If you want to keep my 7 year old son entertained for an hour; give him a bowl of jelly beans, a packet of cocktails sticks, show him the rudiments and watch him build all kinds of wonderful things. Welcome to the wonderful world of jelly bean architecture.
I confess, jelly bean architecture is not an invention of mine. When we went to the Just So Festival last year, my son spent a happy hour or so building with jelly beans. It’s something that we’ve revisited at home a few times since and it’s great fun; not to mention wonderfully educational and developmental!
You need two things to start building – lots of jelly beans (we get cheap bags of them from the petrol station, there’s no need to go gourmet with these) and lots of cocktail sticks. You will also need the knack. The first few times you try to spear a jelly bean onto a cocktail stick, chances are you will stab your finger instead. The trick is to hold the jelly bean on a flat surface and carefully press down, piercing the hard sugary coating.
You should think of each jelly bean as a corner piece. You can probably fit up to four cocktail sticks into a single jelly bean. Whatever kind of structure you’re building, the only limit is your imagination.
We find it best to warm up by building some simple 3D shapes, pyramids and cubes are great. How many cubes can you stack on top of each other? Can you fit a pyramid on the top? Who will eat the last jelly bean? You can then move on to more complex structures. In the picture here Ben has built a fire station.
Jelly bean architecture is perfect for budding architects and structural engineers. Anyone who is interested in building and construction, 3D shapes, maths, anything like that, plus it’s tremendous fun! It’s probably the most enjoyable STEM craft we’ve done together.
Christmas is a time for crafting and creating with the kids. We love doing Christmas crafts and we were excited when we heard that ex Blue Peter presenter and craft queen Konnie Huq, had partnered with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to create a selection of homemade STEM toys for Christmas.
Konnie Huq has put her Blue Peter powers to practice for a good cause, making Britain’s most popular Christmas toys at home for a fraction of the cost. The Christmas STEM toys she has created include –
Konnie, who spent over ten years craft-making on Blue Peter, is supporting a campaign by the Institution of Engineering and Technology to inspire more children to consider careers in engineering. The toys are designed to make learning about science, tech, engineering and mathematics (STEM) more accessible and affordable. These handmade STEM toys – which include a dissolving egg, magnetic slime, a kaleidoscope and even a smartphone projector – are educational, as well as fun.
Making your own slime is so popular right now, but we thought we would try something a little different. We really liked the idea of building our own living gingerbread house.
Make your own living gingerbread house
You will need:
A number of plain sponges
Spray bottle (clean)
How to make a living gingerbread house
Choose one or two sponges to be your base. Fix them together with a cocktail stick, remember these are sharp so be careful of your fingers.
Choose more sponges to be the walls. Cut one sponge in half across the longest
side (i.e. make two regular rectangles, not two long strips) and fix those onto the shorter sides of your base with cocktail sticks. Fix two sponges onto the longer sides of the base.
Take two sponges and cut them down their long side on an angle so that they fit together to form the apex of a roof. Fix them together with cocktail sticks, put on the top of your structure and fix into place with more cocktail sticks. You should now have a house shape made of sponges. Put your house onto a plate.
If your house is a bit wobbly, you can secure it using a glue gun or some craft glue. If you have used glue, allow time for the glue to dry and set before you move on to the next stage.
Next, you need to cover the house with seeds. You can use mustard or cress but
there are many fast sprouting seeds, so the choice is yours. We chose cress.
Dab some water onto the roof of your house and spread the seeds onto the roof.
Pour a little water onto the plate so the sponge base can soak it up. Check the
sponge is nice and moist. Then sprinkle the seeds onto the base.
Leave your house in a warm, bright spot for the seeds to germinate. Spray the house with water using a spray bottle each day, and pour a little water over the house if it feels dry. In a few days the seeds should start to sprout, in a week they should be thriving.
It’s so easy and lots of fun to make too!
Disclosure: We were sent a shopping voucher to buy the materials for this craft.
When you think of Easter, one of your first thoughts is probably about chocolate eggs. In recent years there have been a few changes to the eggs kids might find left by the Easter bunny, and not all of them are now made of chocolate.
