Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Top Five Crafts to Do With the Kids

My house is Craft Central, so when my daughter invites her friends to play, they're pretty much guaranteed to go home holding something they've made.

So I've decided to put together my top five crafts to do with kids. Of the many crafts I've done with kids, these are the easiest and most fun, and they provide (almost) instant gratification. You can find the things you need to get started at a craft store like Michael's, a fabric store like Joann's, a big-box store like Target or Walmart, or any number of smaller crafty shops.

Without further ado...

1. Shrink Plastic

Take an 8x10 sheet of plastic, draw a lovely picture all over it with markers, punch a hole on top, stick it in the oven for a few minutes, and voila! Your work of art has shrunk down to about a third of its size and now you have a beautiful pendant to wear around your neck. Or don't poke a hole in it--just glue a magnet on the back and hang it on the refrigerator. It's great fun, gives you quick results, and it doesn't cost a lot of money. Shrinky Dinks is the brand name that I associate with the craft, but I've seen other brands in the stores recently.

You'll need: Shrinky Dinks(TM) or other shrink plastic kit.

2. Beading

For me, making jewelry has the biggest payoff for the effort of any craft. There are thousands of options for beads, and so many of them are simply beautiful. Your kids (and you, too!) can create necklaces, bracelets and even earrings that are just as lovely as the ones in the store. And it takes less than an afternoon to create a whole set of jewelry. For smaller kids, buy the thicker plastic string and plastic beads with large holes. Older kids will have fun with the smaller beads, and you can all experiment with the many types of strings available, such as hemp, metal, and fiber.

You'll need: Beads, string, hooks

3. Sculpting Clay

Build on your kids' love of play dough and let them create more permanent sculptures using polymer and other types of sculpting clay. You'll find lots of options for types of clay, including ones that cure in the oven, ones that will dry and harden in the air, and ones you can sculpt and then paint. Prices can be steep, depending on how much you need and which type you buy, so start out with a small amount and see if your kids take to it.

You'll need: Sculpting clay (e.g., polymer, modeling, earth), sculpting tools (optional)

4. T-shirt Painting

What is the first thing you want to do after you've made something new? Run straight out your front door and show it to everyone who will look, of course! And what better way for a kid to show off a brand new creation than to wear it? Kids can paint a picture free form, use stencils, explore their inner splatter painter, or even tye dye the shirt. Once you've spread around the newspapers or, better yet, set up your studio outside, just let the kids go wild. Then let them wear it proudly.

You'll need: T-shirt, fabric paint or tye dye, brushes, stencils (optional), water and rags for cleanup

5. Embossing

Here's one you might not have heard of, but believe me, the ease-to-wow ratio is huge. I first read about embossing on the Craftster website. (See the link to them on the righthand column of this blog.) A quick tutorial: Find a picture or photo that has a lot of color and looks fairly vibrant. Cut out the picture and glue or tape it to something sturdy. A piece of cardboard will work well, and so will a magnet. The magnet has the extra advantage of being able to hang on your fridge, and this is a great use of those magnets that businesses give out for free as advertisements.

Now that you have the picture fixed to a sturdy backing, cover it with tape. You need super-sticky double-sided tape like Terrifically Tacky Tape(TM). Then turn your sticky picture over on top of a tray filled with tiny, transparent embossing beads. What you get is a dazzling, shimmery picture that looks like a stained glass window or a mosaic. The kids will be amazed that they created something so beautiful. Check out a few that my daughter and I made here:

(I found embossing beads in the scrapbooking aisle at Michael's. These are not the same as the beads used for beading jewelry. They are tiny and have no holes.)

You'll need: A picture you are happy to cut up, a magnet, piece of cardboard or something sturdy, super-sticky tape, embossing beads.

I hope this has given you some ideas of fun crafts to do with the kids. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Over the Rainbow

My first swap on Craftster is done and I've sent off the goods to my swap partner. I planned to wait until she got it, but I think it's okay to post what I made to the blog. Especially since I haven't posted in so long. The swap theme was The Wizard of Oz.

Here's what my partner was going to get in the mail, before the U.S. Postal Service stomped all over my creativity by making it prohibitively expensive to send.

Yes, the dog was supposed to be Toto and the basket was supposed to be Dorothy's. I didn't make Toto or the basket, but the other stuff in it is what I made and there is a bracelet around Toto's neck that I also made.

Since it was too expensive to send and I also was not allowed to send it in the Jose Cuervo box I had, I had to shift the contents to a padded envelope.

I made a messenger bag, lined with rainbow fabric (my swap partner loves rainbows):

And I made a picnic setting with placemats and napkins:

I didn't get a shot of the rainbow bracelet that's around Toto's neck, but it's cute. I hope my swap partner loves it!