4th July Wrapped Wreath

If you read my post about the Layered Flag Dip, you’ll know that this weekend, we had a BBQ. But not just any old BBQ. My great friend, Bethany, comes from Pittsburgh, in the US and despite living in the UK for 10 years, still misses some of the traditions of home. So this year we decided to host a 4th July BBQ for her, partly so we could experience a true All American Cookout and partly to give her an excuse to make her favourite barbecue beans and Chocolate eclair Cake. Tastes of home on Independence Day.

So between us we had the food covered, but I wanted to try and give her a few little surprises in the decor, turning this event from just a BBQ to a real 4th July celebration. I got some flag bunting and chose a colour theme for the table, but after hitting Pinterest pretty hard, decided I really wanted a wreath to welcome Bethany and her family into our home. While wreaths for every occasion seem popular in the States, they are thin on the ground in the UK. So after searching online I found a few that I liked the look of (like this one) and decided I could make my own.

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Isn’t it pretty? I was so proud of it, that I thought I’d share just how easy it was to make.., err actually if you’re reading Bethany it was tres hard and very fancy, OK?

So I bought everything I needed to make the wreath online (from Hobbycraft as it goes, although I saw similar on eBay and Amazon).

You’ll need:

1 x 350mm polystyrene wreath
591580_1000_1_3401 ball each of red, white and blue yarn

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1 sheet of self adhesive white felt

572837_1002_1_340I started by marking three inch sections around the wreath, for the red and white ‘stripes’, leaving almost a quarter of the wreath for the blue. Then I started wrapping. I attached the loose ends of yarn with double sided tape, but you may find another way works for you.

I found it easiest to cut sections of yarn before wrapping it round the wreath and be prepared for the bottom of the section to be narrower than the top. This meant I either had to overlap some of the yarn, or ensure I pushed it closer together at the bottom of the section as I went along.

Gather the yarn at the bottom of the section as it's shorter than the top.

Gather the yarn at the bottom of the section as it’s narrower than the top.

If I’d had a child free environment it probably would have taken less time to do, but even so it only took a couple of evenings wrapping, alternating red and white and finally the navy blue.

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I went back and redid the little bit of white that’s coming lose in bottom section, but that was the beauty of this, as each section was small, if you messed up, it took very little effort to put it right

You could use anything you have to hand to make the stars; buttons, stickers, craft shapes. As it was, I had none of these so bought a sheet of self adhesive felt. I used one of the boy’s small cookie cutters as a template for the star, drawing the shape on the paper side of the felt and cutting it out. Once I had the star shape, I just peeled off the backing and stuck it to the blue yarn. Et voil!

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I didn’t hang it on the actual door itself as we already had a nail sticking out of the wall at perfect height next to the door. As there was a breeze up when I put it out, I stuck the nail into the polystyrene itself to secure it. Perfect.

Bethany loved the decorative touches and particularly the wreath! Woop woop. Get me! Seriously though I’m so glad I took the time to make it and realising how easy it was has made me want to make wreaths for other occasions. Why just Christmas?

Do you use wreaths for occasions other than Christmas?

I took it down from the door once the party was over, but it's so nice I can't get rid of it just yet. I may even keep  it for next year ;)

I took it down from the door once the party was over, but it’s so nice I can’t get rid of it just yet. I may even keep it to use next year 😉

 

Silky Smooth Dough

OK, I know this looks like I’m writing a crafting/messy play series and I promise this wasn’t the intention. If I’d been more organised I guess I could have done. Ahh well, next time!?

So next in the line of crafty activities I’ve been doing with Oscar involves a different kind of play dough, that had been recommended recently by several friends. This one was even easier to prepare that the Easy Playdough I made recently. This one has two ingredients: cornflour and hair conditioner. I know right!!?

I don’t use hair conditioner myself (what? I don’t regularly use moisturiser either – it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just I never remember to), so bought the cheapest bottle I could find at our local supermarket. I plumped for a pale green one, with a minty fragrance. I thought this would add a nice sensory touch to the dough. Which it did, although it did leave me with a craving for Soft Mints all day!

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This dough is quite a different texture to the flour based ones. It’s a smoother consistency once kneaded but dries quickly. A quick knead though and you’re back to silky smoothness.

Directions: I mixed one cup of conditioner with two cups of cornflour. I didn’t use colouring this time, but you could! Mix and knead. Simples!

Smooth!

Smooth!

The best thing about this dough is the stretch you get from it! Due to the non-Newtonian properties of the cornflour (can you tell we have a nerd in the house?) it can be both soft and hard at the same time. The boy played with it for ages, burying Thomas the Tank Engine in it, then pulling the train back slowly to see how far he could stretch the dough.

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Poor old Thomas!

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Like I said, a craving for chewy soft mints!

A real sensory experience

A real sensory experience

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As far as it could stretch

It looks wet....

It looks wet….

... but it's really not

… but it’s crumbly at the same time

Despite it’s silky, smooth appearance, this dough is actually very crumbly, meaning it was also much more messy than regular dough. Had I realised this beforehand I would have let him play with this in the kitchen on the tiles, not in the lounge on the carpet! That said, it cleaned up with a damp cloth and a hoover, so it wasn’t all bad. The only thing I would say is I wouldn’t give this to babies or children with a penchant for putting everything in their mouths. Hair conditioner is really not something you’d want them to chow down on.

