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.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

"Only One You" - Story Book & Pebble Fish Craft

Looking for a book that will encourage self-confidence & self-belief in children? Then this is the perfect choice. Not only will the captivating artwork inspire, but the short meaningful texts offer reassurance as well as useful advice. "Only One You" by Lind Kranz is an ideal resource for celebrating individuality, & appreciating the diversity of the world around us.

The book focuses on Adri, a small fish whose parents decide that the time has come for them to share some wisdom with him. Alongside each wise message on every page are the gorgeously painted rockfish which perfectly depict the text. The book offers a plethora of helpful advice such as;  "Find your own way, you don't have to follow the crowd. Blend in when you need to. Standout when you have the chance." At the end of the book Adri's parents remind him just how unique he is, & encourage him to swim off & make a difference in the world.

After reading this book with a group of young children they were inspired to create our own pebble fish, so with a selection of smooth pebbles & some acrylic paint they made a start on their creations. We used a pearlised acrylic paint which gave us a glossy bright finish when dry.

 Once we had finished painting one side of the pebbles we left them to dry for an hour or so (depending on how much paint had been applied) & then we were ready to add the details. We left one side unpainted (I'll tell you why a little later) but you could of course paint the whole rock if you wished.

Inspired by the details of the fish in the book we used a sharpie marker to create a similar effect on our fish, drawing outlines around the different colours on each rock. This highlighted the different patterns & created a really bold finish. Some children chose to add more detail with the marker pen adding scales & patterns. Each fish was truly unique & beautiful.  

To complete each pebble fish we added a googly eye.

Then they were ready to swim away together.

"Only One You" uses a variety of photographs as backdrops for the rockfish, so we printed off an underwater scene from the internet to use with our fish & suddenly our they were transformed!

Offering the children simple backdrops like this alongside the rockfish & the book gave them an opportunity to play, imagine, & create new stories, as well as explore some of the scenarios in the book.

And I almost forgot! Why did we purposely leave one side of each fish blank? Well the fish had a plain side so each child could write their name on their fish. Obviously this helped the children identify their creations, but the real reason for writing their name went a little deeper. After they had written their name on the fish we reminded them of their own uniqueness, their individuality, their gifts, & all they have to offer the world.

The rocks we used for the activity were smooth with no sharp edges & each was small enough to fit into the palm of a child's hand. We suggested that whenever there were times when they felt vulnerable, or uncomfortable, frustrated, or unhappy, or had problems with friendships at school, they could hold their rockfish in their hands & remember just how special they are, & all the qualities they have to offer. We encouraged them to remind themselves, there's only one you... & you can make a difference to our world!

I can't recommend this book enough, I just love all it has to offer children... & adults!

If you liked this you might also like our

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.
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