Make Your Own Costume Party

With a birthday just before Hallowe’en, a make your own costume party was the perfect choice for my daughter’s 10th birthday.  The idea was that the kids would make a costume and take it home to use for Hallowe’en.

Materials to Collect

We collected materials from thrift stores, dollar stores and our local buy nothing group to inspire their imagination. Shopping was part of the fun. We chose items costing under $10, that could be customised to make a costume of their own design.

 

Suggested Items

  • Drapes, sheets and lengths of material
  • Tulle
  • Feather boas
  • Headbands and hats
  • Glasses, gloves, masks and jewellery
  • Plain shirts, leggings or shorts.
  • Any low-cost ready made costumes to customise
  • ribbons and bows
  • elastic
  • Velcro

Inspiration from Goodwill costume experts

Earlier that week I had attended a Goodwill Hallowe’en event and was able to use the advice of their costume experts as inspiration. Did you know that every Goodwill store has a costume expert?  (I didn’t). This is really useful to know, since I only ever buy costumes in thrift stores, putting together a costume is part of the fun but sometimes a bit of guidance would be helpful.

The costume experts helped us create a costume. I found a princess dress that I could also use for an 80’s prom night I’m going to with friends and at only $9.99 it was a bargain. Some of the costume ideas were really creative, I especially love the Mad Hatter ( I think the black tulle skirt she wore made it to our party and was used to form part of a sea monster costume).Goodwill costumes

For me these costumes look so much better than an expensive, ready put together one. Goodwill collect up items for their Hallowe’en costumes all year round, to put on display in October, so you will find all kinds of interesting goodies to make a unique and creative costume. There is even a dedicated Halloween Store in Tacoma. Halloween, generates the largest seasonal funding for Goodwill’s mission to provide career, job training and services to the unemployed. By shopping at Goodwill you’ll save yourself money, come home with a unique costume and support local people into employment. 

 

Design and Make Hats

The party started by designing hats made from paper grocery bags. Paper grocery bags are the perfect size to fit an average sized head.  Most of the materials came from donations, the dollar store or thrift stores.

Materials 

  • Paper grocery bags
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue and hot glue gun for bigger items
  • Ribbon
  • Fake flowers and leaves
  • Stickers and sequins
  • Tulle
  • Jewels
  • Pom-poms

making hats from paper grocery bags

How to Make a Hat

  1. Remove the handles
  2. Roll the sides of the bag from the open end.
  3. Push in the corners to make an interesting shape.
  4. Decorate with coloured paper
  5. Add decorations to create a unique hat.

The hats were judged at the end of the party and prizes awarded for the best design.

 

Make a Costume

To make the costume making challenging and fun, we chose categories. The children picked a category from a hat and set to work making a costume to fit their category. The most imaginative costume would win a prize. The categories were

  • animals
  • mythical creatures
  • magic
  • under the sea
  • monsters
  • be wild
  • make me laugh
  • a world of colour
  • book characters
  • heroes and villains

They could use any of the materials provided including elastic, velcro or ribbon to fasten things together.

items for make your own costume party

They all had really clear ideas of what they wanted to be and when they couldn’t find what they needed, improvised with what was available.  Rolls of coloured tulle came in useful as they used it to wrap their legs or arms. For a Winnie the Pooh costume, a yellow shirt was used to cover part of her legs and the rest were wrapped with yellow tulle. She added some ears and a honey pot made from paper.

 

 

Dressing up and creating their own costumes was such fun. I think it would be a good group task too. You could allocate each group a category and they could dress one person in the group. They all got to take their costumes home at the end of the party.

The creations were judged on how well they had interpreted their category and how imaginative the costume was.  We had a bat, a sea monster, a werewolf, a zombie pirate, a unicorn, Rapunzel, a fairy, Winnie the Pooh and a flash of colour.

If you want more inspiration for making your own costumes, check out these great resources from goodwill.

Costume Look Book

Video Tutorials

Pinterest Costume Ideas

 

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Upcycle Your Kids Old Toys or Shoes into Planters

Last week I was invited by Goodwill to visit Sumner, to see how small businesses there are upcycling thrift store purchases into desirable and unique household goods and clothing. I’d never been to Sumner before and was surprised to find a pretty little High Street full of independent shops selling art, antiques and other unique and interesting finds. I will definitely return, especially since it is the Rhubarb Pie Capital.

