Remember that Rapunzel wig that I made for Kate's best friend's birthday in the previous post? Well, this is gift #2 - the one with which I force her parents to get involved in playing (hyuk hyuk)! My kids get craft kits as gifts all the time and I'll be honest - I like craft supplies but I sometimes groan when the kids get craft kits. Why? Because some of them require serious parental involvement. Which, for some reason, my kids seem to request just before dinner, when they're hungry and bored and I'm cooking and crabby. To which I will bleat, "You can read the instructions yourself, right?" To which they retort, "Yeah, but it says, 'Get a parent to help - preheat oven to 350 F and lay out the shrinky dinks on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes.'!" Or "Get a parent to iron the Perler Beads so the kids don't get 3rd degree burns." Or "Get a parent to poke a sharp pin into the clogged nozzle of the glitter glue so the frustrated toddler squeezing the tube will stop crying." Or "Get a parent to break out the hot glue gun/rubber cement/noxious-fumed superglue because the impotent white glue provided with the kit Will. Not. Hold. The. Walls. Of. The.3D.Foam.Gingerbread.House.In.Place."
But wait! That's not the worst thing about craft kits - the worst thing about craft kits is the craft kit box itself, which nobody will throw away because there are still leftover supplies in it after the project is completed (or after the kids lose interest, whichever is sooner). Do we toss out the perfectly good container of petroleum jelly that's still 60% full after making 5 adorable heart-shaped containers of squid-flavored lip gloss? Not to mention the other 3 empty containers that the kids never got around to filling because they decided they were done? Or the 45 sheets of stickers of which they only used 0.00007% for "personalization"? We have a tower of almost-empty craft kit boxes in our house that's driving me nuts.
As far as arts-and-crafts gifts go, my personal preference is to give kids a big cardboard box, a roll of masking tape and a pack of Sharpies. My second choice would be an entire ream of regular printer paper and a huge canister of good art markers (not crayons. Oil pastels, yes, but never crayons. If there is one art supply that every house has an excess of, it's crayons. I know this because my house has an excess of crayons, restaurants give away crayons and pinterest is full of ideas for turning excess crayons into sculpture, melted art and other crayons.) My third choice would be a pack of fun cardstock, fancy-edge scissors, some craft punches and a roll of double-sided tape. Seeing a pattern yet? We like open-ended crafting. No surplus novelty materials. No instruction manuals. Parents can cook dinner while the kids sit at the kitchen table and go to town on their masterpieces. We can pop in to ooh and aah if we can spare the time between cutting potatoes, or remain hands-free otherwise. And it's not just because open-ended crafting promotes creativity yada yada yada. I like when my kids indulge in open-ended crafting because it means I get to just sit and drink tea. Hooooo.Rah.
In that light, this post will probably sound like an exercise in hypocrisy. Or revenge. Sorry. In my defence, let me say that my kids and I test every single homemade craft kit (like this one and this one and this one) before we foist it upon other families. And we try to ensure that, after the making is done, the mess and involuntary parental involvement required are far superseded by the hours and hours of resulting pretend play that keep those kids occupied (after all, I want those parents to still be friends with us). In other words, we only give handmade craft kits for making toys. Not bottlecap fridge magnets or foam picture frames for grandma; TOYS.
So I loved this finger puppet kit idea when I saw it some months back. Immediately, I thought of Kate's friends, who were the perfect age for making these tiny little things and bringing them to (goofy) life.
I found some kid gloves at Walmart for (get this) 25 cents per double-pair pack. That works out to 25 cents for 20 fingers, or 1.25 cents per puppet blank. Unfortunately, because they were on winter clearance, there weren't as many colors to choose from as I'd have liked. Note that bottle of Fray Check - it is very important.
So first you cut off all the fingers. Depending on the size of those fingers, you might choose to throw some out on account of their being too short. We, however, saved all of ours for samples. As soon as possible after cutting, apply fray check to the cut ends. This will go a long way towards preventing unraveling and furriness.
