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.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Christmas Elves (simple no-sew craft)

Add a little seasonal magic to your home with these adorable Christmas Elves. Simple to make with no-sewing required, they're a perfect size for little hands to hold, & would make a great addition to any Christmas small world play scene.
To create them we used these wooden peg dolls. We bought ours from eBay but they can also be found on Etsy, or other local craft stores.
For our elf outfits I used a selection of coloured felt (again purchased from eBay, but Amazon have a great range) & cut the felt into 3 different sections; a piece for the body, the cape, & the pointed hat. Below are the measurements I used for our 6cm wooden figures, but you may have to adjust them slightly if you use larger/smaller dolls. If you wish to use our templates click on the picture below & then right click to print the image.

To make the elf outfit we added the 'body' section of felt first, wrapping the material around the body & securing with a glue gun.

To add the cape I followed the same method, but tilted the fabric slightly so it gave the cape a cross-over appearance. I secured the material again with a little glue.

To create the tall pointed hat shape you need to make sure the rounded edge of felt is at the base of the hat. I added glue around the middle of the dolls head & then stuck one corner of fabric to it before wrapping the felt around making sure the hat was forming the correct shape. To secure the hat I added glue to the straight edge & twisted the top of the hat, this helped create the pointed edge.
Voila! One very sweet little elf all set for Christmas.
To create a little clasp for the cape I added four tiny sliver beads & stuck them onto the outer corner. Our elf was now ready but I felt he needed a few pals for company!
Here are a couple of elves I made following the same design. I mixed the fabric colours on a few, & also adjusted the cape sizes slightly so they had different lengths. On one of the elves I added a tiny bell to the top of the hat by simply attaching it with glue.

I just love these elves, they are truly magical, & perfect to leave around the house to be discovered by your children/grandchildren during Advent. If you're struggling to buy an elf ready for The Kindness Elves, then these would be great to use as an alternative.
I've since made these elves with children using pre-cut felt shapes & double-sided tape instead of a glue gun, & they turned out great, although their elves seemed to have many more embellishments than mine! :-)

These little elves will start to appear around our house at the beginning of December for our Countdown to Christmas. More info on that to follow soon!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

10 Advent Activities for Young Children

 Looking for Advent themed activities to share with young children?
Here are 10 interactive activities to explore together during the Advent Season.
 Create an Advent Box to open on December 1st & explore in the run up to Christmas.
Make your own Glowing Paper Advent Candles as an alternative to an Advent wreath. This simple upcycled craft focuses on key themes during Advent.

Instead of a traditional Advent calendar create an Advent Countdown. Follow the Star on an Interactive Journey with 25 activity ideas for young children.

Design a natural Advent Wreath & light one candle each Sunday during Advent.

Share a book together & discover the Nativity story with one of these 15 Nativity Story Books for 0-5 years

Build your own Bethlehem with a few upcycled materials. This makes a great small world play scene to explore during the run-up to Christmas.

Decorate an Advent Tree. This simple tree can be decorated & redecorated, ideal for children to focus on all the characters from the Nativity story.
Make your own Advent Tree with paper figures to colour in.
Share a little love with these Advent Angels & explore generosity & thanksgiving with children.
Explore the gifts of the Three Wise Men with this tactile multi-sensory activity. This could be used during Advent, or at Epiphany

However you & your family celebrate Advent I wish you a happy time together
as you prepare for the joy of Christmas.

If you're looking for more Nativity ideas, you might also like
Creative Ways to Explore the Nativity



Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Homemade Soap Mice - a Cute Alternative to Sugar Mice

Do you remember having sugar mice as a kid at Christmas? I remember these so clearly from my childhood, & while I can't recall ever eating them (I think I would've been bouncing of the walls if I had) I do remember the beautiful frosted colour & pretty shape of these little mice. I'm keen to keep these traditions going, but the thought of adding this sugar packed treat to my daughter's Christmas stocking ready for her to munch her way through first thing on Christmas morning fills me with dread! So after a little thought I came up with this alternative to the traditional treat, & created these Sparkly Soap Mice! They're just as cute with their twirly string tails, & I know she'll enjoy discovering all the sparkles when she adds them to her bath.
To make our soaps we used:
* Transparent soap base (available from most craft stores online) 
* Essential oil (we used lavender)
* Silver glitter
* String (cut into 4" lengths) for the tails)
* Silicone sugar mice mould (similar to this one)

I started by cutting the large block of soap into smaller sections with a blunt knife & added to an old saucepan. To melt the soap place the saucepan over a low to medium heat & gently stir the mixture occasionally until the solid soap has melted. The trick is not to stir too much, otherwise you'll finish up with a bubbly frothy mixture.
Once all the solid soap had melted I transferred the liquid soap into an old plastic jug, obviously the liquid is incredibly hot at this stage so if you're sharing this activity with young children it's safer for them to just observe this part of the process.
If you wish to add a scent to your soap, add a few drops of your chosen essential oil into the jug & gently stir into the liquid using an old wooden spoon. Be careful though not to add too much essential oil or your little mice with be rather pungent!
Pour your soap into the mice moulds making sure each mould is completely filled, & then sprinkle over a little of the silver glitter. You could add any amount of glitter, but obviously the more you add the more glitter will end up in your bathtub/shower! We add just a tiny pinch of glitter which creates a sparkle in the soap, & adds a shimmer to the bathwater.