We started at Goodwill and my upcycling advisor Juli from Junkers Nest, helped me choose interesting items that could be turned into planters. The great thing about buying from Goodwill is that all the store profits go to helping career path job training for the unemployed and disadvantaged.

Goodwill Puyallup Treasure Hunting 01

I wanted to choose something that would appeal to my kids or would be cool decor for a preschool so we went for the toy section.  Old toy cars, toy animals with a hole cut in them or small dolls houses would all make great planters. It would also be a great way to save the environment from the multitude of plastic toys thrown away every year.

I plumped for a Halloween theme and chose a Monster High coffin. I also chose a pair of baby shoes. Sadly, I threw out all my baby shoes when I moved to the US (including the ones featured in my logo), if only I hadn’t, I could have turned them into something like this.

 

shoe planter

At Blue the Goodwill Boutique, I found this little table and chairs and an old tea set at Junkers Nest.

small table and chairs

My intention, once the rainy season is over, is to plant in the little cups and put it out in the garden. For now the girls have commandeered it for their American girl dolls.

We spent the day gaining inspiration for upcycling goods from Inta Vintage . By the end my mind was racing with ideas of how to upcycle some of my old furniture.

At VanLierop Garden Market the ladies worked their magic to turn our items into planters.

VanLierop Garden 05

The kids helped me make some extra embellishments and here is the finished article displayed (a little early) ready for Hallowe’en.

coffin planter made from toy

Inspired by some of the other bloggers projects, on our thrift shopping trip to buy birthday presents for their dad, the girls looked for items to turn into planters

We chose a pot and my daughter painted it with her own design.

upcycled planter

I’m looking forward to many more trips with the girls as we find fun items to upcycle for family and teacher gifts.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, sponsored by Goodwill WA.

pinterest upcycling toys and shoes

 

 

 

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes at Village Theatre

the noteworthy life of howard barnes

The concept of this new musical at Village Theatre was instantly appealing. Howard Barnes wakes up to find his life has become a musical. As a musical theatre fan, I can’t think of anything more wonderful than having a life full of spontaneous songs and dance breaks, but for an ordinary guy like Howard, he simply wants to return to normality.

Watching the first few scenes, I was worried I would be disappointed. It was amusing but not laugh aloud funny and I was still waiting for a wow moment. However, once I settled into the rhythm of the show, those moments came time and again.  As a reserved Brit, it takes a lot to make me laugh out loud, but I laughed and smiled my way through the whole show.

The story is clever, funny, emotional and surprising, with an array of fantastic characters, from the key players to the tiniest cameos. The cast was flawless, the energy infectious and the dramatic moments pulled at the heart-strings.  If you are a musical theatre fan, you will love spotting the references to all of your favourite musicals, as familiar characters and numbers appear and are reborn, Howard Barnes style. My personal favourite was the homage to cell block tango by Howard’s ex-girlfriends.

The Noteworthy Life of  Howard Barnes is not some frivolous comedy musical. Hilarious as it is, the show has some unexpected emotional scenes and explores the complex world of relationships, rejection and moving on.  A must see for musical theatre fans but a wonderful treat even if you’re not. Don’t miss it!

Here’s a little taster

Would I take the kids?

There are some adult references and sexual words in songs (some of which, I wish weren’t there so it were more kid friendly). I would say it is a PG13 rating – on balance I would take my musical theatre obsessed 10-year-old, because I think she would love it. I do however, think some of the relationship themes would be difficult for her to fully understand and I really wish some of the sexual words in certain songs would be taken out, so I didn’t have to answer awkward questions. If you want more information before making your own judgement, check out the production preview guide

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes runs until October 21st in Issaquah and from October 26th – November 18th in Everett. The show runs without an intermission, so if you go on a week night you can still be in bed by 10.

How to Make a Pine Cone Zinnia Wreath

pine cone zinnia wreath

At this time of year, my lawn is littered with pine cones.  After collecting a huge bag full of pine cones, I browsed Pinterest to get ideas for something to make with them. I kept being drawn to crafts using the base of pine cones to create zinnias.  The kids loved them too, especially the beautiful bright colours.

