Monday, 21 July 2014

DIY Art Gallery - A Simple Way to Display Children's Art

Do you have a creative kiddo who enjoys drawing & painting? We have a very eager artist who offers countless masterpieces every week. Our fridge was constantly covered in a vast array of artwork created both at home & school & I never seemed to have enough room to display all the important pieces of paper. I've framed some & have them hanging in various rooms, but the flow of paintings & sketches kept coming & they were just being pinned over the top of one another & soon became lost in a wodge of papers.
I'm also reluctant to stick the pictures on the wall as the sticky tack always seems to leave a mark, so we came up with an alternative way to display those precious offerings. We created our own art gallery! This was so quick & simple to put together, & it allows numerous pictures to be hung at the same time.

As the fixings holding each picture are easy to add/remove it means little hands can help put the artwork up too, & they can design the layout of their work.

To make the basic backdrop for the gallery we hung lengths of string from the ceiling using pushpins.

Obviously the length of string will depend on the ages of your children, but we hung ours so they were just above the top of the radiator. To hold each picture in place we simply used a paperclip which we first added to the string & then slipped onto the centre of each piece of paper. We've added several works of art to each string & they've held really well with no slipping or movement.

The great thing about this gallery is that it doesn't remain the same for long, as soon as a new piece of art is created it replaces an older one, & the artwork that comes down either goes into an art folder or is sent to a relative to brighten their day!

To add a little sparkle & light to the gallery we strung a set of fairy lights across the top so that even at night the masterpieces are illuminated.

The pride on my girl's face when she sees her art hanging up is a picture, & when a visitor passes a comment on her work she beams from ear to ear! Such a simple but really effective way to display a number of pictures in one space & a wonderful way to boost a child's self-esteem & confidence. And no longer do you need to worry about a mountain of papers hanging from the fridge, or the  sticky tack dot-to-dots on the walls, you now have a unique art gallery for all to admire.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Grow Your Own Football (Soccer) Pitch for Lego Figures

Have you been following the highs & lows of the World Cup over the past few weeks? We've loved watching the games, & the sporting skills of the players taking part. Inspired by the many matches we thought we'd grow our own mini football pitch ready to recreate some of the football highlights.

To grow our own pitch we filled a container with compost & sprinkled over a handful of lawn grass seed. We then added a little water & left it on a sunny windowsill to grow. I was pretty surprised at how fast it grew, & within seven days we had a tub of lush green grass. This looked beautiful but was rather long to play football on, so armed with a pair of scissors we cut the grass to a more practical length. 

To make each goalpost we threaded a pipe cleaner through a drinking straw & bent into a goal shape before cutting each one to size.

We pushed the goals into the grass at opposite ends of the pitch, & added our football. To make this we used a small ball from a marble run & added a little detail with a sharpie marker. Then we were ready to play, all we needed now were the teams! 

Our football field proved a popular place to be, & first to try out the pitch were Minnie's Lego Friends. They had a quick kick about, scored a couple of goals, but were soon turfed off the pitch by the five-a-side teams!

The teams were lined up to greet each other before the match kicked off, & then placed around the pitch for the start of the game. 

Minnie loved manipulating the Lego figures into different positions on the pitch & gave a running commentary as they kicked the ball across the field to each other. 

Most of the players were given a chance to 'kick' the ball, & the opposing teams showed some skillful tackling moves!

Of course the best part of the game was when a goal was scored! Minnie recorded these on a sheet of paper before the players continued their game! 

This small world play set up has been played with again & again, indoors & outside. It's been great for encouraging Minnie's interest in football, & for her to recall the many teams that have played in the World Cup. We've been discovering which countries the teams are from on a world map, just as we did with the various countries that took part in the Olympic Games. Such a neat way to learn about our global neighbours. 

As a family we've also had great fun playing with this Lego set up, whether we've been playing on opposing teams, or moving the Lego figures around the field together. We've shared many giggles, & had the opportunity to explore a few different languages as we've practiced counting up to ten in the various languages of teams taking part! 

