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Book Review: Every Day’s A Holiday

If you haven’t visited Heidi Kennedy’s blog My Paper Crane then you are missing out.  The blog is named after her first project ever, a paper crane – and she has kicked some big time crafting butt since then.  Can I say “butt” on Craft Critique?  Ha! [editor’s note: watch yourself, Anderson ;-)]

Since all the kiddos are home from school, I thought it would be a perfect time to review Heidi’s book, Every Day’s a Holiday: Year-Round Crafting with Kids.  It’s published by Chronicle Books, and there is literally a project for every occasion, including some of the lesser known ones.  Who knew there was a Watermelon Day?  Every Day’s a Holiday is a great read, and I can’t believe how many awesome crafts that Heidi came up with for children.  As far as I’m concerned, coming up with kids’ craft ideas is no easy feat.  Here are my five favorite things about this book.

1.  Some of the projects don’t need adults, and Heidi has indicated those.  A kid not needing you for every. single. step?  I’m guessing many of you parents won’t have a problem with that.

2.  The sheer number of projects and holidays in this book.  I know I said it before, but you won’t believe when you flip through the text how many great ideas are included.  Many can be modified with items you already have, or already use those type of supplies.

3.  These are actually fun projects for kids, and they aren’t all potholders.  Remember those string potholders?  While I loved making them, I didn’t love stringing them 17 times a year.  New ideas are always appreciated.  This book delivers.

4.  The crafts are amazingly gender neutral.  I see A LOT of children’s craft projects that are girly, but not as many for boys.  And I know young boys love to craft because I grew up with four brothers, and they all liked making things.  I guess they get to that point where crafts are for chicks, but I’m pretty sure a book like this would keep their interest a little longer.  Check out the robots.

5.  The woodland gnomes.  I’ve always had a thing for pine cones.  Heidi, shut up – these are way too cute!

You’re going to enjoy this book.  If you are a parent, you may one day rely upon this book to save you.  A little dramatic maybe, but I can only imagine what it’s like to have children and get stuck on a rainy day with nothing to do.

Have you picked up Every Day’s a Holiday? What’s your favorite project? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY – Creativity for Kids Kits

Reported by Christina Hammond

Summer is officially upon us, and that means bored kids.  Lots of bored kids.  Even though my own Chaos Twins are still little, preschool is over and I have already heard “Moooommmmmy!  I’m soooooooooooooo bored!:  The first time I heard this, I panicked and knew then and there why my parents hated summer vacation.
 

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Images from Creativityforkids.com

Enter the solution:  Faber-Castell’s Creativity for Kids kits.  Everything you need to keep the kids entertained, all in one box!  

We were given two kits to try out and we had a blast with them.  The Sparkling 3D Paint Activity Kit (MSRP $21.99) and The Complete Tie Dye Kit (MSRP $24.99) kept us busy for hours.  Granted, these kits are for kids a bit older than mine, but they loved helping Mommy “get crafty.”

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These kits are two of the larger ones you can get, and have plenty to keep the kids entertained.  The Sparkly Paint kit can be used to make window clings, sun catchers, little 3D sculptures and jewelry.  We made window clings, sun catchers and a fun little pennant banner for the bedroom mirror. 
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To begin, you need to snip the ends of each bottle of paint and open them to remove a little paper plug.  Some of the plugs in our bottles had folded onto themselves and were floating down in the paint.  A toothpick remedied the situation.  After you’ve chosen your design and put it in the clear sleeve, you need to paint the outline in, with either the black or silver outliner.  After you do this you have to wait until it’s dry.  The kids kind of lost interest after this because waiting is hard for toddlers, but older kids will understand.IMG_0276IMG_0274
Here we ran into a couple of problems with the paint.  About half of the bottles of paint had an issue of some kind.  A couple of the bottles had splits in them and the darker colors (for some reason I couldn’t remedy) would not squeeze out of the bottles through the tip, but rather through the screw lid.  While I was able to deal with this, kids might get a bit frustrated.IMG_0282
Allow your design to dry and watch as the colors become clear and sparkly!  Peel off of the sheet protector carefully.  If you didn’t make sure your color was touching the outline while painting, your design will fall apart.  IMG_0283
Stick them to the window, and enjoy the sparkles!IMG_0284
We did a little freehand work next.  I drew out the sun catchers on the provided acetate pieces.  We like these the best because the colors seem much more vibrant for some reason.  IMG_0475
After a particularly grumpy day from my daughter, I made up a little banner to stick to her mirror that says “SMILE” on it.  A gentle reminder to start the day on a good foot. IMG_0474
We really like this kit and have plans to really use it up.  Even given the issues with the bottles, it was so fun!

