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Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Alex Little Hands Kits – Paper Tube Ocean

Reported by Taylor Usry

My daughter and I were so excited to review the Paper Tube Ocean kit from Alex Toys. This kit is part of their amazing line of Little Hands kits, designed to get the creative juices of younger kids (usually age 3 and up) going.

When we opened the box, we found the kit to be full of crafty supplies. Included in the kit were:

  • 4 colored paper tubes
  • 148 stickers and paper shapes (die cuts)
  • 4 pipe cleaners
  • fringed paper
  • 25 tissue paper squares
  • chunky glue stick
  • step-by-step picture instructions
The box noted that this should be enough to make four completed sea creatures. 

As with the Cupcake Crafts kit we also tested out, this paper Tube Ocean kit packaged each project in separate packets, so there was no confusion about which accessories worked with what sea creature. A sticker is on the outside of each packet, showing a black and white version of a finished sample.

The instructions seemed fabulous – one page, front -and-back, with two projects per side. All seemed to be easy to follow pictures, so that my 5-year-old could complete them herself, with little or no help from me.

The chunky glue stick has fuschia glue, which goes on purple but dries clear. For some reason, there was a black spot in this glue stick, which unfortunately wound up transferring to the project during one of the gluing steps.

We started out making the lobster. We briefly considered the jellyfish, but my daughter was concerned she wouldn’t be able to make that one completely on her own, and that’s important to her. She punched out the die-cut shapes very easily. The paper they are made of is not too thick, but it’s thick enough not to tear at all when small, eager hands punch it out. Even the skinny legs for the lobster came out just fine.

She did ask for some help folding the legs accordion-style for the lobster. And she got a bit confused, because the picture instructions made it appear that she should glue on the legs and claws before putting on the fringed paper…which she found out was the wrong thing to do. I peeled them off for her, and helped her put in the fringed paper. When I took a closer look at the instructions, the fringed paper was clearly in step two, so I’m not sure what their intent was when they designed the instructions. It worked better to put the paper, which is long enough to wrap all the way around the tube, on first.  Also, the instructions do not tell the kids to fold the fringed paper in half, so that all the fringe is at the bottom, but looking closely at the sample on the box it appears the kids should do that. Never one to discourage my daughter from going her own way, I let her leave some of them unfolded so he could have a “lobster mustache.”
She got a little frustrated with the thin paper when it came to applying the glue and wrapping it around the tube. After two tries, she asked me to finish that part for her. And we were disappointed to see that the black gunk on the glue showed through the red paper (see above). 
After I applied the fringed paper to the lobster, she happily went about putting stickers on him. Then we moved on to the seahorse. 
The seahorse was much easier for her to complete, because it was mostly stickers. Disappointingly, the ric-rac included did not want to stick to the paper tube very well using just the glue stick. I actually got some other adhesive and stuck it down. 

My daughter enjoyed making the two projects from this kit, but she was really frustrated by the lobster’s unclear instructions and need for parental involvement. So two projects were all I could get her to complete in one sitting. I think, for a younger child, this kit might be okay because they would expect an adult to be really involved. But for my 5-year-old, who is nearly finished with Kindergarten, she wants to do it all herself and gets frustrated when she can’t.

And I have to say, I was disappointed with the overall quality of this kit compared to the Cupcake Crafts kit we also tried out. The paper tubes had dinged up ends, the glue stick had that awful black spot (yes, it still glues fine, but it showed through some of her projects), and the instructions weren’t as clear. It was still fun to do, but I’d recommend it for older kids, honestly.

Pros:

  • affordable price (the kit retails for $11.95)
  • more than enough decorations and supplies to complete the included projects
  • it’s fun to make cute little sea creatures!
Cons:
  • for the price, I would have liked there to be more completed projects possible (maybe 6 instead of 4?)
  • instructions were a little unclear
  • needs more detail work than small hands might be capable of
GIVEAWAY
The folks over at Alex are giving away kits to one lucky reader. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.

What types of craft kits would you and your kids enjoy? What do like most or least about kids craft kits? We would love to hear your opinions.

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: Alex – Cupcake Crafts Kit

Reported by Taylor Usry

My daughter and I jumped at the chance to review the Cupcake Crafts kit from Alex Toys. This kit is part of their Little Hands line of craft kits and toys, designed for younger children (usually age 3 and up). My daughter is 5, so I figured this would be great for her. She was SO excited when the kit arrived. And I really liked the idea of using cupcake liners to make crafts. I hadn’t thought of that before!

