Friday, January 20, 2012

Hanging Hand Puppet Storage

I've been looking for something on/in which to store the hand puppets Margaret got for Christmas. I saw a tip online to use a plate rack to hang them on, but I was having trouble finding one that would work well and for the right price.

The other day while browsing Target's Dollar Spot, I found a teal over the door metal hook for just $2.50. I figured for that price, even if it didn't work for the puppets, I could utilize it elsewhere in the house.

Fortunately, it worked like a charm, holding all of her hand puppets perfectly.

I tried it out on the closet door in her playroom (which always stands open) and on the closet rod.

Both worked well, but I think I might bend the hooks straight and drill holes in them so I can hang it lower on the wall where she can get to the puppets herself. For now, though, the unit keeps the toys up off the floor, which is just what I need it to do.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sorting and Transferring with Ice Cube Trays

A lot of ECE experts encourage setting up "invitations" for children, laying out materials in a way that encourages a child to explore them, often with a specific activity in mind for play. I see a lot of pictures of lovely sample invitations, but I've got to say, they're just not our style. A lot of parents are able to put a good deal of thought into their play with their children. We're a bit more fly by the seat of your pants. I just can't help but get uptight when I set out the materials, organized and attractively, and envision the way the play will lead. And that's not fun for any of us. No, far better with my personality to let Margaret do the inviting.

I bought some heart-shaped ice cube trays from the dollar spot at Target yesterday. We're all familiar, I'm sure, with the Montessori-inspired sorting and transferring activities done with small objects in ice cube trays. I put the trays on Margaret's art shelves and waited for her to find them.

She immediately went to the shelves when she woke up from her nap and found the trays soon after. She looked at them for a while before setting them aside to do some gluing. James was sleeping at the time, so I took the trays and her box of pom pom balls and began transferring the balls into the hearts. Never one to miss out on the fun, Margaret took over.

She filled each hole of one tray with colored pom poms, then used white balls in the other tray.

She played like this a while before drifting back to the shelves. She came back with a box of pony beads. Clever girl, she began filling the trays with the beads instead. She also tried Popsicle sticks but quickly abandoned them when she realized they were too large for the holes.

When I began sorting beads by color in my tray, she immediately took over and continued sorting.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Water Beads

We finally got the chance to test out some water beads yesterday! I bought a bunch of little packets a couple years ago, but we never seemed to get around to exploring them.

Water beads are awesome fun. They come as tiny, hard, round beads, just the size of pin heads. You soak them in water a few hours, and they swell up to delightfully squishy, slippery, colorful balls. They're an incredible sensory experience, great fun on the light table, and they bounce! They retain water for weeks, and if you keep refreshing their water, they'll last a good two years. You can find them in the floral section of craft stores or Wal-Mart for just a dollar or two per package.

We played with them in a clear plastic tub, explored them on the light box, and transferred them to translucent vinyl containers.

James was fascinated watching us.

Margaret ran straight for them again this morning when she woke up. I'm not surprised. I can't keep my hands off them either.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Round Needle Book with Snaps - Tutorial

I think needle books are so handy, I try to spread the love and make one for everyone I know. In the past, I kept it simple with a few rectangular pieces of felt stacked, folded down the center, and hand-stitched to form a binding.

I recently saw a fun round needle book and had to give it a shot for a few Christmas gifts.

I added snaps to the pages so you can take the book apart if desired and just carry one page. I also added a snapping ribbon closure to keep everything contained.

Since I can't make needle books for all of you, I'll share a tutorial so you can make your own.

3 colors of felt
embroidery floss
3 sets of sew-on snaps

something round to use as a pattern
sewing marker
embroidery needle
straight needle
match or lighter to heat-seal ribbon

Step 1: Cut out your pieces.

Trace around the circle pattern (I used a snack cup lid) and cut out two circles from each color of felt.

Step 2: Cut out a half circle. Blanket stitch straight edge.

I traced the lid again and eyeballed the halfway point on it. Use 3 strands of embroidery floss to blanket stitch across the straight edge of the half circle. Leave a long tail of floss at the end.

Step 3: Attach a snap to the half circle.

Use thread to sew one half of a snap onto the half circle, near the center edge of the round side. (If you're lucky enough to own a snap press, you could use that instead for all the snaps in this book.)

Step 4: Attach snaps to book "pages."

Lay out your circles as shown and sew snaps on with thread. I've labeled the snaps in the picture for you. Use the female side of your snap where the + is and the male side where the - is (or vice versa, it doesn't matter which way). Make sure the snaps are all sewn the same distance from the edge.

Step 5: Decorate front cover.

You can do whatever you want. I attached a crocheted flower and embroidered a stem/leaf here, but in the past I've embroidered names and words and initials, appliqued pictures, embroidered designs, sewn on buttons, etc.

Step 6: Prepare ribbon closure.

Heat-seal ribbon ends with a match or lighter. Just hold the ends next to the flame until they melt. This keeps the ribbon from fraying. Attach your final snap half to ribbon, about 1" from the end. (This will be the opposite snap to the one you attached to the half circle of felt.)

Step 7: Blanket stitch back cover to page 4, leaving a gap to attach the ribbon.

Use three strands of embroidery floss to blanket stitch the two pages wrong sides together. Leave a long tail of embroidery floss.

Step 8: Attach ribbon to page.

Slide ribbon between back cover and page 4, into the gap you left in your blanket stitching. Make sure the snap is left out and the right side of the ribbon is facing the back cover.

Stitch ribbon in place using embroidery floss tail.

Step 9: Finish end of ribbon.

Fold over raw edge of ribbon to hide where you stitched the snap on. Stitch down with 3 strands of embroidery floss.

You should now have this:

Step 10: Blanket stitch half circle to page 1 and page 1 to front cover.

Argh, I don't have a picture of this. Just stack the pieces together: back of half circle to front of page 1 (lining up round edges), and back of page 1 to back of front cover. Use the tail you left on the half circle to blanket stitch around all the edges.

Step 11: Blanket stitch page 2 to page 3.

Stack the pages wrong sides together, making sure the snaps are back to back, and blanket stitch around edges with 3 strands of embroidery floss.

Step 12: Snap it all together and you're done!

The top snaps join the pages together, and the snaps on the half circle and the ribbon close the book.

Load it up with some pins and needles, and it's a handy portable needle book. The half circle forms a pocket in which you can store loose threads, needle threaders, and other small tools.