Another fun “rainy day” project was The Complete Tie Dye kit.  This kit contains everything you need to make a tie dyed XL TShirt that you can cut up and turn into so many different things.  The awesome part of this kit is that everything is premeasured, no soda-ash soaking (dangerous for kids) and everything you need to keep the work clean (smock, table cloth,  gloves).  YAY!

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The gloves are good and stretchy.  The table cloth could have been a bit bigger, but I was glad for it.  The little smock/apron was nice to have on hand as well.

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Here you can see the shirt already soaked and little dishes where I used the primary colors provided to mix up some custom colors (orange, green and purple).  I was trying to get as many colors in this as possible, knowing we’d be cutting up the shirt to make other things.


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After soaking in the dye out in the sun for a few hours, the shirt was vibrant and ummm… ugly.
IMG_0540But that was my fault, and I’m cutting it up, remember?  I let it dry out in the sun after rinsing and then threw it in the dryer on high heat to really try to set the dye.  We have tie-dyed clothes before and always have trouble getting the dye stay on the shirt and not our other laundry.   I decided to make a little necklace and bracelet set for my little girl, and then used the rest of the shirt to make a little skirt for her.  Instructions are included for all of these projects (and many more!) and the best part is that if there is any sewing involved at all, it’s minimal and can be done by hand.  YAY!  I can just imagine all the fun accessories an older girl could come up with.

I think my favorite par of this project is the little lettuce edge I was able to give the skirt by just running my fingernail around the edge.  The little lady heartily approves of it as well, and won’t let me take it off of her for better shots!
IMG_0543We had alot of (MESSY) fun with this kit.  Be sure to keep the gloves on at all times, even when rinsing the shirt.  I came out with a nice pair of green hands after rinsing!


Pros:

  • everything you need in one box!
  • entertainment for those summer “Mom!  I’M BORED!”
  • endless, open creativity.
  • great for slumber parties

Cons:

  • the 3D paint can be used to make jewelry, but instructions say it’ll stain skin and clothes.  Be aware of this
  • they are a bit pricey
  • quite a few bottles in the Sparkly Paint kit were defective in some way, easily remedied/dealt with, but younger kids might not handle it well.
  • both kits require “wait time” and that can hold kids back a little.              
GIVEAWAY
The folks over at Creativity for Kids are giving away kits to two lucky readers. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.

Have you tried any of the Creativity for Kids kits?  Which would would you like to try?  Be sure to come back and show us what you created, we’d love to see it!

Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY — Creativity for Kids, Shrinky Dink Fairy Garden and Recycled Cardboard Zoo

Reported by Susan Reidy

Like most kids, the attention spans of my 8- and 5-year-old daughters varies, to put it politely. They have lots of energy and tend to flit from one activity to the next.

Recently, we tried out some crafts that kept their attention for 8+ hours and counting. Seriously. Introducing the kid-attention-keepers, otherwise known as Creativity for Kids project kits — Shrinky Dinks Fairy Garden and Recycled Cardboard Zoo.

These are two of the new, larger kits offered in Faber-Castell’s Creativity for Kids line of kits. There are tons of kits available, from small to large, for boys and girls, in themes ranging from make your own lip balm to monster trucks custom shop.

Because we’re all about fairies in this house, that’s the kit we started with.
They LOVED everything about this kit — coloring the Shrinky Dinks, helping me shrink them (they even mastered the heat tool, with my supervision of course), decorating the garden and ultimately, playing with their creations. It took us about two hours to get everything just so with the coloring/decorating, and then they played.

Quietly. Together. For hours.

I heard stories like, “We once were big, but then the evil person shrunk us (I guess that was me),” and they took pictures as they rearranged the garden and fairies. Here’s their fairy parade. Notice dinner in the background.

The kit had everything we needed to complete the garden, which made it super simple for us to make on an afternoon after school. It includes 50+ precut (yeah!) Shrinky Dinks, plastic and foam stands for the fairies and other creatures, fairy wings, the playscape, Faber-Castell colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, foam adhesive, adhesive dots, glitter glue, a fiber for hanging the swinging fairy, jump rings to attach creatures to the tree and brads. The kit has a MRSP of $19.99.

