Home-made Kites

It started out with my youngest beavering away to make his own kite, presumably being inspired by some brave kite-flyers and surfers on the beach the other day. He wanted a bit of help with the tail, so I gave him some coloured paper and showed him how he could stick triangles on to create the ‘bow’ effect.

Kite 2

Once my eldest saw it, he wanted to make one too, so, with “Let’s go fly a kite” from Mary Poppins ringing in my ears, I helped him make a diamond-shaped one, thinking that they’d look nice and jolly suspended from the ceiling.  But that wasn’t what he in mind – as far as he was concerned, we were going to make a kite and “…send it soaring”. Ahem…

Kite 3a

How we made it…

  1. We stuck four sheets of A3 paper together to make a rectangle big-enough for a kite-sized diamond to be drawn. It’s obvious in retrospect, but we should have drawn the vertical/horizontal crossbars before the diamond around it (as we did it the other way and it wasn’t straight…).
  2. Then we stuck coloured paper to each quadrant and stuck different coloured spots on to jazz it up.
  3. Then we used some small green garden canes to make the cross structure which we sellotaped to the back.
  4. Then we cut some triangles from coloured paper and stuck them to some red ribbon for the tail.
  5. We put Sellotape around the four edges of the kite, to prevent it from tearing when being flown.
  6. We then tied white parcel ribbon to each end of the garden canes to form a cross-shape and tied a longer piece to the middle which became the main flying line.
  7. In retrospect, we should have also decorated the back (as that was the part of the kite that ended up being most visible when we tried to fly it), but there’s only so much cutting and sticking a 7-year-old can be bothered with – he wanted to get out and try it as soon as it was vaguely ready.

When the kite was nearly ready, I mentioned to my husband that we were off to the beach to test it – his response was luke-warm to say the least – he didn’t think it’d work and suggested buying one instead.  It was a bit like the pirate ship all over again and just upped the ante to prove our own ‘Mr Banks’ wrong…

But by the time we were down at the beach, the reality-check had sunk in.  It began to dawn on me that this would end up as another elaborate lesson in expectation-management – like the non-exploding Mentos.

Kite 4

However, it was more successful than I’d feared – although it involved a lot of running around and holding the kite high.  I’m not sure why it didn’t catch a higher wind-current (aerodynamics is a bit beyond me), but despite one of the cross-bars snapping, it got a bit of height.

The making of Mark II…

After we got back home and fixed the broken bit, we ended up making another one using plastic bags and a different design.

Mark II involved making the diamond-shaped structure and the cross bar out of the garden canes first, then attaching different coloured plastic bags to it (a white bin bag and an orange Sainsbury’s bag). We also made the tail differently, by using off-cuts of ribbon which we stapled together (much quicker!):

Kite 5a.jpg

We went out again the next day with both kites and although one of the canes snapped again (they definitely need doubling-up), it worked pretty well and the boys liked running around trying to get them off the ground and watching them bob about in the wind.  I wouldn’t exactly say that we “sent them soaring”, but it was fun giving them a go.

It also seems that Mark II won’t be the last as my eldest said “we’ll crack it by the end of the Summer” – just six weeks to nail it then…

Kite 6

Other crafty ideas for the holiday from Wonderinalexland 

Make your own Tissue Pompoms

These pompoms are completely pointless (in that after making them, I didn’t know what to do with them…), but are a lot of fun to make and pretty satisfying as they look so good when complete. The only problem was the colours we chose.  Rather than looking like flowers as intended, our wall looks like a display of shower puffs at Boots!

I’d had a hankering to make these for a while (not sure why, or where I got the idea from) and then happened to come across a good how-to video on OneLittleProject (which incidentally seems like a lovely site for other crafty-stuff).

We were also prompted by the need for something to brighten-up the wall once the kids’ Easter pictures had come down. Although they were quick and easy for adults to make, they were a bit fiddly for little fingers, so my 7-year-old was game, but my 5-year-old opted to watch.

pompom 4 v2.jpg

Make them as follows:

  1. Cut a stack of coloured tissue (10 sheets)
  2. Concertina-fold them along the longest-edge
  3. Tie in the middle (and add thread if you are going to hang them). I used ties from sandwich bags as the paper pops open quite easily
  4. Cut both ends into a curve-shape (this makes the ‘petals’ look more convincing)
  5. Tease the layers of tissue apart on each side

I haven’t tried mixing up the coloured layers, but reckon that could be a good effect too.