Oh, & if you think any grass clippings went to waste... they were all put to good use. 

I love that this homegrown pitch along with the Lego figures has sparked so much imaginative play, language, maths, & interest in other countries. Such a simple, but fun way to explore the beautiful game! 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Washer Necklaces for Kids to make

These enamel style necklaces are great for kids to explore colour & patterns, & cost next to nothing to make.

To make these necklaces all you need are 3 things; washers (we bought ours from a hardware store), nail varnish, & thread/cord! I had some old bottles of nail varnish which we perfect for this activity, but we did buy a few extra neon colours (Minnie's choice) to brighten up our selection.

To transform the washer into a colorful necklace simply add a coat of coloured nail varnish & set aside to dry. We left ours for 30 mins & then added an extra coat if any metal was showing through. After making several of these we discovered it was helpful to have a table covering underneath the washers in case of spills (or eager painting)! We also found it useful to add just a small amount of sicky tac to the back of the washers to prevent them slipping when the varnish was applied.

Minnie soon discovered that she could create patterns by gently dropping small drops of different colours onto the varnished surface. 

She later discovered that if you do this while the initial coat is still wet the colours blend together. What is fascinating to watch is how the colours don't mix completely, but form a variety of different shapes depending on how much varnish is added.

After exploring various colours & glitter varnishes we wanted to see if we could create more patterns, so with a few cocktail sticks Minnie started to experiment by swirling the wet varnishes together. Simply running the stick through the drops of varnish created beautiful feathered shapes. Minnie loved moving the stick in different directions & discovering the new patterns it produced. Obviously the more the colours were moved around, the more they mixed together & became blurred. To create bold patterns we only swirled the paint once or twice

We found that the more varnish you add the longer it takes to dry, so we left our multi-coloured washers to dry overnight before threading the cord through to complete our necklaces. We've both had so much fun with this activity & created quite a collection now! 

These have made great gifts for friends & family, & because they're so light & flat they've been ideal to send in the mail. 

This has been a fun project to explore patterns & colour blending, & enabled Minnie to paint on a smaller, alternative surface. Usually our art activities are undertaken on a much larger scale, so it's been good to experiment with these smaller circular designs. The varnish too has been fascinating to work with, & offered Minnie a new painting experience which she clearly enjoyed! 

Who would've thought these beautiful enamel style necklaces were made from washers & nail varnish! 

I should add that due to the smell of the varnish we always take this activity outside! If you would like to make these indoors I would recommend doing so in a well ventilated room.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Finger Weaving with Rubber Bands (no loom needed)

Someone has been going loom band crazy in our house recently, & is so excited to have mastered this newly acquired skill. Ever since a friend's older sister taught Minnie how to weave these rubber bands together without a loom she has been making more & more creations to share with friends.

I love listening to her as she creates each item & how she considers the colours for each person she is making something for, which pattern they'd prefer, & which size they'd need. I love that each one is so personal & unique & reflects something of their friendship. It's amazing to observe the speed at which she makes these items too, & how easily she manipulates the bands. 

To weave the rubber bands together she uses just two fingers (index & middle finger) & starts by winding one band around them in a figure of eight (one finger in each of the two circles created) & then repeats the same pattern with the next band.

To link the bands together she moves the previous band (orange in these pictures) over the top of the most recent band (yellow) & then over the top of both fingers.

The photo below shows how Minnie joined the first three bands together, she started with purple, then added orange & yellow. As you add more bands the shape of the bracelet will become clearer.

Continue the figure eight pattern (lifting each band over the fingers as before) until you have the desired length, then add a clip to each end to complete your bracelet.

To create a thicker bracelet you can weave two of more bands together at the same time.

These loom bands aren't super elaborate like some I've seen (Minnie is just 6 years) but she is so proud of each one she creates. Whilst making them she's been able to explore & create a variety of patterns, estimate the length of each bracelet, & count in multiples of two while using double bands. Who would've thought loom bands would help you practice multiplication!

This is such a simple activity & one which can travel anywhere. I'm guessing we'll be making many more creations like this outdoors in the sunshine this summer, & enjoying some maths practice too!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Homemade Rainbow Crayons

Since making our Easter Crayons a few months ago we've been keen to try this activity again & explore how we might mix the colours together this time. We collected some more old wax crayons, sorted them into similar colours, added to dishes, & melted them using the same technique as we used before.

This time we used a heart shaped silicone mould & instead of filling each section with one colour, we poured in just enough wax to cover the base of each shape. We then left the colour to set for a minute or two before adding another thin layer of the next colour on top. After another couple of minutes we added a different colour & repeated until each section was filled to the top.

We left the crayons to cool completely at room temperature for about an hour before removing them from the mould. If they're taken out any earlier they lose their shape.

As soon as they came out of the moulds we had to try them out. Minnie loved discovering how you could draw a rainbow with just one crayon! These are great for exploring patterns & colours, & are a nice chunky shape for little hands to hold.

We've since made more of these to share with friends & Minnie's given them to her classmates too. We kept a few crayons back & added these to small gift bags along with this label. I'm hoping these will create many more rainbows to brighten those clouds away. ♥

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Simple Hanging Strawberry Planters for Kids to Make

These hanging planters are perfect for kids to grow their own trailing strawberries or tomato plants in. Made from recycled items, they're frugal & simple to make, & great for practicing some threading skills too. 

To make our fruit planters we used: a plastic plant pot, ball of garden twine/string, wooden beads (from an old car seat cover!), & thin strips of coloured ribbon.

We started by cutting 3 long lengths of string (each approx 30") & threaded one length through one of the holes at the base of the flowerpot securing with a knot on the outside. We did the same with the 2 other lengths of string, making sure our flowerpot was secure & the string was evenly spaced. Once the string is tied you should end up with 3 long lengths of string at the top of the pot ready to hang your planter later.
To create some funny faces around the planter we threaded the wooden beads onto the string & added facial details with a Sharpie pen. We then tied the loose ends of string together, making sure that the pot would hang straight once a plant was added. I made several of these planters with a group of young children & we added a pebble to the pot to act as a weight to help us do this. 

We thought we'd add a little colour to our funny face beads so gave them funky hair by folding 3 strips of thin ribbon in half & then twisting them tightly together before pushing them into the top of the bead to secure.

Our hanging planters were almost ready to decorate our outdoor space, all we needed now were the strawberry plants.

The hanging planters are now proudly decorating the side of our shed & brightening up a space in our garden that was once rather dull. The strawberries are growing well too & we can't wait to watch them slowly change to their gorgeous red colour.

For more space saving gardening tips you might like to check out our Gardening in Small Spaces post. Or for more strawberry activities check out our Natural Strawberry Play Dough, our Homegrown & Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream, or our Charlie & Lola inspired homemade Pink Milk.

Monday, 19 May 2014

10 Simple & Frugal Outdoor Activities to Keep Kids Cool in the Sun

Looking for simple activities to keep your kids cool in the backyard on sunny days?
Here are a few of our favourite outdoor activities to beat the heat!

 Dive into an underwater world & make your own Ocean!

Splash, paddle & keep cool as you discover the magical properties of Mud!

Create a Water Play Construction Area in your backyard & have fun pouring, collecting & splashing in the water. 

Enjoy exploring the multi-sensory properties of tea in a cool shady spot.

Explore coloured ice in the sunshine outdoors. How long will the ice stay solid for? 

Run, jump, & dance in a Rainbow!

Help kids stay cool & calm with our natural Soothing Spray. Ideal for helping overheated kiddos, soothing & sunburn. 

Sprinkle cool water over little feet & toes with this upcycled Watering Can

Create some shade by building a simple den with blankets & chairs or a climbing frame. Why not turn it into a reading den for some chilled story time together.

Add bubbles & cloths to a large container of water along with some pots, pans, cups & sieves & explore this play set up in a shady area of your garden. This is perfect for those little hands that are always eager to 'help' with the cleaning, & also for those who are reluctant to wash muddy hands before going indoors!

Have fun staying cool in the sunshine!

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