

DIY FROZEN Glitter Bracelets - That Turn To Ice!

These sparkly Frozen bracelets are sure to be a hit with any FROZEN fan. In fact you can turn these bracelets to ice just like Elsa!

They make perfect little gifts for Christmas, & would be a pretty addition to any FROZEN outfit too.
If you fancy making one of these pretty bracelets you'll need:
4 foot of  9mm clear tubing
1 foot of 5mm clear tubing (available from hardware stores)
Masking tape
Selection of different glitter (we used blue, silver & iridescent)
Small beads (optional)

We started by taking the thicker tubing (9mm) that would become our bracelet & measured it around Minnie's wrist, making sure it would slide easily on & off her arm. We cut the tubing to size, & then cut a small length (10-15mm) of the thinner 5mm tubing to make a stopper. To help the stopper slide into our bracelet we made a small cut in one end to enable the sides to overlap each other.
Before filling the thicker tube we wrapped tape around one end to prevent the contents from spilling.

To give our FROZEN bracelets their icy glistening effect we used a selection of cool coloured glitters, including some very fine iridescent glitter. The mix of fine & normal glitter gave a great effect when the water was added.

To add some 'snow' to our bracelet we used tiny pearl beads. We discovered the more you add the slower the movement of the glitter in the water, so ended up with just 4 of these in each bracelet.

With a pinch or two of each glitter we started to fill the tube & when we were happy with the amount we added our beads.

Now for the tricky part! Hold your bracelet in the middle (as shown below) & remove the masking tape from the end.

Make sure you have the stopper (small section of thin tubing) to hand before you do the next step.

Carefully add a little cold water to the tube, leaving room for a small amount of air. Ideally this is easier to do using a small funnel, but as we didn't have one we filled our bracelet under a slow trickling tap. If you find you have too much water in the tube just carefully tip a little out.

Take the stopper & carefully push one end into the thick tubing. This is fiddly, but worth persevering with. The stopper has to be a tight fit in the tube to secure the bracelet.

Once the stopper is in, join the bracelet together by inserting the stopper into the other end of the tube & push the ends firmly together. If you're giving this bracelet to very young children you may want to seal the ends with hot glue or sticky tape.

Then your FROZEN bracelets are ready to wear, or share!

Minnie & I have made several of these for her friends for Christmas, & of course she has made a few for herself too.

Not only do these bracelets look beautiful, they're fascinating to explore near a light too. As the liquid inside the bracelet moves, the glitter creates beautiful swirling patterns which shimmer & sparkle as it reflects the light. And of course you can FREEZE these bracelets & create your own ice bracelet!
To make a FROZEN ice bracelet pop your bracelet into a freezer & leave for two hours. Of course if you have freezing temperatures where you live then you could hang these outdoors to freeze.
With the ice bracelet you can really see the frozen fractals all around the inside of the tube. What a neat Winter experiment! A great activity for exploring the effects of temperature & observing the melting process. Once the bracelets have melted they can of course be frozen again & the experiment repeated.
This was such a neat activity to explore hand-eye co-ordination, a little science, fine motor skills & more! And of course so much fun!
With the Christmas holidays starting I think we'll be making a few more of these over the next couple of weeks. All we need now is some snow!
If you liked this you might also like our Olaf Night Light, our Outdoor Ice Lanterns, or our Ice Decorations.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

DIY Olaf Night Light

Do you want to build a snowman?  This little Olaf will never melt, in fact he glows! He makes a great Christmas night light, & would be a great companion for reluctant little sleepers or those who are afraid of the dark. Simple & quick to make, he's a cute buddy for any Frozen fan too.
To make our glowing Olaf we used:
2 recycled polystyrene cups
Sticky tape
2 brown pipe cleaners
Googly eyes
Sharpie marker pens
Small sections of orange & black card
Battery operated tea light

To make a basic body shape we stuck the two cups together using sticky tape.
As we wanted our snowman to glow we needed to add a battery tea light, so we carefully cut the base out of one of the cups & pushed the tea light in. The tea light we used fitted perfectly & the cup held the base of the light firmly in place.
Now to make our snowman look like Olaf! We cut one pipe cleaner in half & pushed each section through opposite sides of the top cup. (The bottom cup has the night light in.) To make the hair/twigs we cut 3 small sections from the other pipe cleaner & gently pushed these into the top of the cup. The polystyrene cups are perfect to use for this as no holes need to be made prior to threading the pipe cleaners, making this an ideal craft for little hands to make independently.

For the details on Olaf's face we used a sharpie pen, googly eyes & triangle of orange card that we attached with a glue stick. We then cut three rough circles & attached these to the bottom cup with more glue.
Even when he's not illuminated this little fella still looks cute, & makes a neat decoration just as he is.

