Favorite Craft Books for Kids, Old and New

Craft Books for Kids

I love looking at craft books almost as much (okay, sometimes more) than crafting. In my house growing up, my mom and I always called these “make it/ do it” books, after two of our favorites, her own McCall’s Giant Make It Book (1953) and my Great Big Golden Make It & Do It Book (1980).

Many happy hours were spent poring over those pages. Most of the projects I never made or did, but just knowing that I could, imagining them, and looking over the pictures and instructions was (is) very satisfying.

Kids' Craft Books

I still love make it/ do it books, and in the stack are a few more recent favorites.

Made to Play  by blogger Joel Henriques. This book, given to us by a good friend, inspired our cardboard factory last summer. The author’s blog is madebyjoel.

Sticks & Stones & Ice Cream Cones by Phyllis Fioratta is another childhood favorite.

Oodles to Do with Loo-Loo and Boo by Denis Roche, a Vermont College friend of mine. This one has great illustrations and fun characters who guide you throughout as you make arts and crafts with easy-to-find and recyclable items.

Things to Do Book by Jennie Maizels. I love, love this concept for a book. Each illustrated spread has a theme (“in the car,” “in the garden”) picturing various activities in a particular setting. There are little flaps to lift that are like secret treasures. In concept, it’s a little like a Richard Scarry book with activities to do instead of labels. Perfect for those “I don’t have anything to do!” moments.

I also remember loving A Boat, A Bat, and A Beanie: Things to Make from Newspaper from the library back in the day. It shows you how to make great stuff (sandals! a wig!) out of, yes, newspaper. I think I need to order a copy of it. I love getting copies of old library books I used to check out over and over.

Below: It was so well-loved, we had to re-cover mom’s copy of the McCall’s Giant Make It Book:

Recovered Book

Here are a few of the inside pages:

Vintage Craft Book

Vintage Children's Craft Book

Vintage Children's Craft Book

Ach! There’s just something about these glowing 50s illustrations that just gets me every time. Everything looks so fun! The clothes so quaint! I just want to jump into the pictures, like Mary Poppins’ chalk drawings.

There’s a little video about the McCall’s book here.

What about you? Do you have any favorite craft books of your own, or do your kids? I think craft books make great gifts.

For more kid craft posts, click here.

Hope you have a great weekend. I’m off to the Carolinas conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Lucky for me, it’s right here in town.

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The Cardboard Factory

Cardboard Crafts

I’m not exactly sure where it started (maybe with the rocket? maybe with this book?), but over the course of the summer, our dining room became piled high with cardboard creations.

I thought I’d share a few, in case they might inspire you or your kids. The center photo is the first guitar my son made. The others, clockwise from the top: a rocket, guitar  #2 and drum, shadow puppets, tube puppets, shadow puppet theater, and sword.

Summer’s over, and the factory had to be cleaned up, but we make sure to have a small cardboard stash at all times for building material. For more kid’s crafts, click here.

Summer Journal: Shadow Puppet Theater

Shadow Puppet Theater

My kids created this after seeing something similar on the ending of an episode of Curious George. See, TV isn’t all bad. The theater is basically a box with one side cut out and covered over with a sheet of white paper.

Shadow Puppets

The other shape with the cat (above) is an airplane. Of course.

Shadow PuppetsThey used chopstick pieces as holders. I’m loving the cardboard factory that is our dining room right now. Each package that enters the house is eyed as building material.

Our five-year-old wants to make a ball (sphere) of cardboard. Hmmmm……which gives me an idea…..

Cardboard Rocket Ship

Cardboard Rocket Ship

Hey folks! I didn’t mean to be gone for so long. End-of-year activities completely knocked me off course in the last weeks.

Meanwhile, my five-year-old came up with this project. He designed the whole thing, directing me to cut the box into specific shapes and getting me to help him put it back together with duct tape. It’s a rocket for his Lego guys.

Cardboard Rocket Ship

He often has cardboard construction projects going on, but this is by far his best yet. Next up, the two kids are working together on a shadow puppet theater. Hopefully I can share that soon.

As busy as we’ve been, I’ve found a few minutes here and there to finish up a few of my own projects that were alllllmost done, so I hope to show those to you, too.

Sadly, I did not finish my novel revision on time (my personal deadline was the end of preschool). But, I’m stealing all the minutes I can to keep working. Having a deadline definitely helps, even if it’s already passed me by.

What about you? Have you made any summer plans of things to do with the kids, or for yourself? We started making a list of fun things to do together. What’s on yours?