Here are all the Shrinky Dink creatures — squirrel, rabbit, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, birds, a gnome — along with flowers, leaves and a bird nest.

And here are the fairies down below. The kit actually includes six, but we had already shrunk one before I took the photo. This was one con of the kit for both me and the girls. We wanted more than six fairies. I don’t know what would be the right number, my girls suggested 10 or 12 or 20 (the number kept going up as they played). I think 10 might be right, especially if you have more than one child creating/playing with it.

This kit is plenty big enough in terms of supplies and actual play area for more than one child. My girls split up the Shrinky Dinks and took turns with the included colored pencils, although I did supplement with some Crayola colored pencils, just for more variety. There was even enough Shrinky Dinks for me to steal some for my projects.

Here they are hard at work coloring. We loved the Faber-Castell colored pencils. They went on so smoothly, and the colors were so vibrant, even before shrinking. Like all Shrinky Dinks, you color on the rough side of the image. I love that these are precut, which eliminates a tedious step that probably would have been my job.


Here’s one lovely fairy waiting to be shrunk. The images will shrink down to about one-third their original size. You can shrink these lovelies on a covered cookie sheet in the oven or toaster oven (specific directions are included on temperature/time), but I opted to use a heat gun.


I thought my girls would enjoy a more hands-on shrinking process, plus it was faster. They held onto the Shrinky Dink with a paper piercer while I manned the heat tool. I always worry with Shrinky Dinks that they are going to end up a curled mess.

I can proudly say we didn’t lose one Shrinky Dink due to poor shrinking. The key is to just keep heating, even when they curl, because eventually they will straighten out all on their own. We did put a hot plate on top briefly after heating so they would flatten out completely. We did have a few that curled and stuck, but I just took away the heat and gently pulled the stuck pieces apart, then started heating again.


Here she is one-third her original size.


The wings are separate pieces of acetate, which should not be heated because they will melt. We attached them to the rough side of each fairy with the included double-sided foam adhesive. After lots of play, some fairy wings started falling off. My girls worked this into their story line, and fortunately, when they wanted the wings back on, there was enough extra foam adhesive to replace them. Of course, I also have quite a stock of adhesives for future repairs.


The kit also includes these little plastic stands and foam stands, if you want to arrange your fairies in their garden. My girls used these for a little bit, but eventually I was sweeping these off the kitchen floor. Adhesive dots are included to make the stands stick, but my girls wanted to be able to take them on and off (eventually off entirely).

The garden playscape comes in pieces and requires some minor assembly. I took care of this while they were coloring.

A strong adhesive is already on the pieces, which include the backdrop, a pop-out of the tree and a mushroom. Here’s the assembled background, before it was decorated.


I love some of the details of this kit. Here’s the little garden gnome. I colored this guy, and stole him back later for another project, which I have below.


Here’s the sweet little swinging fairy.


Here’s our fairy garden all decked out. We added some flowers with brads, glued a few on, attached a bird and butterfly with the included jump rings and added the self-adhesive gems.


Did I mention they played for hours?

So when I saw that little gnome, I knew he would be a cute embellishment to a spring-themed layout. I also stole quite a few flowers, and have other plans for them. I loved coloring these almost as much as my girls; it was just very relaxing.


They were having so much fun with the fairy garden, it was several days before I suggested we try out the Recycled Cardboard Zoo. Here’s a photo of the kit again.

This is a larger kit and has lots and lots of pieces including a play area with zoo pens, an entrance gate and monkey tree; a playmat; 11 velvet flocked animals; color-in punchouts and stickers; background papers; Faber-Castell dual tip markers; aquarium plastic; glitter stickers; glue stick; self-adhesive google eyes; a cardboard fence and rope; foam adhesive and directions. It has a MRSP of $29.99.

After looking this kit over, I decided it would be better for me to assemble the base of the zoo after the kids were in bed. Several months ago, my middle daughter received the Recycled Cardboard Dollhouse for her birthday. I tried to assemble that one while they were hovering, and it was not a pleasant experience for anyone.

The directions scared me at first; there were just so many.

But as I got into it, I appreciated their thoroughness and particularly the illustrations.