They’d probably also be best suspended from a ceiling, or hanging from trees at a party, but for the moment at least they’re on our wall!

pompoms finished v2.jpg

Make your own Paper Butterflies

These paper butterflies aren’t strictly origami as the paper is cut (stuck and tied), but I’m no purist 😉

I came across how to make them on RedTedArt and thought that they’d be a good replacement for the Easter eggs that we’d previously had hanging in our hall. They were quick and easy to make which meant they were great for my guys to have a go too.

Butterfly 4 pics

As we already had some origami paper (ironically too small for any actual origami), it worked brilliantly for these. The video on the Red Ted Art site suggests that it doesn’t matter whether you glue the upper and lower pieces together, but we glued ours as it helped them hold their shape.  We also used sandwich bag ties rather than the wire, as well as folded, rather than cut the corners (as our paper had different colours on each side).

I then stuck some white cotton into one wing on each butterfly and suspended them from some branches that we got from our garden, hung from our banister with white ribbon.

Butterfly pic vertical

Other kids crafts

Make your own jet pack

These jet packs were easy and quick to make.  They were also easy enough for the boys to do without too much help (whilst they don’t mind putting me to work, the initial plan is to do stuff together… although doesn’t always end up that way, as my blog on space helmets describes!).

You can make them as follows:

  • Cover 2 litre bottles of water in tissue paper or tin foil
  • Cut a rectangular piece of thick card which is no wider than your child’s shoulders (this will form the base of the jet pack)
  • Put two holes in each side of the card
  • Thread string / elastic through the holes on each side, making sure it is the right size for your child to be able to take it on and off
  • Stick the bottles to the card (we did this with double-sided sticky tape)
  • Add decorations (flames, lightning bolts etc.)
  • Cover the neck of the bottle in tin foil / card (to give a tidier finish)
  • Stick red/orange/yellow tissue paper in the necks of the bottles (for the fire)

If you liked this, you may also like: 

Make your own space helmet

I’m not going to lie, these weren’t that easy and took about a week to complete (allowing for drying time and lapses in our ability to concentrate on what became a rather gargantuan task).  I was also the sole member of our team left to put on the tin foil on the inside – the fun of sticking had long gone for my kids.

Having said that, I was initially inspired to give it a go after seeing the amazing effort by MudPieFridays.  My 7-year-old and 5-year-old made theirs at the same time, which proved a little difficult when they both needed help simultaneously…

Despite low expectations, I was intrigued to see if we could pull-off something similar using stuff that we already had around the house, so we found two balloons and a roll of packing paper left over from when we moved house. The paper was thin and there was lots of it, so it seemed great for the job.

We then mixed some flour/salt/water to make the paper mache mix (with a ratio of 1:1 flour to water and 3 tablespoons of salt to prevent the finished piece going mouldy). The plan was to do 3 layers, let it dry completely and then do 3 more layers (but by the end of it we had paper mache delirium, so who knows exactly how many layers went on each…).

space helmets 2

On the first evening, I looked back at the original post when I was unconvinced that our soggy-papery-balloons (1) would ever dry hard enough to hold their shape once the balloon was popped.  Only then did I see the small (but critical) detail that MudPieFridays used plaster bandages (AKA plaster of Paris).  This gave not only a pristine finish, but would harden to rock.

As we’d started, I thought we might as well finish (and the boys wanted to do the balloon-popping bit).  They were very excited when all the layers had been put on and our interest in soggy paper had well and truly waned (it’s pretty unpleasant to have salty gloop on your hands if you happen to have any cuts).  By this point, it was just me and my eldest soldiering away.  My youngest had wandered off to play Lego, telling me “I’ll come back in 10 minutes to see how you are getting on” (…OK, boss-man).

Once the paper mache had completely dried (2), we popped the balloons and I used a Stanley knife to cut a larger circle to put their heads through and another for them to look out of.  Then it was time to paint (3) and they went with various wacky designs (my eldest drew around an egg cup for the circles, which he painted red).  The horns on the black and red one were from the inside of an egg box.

After that we (or I should say ‘I’…) finished the edges and lined the inside with tin foil (4).

Then, the guys ran outside with them on the rampage.  We’ll see how long they last 😉

Other Space-inspired crafts:

Make your own space rocket

Make your own jet pack


Polymer Clay: rekindling the love for FIMO!

Do you remember FIMO?  Well I think it was just a brand name for Polymer clay.  My youngest got some for his birthday and it’s brilliant.  The best thing about it is that it doesn’t go into that horrible grey murky colour when all the colours inevitably get mixed together by little hands (as Play-Doh does).

We’ve previously had a go at modelling with traditional grey clay before (which also requires baking and then painting afterwards), but I much prefer the Polymer clay with its bright colours.

