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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: Shapelets

Reported by Erika Martin

If you’ve never heard of “silly bandz” or “shaped rubber bands,” then you may just have been living under a rock. They’re all the rage in kids circles and schools. My daughter trades these shaped bands with her friends and has quite the collection going. Remember when we used to trade jelly bracelets in school back in the 80s? Shaped rubber bands are the jelly bracelets of the new millenium, and they’re taking the world by storm.
If you ask my daughter, “What’s better than silly bands?” she would say, “Making my own!” And that’s where Shapelets come in!

Shapelets is the “stretchy band design system” that allows you to create your own designs right in your kitchen! Shapelets bands are formulated to take on the shape you create on a peg board after you put it in your oven or toaster oven.
There are different ways that you can purchase Shapelets.:
  • The Shapelets Design System is a kit contains 1 pegboard, 32 pegs, 24 specially formulated bands, and 3 cut and punch templates. This kit retails for $9.99.
  • The Shapelets Class & Party Pack is a kit that contains 10 pegboards, 320 pegs, 96 specially formulated bands, and 30 cut and punch templates. This kit retails for $49.99.
  • You can also purchase refill bands when you run out so that you can continue creating. The refill packs come with 24 bands and Shapelets offers 4 different pack choices. Basics, Brights, Glow and Glitter. The refill packs retail for $4.99 each.

The Shapelets website includes a gallery that anyone can put their designs on and you can access it for ideas to use with your own bands.

The process behind Shapelets is a very easy one. There are 5 simple steps, according to the Shapelets website:
Step 1: Insert pegs into the pegboard to create the outline of a Shapelet shape you would like to make.

Step 2: Thread a new Shapelet band around the pegs to form the shape. Make sure the band is not stretched too tight. If you need to you can move the pegs to loosen the band a little bit.
Make sure that you choose the correct size band that your template calls for.

Step 3: Ask your parent or another grown-up to preheat the oven to 225°F. Then bake the Shapelet band for 10 minutes. CAUTION: PARENTAL SUPERVISION REQUIRED! (The pegboard and pegs are rated to withstand the 225° oven so they will not melt during normal use. Make sure not to forget them in the oven because they WILL melt and make a mess if you turn on your oven later on to a higher temperature.)
Step 4: Wait 5 minutes to allow the system to cool down. Then remove the Shapelet band from the pegs.
Step 5: That’s it! You’ve made your own Shapelet band with the Shapelet Stretchy Band Design System! Now you can wear it, show it, trade it, and much more.

When I took the Shapelets templates out of the oven, I got a strong whiff of plastic melting. I have chemical sensitivies (yes, I know, I use all sorts of crafting supplies, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off) so the smell bothered me a bit. I have a really sensitive schnoz, so others might not notice the smell. If you want to keep the odor contained, you could place the templates in a covered casserole dish so it doesn’t “hit you” when you open the oven door.
When you purchase the Shapelets Design Kit, you’ll receive a piece of newsprint type of paper that includes 3 “cut and punch templates.” These templates are a great starting point for using the kit and especially for younger kids that aren’t quite confident yet in creating their own designs. Directions are included on the sheet to instruct you on how to use these easy templates.

There is a useful FAQ section on the Shapelets website and this came in helpful for my daughter and I when we had bands break in the oven when we were creating. We had too much tension on some parts of the affected bands. This can also happen if you’re using a size of band that is too small for the template and pegs.

The bands that had even tension turned out great.

Another thing that we discovered is that you should make sure all of your bands are untwisted between each peg before you put them in the oven. If the band is twisted in between the pegs, you’ll get weak spots in your bands after baking. This could cause them to snap and break when being stretched later on. Some twisting of the bands between the pegs might also have played into why the bands in the above photos broke during baking, besides being tight on some of the pegs.

The FAQ section also gave us the idea to do up to 5 of the same shape at once. This way, my daughter could make a bunch of matching bracelets all at once. It cut down on the time and also on the electricity for our oven.
I think the one of the best resources that Shapelets offers, though, is their Create page on their website. You can create your own templates using the grid provided. You can add pegs, move the pegs and the band, print the template, submit your design to the gallery and the program even tells you which size band would be ideal for your design. It’s really important that you separate your bands by size so that you don’t put the wrong size on your pegs and ruin them in the baking process.

I tried my hand at creating a heart template. It takes a little bit of patience to figure out how to move the pegs and band on the program so that they’re going in the right direction for shaping but once you get the hang of it, creating new templates becomes addictive.


When I was done with creating my template, I printed it out on a piece of computer paper. It will also print with instructions and takes up a half page. To make the most of your paper, create another template and put the paper back in your printer in the opposite direction that you originally had it in so that you can print the next template on the black half of the page. Each template you create should have the size of the band needed at the bottom of the template, just like the cut and punch templates that come in the Shaplets Design Kit. However, the heart design that I made printed out as an “invalid size” so I tried different sizes of bands until I found that the smallest of the bands was a perfect fit.
Computer paper can be hard to poke the pegs through so use something sharp to make the holes in your paper to line up with the pegboard underneath. I used a seam ripper to poke the holes and the pegs went in really easy. You could also use a pin, a pen, the small end of a stylus, etc.
I lined up 5 bands and put them into the oven and they turned out great!


My daughter was excited to make some bands for the Penny Fair that we’re going to be having at our house on the last day of school (to benefit our local humane society). Look how serious she is about getting the bands just right.


We need prizes for the prize booth and since these bands are all the rage with her friends, we thought this would be a great addition to what the kids can earn at the fair.

Really, now…could you have asked for a cuter model to show off these Shapelets bracelets? Of course I’m biased, so I’d say no. *wink*

Pros:
  • Great price point for Design Kit ($9.99)
  • Shapelets offers a Class & Party Pack at an affordable price with plenty of materials for a fun party activity
  • Shapelets offers refill bands at a great price
  • Even though you’ll eventually use up all of bands in the kit, you still have the peg and pegboards to keep creating
  • The Shapelets website offers a gallery of designs, as well as a grid program to create your own designs to print and share on the site
  • Just as much fun for adults to create as it is for kids to create

Cons:

  • Only 3 cut and punch templates in the design kit, though you can find and print more on the Shapelets gallery and Create grid
  • For people with sensitive noses, there is a melting plastic type of smell that comes out of the oven when you take your templates out but this could be easily remedied by placing the templates in a covered casserole dish while baking
  • Some of the templates I created on the Create grid printed out as an “invalid size” – if this happens, you’ll need to experiment with different size bands to find one that fits well
The cons were not that big of a deal and we had a great time creating together. I can see this being a great activity for my daughter and her friends/cousins to do when they get together.

GIVEAWAY
The folks over at Shapelets 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.
Are you or your kids sporting these bracelets? Would you purchase this to make your own designs and what shapes would you pick?
Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!