These are the result of two separate backyard crafting sessions – both working on my theory that if you want to get kids playing (or crafting), the easiest way is to just start playing (or crafting) yourself, and sooner or later, they’ll come over and want to join in.Continue readingTP Roll Monsters!
Have I ever mentioned the hundreds of activities that we’ve done, that are still sitting in my drafts? This paper mache (papier-mâché) princess castle was one of them. 🙂
We made this princess castle back in 2014, when JJ was almost 4 years old. It’s not the fanciest castle in the world, but it was fun to make, and JJ loved it. I seem to recall there were grand intentions to add more details to our design (like a roof perhaps?), which, as you can see, never actually happened. JJ loved it anyway.
We did this back in October, which is mid-Spring in Australia. The girls thought they looked like superhero cuffs – and had a wonderful time role playing being nature superheros for the afternoon!
Nature cuffs like these are super easy to make
All you need is:
toilet paper rolls (or similar style cardboard rolls)
clear packing tape
Step 1: Cut each TP roll in half across the middle of the roll, and cut a slit along one side. (I used a knife for the first cut, but you could easily use scissors for both.) It doesn’t need to be perfect.
Step 2: Cut a piece of packing tape approximately 12cm (5 inches), and double it back on itself to make a loop, sticky side out. Stick this loop to the outside of a cut toilet paper roll. Repeat.
Step 3: Ask your kids to wear their ‘blank’ cuffs, and go on a walk to find some natural items to adorn them with!
We went for a walk around our neighbourhood picking flowers as we went. We always follow these ‘rules’ whenever we gather natural items. The kids are quite adept at it now – only picking only small amounts as they go, making sure to leave plenty of flowers behind for the bees and for other people to enjoy.
I spy some dandelions, clover flowers, bottlebrush, society garlic flowers, grass and grass seeds, African violets, and others!
The kids really loved the treasure hunt aspect of searching for nature items to add, and it made for a really pleasant outdoor activity on a spring afternoon. And it was so easy – we’ll be doing this again, for sure!
They turned out so well, that I may have taken about 100 photos!
Of course, given that they are adorned with natural materials, these nature cuffs won’t last more than a day or two (and you can see they were starting to wilt already by the time we got home). But it’s the act of gathering that is the true joy here, so you can always have fun making some more another time.
If you’re after more ideas like this, be sure to check out all our:
Tutorial for DIY rain sticks (also called rainsticks and rain makers.) A fun, musical craft that you can make with your child.
JJ and I had a lot of fun making these Rain Sticks over the weekend. Once we’d finished making them, we got to make music with them. Fun, fun, fun!
They can be shaken like a maraca, but for the best effect they are turned slowly onto one end and they make a sound just like rain.
Here’s how we made them:
Step 1: Gather your supplies
We used 2 x cardboard cylinders (with lids) from the recycling, some packing tape, hammer, nails, rice and pasta as fillers and a cheeky toddler or preschooler to help. (Bonus points if you’ve been at the farmers’ market that morning and had their face painted.)
Step 2: Give the hammer to the toddler
A bit controversial – each parent needs to judge what’s appropriate for their own child. I judged that JJ (at 3 years and 2 months) was mature enough to handle the hammer with respect. We discussed hammer safely before she was given it to hold, and she was fully supervised the whole time. JJ was very aware that I was placing my confidence in her, and she conducted herself very responsibly. (My little girl is growing up!)
With a (fair) bit of my help, JJ nailed in the nails along the sides of each of the cylinders at random locations. The more nails the better the rainstick will end up sounding.
Step 3: Add fillers
We used jasmine rice and wholemeal penne pasta – just because that’s what we had in the cupboard at the time. You could also use lentils, cous cous, bean soup mix, or even things from the garden like small pebbles.
Because our containers had lids, we were able to test out the sound as we went along. I ended up adding more rice as the rain sound had a longer duration that way.
Step 4: Seal the ends
This step is optional. It is really for people who’s containers don’t have the ends built in. But I sealed the ends on our containers anyway, as I knew that JJ would want to play with the rainsticks before they were finished and I didn’t really fancy rice all over the floor….
Step 5: Do a cardboard painting
Do you remember the dot painting that I posted about last week? Well, it “coincidentally” was exactly the right size to go around our cylinders. Wow, that was lucky! *grin* These were old cereal boxes from the recycling. Thick enough to provide some protection, but thin enough so that they will bend easily.
The two larger rectangle paintings were for the sides, and the four square ones were for the ends.
To make the ends, I traced the circumference of the cylinders in permanent marker, and then I cut circles about an inch bigger again. I then cut small triangles in to the inner circle.
Step 6: Decorate the rainsticks
I applied craft glue to the back of the cardboard ends and held in place with a rubber band until the glue had dried.
And here’s JJ showing you just why you do need to cover these rainsticks firmly – because apparently it is sooo much fun to take the nails out and put them in again. Sprung! Look at those guilty eyes in the last shot…
Then I glued the larger rectangles around the circumference of the cylinders, and again held in place with rubber bands.
(At both of these steps you could remove the rubber bands once the glue had dried, however I left them there as my craft glue isn’t that strong.)
And then I glued on some ribbon to finish!
Since making these rain sticks, we’ve had quite a few rain dance parties in our lounge room. We’ve listened to the tinkling rain sound that they make. We’ve chatted about how these are South American instruments, and looked up South America on the map. Lots of fun with just a little bit of learning thrown in. 🙂
I haven’t bought Christmas gift tags in years – I usually upcycle old Christmas cards to make our own eco and budget friendly gift tags instead. It’s easy peasy! Here’s one from last year.