It’s also nice to be able to give something that won’t be gobbled up in five minutes, especially as my son usually gets given a lot of chocolate eggs. We’ve been gifting a combination of chocolate eggs and play eggs for the last few years, much to the delight of my son. This week we received the Paw Patrol Craft Egg from Sambro to put to the test.
The Paw Patrol Craft Egg is ideal for little artists who enjoy being creative and who like to have fun creating, painting and drawing. The Craft Egg is a great way to encourage and develop their creativity and imagination. Plus it will also keep your little ones busily entertained for a while.
He was incredibly excited when he saw the Paw Patrol Craft Egg sat waiting for him on the table. I helped him peel the wrapper off (which is tricky and will probably need a grown-up and a pair of sharp scissors) and then he opened up the egg.
The Paw Patrol Craft Egg contains:
4 Marker Pens
2 Ink Pads
2 Finger Paint Pots
10 Paw Patrol Colouring Sheets
He was absolutely delighted with his Paw Patrol Craft Egg. Once we’d unpacked it and looked at everything inside, he diligently sat colouring the pictures in and stamping them with his new Paw Patrol ink stamps. He happily crafted and coloured away for over an hour.
I think he will come back to his craft egg several times over the next few days. He has already coloured in the ten pictures which were included, but with the paint, felt tips, crayons and ink pads included, I am sure he will create a number of artworks over the Easter break.
The Paw Patrol Craft Egg from Sambro costs £5.99 and is a good alternative to the traditional chocolate egg. There are a number of different craft eggs to choose from which include Minions, My Little Pony, Shimmer & Shine and Disney Princesses. The Paw Patrol egg is available in pink or blue. They are available from a range of retailers, but I’ve seen them online in both Amazon and Ocado.
Christmas is peak crafting season for me. I love making things, or trying to make things for the house and for my family. Alas my crafts often turn out a little wonky and rustic looking, but for me the thing I enjoy most is the act of crafting, not necessarily the result. This month tried my hand at making a Christmas stocking.
I was sent a box of craft materials to use and it was up to me to decide what I wanted to do. There were all kinds of things in the box, tinsel, a sewing kit, pine cones, glitter glue, decorative robins, string, hessian, and bells.
I began by cutting out a Christmas stocking shape out of the hessian, which I then hand sewed together. This took a little while as I’m not very quick when it comes to sewing by hand. Turning the stocking right side out, I sewed a piece of laced ribbon in a loop at the top to hang the stocking. I stitched the ribbon around the top of the stocking and down over the areas I’d hand sewn, in part to hide the stitched edge, in part because I was going for a really simple look.
I then sewed on some wire craft stars I’d made at my craft class the week before. I left them so they would dangle and sway on the stocking.
To make the wire craft stars I printed out a star shape of the right size. Then I bent some brown paper covered craft wire into a star shape using the template. Using PVA glue, I glued the wire star onto some decorative paper. I used a slightly aged page from a music book. I left the glue to dry overnight and then trimmed around the star. The result was quite effective and could be used in so many different ways. Perhaps as decorations or on Christmas cards.
My simple Christmas stocking was finished and just needed hanging by the fire ready for Father Christmas.
When you make your own Christmas stocking, once you’ve got your basic shape, it’s up to you how you embellish it. You can go wild, or stay simple like me. I really like my brown and cream stocking. My stitching leaves a little to be desired, but you can’t see that and it doesn’t really matter, as long as it holds when it’s full of Christmas goodies!
As a crafter I count myself as an enthusiastic complete amateur. I think often, especially with the crafts I make, simple is often better. I needed to make some fairly quick and simple cards to thank some people who have helped me out lately and I thought I’d make some bunting cards.
I was sent some card making goodies from Create & Craft TV. They sell online as well as running a popular crafting TV channel – if you’ve not seen it and are interested, you can watch it on their website at http://www.createandcraft.tv/tvschedule as well as on Sky, Freeview etc.
My bunting cards are really simple and quick to make, they’re great for kids to make too and they can create all kinds of designs depending on what kind of scrap paper triangles you use.
You will need –
Scrap paper cut into bunting triangles
Foiled & Die Cut Sentiments
A black felt tip
Glue, I used Pritt Stick
To make your really easy bunting cards –
With your felt tip, draw a slightly downward curved line across your card. Cut your scrap paper into small triangles, mine were about 2cm long. Glue your triangles along the line and decorate with a sentiment, draw a little picture, add whatever embellishments you want.
I kept mine really simple as I think the bunting looks effective enough without too many other things on the card.
As you can see from the two cards I made, the less wiggly line of the two worked better and for future bunting cards I will use a straighter curved line.
There are a full range of craft products on the Create & Craft TV website including papercraft, sewing, baking, jewellery, knitting and much more. I know if you’re anything like me when it comes to craft products, I’m always on the lookout for interesting and versatile new things to use.
I am particularly taken with the big book of Hunkydory Sentiments, all die cut and foiled ready for popping out and using on your cards. The book contains 620 individual sentiments in a range of styles and colours and I know I’ll be using them for lots of cards this year.
You can never have too many blank cards to hand and the pack sent to me by Create & Craft TV were great quality and included a mixture of finishes. I was impressed with the variety of card making kit which I received and it’s got my creative juices flowing again.
I enjoyed creating my really simple bunting cards, they’re ideal if you want to make and send a homemade card but you’re short on time or confidence to do anything more elaborate. But honestly, I always think simple is better and I’m pleased with how they’ve turned out.
Note: I was send some papercraft products from Create & Craft TV to make some cards with. All images and opinions are my own.
This week I became the proud and excited owner of an Instant Flower Press from Interplay. Admittedly it’s designed for children, but both my son and I had great fun with it and we’ve created some pretty little dried flower craft items yesterday afternoon with some flowers we picked on the way home from school.
The Instant Flower Press is really simple to use and comes with an instruction booklet. You open up the press, put a layer of the felt pads and the pieces of cotton material in the plastic press, place your flowers inside. Put another layer of cotton and more felt pads (all supplied) and close the press. Pop it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and you’ve got dried pressed flowers. Slightly more moist flowers may take a little longer in the microwave, but once you start pressing your flowers you’ll quickly be able to judge what will take an extra ten seconds and what will dry more quickly.
As a child my Grandma had a flower press and I loved using it with her, carefully picking pansies from her garden and pressing them between thick parchment and screwing the press shut, then leaving it for months before seeing the fruits of our labour.
With the microwave flower press the whole process is done and dusted in minutes and perfect if you need some pressed flowers for some quick dried flower craft.
Quick and easy Dried flower craft ideas
Pretty Jam Jar Candle Holders
You will need:
A clean jam jar
A selection of dried flowers and leaves
A paint brush
These are so simple. Take a clean jam jar and some PVA glue and a paint brush, brush the glue onto the jar where you want to stick your dried flowers. Carefully press the flower onto the glued area to stick it on, then gently cover the flower with PVA glue to seal it in place. Leave to dry.
You can be as creative as you want with this, I’ve left mine quite simple, but I love the delicate little blue flowers and the daisies. It took hardly any time at all to glue on, but maybe an hour to dry properly. They look so pretty and I can see me using this idea on so many things around the house.
You will need:
A clean stone
A selection of dried flowers and leaves
A paint brush
Again, this is very simple. We have a pile of lovely smooth pebbles in the garden, so I picked one the right size and gave it a good scrub and left it to dry. Then I selected a suitable leaf which I’d dried in the flower press and brushed PVA glue onto the pebble and pressed the dry leaf into place. I left it for a few minutes to stick, then I painted PVA over the leaf to seal it in place and then I left it to dry properly for a few hours.
I’ve now got a lovely paperweight, or a pebble to stop my napkins flying off the table when we eat in the garden.
Dried Flower Sun Catchers
You will need:
A laminator and pouches or some sticky backed plastic
A selection of dried flowers and leaves
Borrowing a laminator I arranged some dried flowers in an artistic way in the laminator pouch, I then put it through the laminator a few times until I was happy. I then cut my A4 sheet down into a circle and using a clear sticky dot stuck it to the window.
It’s really quite pretty and I’ve got a nasty window in the downstairs loo which needs replacing, which I’m now going to cover in these lovely dried flowers to pretty the place up a bit!
These are just three very quick ideas I had for dried flower crafts that afternoon. I’ve got a few more ideas up my sleeve including some nice thank you cards and other papercrafts.