But at night he radiates a warm glow. You can tell he likes warm hugs!

Our glowing Olaf has been warming the living room with his light, & has been regularly taken into Minnie's room to sit by her bed at night time. She's recently had a cold & been waking several times in the night & this little fella has offered her a welcome light & reassurance when she wakes. She's even had him sitting up on her pillow! He's clearly been a big hit with my girl.
Costing very little to make, this night light / DIY toy has inspired some wonderful imaginative play, creative thinking, & magical moments, both during the day & evening. Who'd a thought two recycled coffee cups could create so much magic!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Little Robin's Christmas - Story Book with TP Roll Robin Craft

Little Robin's Christmas is a perfect book to share in the run-up to Christmas, not only are the illustrations beautiful & captivating, the story has a heartfelt message for all, no matter how old you are.
The story is set a week before Christmas & begins with a little robin ironing his many colourful vests ready for the frosty days ahead. Every day he sets off from his house ready for a new adventure wearing a different coloured vest, & every day he comes across a fellow creature in need. Little Robin then kindly offers his vest to the animal who is suffering from the cold, & they gratefully accept his generosity. He continues to give his vests away until on Christmas Eve he has just one vest left. He meets a mouse shivering from the cold & so gives away his last vest. But he's a long way from home, & the snow is falling, so he huddles up to get warm & soon falls fast asleep. Later something magical happens when a man with a white beard & red suit picks up the robin & takes him home. The man in red knows all about Robin's generosity & is so proud of him that he asks his wife to make him a very special present, telling Little Robin; "You are full of the spirit of Christmas."
The wife knits Robin a special red vest, which will not only keep him warm forever, but will make others feel warm when they see him. Robin's chest glows with pride as the man in red takes him back to his home on Christmas Day, & Robin sits high in the tree to sing "Merry Christmas" to everyone.
I love this book for so many reasons, the stunning, warm & humorous illustrations (the drawings of the vest being stretched by animals larger than the robin are sure to raise a smile) & the flow of the text with the countdown of the vests & days encourages children to join in. But what I love most is how one simple story book can so effectively share the values of kindness, compassion & empathy, & that no matter how small you are, you can make a big difference.
 We wanted to make something simple that we could share with friends this Christmas, so we made these robin decorations, each with a red heart to remind us of the kind-hearted Little Robin in the story. 
To make them you'll need:
One TP Roll
Glue (we used a glue gun but you could use sticky tape or staples)
Red felt heart
Ribbon to hang your decoration
To start we cut our cardboard tube into six sections. Don't worry if the sections aren't all identical, they just need to be roughly a similar size.
To make the tail feathers we joined two of the sections together as shown in the picture below & attached these to another section of TP Roll that would become the robin's body. To make the robin's head & beak we took another section & folded as shown in the picture, then attached it to the body.
We glued the last two sections of TP Roll together to create the robin's wings & attached them to the inside of the body shape to make it look like the robin was flying.
You could leave your robin as he is, but we decided to paint ours with some brown watercolour paint.
Once dry our little robin looked like this. All he needed now was a heart.
We cut a small heart out of some red felt & glued to the front of the robin's body to give him his famous red breast.
Once dry we threaded some thin red ribbon through the body & he was ready to fly off to a new home.
What's been great about giving these little robins as gifts is that we've been reminded of the story in doing so. In sharing a simple gift we've been able to share a little joy & bring a smile to someone.

These frugal little upcycled robins take minutes to make & can be decorated in any number of ways. Why not share a little Christmas spirit this season & make one of these for a neighbour or friend?
We're thrilled to be linking up to Story Book Advent 2014 with Rainy Day Mum. Each day she'll be sharing one of 24 story books & activities from bloggers all over the world as we countdown to Christmas. Click on the image below to find out more & discover some amazing books, & bloggers too.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Leaf Reindeer Cards - Inspired by Nature

Over the last few days we've been busy making our Christmas cards & I just had to share these with you. They are so simple to create & I think they're rather cute too.
Last week we pressed some gorgeous autumn leaves that we collected on a walk around our neighbourhood. Before pressing them we made sure they were completely dry & then placed them in the middle of a stack of heavy books. After a couple of days our leaves were beautifully flat & ready to craft with.
To make an oval template for the reindeer's head we used a tp roll, which I pressed into shape & then drew around.
From our collection of leaves we chose two of a similar size & colour & stuck them onto the outline using a glue stick. 
Minnie then filled in the shape using brown watercolour paints, added eyes, & a small red pompom for a nose. You could of course paint the nose or use red card, but Minnie was keen for Rudolf's nose to stand out.

Our Reindeer cards are now ready to share with friends.
I just love the addition of the seasonal leaves on the cards. A great way to celebrate not only Christmas, but nature too.

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