I set to work painting the pine cones with acrylic paint.  The girls loved mixing up different colour combinations. In fact, the bright pink and turquoise/teal colour my youngest daughter mixed, were my favourite by far. I love that this was a project that we could do together as a family but that also turned out so beautifully.

You will need

 

Step 1

painted pine cone

Paint the bottom of a pine cone with acrylic paint and continue to paint to around half way up the cone. Most colours will only require one layer but some lighter colours may need two.

Step 2

pine cone zinnias

When they are dry, paint the centre in yellow or a contrasting colour of your choice.

Step 3

pine cone zinnia wreath step 3

Arrange the pinecones on the wreath.  Push the top, unpainted half of the pine cone through the wreath and secure with hot glue or florist wire. If you want to stick pine cones on top of the greenery, you will need to saw off the top part of the pine cone to make it lie flat.

Step 4

adding greenery to pine cone zinnia wreath

Weave the greenery through the wreath or stick on leaves with hot glue. If you use a repurposed wreath as I did you may be able to use the greenery already attached.

pine cone zinnia wreath

I have had so many great comments about the finished wreath and it was so easy to make.

If you like this post add this image to Pinterest

How to make a pine cone zinnia wreath

 

 

The Steves: Picture Book Review

If you are a fan of  ‘I am Bat‘  you will love Morag Hood’s new book, The Steves.  Written and illustrated in the same quirky but simple style, it captures perfectly young children’s competitive nature and their drive to be bigger and better than friends and siblings. I can almost hear the words flowing from my daughters’ mouths.

Kids will laugh out loud at the insults they throw at one another and the wonderfully, comical illustrations. I love the way Morag Hood captures emotion in her illustrations.  Simple, beautiful and funny – a perfect package. I have no doubt the Steves will become a classic favourite for young children.

The Steve’s is available on Sept 4th 2018.

Try These Ideas for Summer Fun with Bubbles

We have had fun with bubble painting in previous summers, but usually use straws. To try something a little different, we made bubble blowers using plastic bottles and netting.

How to make a bubble blower

  1. Cut the bottom off a plastic bottle
  2. Tape on mesh or netting,
  3. We used 3 different types to investigate how the bubbles would differ.
  •            Christmas tree netting with large holes
  •            Netting from a bag of oranges
  •            Tulle
  •           We made 3 with tulle, 1 layer,  2 layers and 3 layers

 

For the paint, we mixed bubble mixture with a table-spoon of powder paint.

We tested the blowers to see which one we liked the best.

  • The Christmas netting made three or 4 large bubbles.
  • The orange netting made lots of clear bubbles
  • The tulle made a foamy snake of bubbles and the more layers there were, the better the effect.

 

 

 

The best paint effects were made if we blew the bubbles away as soon as they hit the paper, otherwise they melted into a splodge and you couldn’t see the bubble shape.

We made another discovery. A plastic straw makes a perfect bubble wand.

 

I wonder what else we will discover about bubbles over the summer?

IdeaS for  Summer Bubble fun (1)

Benji & the Giant Kite: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

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Benji & the Giant Kite by Alan C. Fox and illustrated by Eefje Kuijl, tells the story of a boy who, more than anything in the world, wants a big orange kite.   To buy the special kite, Benji has to earn money, so he gets to work helping his mother in the garden until he earns enough to buy the kite. Benji watches the kite sour through the air but when it is time to let it down he is overcome with an urge to set it free.

Alan Fox explains, that Benji and the Giant Kite is based on true events from his childhood. “I wanted to share the sense of achievement I felt by working hard to obtain something I really loved.” explains Fox, “But once I saw the kite flying at the beach, I wanted to let it go. My dream had been accomplished. It was time to move on to another, new experience. You must always keep going to fulfill your dreams and aspirations”.

Benji and the Giant Kite is visually stunning. The illustrations fill a double page with beauty and energy. The colour pallet of turquoise, pinks and greens is peaceful and warm. I love the way Benji’s hair blows and his little dog follows him around. I also love the depiction of the natural world with rolling waves, bees and flowers, birds building nests and glorious sunsets.