So , yes it was pretty messy, but clean up was easy enough. It wasn’t my fave, but the boy loved it and at the end of the day that’s what matters when it comes to messy play.

I need some more ideas of things to do now. Something less about the end product and more about the process. Any ideas would be greatly received. And before you ask I’m think I’m going to save Ooblek for the garden months! Well, wouldn’t you?

#ToddlerApprovedTuesday

Shaving Foam Paint

So I’ve written before about my hitherto lack of both desire and nerve to get crafty with Oscar at home. We’ve avoided it for several reasons, one being his previous lack of interest and another being the mess it makes. My house is tiny. I’ve always figured I don’t have space for getting our painting freak on. Then recently I decided to throw caution to the wind and try out a couple of crafty/messy play ideas, all at home, all indoors. He’s that bit older now and anything that encourages him to concentrate is great for his development. I wrote recently about our success with homemade moon sand and playdoh and this week I decided to bite the bullet and let him try painting.

I wanted to try making my own paints, mostly to see if I could, and found this beginners paint post on learnplayimagine.com, a great resources for sensory and messy play ideas. It had two ingredients: shaving foam and some form of colouring. You could either use a squirt of paint, or as I did, food colouring. I have some tubs of Wilton Candy Colours, which meant I was able to mix up Blue, Red, Yellow, Green and Orange. I tried purple, but for some reason the red just wouldn’t mix in with the blue, so I gave up on that one.

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I mixed up the colouring first

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Then mixed in the shaving foam. I moved his small table into the kitchen and completely covered it in lining paper (I bought a huge roll for 3 from Wilkinson’s), stuck down at each end. This provided a non slip area for him to paint on.

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The paint stays ‘foamy’ which is great to touch!

It was super quick to set up. Probably longer than just squirting ready mixed paint into tubs, but I figured if I could start with this I might get the nerve to move up to that.

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I didn’t have any brushes, but used a mixture of sponges, a roller and toilet rolls. He soon started to get the hang of it.

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Making his presence felt on the paper

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He was so good at keeping the paint on the paper. I was worried he might try and paint the whole house, but I should have given him more credit I guess. Plus this shaving foam/food colouring combo came off his clothes really easily, so a bit here and there wasn’t the end of the world. It is after all just soap with colouring!

After he’d painted all the paper and mixed the colours I changed his paper and he went to get one of his trains. Clearly what he felt was missing from this art project was some train tracks! Not sure why poor James got a lump of green in the face. I think he was trying to feed him!

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Eat your greens James!

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Dynamic!

Because the base of this paint is foamed soap, it doesn’t quite dry like ready mixed paint. I read that if you want it to set better, you can add PVA glue to it, but we didn’t bother this time. I hung the pictures to dry and dabbed the excess foam off with a tissue. It’s dried pretty well. But really this wasn’t about creating a masterpiece. It was partly getting Oscar to engage with something and partly to grow my confidence with craft projects in the house. And all in all I think this was a great place to start.

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A great place to start

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I love the energy in this one

What’s made you proud today?

I’m conscious that there are things Oscar clearly loves and others he’s not so keen on, but I’m also aware that he’s a toddler and fickle as you like. What works today, wont work tomorrow as it were. So while it might be easy for me to avoid things he hasn’t enjoyed in the past, it’s also somewhat lazy (and if I always did this we could end up doing nothing). He could change his mind about an acticity any day, so it only makes sense for me to give him periodic access to the things he hasn’t enjoyed previously. It’s like me with olives and Edam (now love olives, still can’t stand Edam)

This is how we found ourselves at a Top Banana craft session this morning. We’ve attended various courses and sessions run by our good friend Lana, some have worked for us and some haven’t. This morning was craft based fun, so playdough, painting, sticking and colouring. Seriously what’s not to like? It was a pretty safe bet. Only thing was the class was being held in his favourite place, The Hen House and previous attempts at getting him to focus on something in the party room, when there is all that free ranging soft play the other side of the door have failed dramatically.

So it was with some trepidation that I took him this morning.We arrived a little early, to give him a chance to play as he wanted to, and as Lana really kindly emailed us the list of activities to me last night, I took some time to tell him what was going to happen. And I’m happy to say it wasn’t a disaster. He played with the playdoh for a while and then made a snail, sticking small pieces of card to a paper plate. He’s not used glue before and I think we’ll definitely be investing in some for home!

This morning's Top Banana Snail

This morning’s Top Banana Snail

 

All in all he lasted 20 minutes of an hour class. I could have tried to hold him in the room, when he really didn’t want to be there any more, but who would have gained from that? I’d given him the access I planned to and it actually wasn’t as awful as it could have been. It didn’t stop me feeling deflated afterwards, sitting alone drinking my coffee. Then I realised I was focussing on what he hadn’t done, when really I should be focussing on what he had done. Which was more than I thought he would. Positive thinking is quite a new thing for me. A year ago, I would have totally just focussed on what we hadn’t achieved. But now, I don’t know, that just feels pointless. Seriously what’s the point on focussing on what wasn’t there? Something that didn’t ever exist? When there’s this concrete thing in front of me, something that does exist?

It’s not always easy and yeah sometimes I still wish he’d do stuff other kids do (or what I think they do – who I am to say what they do is better?). But for now I’m focussing on what he does do. What IS there.

Which today was a feeling of pride and a snail.