As each colour is retained, you can combine the colours to make pretty multi-coloured beads and bowls (and anything else your skills enable you to, beads and a bowl were all we could cope with and they were done in two separate sessions).

My guys enjoyed making the beads, even though you’d think boys would think it was all a bit girly, they liked being able to make something that was within their (and my!) ability. We used cocktail sticks to create the holes in the centre of the beads and then used left-over bits of ribbon and string to thread them together.  As the clay is quite tough, it is difficult to mould, so I’d say children under 5 may find it pretty tricky to manipulate.

The bowl shown in the photo was a group-effort (hence why it has a random colour combination).  We all made the clay ‘worms’ in our favourite colours, then realised we’d need to group together to make a reasonable-sized pot (the plan was to make something to store Lego men).  I’d initially thought about making a lid, but this took enough effort as it was…

After moulding it, you just bung it in the oven to bake for about 40mins, then it is pretty hard.  Happy sculpting!

Treasure, Bug and Scavenger… a hunt for every occasion

Treasure hunts, bug hunts, scavenger hunts… My chequered history with them, hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm.  I’m not alone though, as these time-honoured games have entertained for generations.  They may seem like a lot of effort to do, but they are an easy activity to do pretty much anywhere.

Treasure Hunts

Entertainment-gold.  I’ve previously written about one we did for a pirate party and we’ve enjoyed them at others’ too.  All you need is a few clues, some rhyming couplets and a bag of chocolate coins for the treasure.  A friend of mine has bravely done them around her house – with the kids stampeding from one clue to the next.  It was quite entertaining to watch once we’d got over wincing as they whipped past her breakables.

Bug Hunts

My experience with these has been less successful.  One notable incident was when a friend and I signed up for one in the summer holidays in a local park.  Our Ray Mears-like leader was enthusing about the great outdoors and more specifically, the wildlife we could find.  He set up a ‘bug hotel’ in a central camp for the children to put the creatures in that they found for later inspection.  It all sounded pretty straight-forward.

Unfortunately my friend was wearing Birkenstocks which weren’t ideal for wading through long, wild grass on the look-out for creepy crawlies.  It also turns out that I have an irrational fear of anything found under stones which rendered me completely useless.  However, since we had prams, babies and toddlers in tow, by the time we had trudged through the undergrowth there was little chance of us finding anything.

When the others in the group had unearthed worms, beetles and other multi-legged discoveries, my friend finally spotted a spider on a large rock just by Ray’s camp.  My eldest was standing on the rock at the time (having got bored with all the looking), after she shouted “spider”, he responded with the immortal line “kill it! kill it!”.  Ray and his intrepid comrades looked round to see my friend bent-double from laughing, leaving me trying to cover-up my son’s murderous intentions (whilst simultaneously keeping as far away from the spider as I could).  It then occurred to me that we were looking for stuff we didn’t want to find, so made a hasty retreat to the café instead.

But even from that slight disaster, I could see the appeal for the kids, so I’ve since found bug hunt charts on the internet to keep them occupied in the garden.  The plus-side being that I knew likely hiding spots, as well as the fact that I didn’t have an audience for my inevitable yelps every time we got ‘lucky’.  Mind you, I think my boys enjoyed watching me react to the creatures more than seeing the creatures themselves.  They laughed their heads off.

Scavenger Hunts

My first experience of a Scavenger Hunt was on a hen do and involved clues which took us to a cocktail bar (nice touch that the barman was in on it too).  Needless to say I was sold: a treasure-hunt combined with collecting things, what’s not to like?  However I had less success when I subsequently adopted the idea for my husband’s birthday.  Unfortunately I planned the hunt having never been to the area before and it unsurprisingly resulted in him and his friends being lost for hours.  The only redeeming feature was that it ended in a bar which they eventually found.

Scavenger hunts have however been more successful as spontaneous time-fillers for the kids when they’ve complained about not knowing what to do with themselves on holiday.  They’ve worked a treat and remain my favourite of all three hunts.  Up until now, my kids have had to be paired with adults (i.e. me and my husband), but now they’ve got to reading-age, I’m looking forward to testing it out where the kids do the work.

A list of things to find that have worked well for my guys are below.  I have given each team the same list and a little bag to collect their things in.  The show-and-tell at the end has raised a few laughs given the different interpretations of what’s on the list!

  1. Something fuzzy
  2. Two kinds of seeds
  3. Something straight
  4. Something round
  5. Something smooth
  6. Something rough
  7. Two different types of leaves
  8. Something that makes a noise
  9. A beautiful rock
  10. Something you think is beautiful
  11. A pinecone
  12. Something green
  13. A stick
  14. Something you think is a treasure