Thursday, 26 March 2015

Simple Easter Bonnet

Looking for a creative & super easy Easter Bonnet for the children to make? 
How about this Spring themed hat inspired by beautiful daffodils, super simple to put together. 
Find out more here

Friday, 20 March 2015

Simple Quick & Easy Models of the Sun, Moon & Earth for Kids to Make

Here's a simple way to explore the solar eclipse with young children. These models of the sun, moon & earth are quick & easy to create & can be hung up & displayed anywhere.

To make them we used just three different items: 
plastic ball pit balls
a glue stick
coloured tissue paper. 

We started by making the sun & ripped up small sections of yellow tissue paper. Then we covered one of the ball pit balls with glue & added the tissue paper until the ball was completely covered. 

To create the earth we again covered a ball with glue & this time used small sections of blue tissue paper. To add the land we used green tissue which we stuck over the blue.

Finally to create the moon we chose a darker ball & added sections of cream coloured tissue paper. Alternatively you could use silver/white tissue, or paint over the top.

Our planet (earth), satellite (moon), & star (sun) were ready to be explored immediately. Obviously these are not to scale, but provided simple illustrations to explore the eclipse.

To suspend them we taped a length of thread to each ball & attached to a shelf with sticky-tack. 

To demonstrate the solar eclipse we moved the moon slowly in front of the sun, showing how it would block the sun's light from the earth & cast a shadow. Although the sun is 400 times larger then the moon, it's 400 times further away from the earth so the moon obscures the sunlight.

If you're looking for advice on how to view the solar eclipse safely check out BBC iwonder for more information. 

For more space themed activities you might like our:

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Simple Homemade Easter Soaps

Looking for fun Easter gifts to make with the kids? How about these cute & colourful little soaps. 

To make them you'll need: 
Easter silicone chocolate moulds (we used 4)
1kg clear soap base (melt & pour soap bases are available from Hobbycraft or Amazon)
Soap dyes (available online)
Old wooden spoon
2 (or more) old jugs for colouring the soaps
Glass bowl & saucepan
Optional: Essential oils for fragrance 

Start by cutting the block of soap into smaller chunks. If you're planning to make only a few soaps you won't need to melt all the soap, so any leftover soap can be wrapped in clingfilm & stored away for another day. To make our batch of soaps which filled 4 trays we only used half the block of soap.  

If you're planning on making soap with lots of different colours you can make the soaps in one of two ways, it just depends on how many jugs (or containers with spouts) you have free to use.

If you have enough old jugs for each soap colour you wish to use, then you can melt all your soap by adding it to the glass bowl & placing it over a pan of hot water on a medium heat. This takes a little time but gently stirring it occasionally helps the soap to melt. 

Once it has melted pour the hot liquid into the jugs & then add a couple of drops of your chosen dye to the jugs. We found less is more when adding the colour! Mix the dye by stirring slowly into the soap & then pour into your Easter moulds. If you're adding a fragrance, then add a couple of drops of the essential oil onto each soap. 

Alternatively, if you want to use lots of colours but only have 1 jug available, then just add 1 small block of the soap to the pan, melt following the same method as above (obviously this smaller block will melt faster) pour the melted soap into the jug & add the dye. Once you've finished pouring your coloured soap into the moulds, wash out the jug with warm water to remove any soap residue & dry thoroughly. Add another small block of soap to the glass bowl & heat as before, repeating the process for each colour you wish to use.

Leave the soaps to stand on a flat surface for a couple of hours to dry completely.
Then gently pop them out of the moulds. This is always the magic part! 
As the silicone is so flexible the soaps come away from the moulds with very little pressure.  

If you're making your soaps to share as gifts they can be added to clear plastic gift bags, or wrapped in greaseproof/wax paper & tied with ribbon. We made several of these last year for friends & the soaps looked so pretty, we even had requests for more! 

If you're keeping these for yourself (& I don't blame you, they're beautiful) the soaps will need to be kept in an airtight container, away from sunlight. They should last for months like this, we still have some heart shaped ones that we made before Christmas & they look perfect. 

