Projects

Spiderwebs and Spider Craft

My girl and I love Halloween! As we brought out this year's decorations, she really really wanted to decorate her room. In our family, that means creating new goodies!

She wanted to create cute spiderwebs and spiders. They're fun, easy, and quick. My niece visited and she had just finished reading Charlotte's Web so this craft especially inspired her. That gave my girl the chance to be Teacher, which is always fun.

Along the way, we learned more techniques for different looks. We hope you enjoy!

Supplies:

  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Wire Clippers (or scissors if you don't mind possible nicks in the metal when cutting wire)
  • Yarn
  • Fuzzy Yarn (we used Festive Fur)

The Making:

Clip three pipe cleaners in half so you have six in all. If you don't clip the pipe cleaners, they get weak towards the outer edges of the circle. I've also seen this project made with dowels which lets you make larger spiderwebs. The fuzzy pipe cleaners are easier for the yarn to stick in a spread out design.

Lay them them down and tie a piece of yarn around the middle. Spread them out and start winding the yarn around the center to hold them together.

The yarn can be white or black or purple (or any color). You can tie the pipe cleaners together while they are straight and then fan them out. My daughter insisted on tying them while they were all spread apart, which is trickier but still doable.

Start wrapping the yarn around the pipe cleaners, going around one, then the next one and the next one. Give yourself a little space between each layer as you go around and around the spiderweb. It may take a few passes to get the hang of it, but even spiders must practice making their webs (don't they?).

Continue to the outer edge of your spiderweb. Clip the yarn and tie around a pipe cleaner. Leave a little extra that you can use to hang the web.

For the spider, clip three pipe cleaners again to make six. The fuzzy yarn is a little tricky for little hands, so I helped with making the first spiders. We tried two ways that both worked. 

First, we wrapped the fuzzy yarn around three fingers a few times. We clipped a length of plain purple yarn and tied around the middle. After our little fuzzy ball was secure, we tied it again around the middle of the three pipe cleaners to give our spider six legs. 

Spread out the legs and bend to give your spider personality.

This version of the spider was a little flopsy (which was totally fine) except it inspired us to try again.

This time, we wrapped the fuzzy yarn into a ball. To learn how make a yarn ball, you can visit here. Basically, wrap the yarn around a few fingers, take off your fingers, wrap a few times in another direction, and again, and again. Once you get the hang of it, yarn balls are simple and fun.

Once the ball was about the size of a grape, we laid the three pipe cleaner legs across and wound around them too. Now we had six legs. We could fan them out and wrap the yarn between the legs. This technique made the spider more durable.

Isn't she cute?

Once our spider was nice size, we tied the yarn around the middle to secure it. The nice thing about fuzzy yarn is that it hides all the knots and loose ends. We tied a strand of plain yarn around it to give a thread/web for hanging.

Hurrah! The excitement kids show when they love their creating gets me every time!

Meanwhile, the girls realized they could spin a piece of orange pipe cleaner in a spiral to make pumpkins! So many pumpkins! A tiny pice of green tucked into the spiral became perfect stems.

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What lucky spiders getting decorations of their own! 

Then, my favorite part of creating! The kids took off with their own ideas. My niece spiraled a white piece of pipe cleaner into a hat. 

And my girl realized white pipe cleaners and white yarn can make an awesome ghost. Little pieces of orange pipe cleaner tucked into the yarn made perfect eyes. 

Sometimes, all we need to do is give children the opportunity (and supplies). I am constantly amazed!

What a darling little ghost!

*I might need to write a tutorial for her ghost because I'm so curious how she made it :) 

I hope these inspire your own decorations. A few pipe cleaners and yarn sure gave us a fun afternoon. And now our house is pleasantly spooky!

Magic Wands with Yarn

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So simple and so fun for the class today. I collected fallen branches about a foot in length. I brought sandpaper, yarn, and a few beads to class. Students chose the branch that "spoke" to them. They could use sandpaper to smooth rough patches. A few spent ages making their sticks all smooth.

I showed them how to tie a knot around the branch- the short end dives through the loop, wrapping around the long end. I showed them how to hide the short tail by wrapping around it. We discussed layering colors and adding beads. I said they could fingerknit then wrap the knitted chain. They wanted to engage quickly so no one tried that. Another day :)

Their wands went home with them today, all unique and beautiful! Just like the children :)

"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 :)

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 :)

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 :)

A Month of Gratitude

 The mind is everything. What you think, you become. ~Buddha

With this in mind, I hope to catch a month of gratitude, a little one each day.

We are trying this experiment in the Dragonfly class. I asked them what they appreciate in the world and I chose a theme to write as a sentence on a large piece of paper. I drew a border with a block crayon and a student helped me illustrate.

As with everything, sustaining the effort is the hard part. So I hope I can keep the momentum going!