One note: Carefully open the box as instructed. The box itself is the playmat. Yeah for making creative use of the packaging!

This zoo has a lot of pieces.


I started with the gate/ticket booth. Easy enough.


The cardboard is a nice weight — not too heavy to make bending and assembly difficult, but sturdy enough to stay together and withstand play.

Next up, I tackled the zoo pen base. This was a little more involved, but still not too tricky.

Adding the back wall was a little trickier. It’s two layers thick once it’s folded, so it’s a little harder to work the tabs into the slots. At first I looked at it and thought this is never going to work. But it did, quite well, actually. The cardboard tabs slipped in and even gave a nice click when they were in place, like what would you expect when assembling something made of plastic. Kudos to the creative minds who engineered this structure.


Stall dividers in place. You don’t want your lions mixing it up with your zebras.

The zoo also includes an aquarium with a base and a piece of blue acyrlic. The acrylic has a nice weight to it, and my girls really liked this feature. They thought it was the coolest. Here’s the zoo all assembled. I’d say it took me about 35 to 40 minutes to assemble it all. I was definitely glad I put it together without them. While it’s straightforward enough that an older child (8 and up) could do it, it can get a little tricky and I’m not sure it would hold their attention. Unless they’re into that; mine aren’t.


The kit includes colorful background papers and floors for each of the animal pens. We glued ours down so the littlest member of our family wouldn’t pull them out.


We put the animals together first — super simple, no directions required. Pop them out of the background and slip legs/ears/tails etc. on the bodies at the precut slits. I love that the animals have velvet splotches. We also added the self-adhesive googly eyes.

Next up was some coloring of the punchout, stickers and of course, playmat. Like the colored pencils in the fairy kit, my girls and I were very happy with the quality of these markers. They withstood all the coloring for the kit, and still have ink left for other projects.

Here’s Mr. Giraffe. Again, I was pleasantly surprised at the heft of the animals and that they were able to stand up without much effort. My older daughter accidently sat on the kangaroo and while the pieces came apart, they weren’t damaged.


Our monkeys hanging on the tree. Along with creativity, I was able to sneak in some learning. As we worked, we talked about the animals and which habitat they belonged in and why.


Here’s our finished zoo. I would love to visit a zoo with a purple, green, blue lawn. The directions include ideas on how to add your own touches, like using a segment of an egg cartoon to make an igloo or a toothpaste cap to hold clay fish for the penguins. We didn’t get that far yet, but our zoo continues to grow and have new additions. This is definitely an ongoing project.

One con, at least from a parent’s perspective, is the size of the finished zoo. It’s rather larger at 30″ x 17.5″ x 15″ and a playmat at 17.64″ x 29.4″, so it takes up a lot of real estate. Right now, the zoo is relegated to the finished basement, alongside my craft area. I kind of wish it could fold up, but once it’s together, it’s together. Of course, for my girls, the size was hardly a con; they like it large.


In case you couldn’t tell, we had lots of fun with these kits. We spent hours creating, and the girls spent hours playing. I was pleased with the high quality of the materials. The zoo and garden are still standing, and haven’t needed any repairs, even after all the playing.

There were plenty of materials for both my girls to share. We had fun crafting together, and they even learned a thing or two. What more can you ask for?

Pros:
  • All inclusive kits so it’s easy to craft.
  • Quality materials and coloring media, including Faber-Castell colored pencils and markers.
  • Sturdy cardboard and paper that has stood up to hours of play.
  • Sparks creativity, imagination and learning — a perfect trifecta.
  • Complete, easy-to-follow directions, including how you can add your own details to the zoo.
  • Enough materials for multiple children. Adults can steal pieces for their own projects.

Cons:

  • Fairy kit could include more Shrinky Dink fairies.
  • Fairy wings kept falling off, but my girls went with it. There was enough extra adhesive for repairs.
  • Zoo is straightforward to construct, but takes some time and likely adult supervision. Or the adult can put it together ahead of decorating.
  • More expensive of the Creativity for Kids kits, but definitely worth it given the quality and all that is included.
  • Zoo is rather large, and doesn’t fold up. A con for parents, put a plus for kids.

GIVEAWAY

The folks over at Creativity for Kids are giving away kits to two lucky readers. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.



Have you tried out the Creativity for Kids kits? Which ones do you like the best?

Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!