To create the tails take a 4" length of string & gently dip it into the soap,  allow the remaining string to rest on the top of the mould away from the soap. (If the string hangs down from the mould it could fall away from the soap while it's drying.) Leave the soaps at room temperature for an hour to set & then gently remove from the moulds.
These make such fun homemade gifts & are bound to create a smile. Either wrap them in white greaseproof paper & tie with some Christmas ribbon, or add them to a small transparent bag & secure with a sticker/ribbon. For more festive fun how about adding a soap mouse to a copy of that great Christmas poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (A Visit from St Nicholas).

If you're looking for more homemade gifts for children to make you might also like these
18 Homemade Christmas Gifts



Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Advent Angels - Helping children explore gratitude

Share a little love this Advent Season with these adorable Advent Angels. Not only do these angels make beautiful gifts, they also offer children an opportunity to explore gratitude & giving.
How often do we thank people, or let them know how special they are to us? Advent is the perfect season to take some timeout to do just that, & these angels are an ideal way to say thank you to those 'angels' in our life. This activity is a lovely way for young children to explore appreciation & thankfulness as they think about those who make a difference in their own lives. They could choose who they would like to make an angel for & why. What are the qualities that make a person special? How do they make a difference & how do they make people feel?  

To make our Advent Angels we used homemade white clay, a small 5cm angel cookie cutter (similar to this one) & drinking straws.

To make our white clay we added the following ingredients to a large saucepan;
2 cups of bicarbonate of soda/baking soda, 1 cup of cornflour/cornstarch, 1 & half cups of cold water.

Heat the saucepan over a medium heat & keep stirring the mixture. After a few minutes it will begin to bubble & thicken. Continue to stir the mixture until it starts to look like mashed potato, then take off the heat & add the mixture to a clean bowl. Place a damp tea towel over the bowl to prevent the clay from drying out & allow it to cool. After 30mins or so check the temp & if the clay is cool enough you can start to knead it & roll it out. I sprinkle a very small amount of cornflour onto the surface before rolling out just to prevent it sticking.
Once the clay has been rolled out, cut the angel shapes with the cookie cutter & place them on a clean baking sheet. We used a small heart shape cutter to decorate the centre of some of our angels, & you could easily add other small shapes & patterns if desired. To make the hole for the ribbon push a drinking straw into the clay & gently remove.

You can bake the clay in a cool oven for a quick result, but we've found when we've done this in the past the clay tends to crack, so we leave our clay shapes to air-dry on a baking tray (somewhere safe) for 24 hours, turning the clay angels over a couple of times so both sides dry evenly.

Once completely dry you can start to thread your chosen ribbon or string through the hole & your angels are ready to share!

Why not hang them on a neighbour's door as a surprise gift, or give them to special people as Advent decorations. Minnie tied tiny labels to her angels with a little 'thank you' note that she'd written. Alternatively you could attach an Advent blessing.
This is an ideal activity for Advent & we found it offered Minnie space to reflect & think about those special people in her life, whether they be family or people in our wider community. In the busy run up to Christmas these little angles have offered us a moment to pause & reflect on those things that really matter, & have given us an opportunity to show our appreciation & love to those who make a difference in our lives.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Make your own Poppy Lantern for Remembrance

With Remembrance Day only a few days away we wanted to create something that would help us remember all those affected by conflicts, both past & present. Minnie was keen to light a candle as an act of remembrance so we came up with the idea of making a poppy lantern which we could light in the evenings.
We started off with a clean jam jar & some white greaseproof paper. After measuring the paper around the jar to get the same length & height, Minnie set to work decorating the paper with her poppies.

 We had recently purchased our Royal British Legion poppies & had them on a nearby table so Minnie used these as a guide to help her create the shape of the flower.

Once her design was finished we glued a strip of red card to the top & bottom of the paper. You could use red paper instead of card but we found that the card gave the lantern a stronger structure. Adding the strips of card makes the paper lantern slightly taller than the jam jar, but don't worry the shape of the lantern will still hold.

To help us attach the paper neatly to the jar we added a small piece of double sided tape & then wrapped the paper around the jar. We then sealed the ends with tape.

