We have a surfeit of pipe cleaners in the house. A glut. An embarrassment of pipe cleaners. I don't know how it happened, but we should probably start using them instead of hoarding them (not sure what kind of situation I've been envisaging in which shedloads of pipe cleaners would save the day?). 

Thought it would be fun to experiment with making animal finger puppets - here are the results. An octopus (actually an octo-alien - he has two more eyes at the back, Matthew was quite insistent about it), a bird and a butterfly. 

I reckon the possibilities are endless though, really, depending on a) how adventurous you're feeling and b) the dexterity of the little fingers you're working with. How about trying mice, rabbits, frogs, lions, elephants... dinosaurs...? 

This week's session at The Little House in the Park was all about Chinese New Year - tomorrow marks the start of the Year of the Snake. So we went snake crazy.

The one on the right is your classic paper plate snake - covered in tissue paper and cut in a spiral. This one has a separate head glued on and is tied to a stick for extra springy fun - Matthew held it on the way home and it twirled round and round in the wind in a very pleasing way. 

The one on the left is a felt bracelet snake, made by Matthew's grandma, who came with us this week (there is NO WAY I would have been able to make that one during the session... far too busy trying to prevent Claygate). I think it involved winding lots of bits of wool round and then glueing a felt face on top. Seemed to keep her happy anyway. 

The clay snake is all Matthew's own work and he's very proud of it. It's just a shame it keeps breaking into bits. His dad looked at all the pieces bemusedly and said "Oh. You made poo at The Little House today."

We made the two little pipe cleaner snakes when we got back home (obviously couldn't get enough of the whole snake thing). Just two pipe cleaners twisted together with - yes - googly eyes stuck on. 

Happy Chinese New Year! 
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. 
So we built a snowman in the garden (a snow pirate, actually), did snow angels, had a snowball fight, went sledging, yada yada. What next? Back indoors to warm up and do some snow-related crafts, that's what. 

To make a snowman collage, all you need is cotton wool (balls are nice and easy), a sheet of dark-coloured card (to make the white cotton wool stand out), some glue - and then add whatever bits and pieces you have to hand for hats, scarves, noses, eyes etc (fortunately we are never without googly eyes in this house). 

The sticking was a bit fiddly - I would probably make them a bit bigger next time - but Matthew did most of it himself and he really loves these snowmen. And these ones won't melt and break his little heart. 
OK this enamel mobile isn't a new piece, but it was looking particularly photogenic today with the snow and all, so I took this pic.  

The 'icicles' are made of thin sheets of copper bent into long cones. I used a solid glue stick in quite an uneven way to hold a thin covering of white enamel powder, then fired the pieces so that they just turned slightly greenish in places. I'd punched holes through the tops first so I could then thread them through a circle of thick copper wire for hanging. 
We were back at The Little House in the Park last week, getting creative again after the Christmas break. 

The session was all about exploring wintry colours - silver, white, pale blue and purple. We made long hangings and collages using various bits of paper, felt, wool, tinsel, pine cones etc. Matthew also discovered the apparently endless joys of using a hole punch. Anyone needs any holes punching, he's your man.  
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. 
It was the last session of term at The Little House in the Park yesterday and we are now officially Christmas-crafted out. 

First we made a festive crown by sticking sparkly bits onto silver card. Matthew really enjoyed doing this, and chose a purple and gold theme which I thought was pretty tasteful for a 3-year-old. He never likes wearing these things, though, so Basil has been crowned Christmas Bear. 

Then we made a wand from laminated bits and bobs cut into a star shape and taped onto a stick, and a Christmas star decoration from white tissue paper glued over bent willow. There was all kinds of glitter etc to stick on top, but Matthew insisted on just one red and white thing - which proves there is Danish blood running through his veins.