Pass the Parcel and Polymer Bead Party Favors

Polymer Clay Beads

Can you say it three times fast?

Sorry I haven’t been around much in the last week or so. Now that a certain girl’s coronation birthday weekend week is over, I’m coming up for air.

We did it, folks. We survived a sleepover birthday party (plus days of other celebratory activities) and lived to tell the tale. I’m not exactly sure how she hypnotized talked us into the sleepover. All told, it went pretty well, though, and thankfully, the girls got along.

One highlight of the party was “Pass the Parcel,” which our daughter learned from her British (and half-British) friends in Germany. It’s really a fun, sweet game, and you can organize it so that everyone feels like they’ve won.

Basically, you have a small prize wrapped up in layers upon layers of wrapping paper. You pass the parcel around while music plays, and each time the grown up stops the music, the person holding the parcel gets to unwrap a layer. Ideally, each layer holds a tiny prize (in this case, Jolly Ranchers) and there’s at least one layer for each player.

We got distracted a bit while wrapping our parcel, and some layers—oops!—were empty. Nevermind, the girls were gracious and divided the candy evenly at the end.

At the center, we placed a collection of polymer clay beads and linen string, so each kid could make a necklace, bracelet, or key chain thingy. I had them pass the bead collection around and let each child choose a bead until they were all gone. Thankfully, there wasn’t much fuss about who got what colors. They’re all pretty, right?

Then each child strung the beads into the desired shape. So fun.

My kids and I had made the beads months earlier, with no thought of a party. I was inspired by this lovely post, which includes instructions, but I couldn’t figure out a way to string them in a way that suited me, so they sat around for months. I think I’ll try making some for me again—we have more clay.

Anyway the beads were a hit, and the activity was just enough—not too long, not too frustrating. We may have to make “Pass the Parcel” a party staple!

Easter Grass from Seed

Wheat Grass Seeds

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you may remember my first encounter with real Easter grass, in my son’s German kindergarten. I was almost amazed at the simple thought of growing something that we’d always bought manufactured from plastic, in plastic bags.

But really, it’s the simplest, easiest thing you could ever grow, and the payoff is huge.  This year, we’re growing our own at home. I’m just as excited as the kids to watch the green pop up.

Wheat Grass Sprouts

Sprouts

I got a package of wheat grass seeds from the garden center, we filled some pots, lay the seeds on top, and watered. My son, now 5, told us not to cover the seeds with any dirt.

And shazam!

Real Easter Grass

It’s got me singing Now the green blade riseth…

P.S. The lovely bird pot was a gift from our friend Sally Brotman, she of chicken kebab fame 🙂 I love, love this pot!

Hand-Held Backstrap Loom

I first read about these looms in an issue of Craft magazine, back in the good ol’ days when they still had a print edition. With the article, there was a pattern to make your own loom with cardboard, and although I’m sure that works fine, it wasn’t until I found out the author of the article was making hard plastic looms for sale on etsy that I decided I had to try it. Oops! Looks like his store is currently closed, but hopefully he is just on vacation or something.

I got the loom for Christmas and tried it out a few weeks ago using some wool sock yarn I found at the thrift store for 2 euros. Score! Actually, I think it was like 1 euro 60 because they were having a funny promotion where you had to roll the dice to see if you could get a discount. I did. Yay me!

Anyway, the video the loom maker (Travis Meinolf) provides on youtube is very helpful, though I found doing the setup to be a little trickier than I thought it would be. I guess practice will make it easier. I also had grand ideas of the weaving being so fast—like, faster than my snail-like knitting—but because I chose such a skinny yarn, it hasn’t been all that fast.

The good news is, the weaving itself is pretty fun, and the kids and even my husband had to get in on the action. I’ll admit the kids’ weaving isn’t as neat as I might like, but  they had a good time, and the labor was free.

The edges, as you see, are pretty uneven. I’m not sure if this is something I would get better at with practice, or if I should just view it as charming and deal with it. Or, another option, to cover it with some kind of (silk?) bias binding, like the professional weaver downstairs does with her gorgeous blankets.

I love this shot of Cinderella (below) at the loom. It’s somehow totally right for Cinderella to be weaving, don’t you think? People in fairy tales do stuff like that.

Next we’ll be spinning wool and warning against pricking fingers on spindles.

I seem to be stuck in an almost-finished project mode. The Haiku sweater is done except for blocking. A dress like this is almost done, but I’m so frustrated that it’s not turning out the way I want it to.

Meanwhile, I’ve been writing and researching on my book projects. I’m reading another great writing book called Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. And still reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I beg you to read, seriously. You must. It ROCKS!