The kit is full of crafty supplies. Included in the box are:

  • 53 cupcake liners
  • 172 stickers
  • 22 paper shapes (die cuts of fairies, flower parts, a crown, etc)
  • chunky glue stick
  • easy-to-follow instructions
These supplies are enough to make eight completed projects. And there will be some leftovers, which is excellent news for your craft stash!

Each specific project inside the box is packaged inside its own cellophane bag, so there is no confusion for the little ones. The bag with the fairies has all their stickers and die-cuts; the flowers have theirs, and so on. All of the cupcake liners are in their own packet. A sticker is on the outside of each packet, showing a black and white version of a finished sample.

The instructions for the four different types of projects are on one sheet, and they are perfect for kids! Instead of written, step-by-step directions, each project has simple pictures that the kids can follow. My daughter was able to follow along very easily, with minimal help from me. She did ask if she had to put the stickers exactly where the instructions depicted them, or if she could mix it up a bit for her projects. I’m all for encouraging creativity, so I told her to go for it!

After we settled on which project to make first (a fairy, with yellow hair just like my daughter’s…naturally!), we got out the glue stick. I immediately loved its large, easy-to-hold design. I’d call it chunky, but my sweet girl told me it was not polite to call things chunky, lol. Once we took off the top, she loved its bright fuschia color. The glue is purple when first applied, and dries clear. It is so helpful for kids to be able to see where they’ve applied the glue!

The die cuts were very easy for small hands to punch out. There was no tearing at all.

She occasionally turned them over to punch from the back, but from either side they came out just fine. Even the smaller, skinnier ones (the wand, a crown, etc.). I’ve often experienced die cuts that tear when punched out, so I was relieved that these were thick and sturdy and didn’t do that.

Following the picture instructions, she folded each large liner in half, opened it up, applied a “swipe of glue” (her words), and pressed the sides back together.

Then she put another “swipe of glue” across the outside of the cupcake liner, and stuck it down wherever it needed to be, according to the instructions. The process is basically the same for each project.

The crown was a huge hit because she loved the way the different-sized liners gave it some dimension.

My only concern with the crown was the size. It has notches in the back, and my daughter is not a huge kid…she’d pretty skinny (from all the running around she does) and had what I’d consider a normal-sized head for a 5-year-old. But the crown was on its very last notch for her. So it might not fit every kid, but if it doesn’t I would guess you could just add some card stock or paper and staples to make it work.

The “Cupcake Crown,” as she dubbed it, apparently entitles the wearer to as many cupcakes as she wants. I looked, but couldn’t find that tidbit anywhere in the instructions.

We also made a fairy and two flowers. There are enough materials left to make more fairies and another flowers; the kit contains more than enough supplies for extra projects! 
The cupcake crafts in this kit were very easy to make, with minimal involvement from a grown up. The picture instructions showed her everything she needed to do, and the correct order to do them in. They were perfectly designed for kids! We played with this kit for about an hour (it was a nice day, and we could see the pool from the craft table – I’m lucky I got her for that long!) and had three completed projects, more than a few pictures, and a zillion giggles to show for it. As for clean up – there really wasn’t any. The small but of glue she got on my craft table came right up with a wet wipe. 
I’d certainly recommend the Cupcake Crafts kit, which retails for $11.95 and is available in stores and online, to parents with younger kids! It is lots of fun to make, easy to understand, and it would make an excellent rainy day, indoor activity. I could also see getting a few of these kits and using them as birthday party activities!

Pros:

  • affordable price
  • kit is all inclusive
  • excellent instructions
  • very easy for kids to complete on their own
Cons:
  • my daughter said she wished there were more varieties of cupcake liners (I’m assuming she meant patterns)
  • although there are plenty of projects included (enough supplies to make 8 total),  few more would be fun!
GIVEAWAY
The folks over at Alex are giving away kits to one lucky reader. 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 kids craft kit? Did you (and your little one) enjoy it? 

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!

Event Review: Arty Gras Celebration

Reported by Maria Del Pinto
The weekend of March 18-20, my children and I attend a fun event at our favorite art supply store in Westminster, CA. The event is the annual “Arty Gras” celebration at the Art Supply Warehouse.  People of all ages look forward this fabulous event and all the interesting schedule of workshops and demonstrations that they present each year.
This is a free event put on by the store to educate, encourage, and expose members of the local community to widen their artistic horizons.  It is a lot of fun and folks come from as far as San Diego to attend this event.  This year they had a painting competition with some pretty amazing artists who created large wall murals in a limited amount of time.
The Official Schedule of Events and Workshops

My children were amazed at the incredible things people were making with the simplest of tools.   Our 

first stop was the “Amazing Human Powered Art Machine” which is a bicycle that has been remade into a human powered spin art machine.