I use decorative scissors to cut around the image on the front. Then I use a single hole punch to make a hole in the corner.
Tie it on with a nice ribbon, and write a Merry Christmas message on the other side.
We’ve developed such a reputation for our upcycled gift wrapping antics, that our friends and relatives have started bringing their old cards over for us to re-use. There are some really beautiful ones in our collection at the moment, I can’t wait to turn them into gift cards again this year!
For more gift wrapping ideas, you might also like:
Do you remember the suncatcher window clings that the kids made last Winter? They were such a fun craft idea that I promised the kids we’d make them again – and we did! This time we made Christmas themed window clings – with a star, snowman, diamond (JJ’s idea), candy cane, bell, stocking and angel. (I’m not quite sure why bells are supposed to signify Christmas, but apparently they do.)
The directions are the same as our earlier window clings, so pop over there for the full instructions. (Except, of course, we made these ones in Christmas shapes instead of rectangles and hearts).
Here are all my Christmas shapes, ready to be back-filled with PVA glue. (I have to admit that my glue gun skills aren’t the best, lol!)
The girls and I had (very dear) friends visiting, and they all had a lovely time decorating their window clings. We raided our odds and sods broken jewellery stash again, adding a little bit of bling to the creations. There is no right or wrong – just creative fun. Broken strings of beads were popular. JJ chose individual faux pearls for her bell. Pony beads made cool eyes and candy cane stripes. The tiny, pale blue, ‘frozen’ beads made a reappearance as well.
(I should also mention that all the picking up and delicately placing of little beads is fantastic for kids’ fine motor skills – both for the little ones, and for JJ using her non-dominant hand.)
Fast forward a couple of days for the PVA glue to dry, and here’s how they turned out!
They should stick straight on to your window. If not, add a touch of water to the back of the window clings and wait a few seconds, then give it another try. (Try to dissuade your kids from licking the backs of the window clings and/or licking the windows themselves – and I hope you have better luck than I did!)
It’s a touch hard to photograph these up on the actual window, as the bright light outside creates a silhouette effect, but you can probably see that the transparent beads look best. But since this activity is more about the creative process than the end product, it doesn’t really matter. The kids had fun making them, and are proud of how they look, and I think they did a great job!
We’ve got loads more Christmas ideas in our Christmas archives. Here are a few that you might like:
And if you’re looking for a fun Christmas-themed idea for play date, our DIY Play Snow was a massive hit last year. (Who can resist an Aussie snowman?) This year we’re still playing with the Candy Cane play dough I made last week. Red, white and sparkles is such a great combo!
Fun kids craft idea: how to make pretty suncatcher window clings with beads and sequins.
These pretty Pony Bead Sun Catchers from Holly’s Arts and Crafts Corner popped up on my Pinterest feed a few months back, and I though they sounded like a great idea! I made a few changes based on Holly’s suggestions and recommendations (at the bottom of her post) and the supplies we had on hand. Here’s how our versions turned out.
Aren’t they… unique? Haha. I love them. 🙂
To make suncatcher window clings like ours, you need:
Make a fun DIY bug hotel (or insect habitat), and encourage kids to consider where bugs fit into the backyard ecosystem.
We’re a nature loving household, so having a backyard bug hotel doesn’t seem at all weird to us. Haha! But if you’ve never heard of these before, do a quick google search, and you’ll find DIY bug hotels or insect habitats in all shapes and sizes. The idea is to provide a sanctuary for various insects to nest or hibernate, and encourage a diversity of insects in your backyard.
When my kids heard that bug hotels were “a thing”, they couldn’t wait to make one.
We had an old wine rack gathering dust in the garage that I thought would make the perfect skeleton. The kids and I painted it with acrylic (oil-based) paints in swirls of green, white and silver.
(Note: We used acrylic paints, which are oil-based paints that won’t wash off in water once dry. This is very important if your bug hotel will be set up outdoors where it will be exposed to rain).
The garage also yielded some scrap wood (from an old coffee table I believe) which we used to make a few signs. JJ (then almost 5 years old) traced the words “Bug Hotel” on one piece, and then free painted “Nou Opin.” in her phonetic spelling on the second. (Love watching her learn how to read and write – it’s such an amazing process!)
When they were dry, she decorated them with stickers. I also painted “Insect Habitat” and “Welcome” on the back of the signs, in case the bug hotel is viewed from the other side. I stuck these on with wood glue once the bug hotel was filled.
When the rain subsided, Bee and I headed outside to collect sticks, bark and leaves to fill our hotel. It took a few sessions, as collecting sticks is hard work for a 2.5 year old! But luckily the gum tree in our backyard drops plenty of ‘leaf litter’, which made most of the gathering easy.
The wine rack holes were really convenient, as we could fill each section, without needing to worry about the whole lot falling apart. We started off filling a few of the wine rack holes with sticks. Next we filled a few holes with fallen bark which, incidentally, has a natural hollow shape that I imagine would make a really comfy home for a little insect. And finally we filled the rest with branches of old gum leaves (left over from feeding our pet phasmids).
While we were building our bug hotel, a green leaf hopper landed on it, much to the kids delight. Our first resident! I wonder who else will move in??
Many ‘more professional’ insect hotels you can find online are designed as habitats for specific insects. Some insects prefer different materials, holes drilled to different diameters, etc. Ours is not that fancy. It’s more of a “if you build it, they might come” sort of bug hotel. But I figure that local insects will probably (hopefully) like our selection of local materials, and that being off the ground will provide shelter from the blue tongue lizards.
And at the very least, as a toddler and kindergartener activity, it is encouraging my kids to consider and learn about nature though play.
If you’re after more fun nature for kids ideas, you might also like: