Kids

Summer Mermaid

Ah, summer. Your long days that go so quickly! With kids home from school and temps soaring, we spend more time in the water than on land :)

Summer is for mermaids.

We are slightly obsessed with Fin Fun Mermaid Tails over here :) as anyone who follows my Instagram knows well. My daughter and niece adore becoming mermaids.

The next best thing to being a little mermaid is making a little mermaid. I am super-lucky that my niece spends a few days a week with us in the summertime. We play outisde, go to the river, and craft together. We call it Camp Lenkaland :)

My daughter needed Forest Fairies for an entry in the county fair (more on that later). While my daughter sewed her fairies, my niece made a mermaid.

So sweet :). These mermaids aren't for swimming in real water, of course, but she's already joined my niece's collection of Very Special Things. We can create magic :)

Yes, summer is fleeting. Yet the memories last forever :)

"Leaf" Gratitude

A student named this project. I wanted a way to treasure all the amazing things in our world. We were inspired by the many leaves turning colors and falling this time of year. What if we could sew a leaf where students could collect gratitude inside on slips of paper?

The leaf can become a decoration with a surprise. Students decided they might add gratitudes before Thanksgiving to share on the day. Or they might go around on Thanksgiving and ask everyone to add a gratitude on a little piece of paper to keep inside the leaf. Either way, they discovered these are the perfect way to 'Leaf' a gratitude!

Supplies:

  • Two colors of felt
  • Scissors, needle, and thread
  • Decorations (beads and sequins)

I cut paper with this second/third grade class a lot. I hoped we could make the leap into felt (saving me a ton of prep time). So I brought in rectangles of brown felt. We talked about shapes of leaves and "cutting out" triangles or curves to create a leaf. Students often want to "cut around", twisting the felt and cutting things in half accidentally. We had mixed success. A few needed a second piece of felt, or the leaf was super-small, or not what they expected. We worked through the hiccups.

We talked about decorating one side of the felt. I did show them how to stitch so they could to embroider the veins of the leaves if they wanted. They all looked beautiful in their own way. Students chose the color for the back of the leaf.



At home, I cut the chosen felt bigger than the leaf. I made it roughly similar, but did not meticulously cut the felt to match. This way, if it wiggled, they had room to keep sewing.

For the next class, we talked about sewing up and down (running stitch) and traveling around the edge of the brown leaf like a little caterpillar. "Leave a gap," I said, "So your leaf has a secret compartment for gratitudes." They could add beads and sequins as they travelled around. Each leaf became lovely. We tied loose ends and children promptly planned how they would surprise their family with gratutides in the pocket. A few plan to add it to the Thanksgiving table. A few want to add a loop to hang their leaf. Lots of ideas.

Which is my favorite kind of project. A craft that inspires!

You can see the little gap on this leaf- a space without stiching so you can get inside the leaf.

Hurrah! Wishing you and yours a very thankful season :)

Batty in the Forest

We adore bats!

The bats on We Bloom Here inspired us! We had to bring them to Handwork class. But how? Each week I am challenged to bring an adorable and sweet idea to forty students in first or second grade. Margaret Bloom, the lovely author of Making Peg Dolls and Making Peg Dolls and More (new! yay!) helped me adapt her tutorial for lots and lots of bats.

I thought of using sharpies instead of paint. Which meant a layer of sealant so the sharpie wouldn't 'bleed' into the wood.

"Why not use colored pencils?" she said.

Why not?

So we used colored pencils and black paper instead of felt. I played with the shapes until I made a template that I liked. I traced that shape forty times onto black paper. The kids cut their own wings and ears. They decorated their pegs with rainbows or fangs or both. These are magical bats after all :)

Each student had an envelope where I collected the decorated peg, wings, and head to glue at home. I used tacky glue because I added wire feet. Every bat needs to hang out!

Here was a little mistake, though, for me. I had white floral wire and thought, "this won't be so difficult to color black." Ack! I should have gone to the store and bought black wire to save myself a lot of time. If you are making one or two, coloring the wire was fun. For forty bats, not so much.

At home, I layered out the wings, head, and wire. I added glue and the peg. I let them all dry on the envelopes to return the next day.  

Back of the Bat

Thank you so much for the wonderful idea and tutorial, Margaret! Children loved their bats :)

Even a grumpy tree needs a little bat friend hanging about :)


Enjoy :)

*please note: this post contains affiliate links. Should you decide to purchase a book using these links, a small amount returns to the Forest. Your price remains the same. Thank you!

 

Tie Dye Adventures

Tie Dye is timeless.

Seriously. I thought tie dye might be a fun glimpse into my college years. I could share an activity from my youth. I learned that what felt "dated" to me was "all new" to them. And they LOVE it. The process was magic.

And they learned a lot along the way :)

So we started with the Jacquard Funky Groovy Tie Dye Kit. The kit came with directions, dye, rubber bands, and one pair of gloves (which became imortant later). We looked online for inspiration. We learned a few different techniques for using the rubber bands. Anika tried a swirl. Mila wanted a stripes. Ian wanted a bullseye. 

They each had a t-shirt and a white tea towel/flour sack which was thin cotton. The Flour Sack Towels were a surprising hit. They are used as doll and stuffie blankets, dancing scarves, and decorations. We found them on a whim and I'm so glad that we gave them a try. Each child got a shirt and a scarf.

Anika (11) could manage the rubber bands on her own. For Mila (6), I encouraged her to loop the rubber band once, then I cinched each one with a few more loops. Ian (5), pointed to where he wanted the rubber bands and I put them on for him. When they were done, we placed plastic bags in the shade (one for each child). I've dyed before, so I know what happens when projects are close to each other (dye easily puddles and moves to the other project). So we gave each project plenty of room. 

The kit came with red, blue, and yellow. And one pair of gloves. I let Anika wear the gloves. She started with the dye. Then I wanted to have fun, too. We planned to jump in the pool afterwards so using a little without gloves would be fine, right?

Wrong. My hands were dyed for days! My fingernails, especially, looked like monster-hands all yellowed and green. Next time, I will get extra gloves :)

Anika and I used the bottles while Mila and Ian told us where to add the colors.  We were careful not to let the dye puddle underneath the project (keeping each area the chosen color).

After awhile, mixing became fun too!

The colors were so vivid! And the directions had a lot of illustrations, which Anika appreciated. I asked her to read a lot of them to me, so information reading practice, hurrah.

Oh, one idea was to place marbles or bouncy balls inside the fabric before adding the rubber band, thus creating the bulls-eye effect. Fun stuff. We searched Pinterest and found lots of inspiration :)

We had extra dye when the kids finished. And a couple of four sacks. So I decided to dip-dye. I asked the kids to predict what would happen. I found old containers that I wasn't worried about ruining. I draped the towels over a child-chair (that I also wasn't worried about ruining). And we tucked a few inches into the dye. Science! What might happen and why?

By now our workspace was nice and messy. So I made sure that nothing sat in a puddle of unwanted color (brown) and we left everything to sit. This was hard for the kids because they wanted to open their creations right away. I can understand that! Practice patience :)

And by now my hands were a mess! Oh, you can see the fun directions in this image. Perfect for older children.

We let the projects sit. And sit.

The dip dye started its science-magic.

We looked up how water can travel "up". We let everything stay overnight. The next morning, the blue had traveled up half of the towel! I didn't get a photo of that, sorry.

The kids were amazed. Then I wore the gloves (I learned my lesson the hard way) to snip the rubber bands carefully and rinse excess dye. The kids were thrilled by what they had created. Awesome!

I held their projects up for them to admire, then tossed everything to wash and dry (as instructed). Finally, the shirts were ready to wear.

Each one turned out different. Exactly like the kids who made them :)

These child-led crafts are delightful and rewarding for them. Look what can be made! 

I remembered why I wore so much tie-dye in college. It's fun!

Ian loved the activity as much as the girls, so this is definitely fun for boys and girls. The best part is that, every time they wear the shirts, they remind us of happy times. And that never goes out of syle :)

This is not a sponsored post, but the links are affiliate, so if you decide to try your own tie-dye adventure, a small percentage returns to the Forest. Your price remains the same. Thank you!

Happy dying!

Spring Treasure Keepers

Spring means longer days, sunshine, and outdoor adventures. Every adventurer needs a place to keep stones, shells, and little treasure. Asia designed the perfect project for spring. First grade students (6 years old) at the Nevada City School of the Arts sewed these wonderful Treasure Keepers.

Aren't these adorable? 

The class was studying insects. Each student chose an insect to feature on their treasure keeper bag.

Butterflies were popular for decorating the little bags.

Asia and I both love the Ladybug too :)

And this little one is so original. He's a little tricky to photograph with the black on dark blue felt, but he's an awesome beetle.

So cool!

Asia made the bags using the pattern on page 123 of our Forest Fairy Crafts book. The handles were created with fingerknitting, shown on pages 124-125 and castle-knitting. Castle knitting isn't in the book (sorry!). We are working on a tutorial for making your own. Or you could use one like this

The children have lots of ideas for going on nature walks to fill their bags with found treasures. Welcome spring!

*Please note, this is an affiliate link. Should you decide to purchase, a small amount returns to the Forest while your price remains the same. Win-win. Thank you!

 

Happy Spring!

Playing with Craft

Children love inspiration. Don't we all?

Making toys inspires children. They delight in the power of their hands and ideas. I recently sewed these lovely baby leprechauns with six year old students. Children sewed all their own sequins, around the fairy baby, and added stuffing. They were delighted with the little toys they made.What a treat, to see that magic through their eyes. Look what we can create!

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Sorry this one is a little blurry- classrooms have tricky lighting for my camera :)

Then the children reminded me the real fun of sewing and crafting. Crafting is inspiration. And the craft is just the beginning. Crafts inspire play. And play inspires storytelling. And learning.

Now that they had little friends, they needed houses. What could build a house?

Blocks of course!

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And some homes need a diving board into a lovely cool pool.

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With a luxury view from the bedroom.

Legos also make awesome homes. With an open door :)

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I encourage students to leave blank faces so they can imagine any expression, but a few insist on adding features. I let go when they have strong feelings towards needing eyes or mouths. After all, if I wanted it to look 'my way', I would make my own :)

I loved her idea to put a ring over the ruffled hat for an even fancier crown.

And finally, dollhouses are wonderful homes. Especially when they come with a pet tiger :)

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Enjoy what you create!

Happy day :)

Many of our crafts are "Keepsake Crafts", meaning they look nice for years and become a treasured memory alongside the sweet sewing. Every now and again, I sew "Process Crafts" with children. These are the crafts to shove in pockets and forget outside after playing in the trees. They are the crafts that are meant for playing. They are a chance to let go. Don't worry overmuch about colors or forever. Let them become a memory. Become part of a story. Have fun crafting and playing :)

P.S.- if you would like detailed directions for making little fairy/gnome friends, check out our Forest Fairy Craft Book. Please note- is an affiliate link. Thank you from the forest should you decide to purchase one! Directions for the little hats are online here. Enjoy!

Sweet Gnome Homes

A few years ago, my daughter made me a precious gift. She asked for a few supplies. Felt scraps. A tiny wood gnome.

She made me this treasure. She designed and sewed everything herself. She was seven years old. 

She had a lot of practice with needles and thread (her mama is Queen of the Fairy Forest after all (her title for me)). But the design and creating of this little gnome is a perfect beginning sewing project.

All you need is felt scraps, needle, thread, a couple decorations, and a wee gnome. This project allows for a lot of trial and error because the felt pieces are small.

She cut the hearts first. They didn't match. She liked that one was bigger than the other. She trimmed them to fit together (mostly). If your child doesn't know where to start with cutting hearts, your child can make a pattern on a piece of paper. Draw a few sketches and pick your favorite. Cut and trace onto felt. Or fold the felt in half and cut just like folding a paper heart (this is a little trickier for little hands).

She could have decorated the hearts with sequins, buttons, or beads. She didn't feel like making it too fancy. I love the simplicity, myself. She sewed them together with straight stitches.

She didn't use a pattern for the gnome. She cut scraps into shapes that she liked and tried them on the peg doll. She sewed the cape with a few stitches. Then she did the same thing for the hat. She folded it in half and sewed it together. She added a flower sequin to the top.

She had sewn before using lots of the ideas in our Forest Fairy Craft Book. If this had been her first sewing project, I would have sat with her and given support as needed.  

What I appreciated about this project was how she was able to plan and test ideas. She found a project- cape and hat, with a little home- where she could try her own patterns. I could have cut the shapes and orgazined the project step by step. But I enjoyed how this gnome gave her a lot of freedom. Yes, I had a pile of teeny-tiny piece of felt at the end. I didn't care.

Visualizing, planning, and creating are all valuable life-skills. A little toy for your efforts is a big bonus!

And it's one of my favorite gifts ever. 

Welcome home, little gnome :)

Child-Made Fairies for Christmas

One of my favorite things about the holidays is making fairies with children. Every student in my class (20 in all) makes a fairy. The boys (and a few girls) are not inspired by fairies, so they make elves. Or angels. Whatever the fairies are called, they bring joy to the season.

Our book was inspired by projects like these fairies. Because families sometimes wonder how their five, six, or seven year old made such treasures. Every little fairy/elf/angel is unique. Reflecting the unique voice of the child.

How does it work?

The directions, with many photographs, are all in our book. What the child makes and what I make depends on time and the child. Some children show great independence and want a lot of creative freedom. Other children enjoy having my attention for each little step. I do have a plan for creating twenty child-made fairies. I am working on a post for sewing fairies with groups of children. For now, though, I want to share my secrets for working with one child at a time. Because I get to make these with family, too.

What the child does:

  • chooses felt and pipe cleaner colors, yarn, sequins, wings
  • sews the decorating felt band on the hat, adds sequins and decorations galore
  • sews up the back of the hat
  • adds beads and bells to the top of the hat
  • winds thread (pants or tunic)
  • chooses petal skirts
  • tries hat on to see how it all looks together

What the adult does:

  • makes the body
  • draws the face
  • cuts the felt
  • threads the needle and ties knots
  • demonstates (models) the first couple of stitches and how to add sequins
  • lets go of expectations :)
  • folds hat in half when decorating is done, sews an anchor stitch at the bottom
  • models sewing up to the top of the hat (one stitch)
  • knots thread for clothing
  • models first steps for winding thread (pants or over-shoulder, under arm)
  • holds wings until they are attached with winding thread
  • clips tiny amount so petal skirts can scoot up the legs
  • glues hair and hat on fairy/elf/angel

Of course, this all changes depending on the age and personality of the child. And it doesn't have to be done on the same day. Take breaks. See the little bits of felt and thread come together to create a magical keepsake. 

One of our favorite things at the recent craft fair was hearing from families whose students left us five or even ten years ago. "We still have our fairies," they said. On the tree or the table or the mantle. 

We still love our fairies :)

Thankful for Nature

Our world is amazing. Whether we live in a forest, or a meadow, or a city, magic is right outside our doors. This time of year, we love talking about gratitude with family, friendships, food. One of my personal favorite actitivies is bringing children outside and asking them, "What do you appreciate here?"

Having things to touch and explore and collect helps children notice the world that can easily be taken for granted. We can walk past trees or building. It's easy to focus on the destination: going to school, to the park, to the store...

This time I just go outside. I invite children to collect one treasure (maybe two). I wander. On purpose.

We look up. 

We look down.

We notice the passing beauty all around. And we ask questions. We become curious. "What are the spiky things on that tree?" "Why do these leaves change colors?"

This appreciation is simple. And lasting. Children share their treasures.

I love photos because I can take a picture, then they can leave nature in the forest (or side of the parking lot, which is where he found this tiny pine cone). 

They are so excited by their discoveries.

We slow down and notice how the air feels. How does the sun feel on our face? The breeze in our hair?

We are so fortunate, to have these gifts around us every day. No small things.

When we finish the walk, we write poems to remember those feelings. Those discoveries.

To remind us. The world is an amazing place. We have so much to be thankful for :)

She found a leaf shaped like a heart.

We also place our treasures in a display. Since we are a class, one or two things from each child create a diverse collection of leaves, acorns, and tiny pine cones (these are returned to nature within a few days). With my family, each child collects a little more.

I have ideas to look for colors as we wander. Appreciate red in our world. Appreciate green :)

Appreciate now :)

Golden
Star thistles
Calm
Awesome and pretty
Birds singing
Crunch crunch
Happy
Everything is beautiful
Tweet tweet
Goodness
Is in autumn

 

I write the poem with them by asking for feelings, not stories. Their individual contributions create a lovely poem :). I usually write the closing sentiment to tie it all together.

So, ideas :)
  • Take a walk
  • Wander
  • Slow down and share the moment (say how it feels)
  • Collect treasures (gently, no living things)
  • Create a display
  • Draw or paint an image of a favorite treasure or scene
  • Write a sentence about the walk or what was discovered
  • Write poems (or a group poem)
  • Put photos, drawing, and/or poems togegther for a fall book

P.S. If you would like to bring a fairy along on your walk, that would be lovely! Give your fairy a tour of our magical world :)

Enjoy autumn :) 

Game Token Gnomes

We are delighted to team up with the lovely people at SewMamaSew. The free tutorial for Gnome Game Tokens is posted here.

I love to share a little behind-the-scenes :)

The entire project inspired us! I used to make these games and tokens with my second grade students. We drew a game-board and sewed gnomes to travel through the game. I adore the creativity that children bring to game-making.

Even younger children love making gnomes. We decided to use paint this time around. It worked really well. We used regular watercolor paints. Ian chose the wee size gnomes. Of course he chose orange, orange, orange.

Anika is a unicorn-and-rainbow-girl these days, so her game featured a forest and garden where the unicorns could play. We drew the boards, then decided paint would be great, too. This project kept us busy for awhile :)

Our neighbor-friend came over and made a couple of gnomes, too. Here is the finished family! Our paint had a tinge of sparkle in the watercolor which gives them a shine. You could add a little glue and glitter after the paint dries for a similar effect.

We had to talk Ian into one red hat. He wanted orange, orange, orange, until we explained that we needed to tell the gnomes apart. 

The gnomes ended up traveling on a few trips with us. I didn't worry about losing them since the process was so fun and we can easily make more. Every once in awhile, a craft becomes a treasure and I don't want it to be lost at the park or on a far-flung adventure. These were perfect pocket-pals.

Afterwards, Anika decided that her game needed cards with specific instructions. Their games kept growing as they thought of new fun additions. We used dice from another game box. The finished activitiy was just as fun as creating the games. We are all inspired to create new ones :)

We hope that everyone enjoys the tutorial! Thanks again to SewMamaSew for the opportunity! What fun :)

Upcycled Owls and Kitties

Asia created these lovlies with second and third grade students at NCSA (7-8 years old). She saved fabrics (ripped clothing, shrunken sweaters) and found supplies. Repurposing the clothing showed children that changing old fabric to a toy can be magical. 

By this time of year, students have learned three ways to sew: the Running Stitch, the Whip Stitch, and the Blanket Stitch. We call them the Dolphin Stitch (up and down), the Polar Bear Stitch (around and around), and the Rabbit Stitch (up or down and through the hole). I can see children using all three to make their crafts unique.

I am fascinated how some children use patterns and even spacing for their sewing. While other children use mismatched, unexpected decorations. Each style delights us. Each style shares a child's personality. With sewing, there is no 'right way'. Only your own way :)

Upcylced sewing with found fabrics instead of felt meant the fabric was softer. Asia made the animals bigger so students wouldn't be frustrated. These owls and kitties were oversized when compared to our felt critters. This gave the children more to hold as they sewed. Asia is so good at modifying a project so students are successful :)

Here are a few for inspiration :)

I couldn't photograph all of them- Asia made about forty! These are just a few :)

Patterns and directions for the Owl and the Pussycat are in Forest Fairy Crafts. Creating your own critter just needs imagination and old clothing. Have fun upcycling :)

Gnome Party Favors

Last week my girl turned ten. My, oh my, how time flies! We thought about different favors to give her friends at the party. We both loved the idea of gnomes! A little magic to send home with each guest :)

We made the gnomes appeal to older children with different colors. We chose teal and black, white and purple, instead of pastels. Every child is different, of course, and these colors appealed to her friends. Even the boys!

The gnomes disappeared too fast for me to even take photos. Luckily, my girl and boy brought home a gnome of their own so I could photograph these two. 

I can see the gnomes being fantasic party favors even as she gets older. They are good luck charms :)

To make a big batch of gnomes (we crafted seventeen altogether), these tips helped me a lot:

  • Buy gnome forms in bulk (if you can). They sell in craft stores a few to a package, but there may not be enough on the shelf. I order sets of the from A Child's Dream Come True in groups of 12 for $3- sweet! (1 and 5/8" size)
  • Choose colors all at once. Pick a few colors of felt that work together as mix-and-match. Think of your friends. What are their favorite colors?
  • Cut capes. I cut a couple of capes out of each color. I saved everything in a basket.
  • Cut hats. Same story :)
  • Use varigated thread for different colors. We used rainbow crochet thread (size 10)
  • Sew the capes on the wooden gnomes. I did this in a batch where I didn't even tie knots in the thread. I started in the back, sewed a running stitch around, and knotted the two threads together. I didn't hide the threads, which was a shortcut for me. I knew the hats would cover the knots in the back.
  • Sew hats. Add sequins, blanket stitch the bottom edge, whatever sounds pretty. Enjoy making each hat unique.
  • Stuff a little wool or cotton stuffing in the hat and glue it on. Let the glue dry and enjoy your party!

I was busy getting her party ready, so I didn't photograph the process. One day :)

You could, of course, sew them at the party as a craft. That would be fun, too!

We knew that children would be busy playing so we made ours ahead of time.  

You can find more detailed gnome-sewing directions in our book on page 107. If you need help, I am happy to answer questions. 

Have fun sharing your gnomes.

P.S. My daughter sewed hats too. She loved giving her creations away :)

Meanwhile, In the Forest...

I know it seems quiet, but we are busy with new ideas here in the forest. I am figuring out logistical details before sharing all the magic. Here is a sneak peek-

I want to thank our loyal friends and fans of the forest who preorder our book. I am making a special PDF with at least 5 hats that couldn't fit into the book. I am working on how I will collect, keep, and send out emails to everyone who sends a receipt (I don't care where the book is purchased) or order number. I haven't figured out logistical details of organizing it all though, so save onto those emails. All receipts will be honored :)

Stay tuned for details!

The second big idea is from my daughter, Anika. She wants to start a Forest Fairy Fan Club for kids. The club will have newsletters with ideas and inspiration for new crafts. The theme would be Kids Inspiring Kids. We have tons of plans, including Magic Wands and Kitty Ears. Again, it's the logistics of gathering emails, creating the newsletter, and sending it to the email list... I've never done that before. More adventures in learning for me, which I love :)

I also have a basket full of craft kits made by Asia in delightful spring colors to photograph and post in our Etsy shop.

That and I just got a bunch of postcards featuring the cover of our book! I want to send one your way! ... I really need to find a secure way to let you send me address :). Hmmm...

Okay, enough announcements for today. I just wanted to give you a brief tour in our busy forest! And I'm planning classes, workshops, and book signings for the summer. A busy forest indeed!

Pirate Week Adventures

This year I focus on a mini-theme each week in the Dragonfly Class. We are a kindergarten/first grade class. Our activities become a rotation during Groups or a whole class writing adventure. Activities need to be very flexible for many different skills. And my goal is high interest opportunities for learning. I want them to take these activities home and add to their ideas.

My hope is to have photos to share, but that didn't happen for Pirate Week. Too busy :) ... Wait, I have their ship drawings to assemble the Pirate Fleet Book. I took two photos to add, hurrah.

I still want to write our activities to capture them for the future, because I know I will sit down next year and think, "Now, what did I do last year?"

Pirate Maps: I cut brown paper bigger than usual so they could roll their maps. These turned into spyglasses very quickly. We marked the treasure and drew a path to find the treasure along with landmarks. Children loved these outside at recess.

Pirate Fleet: I drew a pencil sketch of a pirate boat very simply and made a copy for each child. We discussed how pirates lived on boats and had to bring everything along with them. Each child then got to design their own fantasy ship. I drew with a cut-away design so they could show me the Captain's Quarters and add a hot tub if they liked. Some chose to color the outside of the ship, which was fine too. We had Kitten Ships and Ninja Ships and Mermaid Ships. Children became very creative and excited about the adventures these ships would find. Which led to....

Pirate Fleet Stories: I met with each child so they could tell me the story of their pirate boat. We had danger, beauty, and adventure on the high seas! 

Pirate Flash Fiction: This was an idea that I had for groups for a shared writing project. What is each student wrote (or dictated) one sentence to their parent helper at group-time. At the end, we would read the sentences for a story about the Dragonfly Pirates. We had a lot of treasure-hiding and treasure-seeking and battles with Kraken. The children loved hearing their separate pieces come together to make a whole story.

Bonus topics during our two days (yes we did this is two days since I teach part time) included discovering the world, monsters of the deep (giant squid), and pirate discipline. Pirate captains gave time-outs too! Except they tied someone to the mast for awhile. We didn't go into great detail about pirate discipline, but the children found boat-life fascinating.  I became the pirate captain and they all called, "Aye, aye, captain!" when I gave a direction like, "Wash hands for lunch."

Oh, and we talked about pirate flags and communicating on the high seas. Cell phones didn't exist in pirate-times so they needed to announce their arrival in a scary way. Children were fascinated by the idea of using images to communicate. They enjoyed designing their own flag on their pirate ship for the pirate fleet. I could make this a separate activity and even use fabric to create flags.... Another year :)

I also had the idea to develop a pirate persona with a chosen name, outfit, and companion (pet). This could connect to the pirate boats. So many ideas! And the children loved it because the idea of sailing the high seas searching for gold is always an adventure! Not to mention, sprinkling a few arghs! and avasts! into everyday sentences is great fun!

A pirates' life for us :).  I am glad I remembered to write everything down.So this was a lot longer than I expected. We packed a lot of pirate fun into our days! I hope you get to enjoy life's treasures today!

Sweet Simple Reading Nook

We woke to cloudy skies. Cozy sounded perfect. So we pulled out a few goodies and created a lovely reading space. 

We used our old crib mattress and lots of pillows. The big ah-ha moment happened when I pulled out a sheer curtain. What a perfect roof! It is light and airy and easy to tuck behind cusions. The light filters though with just a little magic.

The kids were in love.

 

For less than ten minutes of construction, I enjoyed ages of shared reading. They laughed and read to one another.

To be truthful, after the reading, the tent became a horse-home and that game lasted quite awhile. Until the tired horses discovered books again.

Amazing what magic a curtain panel can inspire :)

I hope you get to make a nook of your own :)

P.S. I was inspired by these fancy book nooks- maybe one day :)

Handprint Gardens

Children loved creating these gardens. A few steps steps led to wild, wonderful gardens. We are using them for Grandparents Day cards, but they would be lovely any time of year. In fact, for winter, we might make trees with fingerprint snow and bright birds. One idea leads to another :)

Step one: make handprints with green tempera paint (or acrylic, if you a brave). We made three prints of the same hand because I was working with an entire class and they needed a clean hand to turn on the faucet. At home, you could print both hands. Let the handprints dry.

Aside: I later realized we should use a color for the background- perhaps and layer of green over blue for ground and sky. Since we printed onto white paper, I used beeswax crayons to lightly shade ground and sky. The first graders painted their petals, bugs, and clouds before I shaded- both ways worked. A few children shaded their own. I had to watch that the colors wouldn't get too thick and cover their handprints. Next time, I will have them shade grass and sky first.

Step two: Add petals, leaves, and clouds. Use fingers! They loved dreaming up ways to create butterflies and different flowers like lupins. we did not use water to switch colors. Instead, we wiped our fingers clean with a paper towel. This kept the paint from getting drippy. I did supervise so they didn't start smearing too many colors together, or covering up their handprints with heavy petals. Let your colors dry.

Step three: Use markers to add embellishments. Add butterfly details, ladybug legs, and spiders.

I told them that they could only color small areas- a few wanted to cover the paper with marker. I also told them to stop when the details started to overwhelm the painting. An art of childhood creativity is learning when to say Done. For personal projects that reflect their inner vision, I let them go until they say done. But every once in awhile, I say done.

A lovely moment within their gardens were the stories they shared while they drew. In my home, I would scribe their stories to go along with the illustrations. Spiderwebs and ladybug tea parties and rainbow butterflies. Beautiful!

We are gluing the gardens on colored paper-mats and writing I love you on the other side. Another adorable addition that everyone appreciates is a few open-ended prompts, like I love when my grandparents _______ and I hope they take me to the __________ and My grandparents are good at ________.

My favorite art catches personality and the moment. My favorite art is shared with proud smiles. These gardens grow wild and wonderful.

I hope you have fun painting them!

Moody Pumpkins with Groups of Children

On Tuesday, I sewed the Moody Pumpkins with the youngest students at our school.  I am the art teacher on those days, and their all-day teacher was a little skeptical when I said I was bringing sewing into the classroom.

"With real needles?"

Yes.  Real needles.

Because this is precious.

But I don't walk into a classroom with a pile of felt and a pincusion prickling with needles.  No, that would be a disaster.  A big part of crafting with children is being prepared.  So, to get ready for this project, I was busy the night before.  

  • Thread 15 needles with the outside thread (in this case, variegated rainbow crochet thread- see our Supply Hints)
  • Cut pumpkins (back and front)
  • Cut stems
  • Cut lots of little yellow felt triangles so children can choose
  • Thread needles with yellow embroidery thread for the face (though I learned that the rainbow was cute, too, when I was short one pumpkin the next day)
  • Sew the mouth by knotting, pulling through, testing to make certain that it will fit, then knotting loose on the other end of the mouth so the pumpkin is ready for eyes.

 

  • Leave the threaded needle with the pumpkin- tuck into felt so it won't prick anyone.
  • On the back of the pumpkin, draw little dots for each spot the child will place the needle.  This turns the sewing into a dot-to-dot, with the needle always poking into the next dot (whip stitch).  

  • Safety pin it all together with the smile on the outside so the children can choose their pumpkin.  
  • I do not try to make them all look the same.  No, the fun is in unique pumpkins!

Some were tall and some were wide.  All became special :)

I chose felt for the eyes on this project because it was faster than buttons.  The child chose the triangles and an adult sewed the eyes on with a few stitches.  We tied off the yellow thread. We sandwiched the stem between the pumpkin pieces.  We used an already-threaded rainbow needle and did the first couple of stitches to anchor the stem.  Then we modeled a stitch or two before handing the needle over to a child. We work one-on-one with children this young because most need us to hold the felt (see Tips & Tricks).

They sewed about 3/4 around, then stuffed the pumpkin and sewed it closed.  Many students were amazed. 

"I thought we had to glue it."

And, "I made a stuffie.  Look, look, I made a stuffie!"

My favorite quote came from this little guy.

You can't hurry when you're sewing.  The needle is sharp.  Sewing is a quiet activity.

Why do I sew with children?  Slowing down is precious.  

Have fun! The Moody Pumpkin tutorial is here as a pdf download. All tutorials are property of Forest Fairy Crafts.  Please contact us for use permission beyond sharing with friends and linking back to our site.

Free Fun Book Craft

When I'm not crafting fairies and magical friends, I teach at the Nevada City School of the Arts.  And this is a favorite activity book with kids ages 7 and up.  Younger children love it too, if I trace the basic shape lightly so they know where to put the head and feet. 

Everyone loves a flip-book, especially a creepy, silly flip-book.

The fun begins when you flip the pages and make new stories.

This is a fantastic project for children learning to read because they can hold parts of the story as familiar text.  And the illustrations support the words.  Children will read over and over so they get different beginnings, or middles, or endings.

The creativity with this project is in your child's illustrations.  I drew these examples to share how the book works, but you will find that the template is blank except for words and cutting guides.  Each page also has small marks at the neck and waist.  Guide children to draw with the head and legs starting at those marks so the creatures match from page to page.  The cat will need to be drawn sitting up to match the other creatures.

I am happy to help if you have questions or get stuck.  I suggest allowing children to draw each page as a whole sheet, then binding the book with yarn or staples, and cutting last.  

Enjoy!  Feel free to share with your teacher and homeschooling friends!  I love inspiring children to read! :)

Click here for The Crazy Creepy Creature Book PDF

Rock Critters

My favorite kind of crafts are the crafts that surprise me.  This one began at the river.  My niece was visiting and I suggested, "Why don't you collect some rocks?"

"Can we paint them?"

"Maybe.  Sure."

Ian had his birthday party four days later.  I pulled out the rocks for a party-activity.  And . . .

Rock Critters!

This one is my favorite:

Here he is with his collection of colorful treasures:

Ian made a Car Critter

The girls made a few rocks with only one eye.  Their one-eye critters were cute.  Then we discovered you could use the one-eye rocks with the painted rocks to make faces.  

 

Even more fun!

I'll post the crafting photos soon of the kids painting these beauties.  We used washable paint, let that dry, and then I coated them with a layer of Modge Podge sealer.  We used tacky glue for the eyes and antenna.  

A last moment with the little blue critter :)

My favorite crafts make me smile :)