Once you've made a batch of these you can share them with so many people. They make great gifts for classmates, neighbours, as well as prizes for Easter Egg hunts, & neat alternatives to Easter candy treats.

If you found this useful you might also like our Stars & Stripes Soaps, or

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Simple String Art - Weaving an Easter Cross

This simple activity encourages so many skills, & enables kids to create some beautiful three-dimensional art.  

To make these Easter Crosses we used:
A small block of wood (we picked up some offcuts up from a local DIY store)
5 Nails (40mm) for each cross
Coloured yarn/string
Ruler, scissors & pen

Using the ruler we marked out a cross shape in the centre of the wooden block so we could clearly see where to add the nails. Minnie then independently hammered the nails into the four points of the cross, & one into the centre. It was great to see her confidence & control of the hammer develop as she went along, & by the time she'd tapped in the last nail her sense of achievement was clear to see. 

More nails could be added if wish to create a more detailed weaving frame, but we kept this one pretty simple. (Obviously Minnie is at an age & stage where she can use a hammer independently under close supervision. If you have a younger child you may like them to hold the hammer with you as you tap in the nails, or undertake this part of the activity yourself.)

With all the nails added the simple framework was ready for us to use. 

Minnie chose her yarn & tied one end to a nail. She decided to start from the centre but you could begin from any nail on the frame. To create the cross shape she had to manipulate & loop the wool around the nails carefully, thinking about where to move it next. At first this was a little tricky & she started to create a diamond shape, so she went back & tried moving the wool in a different pattern around the nails. Soon she discovered that the wool had to be moved back & forth along each line & the centre nail would enable her to change the direction of the wool, while keeping the cross shape. It was great to observe how she solved this, & the patience she displayed in doing so. 

Once she had finished adding her first layer she tied the end of the yarn to the nearest nail. She then chose another colour to weave over the top & continued following the same pattern as before, gently pushing down the yarn to free up space on the nails.  

Finally she added a third colour to complete her Easter Cross. You could add more or less yarn, or use one or more colours, the joy of this activity is that children can create their own design. 

This Easter activity not only encourages creativity, problem solving, motor skills, & coordination, the end result is a beautiful & colourful three-dimensional work of art that can be displayed year after year.

We used this activity to help us explore the Easter Story & the transforming power of the cross.

If you're looking for more activities exploring the Easter Story you might like our:
Mini Easter Gardens, Easter Canvases, Bread Crosses for Maundy Thursday, Rocky Road through Holy Week, Easter Egg Planters

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Paper Bag Princess Puppet - made from a paper bag!

If you're looking for a modern fairy tale with a Princess who is smart, strong & wise, then The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is an ideal picture book to start with.  Inspired by the story we made a princess puppet from a recycled paper bag to use in our storytelling & small world play.

The Paper Bag Princess tells the tale of a beautiful princess who is always dressed immaculately & soon to marry her prince, that is until a dragon comes by & burns down her castle, along with everything she owns (including her clothes) & carries off her Prince. Undeterred Princess Elizabeth finds a paper bad which she uses as a dress & decides to chase the dragon & get her Prince back! When she eventually finds the dragon she uses her wisdom to outsmart him & eventually rescues her Prince! I won't spoil the story for you by telling you the ending, but it might not be what you'd expect! 

This is a great book with a fabulous spin on the classic fairy tale ending, & presents the Princess as the hero who is brave, strong, independent & smart! The text is bold & clear, & the colourful illustrations perfectly depict the narrative. 

Inspired by this strong female book character we wanted to create our own paper bag Princess.
To make her we used:
Wooden dolly peg
Small paper bag 
Embroidery thread/string/yarn
Small square of Kitchen foil
Scissors & glue stick

To create the paper bag dress we folded over one corner of the bag so it was level with the side & formed a point. Then we folded the bag in the same way again (as in the picture below moving side 1 to side 2) & repeated a couple of times.

To turn this into a dress we cut the tip off the point to create a hole that was large enough to go over the top of the peg.