The Instant Flower Press from Interplay is a cracking piece of kit and if you enjoy crafting and have kids that enjoy crafting, then I can’t recommend it enough. The small boy went to school today with a bag full of dried flower pictures for show and tell and he’s loving showing off his dried flower craft to anyone who will listen. It’s nice to do something a bit different with him and importantly he’s really enjoyed it and got something out of it too!
The Instant Flower Press from Interplay costs £9.99, is suitable for ages 8+ (though my 5 year old used it happily with supervision) and is available from a wide range of retailers.
Note: We were sent the Instant Flower Press from Interplay for review purposes. All images an opinions are our own.
The small boy is at that lovely stage in life where he’s always making us little cards and writing us little notes for no other reason than he loves us. Which is nice. With Father’s Day on the horizon the boy was keen to get crafting for his daddy. So when our Baker Ross box arrived, we delved deep and found some really lovely, simple Father’s Day Crafts to do together.
The first thing we tackled was the very easy Father’s Day Tie Bookmarks. These are made from soft foam and are cut out ready for use. I did the tricky bit, which was threading the ribbon through the tiny hole and he did the rest.
The pack comes with a selection of stickers. His chosen one contained the letters which spelt “Top Dad”. I told him what the words were and he picked the right letters and stuck them on himself. He then had some design decisions to make, namely where to stick his selection of stickers. He was really pleased with his design and chose to “wear” the tie around the house himself for a while. We’ve now tucked his little gift away for Father’s Day.
The second of our Father’s Day Crafts were these lovely Father’s Day Wooden Keyrings. The pack comes with four different designs to choose from. Ben chose to make the trophy and I went for the guitar. The pack contains everything you’ll need for your keyrings.
This was actually quite a tricky little craft activity, threading the beads onto the cord made us both concentrate hard. I had to do the fiddly tying of the cord, but it was a real workout for his hand/eye co-ordination and his fine motor skills.
Making Father’s Day Crafts to give as little gifts is a lovely gesture and we enjoyed making these really simple and easy crafts. I’m sure daddy will like receiving them too!
Paperchase (purveyors of beautiful stationery and arts and crafts materials) have recently launched “Project Craft”, a series of special crafting workshops for adults and children. The Project Craft sessions are currently only available in three flagship stores – Manchester, Glasgow and London, but they should be rolled out to a high street near you soon (check the website for details).
Being an occasionally crafty type, I was invited along to their Manchester store for an evening of crafting and cupcakes. The Project Craft workshops cost from £10 and include all the craft materials you will need for the session. Current Project Craft workshops include –
How to scrapbook
How to make a tissue paper pom pom
Card making with dye-cutting, lino print or foil
How to make kids crafts
How to make paper flowers
A small group of happy crafters sat in a quiet corner of the store, next to the little cafe upstairs in an area set aside for Project Craft. We were there for the “How to Scrapbook” workshop, which costs £20 and includes a scrapbook and some materials. You are also advised to take along some photographs, old tickets, paper keepsakes and souvenirs that you might want to incorporate into your scrapbook.
If you’re a bit of a hoarder of tickets and little bits of paper, a scrapbook can be a lovely way to keep it all together and make something of your memories. At the workshop you create at least one double page layout and learn lots of useful tips including how to arrange your photos, layer pages and embellish your scrapbook with different products.
Sadly I’d forgotten to bring some things to scrapbook, but undeterred I rifled through some magazines and had a good rummage through the papers and embellishments they had. Thankfully I managed to forage enough nice things to make a few pages for my scrapbook.
There was expert tutelage from the Project Craft team at Paperchase. They gave an overview of the scrapbooking process, showed us some examples and sample templates and set us to work creating our masterpieces. There was always someone on hand to give advice and encouragement when required. I was the only scrapbooking virgin in the room, but I didn’t feel too far behind the others and whilst what I created was probably a bit basic, I was happy with the results.
Whilst my crafting heart probably doesn’t lie in scrapbooking, I did enjoy the process and I think this would be a nice thing to do with my son. Something we can use to document our days out together and something we can use to look back on in later life. I really like the idea of scrapbooking holidays and visits to museums and such like with him.
My scrapbooking might not be perfect, but it was very enjoyable and I learned a few things that I will take forward with me. I enjoyed my little taster of Project Craft at Paperchase and I will be booking in to try the lino print craft workshop soon.
