Friday, 27 June 2014

Paint Your Own Series

Paint Your Own series. Comes complete with watercolour paints and paintbrush.

Available on Madeit and Etsy.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Preschooler Play - Recycling Artwork

Miss 3 is a prolific painter. Some of her artwork I post to unsuspecting relatives, some I put up on the wall, some I file, but the majority is in a pile in the play room. Let's recycle it into other forms of art!

First, we made hats for the three of us. These "Indian" hats are very easy - cut the piece of A4 paper that you child has painted on in half along the long edge. Then cut strips around an inch apart along the length of the paper, leaving a wide banner at the bottom. Tape the two halves of paper together to form one long piece of paper. Wrap it around the head and secure with tape.

We then made some underwater scenes with some more of Miss 3's art. First, I drew fishes on the back of one of her glitter drawings.

She cut them out.

Then she cut seaweed strips from a green painting that she had done and glued them onto a blue painting.

And finally she glued on the fish.

Voilà! An underwater fish scene made out of three other pieces of art.

What do you do with your children's works of art?
Read some of the other activities that I do with my children.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Madeit Pick Editor

This week I am a Pick Editor at Madeit.

Madeit Sellers Picks are a weekly collection of eight (or more) items curated by three different Madeit Sellers. This is my third outing as a Pick Editor (outing #2 was here) and this time I'm going with a colour theme. I put the call out on FB for colour combo suggestions and settled on purple and green, inspired by stunning heliotrope, wisteria and grape vines in the garden.


Minimalist Art by Joanouk watercolour paintings, giclee prints and fine art photography ~ specialising in high quality textured giclee prints that look and feel like original watercolour paintings
Floral Smock by retro bimbi funky handmade baby and kidswear
Flag Bunting by Merry-Go-Round on Madeit for devine handmade - new, retro and vintage items
Wool Felted Scarf by oksana scarves and accessories hand felted from the finest hand dyed Australian Merino wool
Resin Pendant by Rhyley Design handmade gifts
Baby Shoes by Li'l Aussie Shoe Co. handmade shoes for happy kids
Boutonniere by Pulp Petals elegant and graceful modern paper flowers
A Line Skirt by Kiss My Patootie handmade kids and adults clothing, gifts and accessories

Check out more Madeit Sellers Picks by kaetoo, Mozzie & Mac and monkey & bee.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Materials and Techniques - 'Minorca'

The materials and techniques series is a collection of interviews with other creators of handmade crafts. Every fortnight we talk about how each artist makes their creations. Today I am talking with Patricia and Isabel who make toys, puppets, jewellery and artwork. Their online store is Minorca ("little one" in Portuguese) and although they are currently based in Ireland, they are both Portuguese. Pat and Isa are fellow members of the EtsyKids team.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

Pat and Isa are a mum and daughter team of two artists from Portugal passionate about illustration and children toys. They currently live in Dublin and their shop took a little vacation while they were travelling the seas looking for inspiration and new adventures.

Pat is a Publishing grad, with a special interest in design, children books, educational and behavior development, and illustration. She's a book lover, a storyteller and a vegetarian.

Isa is a painter and an arts and crafts geek! She has a joyful personality and puts that energy in everything she creates. Her inner child is always ready to come out and play! She loves spring flowers, sparkly things and miniature softies to cuddle and play.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

Mostly, we work with felt and fabrics (mostly cotton), wool and clay to mold our hand painted brooch pins, acrylics and watercolor, and foam for professional puppets. To make our soft miniature dolls and play sets we like to use the different textures but keep a natural feel and plush toy touch to the toy. We know sensory development is important in younger ages, so we are want to include even more eco-friendly materials and textures in our future designs.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

As toy makers, we are always thinking about the kids, what will they like to play with and how can we make it both fun and educational. Recently, we've been challenging ourselves to go beyond the fun and have in mind the creation of toys that have in mind children with special needs (e.g.: autism, muscular dystrophy). So that is our current personal challenge and our inspiration for future creations.

What drives you to create?

Our shop reflects our passion and values in every child friendly and educational toy we make. We believe it is important to surround children with positive influence, natural textures, colour and happiness during their development. We also believe that toys can be not only fun, but also a tool to develop imagination, social, communication and motor skills, so we work towards creating soft toys and professional puppets that will invoke that in all children, including those who have special educational needs.

We are always thinking back to our own experience as kids, from two different generations. Pat loved to play in the dirt, she was always connected to nature and animals (she used to have pet chickens!), so she always loved miniature softies. Isa loved to "play house" with her dolls. We believe it's important to create options to the constant flow of technological entertainment around kids, giving them a way to connect with nature and non-tech environments.

What is coming up next?

To keep growing, to make new toy designs, explore more materials, and give some focus to Isa's art in form of toys, not only wearable art jewellery.

Apart from that, we want to start a Blog and get more connected with people! We hope to achieve this last goal very soon.

As you can see, we love to chat!! So, by all means, visit our Facebook page and say "hi!", we will love to hear from you. You can also reach out to us on Pinterest (we love it!! it's like a waterfall of creativity and fun!!). And, of course, visit our shop and spread the love. :) We will be immensely grateful. :)

Use coupon code 5THANKS for 5% off.

All images provided by Pat and Isa of Minorca.

I'd love to hear about what you create. Have a browse through the archive of previous interviews and then share your story with us.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Preschooler and Baby Play - Reading

My husband and I are big readers. Of old-school, paper books, not the electronic kind. We have bookcases in every room and go to the library at least once every three weeks.

So how do we encourage our children to be readers like us?