Benji and the Giant Kite

The underlying message of working hard to achieve your dreams makes this book particularly endearing. My only disappointment was the ending where Benji let the kite go.  My children didn’t really understand that part too. They wondered why after all his hard work he would just let it fly away – wasn’t it wasteful? I think this makes an interesting discussion point and it is refreshing to have an unpredictable ending. Do our dreams become meaningless once they are achieved? Should we move on to the next dream or should hard work help us to appreciate our achievements more? If we save hard for something should it be precious for a long time? Why do they think Benji let the kite go? Would they have done the same? I think I’m with the girls, I was a little disappointed in Benji and felt he should have treasured the kite, if he truly wanted it.

Benji and the Giant Kite is available on August 1 2018.

Giveaway – I have one copy of Benji and the Giant Kite to give away the winner will be drawn on August 8th

Leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway. Additional entries can be found via the Rafflecopter link.

Open to readers in the US.

Win a copy of Benji and the Giant Kite via Rafflecopter

Disclaimer: links are Amazon affiliate links – if you buy the book via this link I will receive a small commission.

The Story of Two Nests of Sparrow Chicks in our Garden and How they Ventured into the House.

Every year, sparrows nest in our bird box. We watch the mother and father fly in and out, building the nest. We hear the chicks when they are born and see the parents feeding them. When the nest is empty, sometimes we watch the chicks in the trees as they learn to fly.

sparrow chick in a tree

As I was sitting in the garden, a few days after observing this chick in the tree, one of the chicks flew into the house.  I followed it in and opened doors and windows to entice it out.

baby sparrow in the house

Shortly after the mother entered the house looking for her baby. Her distinctive clicking cheep sounded desperate as she tried to get the chick to respond to her.

 

After some time the mother left. We thought we saw the parents  flying around with the chick outside.  I could still hear the chick’s squeaky chirp, but assumed it was coming for the garden. We left the house, as we needed to go out. Some hours later, on our return the children came running, saying the chick was still flying around inside the house. It settled on a high window ledge and we could see the parents flying around outside and frantically calling.  I opened windows and doors again and the mother came in and out, searching and calling. The baby flew to above the front door but didn’t work out how to get down.

 

 

Eventually, after hours inside the house, the bird flew to the ground and hopped outside to be reunited with his parents.

A few weeks later, the girls were playing football in the garden and discovered a nest near a rock, shaded by fern. Inside were 3 tiny eggs. A few days passed and the girls ran in to tell me the eggs had hatched.  We watched them for the next few days. Sometimes the mother sat on them and sometimes they were left while she searched for food.  She was never far away and a number of times we saw her swoop down to scare off an inquisitive baby bunny.

mother sparrow on her nest

We watched  as the strange bald creatures with huge eyes grew into fluffy chicks.

Sparrow Chicks in nest day after hatching
Day 1
sparrow chicks in nest
Day 2
Baby sparrows in a nest
Day 4

Then one morning my daughter ran to tell me to come and look at the nest.  The nest had been pulled from its hiding place and was on the lawn. The birds were nowhere to be seen. Had an animal discovered them, or was it time to fly the nest?

sparrows nest

We soon discovered the latter was true. Carefully camouflaged by brown leaves, one of the chicks was hopping around the ground and waiting for the parents to come and feed it. We could hear the other chicks too but we think perhaps they had gone into next door’s garden as we couldn’t see them.

sparrow chick before it could fly

After 24 hours the chick had gone, probably learning to fly. We heard them for a few days and then no more as they moved on to discover the world.

I love that we have learned so much about birds simply from sitting in the garden on a summer day.

Reflections on the Wonder of Learning Exibition (Reggio Children):What role does technology play in Reggio schools?

It is 13 years since I last visited the Reggio exhibition. Education and childhood have evolved dramatically in that time. I was interested to see how the schools of Reggio Emilia have adapted to meet the interests and fascinations of this new generation.

The projects and learning I observed 13 years ago embraced the physical world. Investigations were made through exploring physical objects and environments, through discussion and experimentation, using art, photography, written and spoken word.  The documentation of more recent projects followed a similar pattern, except for one key difference. The schools of Reggio Emilio are now embracing technology as a tool for learning and artistic expression.  This is not a piecemeal attempt to use technology to teach concepts, but rather a way of using new ways of investigating and deepening knowledge and curiosity, that were not possible before. They have fully embraced it as one of the hundred languages.