Today they were grateful for birthdays!

I want to honor their childhood vision. Even though I wanted to steer them towards lovely, poetic appreciation, I also want to catch their world today. I love the beautiful, the quirky, and the silliness of the world through their eyes.

I built a foundation for this activity with our weekly Gratitude Circles. Every Friday we turn off the lights and turn on a battery-operated candle. We sit in a circle. We pass the candle around. Each student shares at least one thing in the week that she or he appreciates. At first, the circle is a stretch for some children. These days, the ideas are easier. Mom, Dad, my school, my friends. We have so much to be grateful for! I cannot wait to see what the month discovers!

I will try for a short daily post, but we may have summaries depending how the week goes :). Happy season of thanks! For me, I am thankful for my children's school (where I teach). Spending time with my boy yesterday, watching the littles with their Big Buddy Class (seventh grade) was a huge inspiration. So much sweetness!


 

My boy is Batman playing tag. The big kids were so fun and happy with the littles. Makes a Mama's heart happy and a teacher's heart proud :)

Also as a side note, I had to share this project from Ian's class. His teacher is amazing. She made these laterns with the students. The day before, they taped the jars with masking tape and painted them orange. On Halloween, the children drew Jack-O-Lantern faces. The teachers used an exacto knife to cut the shapes. So pretty! I am going to keep ours out for another few weeks :)

I suppose you could use the same technique with leaf shapes. A pretty celebration of light.
Wishing you many things deserving of gratitude! :)

 

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!

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!

Hearts for Sweet Beginnings

A rainbow of hearts to start the school year. The hearts were pleasantly quick and fun to sew. I used multicolor rainbow crochet thread so the colors wove through the hearts one after another.


My boy adores orange, so I made him one in his favorite color. He had his first day of transitional kindergarten today. So I tucked a little note inside the heart and placed it in his lunchbox. I couldn't be with him because I taught my own class of students. But I felt closer to him, knowing that he had a little craft to discover in his lunchbox.

For my students, I am creating a story. Our class mascot is a small dragon. I imagine that our dragon doesn't collect gold and jewels like most dragons. No, our dragon, Sparky, collects the most valuable treasures of all. Sparky collects the treasures that cannot be bought with all of the gold in the world. Sparky collects love. And kindness. And joy. And friendship. He saves these emotions in magical glass pebbles that protect the feelings inside.

We also call these pebbles Dragon-Tears, but I don't think that will make sense within the happy story. The pebbles are not Dragon-Tears, they are dragon treasures. The pebbles fit inside the little hearts perfectly. Each student can hold one through the day. For now, we plan to keep them in a basket and put the students' names inside on a watercolored slip of paper. I am sure that students will get attached to their heart and memorize whether they have red, orange, green, blue, or purple.

Perhaps Sparky knows that our students can trusted to care for Love and Friendship and Peace. And by caring for these hearts, the emotions will be nurtured in our class community as well.

A sweet way to bring those gifts into our school year. I am excited to share them with my students. Begin well, travel in joy, learn along the way. Sounds lovely. Rainbow heart lovely.

Sending inspiration your way. I wish you many precious treasures today. :)

Intentions

August is a whole new year. Perhaps not on the calendar, but for many children, a year begins in August. I feel the energy gather as a teacher and a mom. New stories. Blank pages. New teachers and friends.

In my teaching program years ago, we learned about Self Fulfilling Prophecy. Two teachers were told two stories about their incoming classes. One heard she was getting a bright, kind, fabulous class. And the other heard he was getting a mischievous, difficult, unruly class. The classes, in reality, were randomly assigned. A few months later, the teachers were asked to describe their classes. Guess how they answered?

This is the Self Fulfilling Prophecy. Your beliefs shape your reality.

So I am thinking about intentions as we prepare the classroom for a new group of kindergarten and first grade students. All of our stories will weave together into one story. How can I, as a teacher, set them up for success? How can I make intentions meaningful?

I thought of a big gesture. I am sewing a little felt heart for each student. I will leave an opening at the top so we can slip their name inside and they can add wishes of their own. Friends, fun, learn, peace, joy. Paying attention to the good stuff.

I have them cut out. And I have a few days to seem them all together. For my own children, I will choose their favorite colors and put them in their lunchbox on the first day. Manifest love :)

Halloween Skirt

Just in time!  I finished the tutorial for the Halloween Skirt!  Of course, the skirt can be made any time of year with different fabrics.  

The fabric inspired this skirt.  Black owls with white eyes sit on winding black branches. Anika has already taken it twirling :)

I have a feeling we'll be seeing the owls all winter :)

Our free tutorial has photographs for each step.  Enjoy!

Click here for the Halloween Skirt Tutorial pdf

All tutorials are property of Forest Fairy Crafts.  Please contact us for use permissions.  Thank you!

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