Later that evening we added a tealight to our Lantern & the poppies glowed beautifully in the darkness. We chose to use a battery operated tealight as it enables Minnie to light the lantern as & when she chooses.

For us the act of lighting a candle enables us to remember & give thanks for the many men & women who served in previous conflicts, & offers us a time to remember & pray for all those who are serving in conflicts around the world now. It gives us a space each evening to also think of the many civilians who were/are caught up in the horror of war & we pray for them & their families, & a more peaceful world in the future.

This lantern has proved a popular activity & Minnie has since made more lanterns for relatives. I love this one she made with her Nana to remember her great, great uncle who died in WW1. Even though many years have passed & these generations never met, how special it is to have a light burning today in his memory.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Hedgerow Ice Cream with Wild Blackberries

We've been enjoying all the autumnal goodies from our garden recently & now have a good stash of homegrown raspberries, rhubarb & apples in the freezer ready to enjoy over the coming months. The hedgerows have offered an abundance of goodies too, & we've collected several containers of wild blackberries gathered from local hedgerows. Of course some didn't even make it to the container, there had to be some taste testing first!
With the blackberries that did make it home we thought we'd turn them into a seasonal ice cream. Not only does this organic ice cream taste delicious & cost very little to make, the colour of it is amazing & you only need 4 ingredients to make it!

To make Hedgerow Ice Cream you'll need: 
1 ½ cup of blackberries
1 organic lemon
300ml extra thick double cream
1 cup (200g) caster sugar
We recently bought this ice cream maker which we used for this recipe. It's so simple to use & the ice cream is ready within a couple of hours, or less time if you prefer a softer consistency.
Start by pureeing the fruit with the sugar in a juicer or blender. To remove the tiny blackberry seeds strain the pureed fruit through a sieve.
Pour the sieved berry juice into a clean container/blender & add the cream & the juice of 1 lemon. Mix until the ingredients are completely blended. It's useful at this stage to taste the mixture to see if it's too sweet/sharp for you. If it's too sharp add a little sugar, if it's too sweet add a few more berries & blend again.
Pour the berry mixture into your ice cream maker & leave for 30mins (or the time stated on the manufacturers guidelines).
Add the ice cream to a clean plastic container (suitable for freezing) & pop into the freezer, & it's ready to serve in a couple of hours, or when desired.
We saved a few blackberries to decorate our ice cream which was also a neat reminder of the fruit we started out with.
Minnie was so pleased to have made this herself  & loved collecting all the berries, creating the mixture (with a little adult supervision), & of course sampling the finished product!
A seasonal organic treat, & a prefect accompaniment to poached apples or apple crumble. Yum!

(When collecting berries always supervise children to check which berries they're picking, & only pick berries which are above dog height!)

Friday, 19 September 2014

No Sew Sock Owls

Celebrate autumn with these cute little owls. Ideal for a range of ages to create as no sewing is required, all you need is a sock! They make great play props or story prompts, & are soft enough to cuddle too.

To make your owl start by folding your sock out flat & cutting a V shape just under the heel. Make sure the point of the V is in the middle of the sock otherwise your owl shape will be lopsided. 

When you've cut the sock it should look like the first pic below. For the next stage you'll need to add double sided sticky tape to the inside of the sock at the open end. You don't need lots of tape here, just enough to stick the edges together later. Your sock should now look something like the second pic below.

Now your owl is ready for the stuffing to be added. Use the section of sock you cut away earlier & fold it into a small rectangular shape to fit inside the base of the owl. This creates a neat base which helps the owl stand upright before the other filling is added. To fill the rest of the owl take 6-8 facial tissues (clean of course!) & gently scrunch them up individually before adding them to the sock/owl. We found 6-8 tissues gave us a soft cuddly owl figure, but you could of course use more or less depending on the size of the socks you use.

Fill the owl until you get to the cut edges & then stick the taped sides together. This is a wee bit fiddly, & the edges may overlap slightly. If this happens don't worry, you can trim along the edges to make them neater. 

Fold the pointed end over & secure with a little double sided tape.

To add the beak, wings, & heart we used scraps of felt that we had from previous activities & attached to the owl using double sided tape. You could use any material, but we found that the felt worked best when using the tape. For the eyes we used old buttons & secured them with the double sided tape.

Voila! Your owl is ready to explore his new home.

These make great little puppets & are just the right size to pop into a pocket or bag making them ideal to take on outdoor adventures too.

Keep your eyes on them though, you never know where they might fly to! 

Be warned too, once you've made one you may find more arriving soon after. My girl has made her own parliament of owls & just adores them! They've been to school with her, & even sit next to her pillow at night.

Such a sweet, frugal craft, & a neat way to use all those odd socks at the bottom of the laundry basket!

Looking for more owl activities? You might like these 5 Owl Activities & Picture Books  

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