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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!

White Card Stock Comparison

Reported by Taylor Usry

There are so many options out there for white card stock! With the popularity of both clean and simple (CAS) cards, as well as detailed images that can be colored with markers or any other coloring medium, choosing the right white for your project can get tricky. Today I’m going to show you how different techniques work on several popular white card stocks – Neenah Solar White, Papertrey Ink Stamper’s Select, Stampin Up!’Stampin’ Ups Whisper White, Bazzill’s Prismatics Textured White, Mohawk‘s Color Copy 98 Bright White, and Georgia Pacific‘s White card stock.

Here is a quick overview of each card stock:

  • Neenah Solar White: 80# weight, acid-free, ultra-smooth finish; widely available in packs of 25, or by the ream, online
  • Papertrey Ink’s Stamper’s Select: 110# weight; only available in packs of 40 sheets through their website
  • Stampin’ Up’s Whisper White: 80# weight; only available in packs of 40 sheets through a demonstrator
  • Bazzill’s Prismatics Textured White: 70# weight, textured on one side and smooth on the other; available online
  • Mohawk’s Color Copy 98 Bright White: 100# weight, acid-free; available by the ream or large pack online
  • Georgia Pacific’s White: 110# weight; available in large packs online and in retail stores such as WalMart, Staples, etc

The Neenah, Mohawk, and Stampin’ Up card stocks have the smoothest, glossy-type finish. Papertrey ink is also incredibly smooth, but it isn’t quite as glossy. Bazzill’s Prismatics has one textured side (in a mottled, orange peel finish) and one flat side (but not smooth and glossy to the touch). Georgia Pacific’s card stock is just flat. In terms of weight, although Stampin’ Up’s card stock is 80#, it feels much flimsier than Neenah’s. And while the Georgia Pacific is purported to be 110#, it feels flimsy as well. I don’t particularly advocate using either the Stampin’ Up or the Georgia Pacific as a card base. All of the others are quite sturdy and thick.  

All of the card stocks work well when used with a paper punch (here, a Martha Stewart one). I did notice that the Georgia Pacific card stock did not punch as cleanly as the others did. Some edges needed filing or smoothing several times, both when using an edge punch and a standard shaped punch.

Next I cut each image out using a different Spellbinder’s Nestabilites die, and left the card stock plain inside each one to do some sponging using Tim Holtz ink.. The smooth finish on the Neenah, Mohawk, and Papertrey Ink card stock provided the best surface for the blended sponging effect. Stampin’ Up’s card stock also has a smooth surface, but I don’t think the ink blended as well. I like the way the sponging turned out on the textured card stock by Bazzill as well, but again it is not a smooth finish. It still blends well, though. The Georgia Pacific does an okay job – but just okay. I found that the ink didn’t want to blend as easily as with the others, so the changes in colors were more noticeable. As you can see, the Neenah card stock took the ink really well; it is the darkest of all. I sponged each piece exactly the same, to demonstrate the variations of the inks once they’d been applied.

On these I partially colored a variety of Stampendous images with Copics. All images were stamped in Memento Tuxedo Black ink and had fifteen minutes of drying time, but were not heat-set. Stampin’ Up’s Whisper White is not at all suitable for coloring with Copics – it doesn’t blend. Georgia Pacific’s card stock is mediocre – it blends alright, but occasionally you can see streaks, and the lines between colors can be harsh. Papertrey Ink, Mohawk (which is not pictured above, but you will see it in a minute – stick with me!) and Neenah’s card stocks have an excellent surface for Copic coloring, and all blend beautifully. The Bazzill Prismatics also colors gorgeously, but I noticed a bit more bleeding (that could be due to not heat-setting my ink, but I didn’t do that on purpose).  In my opinion, the Papertrey Ink is such a heavy weight that is sucks up lots of Copic ink, which then necessitates quicker refills.

Lastly, I stamped some solid images on each card stock (using acrylic stamps from Sweet ‘n Sassy Stamps and Tim Holtz ink), to see what kind of coverage I got. The only one I was underwhelmed with was the Georgia Pacific card stock. Bazzill’s Prismatics stamp better on the smooth side than the textured side; you can see the mottled look the textured side gives. The others all have a smooth finish and take ink very well. Drying time varies a bit with each card stock, but none took longer than five minutes. Again, the Neenah card stock had a darker color than all the other smooth card stocks.

On this sample, I colored that Stampendous image using Copics on the Mohawk card stock. The base and embossed layer are Papertrey Ink. All of the card stocks emboss equally as well. For me, the Papertrey Ink provides the strongest base. It is not flimsy at all, and you can add as many layers or heavy embellishments as you want.

I also ran a few sheets through my printer, to see how well they worked with digital images and papers. I have an HP inkjet printer. The Papertrey Ink card stock was too thick to consistently go through my printer – they had quite an argument. The Neenah, Mohawk, Georgia Pacific, Bazzill Prismatics, and Stampin’ Up all fed through just fine, and worked great for digi images. The smooth-finish card stocks (not the Georgia Pacific or Bazzill Prismatics) worked better for printing digital paper on (*tip: run it through twice, to create your own double-sided patterned paper!).

What card stock is your favorite for coloring on? Do you use it for rubber stamping, printing and coloring digital images, or scrapbooking? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!