Rainy day play: Making a spider

Easy to make spider

Make a simple spider!

Kids love playing with craft materials. Why not spend a rainy afternoon making spiders, insects, or monsters; you could tie it in with a trip to the library to find some books for inspiration!

Materials

  • Pipe cleaners
  • Milk bottle lid
  • Googly eyes
  • Sellotape
  • Craft glue / glue gun
  • Scissors

 

Directions

  1. Cut your pipe cleaners to length and sellotape (or glue gun) them to the base of the milk bottle lid. Bend them to give them knees / feet so that it can stand.
  2. Glue on some googly eyes.
  3. Take the spider exploring!

 

Why not share with them 20 Fun Facts about Spiders for preschoolers or watch a short educational video clip about spiders aimed at preschoolers and kids.

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How to make an easy and cheap instrument at playgroup (Musical Maracas)

Making musical maracas

Making musical maracas

Making musical maracas

Making musical maracas

What you need

  • Paper plates (small).
  • Felts, crayons, paint, stickers etc.
  • Wooden beads, sea shells, bells etc.
  • Stapler.

Directions

  1. Help your children to decorate the outside of the plates (don’t forget to write their names on!).
  2. Fold the plate in half (like an empanada) and staple along the edges. Leave a gap at the top.
  3. Hold it upright with the gap at the top. Help your children to drop beads, bells, shells etc. inside their musical instrument; one big toddler sized handful will be about enough.
  4. Staple up the gap, put on some music, and shake!

Note: This is a great activity to do on a rainy day or with a playgroup. For younger toddlers choose larger items to put inside and play with under supervision only; i.e. keep choking hazards in mind.

Rainy day play: Make a fishing game!

Make an indoor fishing game!

Make an indoor fishing game!

Indoor fishing can be a great way to develop fine motor skills and imaginative play! You can buy fully stocked Gone Fishing kits or you can make your own. We picked up our fish very cheaply (as they were factory seconds) and then let our imaginations run wild with the materials we had at home.

The Fish

We were fortunate enough to pick up our fish cheaply. You could also use a saw or sandpaper and glue gun to fashion a vague fish shape from scraps of wood. The metal eyelet is the same as what’s used when stringing up net curtain cords.

We decorated our fish with: several colours of paint, glitter glue, googly eyes, coloured feathers, and plastic gems.

Tip: This is a great craft project for teaching your toddler patience. We worked on ours over about 5 days. We needed to do the base colour on one side and then let it dry overnight; flip it over the next day and repeat the same. You need more time to let things dry when you’re using craft glue but can speed things up by using a glue gun.

The Fishing Rods

You can make these with lengths of dowling. Use an electric drill to make a hole about 1cm from the top and thread some twine through that has a paper clip tied to the other end. Alternatively, you could glue gun the twine to the rod (if you don’t have a drill).

The paper clip is surprisingly effective; I can catch my fish with it and Miss 2 will normally ‘manually’ catch her fish but will also attempt to catch it without ‘helping’ the hook.

Our rods have multiple shades of paint and glitter glue on them (as well as plastic gems) and also needed drying each night in the hot water cupboard. I stood them upright in a small glass baby food jar (we have several that we use for crafts).

Making playdough insects (portable playgroup fun!)

Playdough and straw caterpillar

Making playdough insects

Why not spend a rainy afternoon making homemade playdough and designing your own insects (or animals, or monsters!). It’s a cheap activity that’s also easily transportable to playgroup. Younger toddlers will have fun pushing the legs in and pulling them out again; preschoolers will have fun making their designs happen. Think about putting out some library picture books to help give them ideas!

What you 

  • Playdough (try making your own!)
  • Straws
  • Scissors
  • Knife (bamboo or wooden ones are great!)
  • Optional: Googly eyes (from craft stores)

How to make easy bracelets and crowns for kids

How to make easy bracelets and crowns for kids

How to make easy bracelets and crowns for kids

Kids are so wonderfully creative! There are lots of kit-sets for crafts at toy stores but it’s often much cheaper to visit a craft store or emporium.

All you need to make a crown, necklace, or bracelet is some pretty pipe cleaners, beads, and imagination! They’re a great activity for birthday parties, playgroups, and rainy days.

Fun things to do with beads!

Fun things to do with beads!

Make sure that you choose beads (or bells) with large enough holes for the pipe cleaners to feed through. Younger kids will need active supervision and assistance but by 4 years they’ll be shaking you off 🙂 You’ll also find they start coming up with their own ideas like making swords or funny glasses or monster crowns!

Warning: This isn’t suitable for babies and young toddlers due to small parts and choking hazards. Make sure young children are old enough to follow instructions and will not put beads in their mouths.

Bedazzling bags (rainy day crafts)

Bedazzling bags (rainy day crafts)

Bedazzling bags (rainy day crafts)

This is a great way to pass a rainy day – especially since a trip to the craft store will take up time as well! It’s also a fun activity for playgroups!

What do I need?

This is really up to your imagination!

  • Coloured paper bags
  • Glue (You may need a mix of paste, PVA, and a glue gun depending on what you’re using)
  • Wooden clips
  • Scissors
  • Buttons, sequins, stickers, fabric, wooden beads etc!

Directions

Play around with your materials to find a look that you like and start gluing!

These have wooden ladybugs hot-glued to the wooden clips. The flower is layered; there are plastic petals glued to the bag and then a fabric flower glued on top of that.

Cinnamon Playdough

Cinnamon Playdough

Cinnamon Playdough

Making playdough is something I love to do. Home-made playdough keeps better, is easier to wash out of carpet, and is better for your child. Until recently I’ve been using a few drops of food colouring;  after realizing how sensitive Miss 2 is to artificial colouring,  she does persist in eating little bits of salty dough, and reading Sue Dengate’s book about the impact of chemicals on child development – I’ve realized that I need to make a change.

It’s possible to buy ‘natural’ food colouring if you look hard enough but it’s expensive so instead I decided to experiment with what I already had cheaply and readily available in the kitchen.

Cinnamon makes a lovely light brown and is gently scented. Add ground ginger and you have Gingerbread playdough!

Ingredients

  • 1c plain flour
  • 1/4c salt
  • 1T cream of tartar
  • 1T oil
  • 1T cinnamon
  • 1c boiling water

Note: This makes a small batch, just double if you want a big batch.

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Mix in oil.
  3. Slowly add boiling water. (You may not need all of. It should be smooth and pliable not sticky).
  4. Store in air tight container.

Make your own rainbow crayons!

Making rainbow crayons.jpg

Making rainbow crayons

Have you ever seen those PinInterest posts where they talk about how easy it is to make your own crayons? They tell the truth! These are a great idea for a special & personalized gift, or as favours in homemade christmas crackers (bonbons), or just because it’s a rainy day!

Ingredients

  • Silicon mould tray
    • Be careful to choose one that can go in the oven.
  • Crayons
    • This can be a great way to use up spare crayons or crayon ends.
  • Optional: glitter & sparkles!

Directions

  1. Break your crayons into small pieces (i.e. adult thumb nail); you may need to use a knife.
  2. Pop them into the silicon mould. Have a think about what kind of colours you want (i.e. rainbow? ocean theme with various shades of blue & green?)
  3. Add sparkles & glitter shapes if you want.
  4. Bake in the oven at 200’C. Keep a close eye on them as you only need it in there until the crayon has melted into a thick liquid (i.e. you’re not trying to get it to bubble & boil).
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  6. Pop out of the moulds and have fun!
Rainbow heart crayons.jpg

Rainbow heart crayons

Hint: Wondering what to use the silicon mould tray for afterwards? It’ll probably need to get relegated to your arts & crafts box (rather than cooking in the kitchen). The good news is that it’s great for paint!

Silicon moulds as artists easel.jpg

Silicon moulds as artists easel

How to dye Easter Eggs – easy and edible fun!

