Is anyone else home schooling because of coronavirus lockdowns at the moment? Last week I was revising number bonds to ten and number bonds to twenty with my five year old and we were both ready to tear our hair out. She’s pretty good at maths, but when you combine tiredness with the idea of needing to “know” number bonds to be able to answer questions without a number line then she got a little fed up.
So I had an idea to make a game of it with the crafter’s secret weapon…. goggly eyes.
We had loads of conkers left from the children’s Autumn foraging, so I painted their white marks (I think of these as being a bit like the conkers’ belly buttons from where they were joined to the shell) completely white with acrylic paint, let this dry and then wrote the numbers 0-10 on them with coloured sharpies (I made two fives, as five and five make ten so I needed them for the number bonds). I used matching colours for the numbers which bond to make ten, so zero and ten, nine and one, eight and two…. you get the picture. Then I hot glue gunned some goggly eyes onto each one, and introduced my daughter to her class of conker mites.
Being five, my daughter is really interested in ideas about friendships and school routines, so I told her that her class of conkers needed to be put with the correct partners, their best friends who helped them add up to the number ten. She thought the conkers were adorable so was chatting very nicely to them as she quickly made up the number bonds to ten, we then popped them in a container and picked them at random to practice general addition which sometimes involved number bonds to twenty, but always allowed us to consider different way to approach addition and subtraction problems. She found this activity a really fun way to practise her number bonds without the pressure of formal learning.
I was really surprised how popular the conker mites were with my children. As soon as my two year old came home from nursery, she wanted to play with the conker mites as well, and while she’s too young to worry about number bonds, they were a great way to introduce her to numbers and sequencing while practising her counting.
My sister told me a story about my niece’s school at Valentine’s Day last year, which saw parents sending their kids to school with bouquets of red roses, teddy bears and chocolates for their best boy or girlfriends. While it’s nice to give the kids something to celebrate, there are plenty of Valentine’s day ideas for kids that don’t need you to turn them into mini-adults. I’m doubly interested to find quick Valentine’s crafts for kids – especially those that are suitable for pre-schoolers and toddlers – because we celebrate St Dwynen’s Day, the Welsh Valentine’s Day at the end of January, as well as the normal global love fest in February.
This year, when racking my brains for Valentine’s Day Ideas for kids that my five year old and two year old would be able to do together, and that I already had the things, I came up with the idea of making these cute stencilled custom kids t-shirs. With only a little set up from me, both of my daughters were able to get stuck in to this quick Valentine’s craft activity, which left them feeling really proud of the t-shirts that we had to show off in messages to all the family.
That’s the beauty of a quick kids craft that turns out well, it gives the children such a boost at their own accomplishment. Everyone needs their little wins at the moment, and craft therapy is such a key way for us to do this in my house at the moment!
While this was thought up as a Valentine’s day custom tshirt craft for kids, the technique could easily be adapted to customise all sorts of kids things, and grown up things too!
To make your custom kids love heart tshirt you will need:
A clean dry t shirt (old ones are fine and this is a great way to cover a stain)
Sticky back plastic
A pencil or pen
A craft knife
Fabric paint (this is an initial investment but we’ve used our set for loads of things)
How to stencil your kids t shirt with a custom design:1. Make sure that the t shirt is clean, dry and ironed
Cut a piece of sticky back plastic to the area of the t shirt you want to cover with your design. If you’re doing this with really young children, it’s a good idea to cut the sticky back plastic on the large side and mark where the front of the t shirt will be to prevent spillages over the edge of the plastic (yes, I did learn that the hard way!)
2. If your sticky back plastic has come from a roll, use the washi tape to stick it flat on a cutting board (thick newspapers will do if you don’t have one, just make sure your craft knife won’t damage the surface beneath) and draw out the design for your stencil. When you’re happy with this, cut it out using your craft knife.
3. Remove the sticky back plastic stencil you have made from the cutting mat and peel off the backing paper before sticking this on to your tshirt. I find it easiest to stick down an edge and work across to stop the stencil sticking to itself. My five year old helped with this step, but my two year old had to make do with watching.
4. Put a piece of paper inside the t shirt in case any of the fabric paint goes through the top layer of fabric to the back. I also folded the arms out of the way and stuck them back with washi tape to stop them getting paint spattered as my children created!
5. Using a paint palette or some other suitable container, squirt your selected colours out to allow your children to choose from them. I gave my children a cork to stamp the fabric paint with, but you could use anything really. My fabric paint has the texture of thin PVA glue so I didn’t want to damage a paintbrush.
6. When the children have filled out their stencil, put the t shirts aside to dry according to the timings on your fabric paint before carefully peeling the sticky back plastic stencil away from the t shirt to reveal their printed designs – my kids loved this reveal so much it reminded me of the makeover programmes I used to watch in the 90s!
This quick craft was great from making custom kids t shirts, and I’m looking forward to trying the technique out with them again to make other things. I think this would be a really nice Valentine’s day craft to make presents for cousins or relatives.
The cold weather has finally hit us in the UK this winter, and I realised that my two year old could really do with a scarf when we’re playing in the garden. I don’t know about you but I’m really picky about scarves for very young children, I don’t want a toddler scarf with any loose ends that can catch, and any toddler scarf has to be an itch free scarf because I hate itchy scarves and I don’t want anything irritating the delicate skin on my toddler’s neck.