Human Powered Spin Art Machine
The “Human Powered Art Machine” is a reproduction of the famous retro spin art machine from the seventies.

It is powered by a person sitting on the bike and peddling to create a rpm of 5000 to 10000, which is enough to produce dazzling spirals and streaks as the paint is squirted onto the paper.

Squeeze bottles filled with paint.

The adults and children stood outside a safety shield. Then using squirt bottles filled with different colors of paint, they created their little pieces of spin art.

Some of the Spin Art Results

They came out very different from one another.   As you can guess, it was a challenge to get my kids to leave this fun kids craft workshop.

Lutradur Triptych Postcard
The second workshop was  learning to make a “Lutradur”  Triptych postcard with Peter Overpeck from C&T Publishing.   This is a fun process that uses a variety of papers (Ultra-Light Lutradur, Transfer Artist Paper, Fast 2 Fuse Interfacing), inks, paints, and a hot iron to create really cool effects.
Ultra Light Lutradur, Transfer Artist Paper, Fast 2 Fuse papers
The trick to this project was using silicon release paper which keeps the different papers from sticking to the iron or the ironing surface.
Silicone Release Paper
The project we worked on consisted of printed sheets that had been run through an ink jet printer like the sample below.
Ink Jet Printer Sample
Below are samples of the different results you can get by using a variety of materials and inks.  The one below was heat distressed using a hot iron and a heat gun.
Heat Distressed Sample
The next sample show how it works using an ink rubbing technique.  This is a great kids art project.  You simply put a leaf upside down on some wax paper and then put a bit of paint on the leaf veins.  Gently pick up the leaf without smearing the paint and press the painted area onto some paper.  If you did it right, you have a fun leaf imprint on your paper.
Leaf Ink Rubbing Sample
The kids thought this was a fun workshop and the final postcards were cute. These products would be great for card making, altered books, tote bags, recycling old clothing, and upcycled craft projects. For homeschooling projects and teaching guides, the C&T Publishing web site has some class plans and instructions for various techniques using their product line.
The next workshop we attended was the “Visual Journaling 101” technique class with Kari Foteff  (sponsored by Strathmore).  Once my kids spotted bottles of mod podge and gesso, they were very excited to try this project.
Strathmore Visual Journal
This workshop featured Strathmore’s newest heavy-duty mixed media journaling papers that are not supposed to bleed or buckle easily with the application of various media materials.
Kari Foteff
The journals are made with heavy-duty paper that has a wire binding that makes it easier to have the journal lay flat when open.   First, my daughter used the Mod Podge to adhere different papers to the pages.
Using Mod Podge to adhere asst papers
A water color artist sitting next to her, showed my daughter how to use the Lyra Aqua colors on the page.  She loved that effect and will probably add those colors to her birthday wish list.
Lyra Aqua Colors
The papers were put to the test, using alcohol inks, water colors, mod podge, liquitext fluid medium, and a variety of ephemera to create a special page.
Some of the finished pages
The pages below are done with paint and ordinary ink pens:
Paint & Ink Sample
One thing that I really liked is that the ink did not bleed through to the back of the page when using Pitt Artist Pens (Faber-Castell).
Applying Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen
This was a great project; all the altered pages came out great.  Since this was a fairly new product, there were a variety of different artists sitting in the workshop to test out these journals.  My children learned a lot of great tips from these folks on how to use the various supplies the store had laid out on the table to for everyone to use.  If you want to try your hand at altered art or just get some visual journaling ideas, Strathmore offers free online videos and instructions on their website.
One of the lovely things about the Arty Gras Event is that my children and I could participate in any workshop that we wanted as long as the children had an adult to help them with some of the more challenging tools (like the hot iron).  However, they also had children-orientated activities like face painting by Snazaroo, special beads, fun buttons, and more.

There were quite a few homeschool parents attending the event. They were stocking up on art supplies and gathering new ideas for their own kids homeschool art projects.  It was a weekend filled with great opportunities for everyone to try new products and techniques, as well as stock up on much needed art supplies, crafting supplies and other related products.

We would love for you to share your experiences at any local “Arts & Crafts” shows that you have attended  What was your favorite technique or workshop?

Disclosure

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