When unfolded it made a rough dress shape. To attach this to the peg we covered the middle section of the peg with glue & pushed this through the hole in the bag, carefully wrapping the paper around the middle 'body' section. The bottom of the dress can be trimmed if needed. 

To help the paper stay in place & to create a waistband for our dress we tied a small length of string around the middle.

Our puppet needed some beautiful Princess hair so to create this we cut off several lengths of embroidery floss, wool/string/felt would work too. We covered the top of the peg with glue & attached the threads. I was a little unsure whether the glue from the glue-stick would be strong enough to hold all the threads in place, but amazingly it did. To complete our Princess we added facial features using a ballpoint pen.

Last but not least our hero needed a crown & to make this we folded a small section of kitchen foil & cut a zig-zag edge across the top, we then opened it out & glued the ends together, trimming of any excess. 

We decided our Princess needed a necklace, so we added a thin strip of tin foil to create her silver jewellery. And she was ready to go & rescue anyone in need!

This peg puppet is just the right size to use alongside the book when sharing the story, & would make a great addition to any fairy tale play scene, or castle! I wonder what imaginative play or storytelling she'll inspire, I can't wait to find out! 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Affirmation Mirrors for Kids - Encouraging Positive Thinking & Building Self-Confidence

 These mirrors are perfect for helping kids start their day in a positive way, & offer them a reminder of the unique & wonderful qualities they have to offer the world.  Do you have kids who struggle with their confidence, or self-worth?  So often I hear kids say: "I'm not as good as them" or "I know I can't do it" & these negative thoughts knock their confidence. What better way then to start the day than by looking in the mirror & saying something positive about yourself! 

To make our Affirmation Mirrors we used a sheet of A5 card, small mirrors (ours came from Baker Ross) & a pen / pencil. We chose dark card & white pens which really helped the words stand out, but you could choose any colour/size of card to make your special mirror. 

We started by sticking the mirror to the middle of the card.  We placed it in the centre so we could fill the remaining card with our written affirmations, the idea being that when we saw our reflection we would be surrounded by our positive qualities. 

To help children think about their own qualities & skills you might like to print off our affirmation sheet. I recently made these mirrors with a group of 5-7 year olds & this affirmation sheet was a great starting point & soon inspired many more positive statements.

I encouraged the children to cover as much of the card as possible with their positive thoughts. If you have children who find this hard they could add drawings, or hearts/stars/smiley faces to fill any gaps.  Once they have finished they can either add sticky pads to the back or add a ribbon to hang their mirror up. 

You might like to suggest they look in the mirror first thing in the morning or last thing at night & read out loud all the affirmations they have added, or they could choose just three to read every day. The important thing is that they see their own reflection as they say each affirmation. And if they don't read the affirmations every day just having this mirror hanging in their room will act as a reminder of their qualities & unique gifts. 

If you have preschoolers you might like these Affirmation Mirrors that I made with a group of younger children. Instead of using lots of different affirmations we filled the border around the mirror with colourful sequins, reminding us of the colour & sparkle we each bring to the world!  
To each mirror we added a simple statement: 
"There's only one me and I am Awesome!"

If you're looking for more activities which help to encourage self-esteem you might like our: Pocket Affirmation Stones, Mind Jar, Calming Spray, Worry Monster.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Rainbow Friendship Bands for St Patrick's Day

These rainbow friendship bands make perfect gifts for kids to share with classmates for Valentines or St Patrick's Day. All you need are a few wooden lolly sticks.

We recently made several of these for Minnie's friends & they were such a hit. She loved designing them so much that she has since made more for teachers & family. 

To make them we used; large wooden popsicle sticks which can be found in craft stores or on line, some white heart buttons / white felt (bought from The Works) & a selection of coloured sharpie markers. We started by soaking the popsicle sticks in a bowl of boiling water & left them for a couple of hours. A few of the sticks were pliable at this stage, but most of them needed to soak for another hour or so in another batch of hot water. 