Read to them.

Every day. At the very least, we currently read two books before nap time and two books before bed time for our three-year-old; and two books during play time and two books during bath time to our five-month-old. This is a special relaxing time each day, a time for the whole family to bond together. It also teaches the children to love books right from birth.

Provide the right level material.

If the books are at the wrong level, the children are not going to enjoy them. They may be too easy and therefore boring. Or too hard and therefore boring! Each child has different abilities and you may find that children outgrow a book and then come back to it a year or so later with a new understanding. As a guide, select books at the following levels:

  • Birth - 1 Year ~ board books with bright colours, cloth books, textured books, lullabies, song books, bath books
  • 1 - 3 Years ~ short story books, board books, song books, rhyming books
  • 3 - 5 Years ~ alphabet books, counting books, song books, picture books, story books, rhyming books

Discuss the story.

Talking about the story helps children to understand. After all, they are not going to want to read if they can't understand what is going on. You can stop on each page to discuss what the story was about and to talk about the meaning of particular words. I mostly like to talk about the story at the end, to interrupt the flow of the words less. Discussion can be done even with very small babies - talk about the colours, the sounds, the textures. Later, you can ask children why things happened or what they think is going to happen next.

Give books as gifts.

I really believe that you can never have too many books. Giving a book as a reward encourages the child to associate good things with books. So we definitely use them as a gift. "You behaved really well at that wedding. Let's go to the book shop and buy you a book." "It was lovely the way you played nicely with your friends today. Let's go to the library and borrow some books." Letting children pick out the book that they would like also makes them feel special and makes them more likely to want to read it.

Let them read to you.

Since she was quite small, Miss 3 "reads" to us after we have read her books. Yes, she can't actually read, she is still at the level of just being able to pick out letters, but she tells us the story as she understood it. Sometimes we have to help her out, but small children have excellent memories. By "reading" the story to us, we can see what she took away from the book. Often this is a good way for her to question us about what happened at a particular point.

Let them see you read for fun.

Of course, children want to do exactly what Mum and Dad are doing. So seeing you reading makes reading cool. Even if you are not an avid reader, if you can put aside a couple of minutes to look at a novel, magazine or cookbook, your children will see you reading and want to do it too.

Make books accessible.

We have three bookcases just for the children. All at their height so that they can go and get a book out whenever they want. The books are sorted by level, so one case for board books, one for picture books and one for longer story books. This way they don't have to ask us for books and can get them out and look at them alone whenever they want.

In what other ways do you encourage your children to read?
Catch up on other activities for children

Friday, 13 June 2014

Sunshine After Rain Wall Art Collection

The Sunshine After Rain Collection. Vibrant wall art in yellow and grey.

Available via Etsy and Madeit.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Renovating House - Raised Garden Beds

Darren has been working very hard at making raised garden beds in this concrete space outside our back door:

And here is the result:

Miss 3 has already staked her claim!

Follow the history of our house renovations.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Materials and Techniques - 'Papoose Clothing'

I am not a sewer. I occasionally dabble, but I do admire people who can sew well. Today I am talking with Ashley, who is indeed one of those talented sewers. Ashley makes clothing for her store Papoose Clothing and today in the materials and techniques series she is telling us about her skills. She is a fellow EtsyKids member and is located out of Gulfport, MS in the United States.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Ashley, and I am the owner, designer, and creator behind Papoose Clothing. I started sewing from an early age when my mom taught me the basics, but it wasn’t until college when I took a few costume construction courses that I really honed my skills. After graduation I was still pursuing a career in acting when my sister told me to expect a little niece. To fill the time between gigs, I sewed up a few items for her as special keepsakes and fell in love with making children’s clothing.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I love the simplicity and timeless qualities of cotton so that’s my main fabric choice. I think it is so wearable and easy to clean and handle, especially for children’s clothes. I have so many machines and special gadgets to help me, it would be boring for me to list them all, but I strive for professional quality garments that are meant to be passed down to the next generation.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

Right now I am releasing two collections every year, and it takes a lot to go from a single idea to full collection. Then you have to take pictures and market your products. I struggle with the business aspect of things really, marketing, photography, taking time to do the more boring and tedious aspects compared to the creative side of production. I have to set a time every morning to finish things I push off doing, so time management and self-motivation is really necessary for small business owners.

What drives you to create?

Like every artistic person, I think creativity comes in waves. A person really needs that down time to just sit and soak in the world and things around you without always having the creative juices flowing. Anything around me can inspire a collection or a clothing piece, I try to keep something on me at all times to draw out an idea. I have a book I like to keep everything in that’s full of ideas and drawings that may or may not be used.

What is coming up next?

Right now I am in the beginning stages of my Fall/ Winter 2014 collection. I have selected my theme and am sketching out designs and looking for fabrics. It won’t be ready until summer, but I am excited about this collection. I think it is going to be a fun and dramatic line!

All images provided by Ashley of Papoose Clothing.

Do you enjoy hearing about different crafts? Visit the archive of materials and techniques interviews. Or contribute

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Preschooler Cooking - Fine Motor Skills Colour Sort

We have been asked to make some gingerbreads for a party, in a blue and red colour scheme. Of course, I couldn't find any red pearls to decorate the blue icing, so I bought a rainbow pack instead. Miss 3's job (after washing her hands) was to pick out all of the red pearls and sort them from the other colours.

This is a deceptively hard task for a three-year-old, combining fine motor skills and colour recognition. She did a brilliant job.

And the biscuits are beautiful!

In what ways do you incorporate learning into every day activities for children? Read more activities for children here.