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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!

Grafix Shrink Film Clear

Reported by Jessica Ripley


Remember Shrinky Dinks? Oh my gosh how I loved those things. These and a Make-it and Bake-it Oven were right up there on my top five favorite list of toys growing up. Something about that extra step of melting something down into a work of art just made it so much fun! I still have a collection of tiny plastic trinkets that became treasures of my childhood.

So how excited was I when shrink plastic started to make a niche in the crafting world? Um, in a word, very.

Enter Grafix, a company that not only offers shrink plastic in professional crafting packaging (to save you that trip down the toy aisle), but that also offers it in a multitude of styles. From clear to matte, to different colors, and even in an ink-jet compatible format. Imagine printing out what will become tiny plastic yous! For this review however, I’m going to focus on just one of those, the clear version.

I have to start off by saying overall I was pleased with the product. It is what it is, and is one of those products that could be many things limited only by your imagination. Of course, there are a few draw backs and things to consider though, so I’ll take you through my first opportunity to play with it below.

My first impression upon opening the package is that the clear shrink plastic is a dead ringer for any other clear craft plastic you can get your hands on today in weight and transparency. At 6, 10, or 50 sheets per pack, it comes in 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets, complete with a set of instructions and tips. The difference of course, is that once heated in an oven (regular or toaster), it shrinks to 20% of its original size and becomes a smaller, sturdier element for your crafting use.

The package states you can color, stamp, paint, punch, etc the plastic before baking. For a few of my test pieces, I decided to use a stamp. Since it is slippery plastic, I used and would recommend Staz-On ink for this. It took a stamp with this ink just like a regular sheet of craft plastic would.


Next I decided to try a few different coloring techniques. It’s much too slippery for colored pencils (the traditional Shrinky Dink coloring tool of choice), though with some sandpaper distressing it would probably take colored pencil better. I, however, can be an impatient crafter, so prefer to use a product as-is whenever possible.

Below, for the heart on the far left I used acrylic paint, the middle heart was colored using metallic markers, and the last I left plain:

Cutting the sheet was fairly easy too. No more difficult than cutting into a piece of heavy cardstock with scissors. Using a paper cutter worked OK too. A regular, sliding 12″ x 12″ cutter did cut through the sheet fine; a plus for those of us who can’t cut a straight line with scissors to save our lives. There was a bit of a ‘snowy’ effect along the edges when doing so, but this went away after baking.

I also gave cutting the plastic in my computerized die-cutting machine a try, and below is the result. While it didn’t cut through completely (note: I used regular blade, not a “deep cut” one), it did give me an easy line to cut along as a kind of traced pattern:

I did get the impression I was severely lessening the life of my blade however, but still, this extends the possibility of homemade acrylic accents exponentially.

Also for this piece, I decided to leave it clear but try a little distressing using a rotary tool. Again, easy to do, just like a regular piece of craft plastic:


Now the fun part. Getting the pieces into the oven to shrink! The package suggests a temperature between 300 and 350 degrees in a regular oven, and a baking time of between 2-3 minutes. I pre-heated my oven to 325, and found that baking for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds was just right.

The instructions also state that the plastic should not be baked on bare metal, but rather a piece of cardboard, or like I used below, parchment paper:

(The “Crash Test Piece” is just a scrap that I wanted to test my handwriting on… it writes on just fine).

As stated above the pieces were fully shrunken in about 2 and a half minutes. During the baking process, the plastic curls in on itself quite a bit. Once it is shrunk to size however, the piece flattens out again (for the most part), however I can see that a) the larger a piece is the more curling will occur, and b) that if there are very intricate details in a piece, they may curl up and stick to each other causing an issue. Once out of the oven, there are a few seconds time when the plastic remains pliable and you can either un-stick it from itself (carefully, it’s hot!), or lay something heavy on top (like a cookbook) to make sure they remain flat while cooling. The instructions also state that laying another piece of parchment paper or cardboard on top while baking will help prevent curling.

Once out of the oven, the pieces are able to be comfortably handled within 1-2 minutes. Below are my baked up tests:


True to what the packaging says, they baked up to about 20% their original size. I didn’t take any steps to flatten the smaller heart pieces though, and there was a bit of curling:


One of the things I loved the most about shrink plastic when I was younger was the bright, vivid colors that happened once the plastic shrunk, and I was only semi-pleased with the color that occurred with this clear version once it was done. While the marker did get a bit more vivid, the paint didn’t look all that different to me, just a bit more concentrated:

The plain, clear version however stayed pretty transparent, and suddenly I realized what this product is best used for, making clear acrylic elements. From your own ghost letters to even your own acrylic album in whatever shape you desire, there are some real possibilities here.

Below is one last example of the size achieved after baking, which I achieved when attempting to make a mini acrylic album of my own. This is the result of one 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet, cut into quarters… and compared to a quarter:

This would be a ‘mini’ mini-album, but I can see the possibilities. I also took the extra step of laying a heavy book on these pieces before they cooled, and that really did solve any warping issues that I experienced with the heart pieces above. Little tricks and hints they suggest in the packaging really do work.

All in all, I found this Clear Shrink Film by Grafix a lot of fun to play with. And as stated above, if you can use your imagination as to what you can do with it, especially if you are a crafter who loves to add your own homemade accents to your work, I really don’t see how you can go wrong with adding some to your crafting stash. At about $5.00 MSRP for a package of 6 sheets, it’s a great deal too.

Pros:

  • A wonderful way to create your own, clear acrylic elements for a variety of projects.
  • Easy to cut with scissors.
  • Takes stamping (tested with Staz-On ink), drawing with marker, and paint well.
  • Major fun factor! Would be fun for kids to help with too (under supervision of course).

Cons:

  • This clear version is limited in your ability to color it without some extra distressing work. Also I wasn’t terribly impressed with the painted version once done.
  • Curling will occur, especially on bigger or more intricate pieces. You must take steps to ensure it lays flat immediately out of the oven.
  • Requires use of an oven, and gets HOT. Caution should be used as with any product that might be a burn waiting to happen.

Have you used Shrink Plastic in many projects lately? This kind or any other? What tips or ideas might you like to share? We love to hear from you!

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