Take for example, investigations that occurred during the building of the Malaguzzi centre. The children were taken into the space. They ran and danced around the pillars, making patterns of movement. They were then invited to design their own pillars.  Once the designs were completed, they were projected onto a large screen containing an image of the Malaguzzi centre. The children saw,  that in the image of the Malaguzzi centre, some of the pillars looked smaller than the others. “Were they smaller?” they asked, “or did they just appear that way?” The children’s pillars all looked the same size when they were added to the image, so they used Photoshop to shrink some of the images and make a realistic picture. I have often seen images of how the Reggio schools use projectors to aid learning but the addition of computer technology added a whole new angle to the learning.

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In another project, the children were fascinated by the sound their feet made on the metal stairs.  They decided to give the gift of sound to the stairs. To achieve this, they tested ways to make different sounds by changing shoes and using a variety of movements.  The sounds were then recorded.

The children decided how they might be able to annotate the individual sounds and used the symbols to create a sequenced map of sound. The children drew a picture of the steps and scanned it into the computer.  Using music software, they added individual sounds to each stair to create their desired sequence.

I love the way these projects can take an idea further than they ever could before. In the past the discussion and investigation would have been similar, representation in art would also have been used, but it would not have been possible to make a working model.

Many educators would uphold the Reggio approach as an example of why technology isn’t necessary in early education. Yet, when it is used as one of the hundred languages, it enriches the learning experience without reducing creativity, curiosity or discussion.

It makes me feel sad that schools are often encouraged and expected to use technology more in the classroom, but I rarely see it used in a creative or enriching way.  I mostly see teachers using screens to impart knowledge or show examples.  I have never seen teachers use music software to investigate the science of sound, use photoshop to create art projects or see it in any way as a tool for the children. It has certainly made me contemplate how we might ‘play’ with technology at home too.

The Wonders of Learning is in Boston until November 2018. Then it will move to Maddison WI.

 

Picture Books About Numeracy

Picture Books

Books are a fun way to learn about number, practice counting and understand number in practical contexts.The following are some of my favourites for introducing and reinforcing number skills.

Counting up: 1-10

One Mole Digging a Hole by Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson’s wonderful rhyming text and Nick Sharrat’s comical illustrations are a perfect combination.  Brightly colored numerals appear in the middle of the brief rhyming sentences, along with the corresponding number of animals to count. The engaging illustrations make this my favourite counting book.

Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allan

At each different house that he visits Father Christmas drinks and eats all the goodies left out for him. At number one there is hot chocolate and at number three, three cups of tea. By the time he reaches ten, he is desperate for a wee!  This comical rhyming book will appeal to all kids who love toilet humour.

Counting Down: Simple Subtraction

Sesame Street- 5 Little Rubber Duckies

This is a sweet interactive board book featuring familiar Sesame Street characters. Ernie starts with 5 rubber duckies but along the way the rubber duckies stop off to play with other Sesame Street friends.  Each page features a feel and trace number and 5 ducks you can move and count as each one disappears. Perfect for introducing numbers 1-5 to young children.

10,9,8…Owls up Late

This rhyming bedtime countdown features 10 mischievous baby owls and their antics to avoid bedtime.  As a sturdy board book with peek through pages, it is perfect for little fingers.  The individual character of every owl is illustrated perfectly and children will enjoy looking out for other characters in the tree, like the book reading caterpillar, busy bees and the mouse storing berries. The back of the book has a clear counting chart to practice number recognition and counting.

Ordinal Numbers

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle

This sweet Eric Carle story features 10 ducks that fall from a boat and what happens to each of them along the way.  The hardback copy also features a squeaker to help children count along and interact with the text.

Numbers Greater than 10

One Thing by Lauren Child

This is my favourite book about numbers. It features the adorable Charlie and Lola and is perfect for any child who is interested in numbers.  It shows number in everyday contexts, explores counting , time, addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. It even investigates children’s fascinations with numbers beyond one thousand. A wonderful book, with numbers interwoven amongst the illustrations in Lauren Child’s own unique way.

The Real Princess – A Mathematical Tale

The familiar story of the Princess and the Pea is retold to emphasise numbers within the story and to encourage children to understand number problems.  The questions in the back of the book are designed to look back at the text and illustrations, counting and working out simple mathematical sums.

 

Disclaimer: all links are Amazon affiliate links.

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