Project Craft Workshops are available at Paperchase in Manchester, Glasgow and London, with more stores to follow soon. For more information visit the Paperchase website.
Note: I was an invited guest of Paperchase and I was not asked to pay for my workshop place or materials. All images and opinions are my own.
This year sees the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. To celebrate his life and work, stationers Viking sent me some crafting goodies and asked me to create a craft project featuring one of Shakespeare’s quotes. So I invited my craftiest friend Sarah around for an evening of crafting, chat and at least one bottle of chablis.
Sarah is an accomplished paper cutter and makes the most beautiful paper crafts, so she brought her paper cutting kit and I got my craft box out. To our existing stock we added the crafting goodies Viking had sent for our evening and we mulled over the brief whilst searching for Shakespeare quotes online. Independently we both came up with a similar idea.
Our craft goodies from Viking
I had some watercolour paints and a couple of spare canvases, we both decided to paint a background on the canvas and then add our Shakespeare quotes. Sarah loves stars and the night sky, so she chose to paint a dusky sky and use a quote about stars. I love the colour teal, so wanted a teal-ish canvas with a “go get ’em” semi motivational quote for my office.
Sarah began by painting her sky and then left her canvas to dry whilst she cut out some stars.
Once her canvas was dry she used a silver metallic paint pen to write her quote and then she carefully glued her paper stars and some sequins in a shooting star formation on the canvas, I thought it looked really beautiful.
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves”
I chose the famous quote from Hamlet “To thine own self be true” and I selected a much smaller canvas with an easel. After painting the canvas with a few different shades of teal and blue (the photo doesn’t show the colours as well as it should) I left it to dry before using a paint brush and some burnt sienna watercolour paint to write my quote on the canvas.
It didn’t take very long to do and I’m not 100% happy with it, but I like it well enough for it to take up residence in my office.
Having finished my intended project a little too quickly, I decided to have a play with my new golden feathered calligraphy quill and the little pot of ink. I can’t do calligraphy but I thought I’d have a play anyway.
It was rather good fun and something I would try and use in future craft projects. There’s a bit of a knack to using a quill and a pot of ink, so it took me a few blobby goes before I got something I quite liked, and I quite liked this.
And using the metallic gold paint pen I wrote this, a line from Sonnet 116 which I’ve been completely in love with for years.
Sarah and I go to a monthly craft club and we enjoy getting stuck in and having a go, often with mixed results, but it’s all good fun and makes for an interesting evening. This was our first craft evening together where we’ve not been supervised by experts, and I think Sarah in particular has produced something especially lovely.
We’ve decided to have a few more craft evenings together, mainly because you don’t get wine at craft club I think, but also because it was interesting and fun.
Note: We were sent products free of charge from Viking to use to create our Shakespearean masterpieces, and also in return for this blog post.
I’ll hold my hands up, when I originally planned this blog post it was all about doing Mother’s Day crafts with my five year old son. We enjoy crafting together, making things that are beautifully wonky and imperfect, but I very rarely spend any time by myself doing some crafting, partly because of lack of time I guess. This month I looked at our box of seasonal goodies from Baker Ross and decided it was time to do some crafting by myself, and the results were very pleasing, at least I think so.
We were sent a box of ceramic bird flowerpots to paint, these were pretty adorable and we set about painting them in our own style. He wanted to paint his black, but thankfully I was able to steer him towards some brighter colours. I just did whatever I fancied and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. I’m no artist but they were really lovely to do, especially together. I have bought some tiny crocus bulbs which I’ll plant in them nearer to Mother’s Day.
The next thing I tackled were these lovely tissue paper flowers. I sat down for a quiet half hour and made myself these lovely blooms. They were incredibly easy to do, everything you needed was in the pack. I just wrapped a pipe-cleaner around the middle of the tissue paper and then slowly and gently teased the paper out to form the flower.
They were so simple to do and really relaxing, I was a bit sad when I’d made them all and the pack was empty. I put them all in a vase which now sits on my office desk, brightening the place up, they never need watering and they’ll never die. I really love them!
As you can see from our Mother’s Day crafts, there are lots of really cheery, colourful crafts you can do to usher spring into your home. The flowers would make a lovely gift for mum, but if you really love her you’ll make her a cup of tea and let her get on with making them herself!