How to dye Easter Eggs.jpg

How to dye Easter Eggs

I published recently about how to explain Easter to children; this week Miss 2 has been looking longingly at the vast arrays of chocolate eggs that seem to be everywhere we go. I do have some allergy friendly chocolate for us to eat next weekend but it isn’t egg shaped!  I thought instead we’d start a family tradition of making our own (non-chocolate) edible Easter eggs. Messy play afternoon here we come!

There are some stunningly beautiful pictures out there of vibrant colourful Easter eggs, or how to make your own natural dyes, but I was looking for some ideas for the more energy-challenged.

Making your own decorated dyed eggs really is ridiculously easy as long as you prepare carefully – the degree of care being directly proportional to the age of your child. So for Miss 2, I hardboiled the eggs and mixed up the dye while she was napping. I put out all the craft materials we needed plus extra drawing paper to distract her during clean-up. I had paper towels and cleaning products directly to hand; we wore aprons and messy play clothes; I set everything up on a metal kitchen bench with lino floor directly below us; I cleaned up spills that touched anything other than the bench immediately – including the little pot of yellow dye that she knocked over; I ran a hot bubble bath and popped her in it afterwards. Net result – great time, no damage to the kitchen, and we both have normal coloured skin the next day!

FYI  I did try blowing one egg and decorating it once hollow. Miss 2 admired it for a brief time and then experimented with the physics of force meeting a hollow mass. The squishing was pretty much what I expected to happen. It’s less work and more satisfying to just eat the results after decorating them!

Ingredients

  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Food colouring
  • Eggs (hardboiled)

Equipment

  • Little bowls or containers
  • Newspaper
  • Empty egg carton
  • Spoons
  • Optional: crayons, rubber bands, stickers, velcro dots, poster paint, paint brushes, tooth brush, glitter & glue.

Directions

  1. In little containers mix up the water, vinegar, and food colouring. You can use approx. 1/2c water, 1T vinegar, and 10 drops food colouring but it’s pretty forgiving. The main thing is that you need the vinegar to help the dye set.  You can use less water and more vinegar, or adjust to the size of your containers. You might want little bowls to dip or big glass jars to fully submerge several eggs.
  2. Prepare your hardboiled eggs.
    • My favourite was drawing on them with crayon (it shows through the dye).
    • You can obscure parts of the shell with rubber bands, stickers, velcro dots etc., dye it in one colour, remove the obscuring parts, and then dye in a second colour.
  3. Dye the eggs.
    • You can completely submerge them or just dip them (your fingers may get a bit colourful). The colour will vary depending on length of time submerged (i.e. less time means lighter, more time means darker).
    • Try creating colour gradients you can experiment with things like: submerging the entire egg for a short time, then half the egg for more time, then the base of the egg for longer again.
    • After dyeing the egg in one colour, you can ‘paint’ it with another dye. The dye will run so you can to make rings or just splash.
    • Try dipping the egg in two different colours (i.e. half the egg in each).
    • You can let the dye dry and then speckle it with gold or bronze poster paint using a toothbrush.
    • Try concentrated dye (with just a few drops of water to dilute) and then sponging it on.
  4. Let the eggs dry. You can rest them on a drying rack but an empty egg carton is ideal!
  5. Eat and enjoy (or refridgerate for later)

 

 

Sometimes it’s all a matter of perspective

Annoying mess or modern art?

Buttons are great for playing and learning (once toddlers are old enough not to put them in their mouths).

I emptied my Bag of Buttons into a wooden tray and we practiced counting, colours, sorting (by colour), shapes, and sizes (big/small). She also just had fun moving them around.

Inevitably some ended up on the floor and I joined in the game. Not only did this make her joyfully delighted but I’d carefully chosen an afternoon when we weren’t in a hurry and dinner was cooked (leftovers). The floor being covered in food / colouring pencils / toys etc isn’t uncommon as a parent. It can be incredibly frustrating and it’s nice to have a change of perspective and see it as art instead.

Then we played treasure hunt. We collected the buttons into our treasure chest. She was surprisingly focussed and I found it surprisingly peaceful. It was fun finding buttons with flowers on them, or admiring different shades of colours, or unusual shapes.