To mould the sticks into a curved shape try gently & steadily bending the sticks one at a time. If the sticks are too rigid & you can't feel any give in them they'll need a longer soak in the water. Shaping the sticks takes a little practice & patience & works best when you manipulate them slowly before placing each one in a glass for it to set. We left them to dry overnight & when removed from the glass they had transformed into their new rounded shape.

To create our rainbow design we used sharpie markers as they gave us a neat finish & prevented the colours from seeping into each other. Acrylic paint would also work well, but we found the pens gave us an instant result. 

You could leave your rainbow friendship band like this, but we felt we needed to add some clouds to the base of our rainbow.

As these were friendship bands we thought instead of using the classic cloud shape for our rainbow clouds we would use heart shaped buttons, & heart shapes cut from white felt. We secured these with a glue gun just to make sure they remained intact when the friendship band was worn. 

Then our bands were ready to wear & share! 

What a cute way to say:
'Thanks for being a friend' or
'Always follow your rainbow & your dreams' or
'Thanks for the colour you bring to the world'.
Happy St Patrick's Day!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

DIY pocket-sized affirmation stones for kids - building confidence & self-esteem

These colourful affirmation stones offer a simple & effective way to build some positive thinking & confidence into a child's daily routine. Each stone carries a reassuring affirmation & is the perfect size for children to slip into their pocket so they can keep them with them  throughout the day.

How many times have you heard a child say to themselves they're no good at something, or they're not clever enough, & they subsequently leave & move away from the task they're working on? So often those negative thoughts can smash their confidence in their own abilities & it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, but by offering these stones as something to focus on they have a chance to redirect their thoughts & create a more positive outcome.  

To make them we used colourful glass nuggets (widely available on line) & a selection of sharpie markers.

I wanted each affirmation to be clear & easy to remember so I just added one simple word to each stone using the Sharpie pens. You could add any number of affirmations to the stones & choose different ones to suit your child's situation. If you have a particularly anxious child you may want to add more calming, peaceful words, or if you have a child who struggles with their confidence, maybe affirmations focusing on strength, positivity, & uniqueness would be more helpful.

Once we'd added the affirmations we collected our stones together & noticed how beautiful they were especially when the sunlight caught them giving them a real glow. There's something soothing about the texture of these smooth, cool stones too as you hold them in your hands.

To keep our set of affirmation stones safe we decorated a heart shaped box that we put aside to use only for these stones. I decorated the lid with "Today I am..."  & Minnie personalised the base of the box later with her name & a few sparkly sequins. By designing a special box for the affirmations we were acknowledging their value & that they needed to be kept safe.

There are a number of ways these affirmation stones can be used, but we have found the following to be a real help in our daily routine. 

1. Each morning invite your child to randomly pick one of the stones from the box.

2. Encourage them to read aloud the word written on that stone, this becomes their affirmation for the day.

3. To help them visualize & focus on their positive message they can place the stone on the lid of the box & again read "Today I am...". Using "I AM" at the start of the affirmation creates a bold empowering statement for a child, focusing on what is achievable, rather than what is not. Also by using a present tense they begin to create the outcome now.

4. To remind them of their daily affirmation the child can slip the stone into a pocket / school bag, & know they have it alongside them for the rest of the day. This can provide reassurance, especially if they feel anxious or upset at any time, & simply by placing their hand in their pocket & holding their affirmation stone they are reminded of the positive message.

5. At the end of the day before they go to bed encourage your child to hold their affirmation in their hand & read it again saying "I am ..." before they place the stone back in the box. To help build their confidence you may wish to point out a particular time during that day when you noticed they had been calm/helpful/brave etc. Praising a positive outcome can only be a good thing, & who knows what a difference that may have on their thinking & behaviour. 

This set of affirmation stones has made quite an impact in our house, & adding them as we have done to our daily routine has offered us as a family a positive & reflective way to start & end the day. I just need to make myself a set now!

If you found this useful you might also like our Relaxation Jar, Magical Soothing Spray to Calm Kids, or Worry Monsters.

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