Next, buy small googly eyes. This is the size we got. There are even smaller sizes than these, but we liked this size.
Add other embellishing things, if you want. We chose dimensional fabric paint, which the kids were easily able to apply. To attach the eyes, we picked small glue dots over glue (fabric, tacky or otherwise): instant results, less messy, less frustration for the kids, less help required from adults.
We also got out our felt scraps (no need for the expensive wool stuff; the cheap acrylic type is perfectly acceptable) for extra details. Here's sample #1: The Superhero. All you need are an infinity-shaped mask and a cape. We drew on the mouth and superhero symbol with dimensional paint. Note that we did use glue (UHU, not white glue, which is useless) to attach the mask to the puppet blank. This is where the Parental Involvement came in.
Sample #2 is The Princess.
Pinking shears were our best friend in this project. So versatile! We made a crown
and then added the wet details with dimensional paint. It dried in a couple of hours.
I wanted the storage box to double as a puppet stage, so I bought these:
But it was fun to fancy it up, too. Obviously, you crafty sorts can further improve on it with washi tape, your Silhouette machine, freezer paper stenciling, self-made rubber stamps, etc (go crazy, guys). But we were giving our kit to a regular little girl whose mom isn't a card-carrying member of our craft-obsessed blogging community. We thought two pieces of (non-archival quality) paper and a bit of (bought-from-anywhere) sticky tape were just about right.
Here's what we put in our kit (forgot to include the tube of black dimensional paint in the photo):
All packed up! That sidelong glance the princess is giving the superhero, who looks like he might have had a bit too much to drink? Purely accidental - some unsettling must have occurred during packing ;)
Here are the results from the Kid Testing Laboratory:
They really had a blast! And yes, Parental Involvement happened. I had two main jobs: Glue Applyer and (for the youngest kid) Fine Detail Painter - the kids told me where to apply the glue and paint, and I obeyed.
This is the Royal Family - King, Prince, Queen and two Princesses -
whose castle was under aerial attack by a dragon/dinosaur
with dreadfully fierce eyebrows
and who consumed their entire livestock of chickens and bears;
and a simultaneous security breach from the sea by blood-thirsty pirates and (although he's -appropriately - in the off-focus background a lot) The Generic Robber (in his ski mask). The Generic Robber, incidentally, is my favorite puppet. He has the best expressions.
Fortunately, the Justice League of America despatched Supergirl to save the day.
"Did you know Supergirl is Superman's cousin, Mom?"
I didn't, Jenna. But I shoulda guessed, given that they have the same first half-names.
"And did you realize that Batman is the only superhero that has a friend, Mom? Everybody else saves the day by themselves."
I didn't realize that, either. I always suspected that Wonder Woman and Batgirl and Supergirl sort of were each other's accountability group and called each other on their cells for reinforcements or lattes-and-cupcakes when the going got tough. And that the guy superheros got together to shoot pool or baskets after each mission. And everyone'd also attend regular psych debriefs with the JLA's in-house psychologist just because, you know, there's a lot of killing and near-death experiences involved in humanity-saving. In my imaginary world, they would, at any rate. Although - what do I know, right? I'm just the Glue Applyer (but I love the conversations with the kids while on the job).
Kate put up a puppet show for us last night that kept us in stitches. She'd discovered that, by detaching the eyes (the glue dots kept them semi-permanent) and moving them around, she could create alternative cyclops/blindfolded/sleeping-masked personalities as well as additional superpowers that involved seeing with one's tail end. If you've never watched a puppet show by a five-year-old with a wicked sense of humor, I strongly recommend it. It certainly made us forget the snow outside.
Here's the instruction sheet I'll be including in the kit. I drew it up after watching all the different characters come to life during our Kid Testing Afternoon. It includes templates and an inspiration page.
Click HERE to download