After browsing loads online (because we’re in Tier 4 at the moment) I decided that the best thing to do would be to crochet a toddler infinity scarf, or what I used to call a snood! That way I would get a toddler scarf with no loose ends, and I could control the feel of the fabric so she didn’t get any skin irritation from it.
I chose Lion Brand Dream Maker Yarn in Dreamy to make the scarf, as it is a tubular yarn with a chain construction (so no itchy fibres to snag on skin) and the acrylic and nylon blend meant that it will wash well when she inevitably decides to dive in a puddle on our walks! Two balls made the perfect sized toddler scarf which I measured against a snood belonging to her older sister to get a good fit. For reference, I used a 6.5mm crochet hook, and the balls were 100m long each, so you’d need at least 200 meters of a similar sized wool to create a similar scarf.
To make an infinity toddler scarf, you need:
200-300m chunky yarn
Crochet hook (I used 6.5mm but match this to your chosen yarn)
Tapestry needle (optional if you crochet the scarf closed)
I didn’t use a pattern for this, and just freestyled a mixture of single and double chain crochet stitches to add texture measuring against my older daughter’s scarf, but if you want to make a similar toddler scarf, I’d say that you’d need to chain about 60cm in your first chain and keep your follow up chains roughly the same length, building this up until you have a long crochet rectangle which is about 60cm x 26 cm, you can then join the edges together with a chain of crochet (which is the method I used) or stich them together using a tapestry needle.
Toddlers are all different shapes and sizes, so I’d recommend bribing them with a treat after a few rows to let you check the fit of the rectangle length going over their heads – better to adjust the size of the scarf at a very early stage than have to unravel half of it when you decide the first attempt is way too big which is what I did!
We may not have snow this Christmas, but allow me to introduce you to our choir of paper snowmen which we’ve had great fun making.
I’ve got a bit of an obsession with paper snowmen. When I was little my grandmother had this really cute paper snowman with a paper honeycomb ball body that would get unfolded every year, and in hindsight I was probably a complete nightmare to keep away from it, constantly poking at the poor thing. I’ve been trying to find one like it now that I have my own house, but I’m always really keen to try making some kind of paper snowman every year until I manage it.
I came across some really cute 3D paper Christmas trees on Hattifant’s blog recently and had great fun making loads with my daughters. She has a free printable that makes it really easy to get the base angle right so they stand up properly, and it’s a lovely craft for children who are working on their scissor skills. All you need is paper or thin card, a ruler, a pencil and some scissors, then pen to decorate. I used this basic layout to make these snowmen, and my oldest daughter had great fun designing hats and scarves for the different snowmen, while my two year old enjoyed colouring them all purple. Whatever floats your boat!
The trick with the snowmen, and the Christmas trees, is to get the angle of the base right so that they’ll have a fairly stable base. I made mine from thin card as it stands up better than paper, though paper is fine if you don’t make them too tall so they get floppy. Then you just cut out from the paper folded in half like a paper doll, and cut “ribs” through the center which can be folded out in opposite directions to support the 3D shape. Scoring gently through the middle and along the edges of the triangle as shown in the picture makes it easier to fold out the snowman neatly.
Is there anything to match the sinking feeling you get when you have a last minute email from your child’s teacher saying they need a last minute item or costume for an event at school? For me the latest was a Christmas tree hat for their celebration Christmas lunch, and with it being 2020 we couldn’t grab something from the shop. Also my five year old has decided that it’s her goal in life to be extra, so she wasn’t going to wear a nice cardboard and stick reindeer head band like we’d made in previous years.
Cue a scrabble to make a hat from stuff we already had in the house, something that looked cool but was also led by my daughter. Enter, the Christmas tree hat, which looks jazzy but is deceptively simple, with a little help from me, my daughter managed most of the steps pretty independently.
To make a Christmas Tree hat you will need:
A3 thin cardboard (we used green but your Christmas tree could be any colour)
A long piece of tinsel (again, we used green but any colour could work)
Decorations (we made a star with gold cardboard and a pipe cleaner, and wrapped a length of string with felt Christmas shapes and jingle bells for baubles, but ready made pom poms with tacky glue would work really well I think.
How to make a Christmas Tree Hat:
Step 1. Roll your A3 cardboard into a cone shape, leaving a hole at the top to poke the tinsel through. Check the fit on the head that’s it’s intended for, then sticky tape into shape. Trim the edges for an even cone.
Step 2. Using a pencil, poke two holes on opposite sides of the hat and thread ribbon through. This will help the hat stay on when the tinsel and decorations added, as the extra weight can make it slippery. Heavy is the head that wears the Christmas crown.
Step 3. Poke the end of the tinsel through the hole in the had and sticky tape into position to secure.
Step 4. Spread tacky glue on the cone in sections working from the top of the hat to the bottom and wrap the tinsel around the hat to create the effect of branches. If you have a shorter length of tinsel you could go for a spiral around rather than full coverage. Sticky tape inside for a secure finish.
Step 5. When the tacky glue has dried, add your decorations. What you add will determine how you secure it, but with the star, we inserted the pipe cleaners inside the hole at the top of the hat and sticky taped the pipe cleaner inside to help the star stand upright on the Christmas tree hat. We threaded the felt shapes and small bells onto Christmas twine and wrapped around in the same way as the tinsel, securing at the bottom with sticky tape.
This only took around half an hour to make using materials we already had, so I’d definitely recommend giving it a go as a last minute Christmas craft.