We had a busy old session at The Little House in the Park last week. The theme was boxes and we had to make three - one large, one medium and one small - all decorated differently and all with little creatures inside. Gulp.  

I didn't think we were going to get any of it done as Matthew made a beeline for the clay (as usual), but eventually I managed to tempt him over to look at the marbling tray and that got him hooked. 

The boxes are just folded paper (here is a step-by-step tutorial, which uses the same technique). The large one is decorated with collage, the medium one is marbled, and Matthew drew on the small one with crayons. 

Inside the large box is a butterfly made from tissue paper, netting and pipe cleaners; there is a woolly pipe cleaner spider in the middle box; and the two bees in the smallest box are made from netting wings glued onto tiny pine cones wrapped round with yellow wool. 

The most amazing thing - apart from the fact that we actually got them all made (with time to SPARE even) - is that these are all still intact (so far). Matthew likes opening them, saying hello to the little creatures, then closing them again carefully and going on his way. Unprecedented. 
I was trying to think of something fun we could make with paper plates, and came up with this - paper plate picture frames. 

Really straightforward - just paint your design onto the plate, cut a circle out, and tape your picture to the back. We had these Simpsonised photos of ourselves kicking around so decided to do a set of three to hang in a row (fixed together with taped pipe cleaners). Matthew really enjoyed making them and is delighted with the result (so am I!). 

Here are some more ideas: 

- create a pattern with sticky mosaic tiles or beads
- make a collage with tissue paper, petals or lengths of pipe cleaner radiating out
- (for older children) write out a poem or passage from a book in a spiral round the edge
Back at The Little House in the Park yesterday for some wonderfully waxy crafts to mark Candlemas (today). 

We rolled beeswax candles, did wax-resist paintings and decorated glass jars to make candle holders. But Matthew's favourite activity by far was the candle dipping (because of the danger element, no doubt). He loves these little colourful candles and has been quite obsessed with them since we got home. In fact as I type he's sitting here with them clutched tightly in his hot little hands. It's not going to end well.  

We did a lovely activity at the end of the session, transforming a big tray of water into a magical pool with greenery, rocks, shells, fairy lights and glitter, then floating walnut shell candles and singing wintry and boaty songs. I love The Little House in the Park. *sigh*
Matthew's been experimenting with trashy little cheeses lately. He mostly loves unwrapping them rather than eating them, so we end up with bits of cheese packaging (and bits of cheese) all over the place. 

Now these latest ones - Primula Pods, I believe they're called - came in the most fish-like plastic packets imaginable. So we (I) sort of felt obliged to make something fishy with them. 

The plan was to make a mobile, but for various reasons - I won't bore you with them - that turned out to be a bit ambitious, so we did a collage instead. Matthew got really into this. First we painted each fish a different colour (they could have done with two coats ideally, but I felt like that would be pushing my luck), then we sprinkled glitter on, and when they were dry we added spotty stickers and googly eyes. 

We put glue all over a sheet of blue card, to make it nice and shiny, and then stuck the fish on, along with a few bits of crumpled up green tissue paper just to make it a bit more exciting. I could have gone on... but the boy had had enough. A good innings though. 
One of Matthew's best stocking presents (which I had to grudgingly let Father Christmas take credit for) was a kit for adding wheels to cardboard boxes to make them into little carts etc. Really cool and very easy to use (check out Rolobox). 

Now while it's great having some extra storage for toys, it wasn't the most attractive cardboard box, so we decided to paint it to make it blend in a bit more tastefully with our snug (OK - the tasteful bit was my idea, not the boy's). A couple of coats of white paint, followed by red and yellow finger paints on top - job done. 

But the possibilities are endless really. How about a bright red fire engine... or you could cut a tractor shape into the box... or tie several together to make a train...
These fridge magnets are a nice easy craft project for a rainy day (and we're not short of those at the moment). 

You'll need a set of pre-cut wooden numbers and a pack of small self-adhesive magnets (both available at art/craft-type shops). Then... well just decorate the numbers however you like, let them dry, then stick the magnets on the back (we found we needed two or three per number to make them properly magnetic enough to hold the weight). Here are some ideas:

Glitter glue - this is what we did - two contrasting colours per number for added effect. 

Fluorescent paint - to make funky glow-in-the-dark fridge magnets.

Googly eyes - paint the numbers and stick on eyes to make little people or animals. 

Sticky jewels - use the self-adhesive kind for a completely mess-free project. 
Ta-dah! Homemade Christmas cards this year. (I am turning into Kirsty Allsopp.) 

I wanted to try and think of something easy that Matthew and I could make together. We bought a big sheet of dark green card and hunted out some biscuit cutters to print with. First we used a big snowflake with white paint (Matthew did all of the printing for that one), and then when that was dry we used a small Christmas tree with green paint (he lost interest with that one... plus maybe I was being a bit too controlling. Ahem). 

I cut the sheet into squares and glued it onto white card. They're not quite how I pictured them, but not a bad joint effort. Who knows what added sophistication next year might bring? 
...in the windy autumn weather
We twirl around
And whirl around
And all float down together

It was the last autumn-themed session of the year at The Little House in the Park last week, so we decorated giant leaves with paint and glitter, and laminated beautiful autumnal collages to put in the window. 

Matthew and I both love the songs we sing with Chrissie and Esther at the start of each session, and are very happy that they've recorded a CD* so we can now listen to them in the car (I would say sing along to them but I am FORBIDDEN to sing in the car). 

The songs are grouped by season - we're looking forward to revisiting the winter ones ('Galloping Across the Snow' - yippee!) at the next session. 

*If anyone's interested in buying a CD they can be ordered online at www.dlbeducation.co.uk.
Last week's session at The Little House in the Park was all about hibernation and hunkering down for the winter. 

The spider's web is made from wooden skewers stuck into a conker, then wound round with wool of different colours. It was very therapeutic to make (I was deliberately blocking out Matthew unravelling all the other balls of wool in my peripheral vision). The spider is just four short black pipe cleaners twisted round in the middle, with its legs pushed into the wool. 

The hedgehog is made out of clay, and his little den is a cardboard box painted with shiny autumn colours and then stuffed with kapok and straw. We finished it off by gluing leaves on top. Matthew always likes it when the clay makes an appearance - I think he'd be quite happy just spending the whole session making clay hair with the garlic crusher. 

I fancy hunkering down for the winter. Wonder if the boy would be OK if I just crawled under the duvet for a few months? 
A few paintings from The Little House in the Park using autumnal colours. We were supposed to be doing leaf prints, but Matthew was in the mood for swirls and handprints so we went with that. I really like the swirly ones - they look like fireworks.