Because my daughter Adelaide turned four last month, I spent a couple of weeks - here and there - thinking up many simple treasure for little children. Because of these projects, Addie and I were able to both fill many grey and dark winter afternoons together, and also use their finished results as simple gifts for her to give to her friends at her Birthday Party. A couple for each child, tucked in a little bag pinned with our little homemade personalised buttons.
My goal was to come up with ideas which are inexpensive, simple to put together, and, hopefully, that little children will adore and get some joy and use from. I heard great feedback from both children and their parents, and so I've been wanting to share these simple projects - some new and some old - which Addie and I were able to plan and assemble, together.
I have also found that it is nice to make lots of these treasures and keep extras around as well. (Because of my work it is my logic and habit to make things up in larger batches - for time and budget management.) They are great to keep around in a pinch, perhaps for Adelaide to have as a treat (she never seems to grow bored of them), or to give to visiting children, or to tuck in a package which is being mailed away. I've also found that our friends without children love them and often take a few home with them too, to have on hand when their nieces and nephews or other such little people come and visit them.
A Little Collage Kit(s)
I was inspired to put together some sweet collage kits for kids after Adelaide discovered mini bottles of Elmer's school glue at Michael's. She was just so delighted with these miniature bottles of glue, but I balked at the price tag - no way! Then several weeks later, I found that I could purchase these same little bottles of glue in bulk from a teacher's supply store - for around .45 cents each! I decided then and there to create the kids collage kits using them.
When planning our kits together, Addie and I first went through our house and gathered up supplies to use from the collage kits. We found assorted coloured and textured papers, tin foil, cotton balls, felt and fabric scraps, ribbon and rickrack bits, star and circle stickers, and buttons. We also punched and collected up shapes from paper with paper punches. We then set a budget of (maximum) $10 to supplement collage materials, which we took to our neighbourhood dollar store. There she helped me pick out simple items like glitter glue (6 for $1), feathers, googly eyes, sequins, and wooden cut outs.
I designed up a simple folded bag-top in Adobe Illustrator for the packaging. I made a goal from years back not to use any more plastic packaging for the products I create and sell, however, I have random plastic bags left over from the old days when I first began selling my goods, and so I've been wanting to use them up. I had a few dozen 7x10" cellophane bags, and I decided to use them for these collage kits. I realised that the bags would be good to store and protect the child's finished artwork in, and so included this idea with the "instructions" on the back of each bag-top.
On another afternoon, Addie and I sorted all of our materials into kitchen bowls, and made an assembly line, a few of each material in each bag along with 3 tag board paper background sheets, a mini glue and 1 glitter glue. I stapled the bag-tops to the top of each package. Adelaide loved this, and we put together 2 dozen kits quite quickly. And any extra materials went right into Adelaide's arts and crafts material box for other days.
Beads + Bits jewellery kits
One day I came across a large bag of wooden beads for $5 - at Walmart of all places - and I thought it would be a nice idea to put little bead kits together for children. I also picked up an inexpensive packet of beading twine in assorted colours (I believe for around $3. I combined these beads with a few other types of wooden beads I already had, and together one afternoon Adelaide and I put together many little bead kits.
We sorted all of our beads by colour into kitchen bowls, and made an assembly line, selecting out bead combinations into our own bowls, calculating the correct amount to either create a child's necklace or 3 child's bracelets. (Adelaide adored this activity). We included a length of twine with each of our kits, and carefully poured each kit into 4x6" glassine envelopes which I had on hand. We sealed each kit up tight with a glue stick, and tucked them aside for later.
Many days later when I had some time, I designed up another bag-top, and simply trimmed off the side of each of the filled glassine envelopes with an exacto blade. I then stapled on the bag-top, and, done!
This is an old project of mine, and I wasn't planning on making more of these little books anytime soon. But then a little friend of Adelaide's came over to play one day. He spotted one of Adelaide's note-books, and said excitedly to his mom: "Mama, I have this book, but mine is a Dolphin book!" I was quite touched by this, but then I realised that we had given the book to him over two years ago when he was only 2 years old, and that he remembered and kept his little book all this time. I then knew that I should really make up more of these lovely little books. (More information on this project and a description how-to is here).
Making Cupcake Flags
Another old project which Addie and I recycled for her birthday (and probably always will) was our cupcake flags project. You are welcome to download our finished template and make cupcake flags, too - more information is located here.
Together on a particularly dark and grey afternoon, we printed out and made a little box full of dozens of these cupcake flags, ready to poke into cupcakes at her birthday party (I managed to convince her to have homemade cupcakes instead of a store-bought birthday cake - cheaper, easier, cleaner, and zero utensils or plates required).
Addie - well - she really just loved gluing up and folding her flags up over toothpicks, and so I let her go at it. (Secretly, I placed her glue-gucked fingerprinted flags aside when the time came to poke them into the fresh little cupcakes... shh!) No harm done, she was so pleased to help, and it was sweet for me to watch the little boys at her birthday party playing and waving their little cupcake flags. It's funny, sometimes, what little children find joy in.