Frugal Arts & Crafts
WATCH OUT FOR KITS. When you go to the toy store you'll most likely see a lot of arts & crafts kits that cost a lot of money and really don't have anything in them that you couldn't assemble yourself for a much lower price. Go to a large craft store (Michael's, JoAnn Fabrics, A.C. Moore, etc.) or even the craft department of Walmart and you'll find you can purchase the "ingredients" for your own craft kits...beads, glue, felt squares, etc.). This way you can get the colors you want and a lot more stuff for the same amount of money. There are also a lot of fun things your kids can make for practically nothing with stuff you already have laying around the house...some that you would usually throw out! Following are instructions for some of them.
TRINKET BOX: Cut down a round oatmeal or cornmeal box to 2 or 3 inch depth. Paint the box any color you like. Assemble an assortment of beans or pasta shapes (beans works best). Cover the lid of the box with a layer of white glue and totally cover it with beans to make a pattern. Let dry completely. You can spray it with acrylic sealer or paint over the whole thing with polyurethane if you want it to be shiny. Give to Grandma for Christmas.
RAIN STICK: Take the cardboard center of a roll of paper towels. Insert tooth picks along the seam in a spiral pattern. Snip off any pointy ends of toothpicks that are sticking out. Wrap in contact paper and cap off one end with same (or use plain paper and glue and decorate with Native American Patterns). Drop a handful of rice into tube. Cap the other end. When you turn these up and down they make a sound like falling rain...I believe they were used in rain dances. A word of warning...Ron played around with a real one at a flea market and almost immediately thereafter there was a HUGE thunderstorm...HANDLE WITH CARE!
CATERPILLAR: Cut the lid off an egg carton. Cut the bottom into two parts (the long way). Turn upside down and paint with tempera (poster paints)...green is a good caterpillar color but anything is okay. For eyes you can paint black circles or glue on little black felt circles or "googly eyes". Insert a pipe cleaner through the top of the "head" above the eyes for antennae. One egg carton makes two caterpillars.
PIGGY BANK: Clean out a gallon size empty bleach bottle, remove the label and let the whole thing dry thoroughly. Turn the bottle on it's side with the handle on the top. Cut a slot. Attach 4 thread spools to the bottom for feet (be sure to use a glue that works on plastic...plain white glue won't do the trick). Decorate with permanent markers (Marks-a-Lot or Sharpies are good) or with shapes cut from self adhesive vinyl. When your bank is full of money you can get it out by unscrewing the "nose" and shaking!
WRAPPING PAPER: Use rolls of brown craft paper or grocery bags. Cut sponges into appropriate shapes (trees or bells for Xmas, cupcake or candle for birthdays, etc.). Put tempera paint in a shallow container. Dip sponge and stamp design on paper. Cookie Cutters make good patterns for the shapes if you're not artistically inclined.
CASTLE: Use a small, square box for the center. Cut an arch shape in one side for a drawbridge. Cover box with gray construction paper and draw lines for stones or brick pattern. Cover "drawbridge" with brown paper or color it brown with crayons or markers. Take four paper towel or toilet paper tubes and cut two vertical slits in the bottom of each so they can slide over the corners of the box to become towers.
PUPPETS: There are lots of ways to make puppets but this one is really simple for little kids. Take a paper lunch bag and turn it so the bottom is facing you (bottom of bag is puppet's face). Draw eyes and a nose (or cut from construction paper and paste on. For a reindeer puppet have your child trace his or her hands and cut out for antlers. Glue to bag. You can also glue on yarn for hair or a mane. To use the puppet just slide your hand inside, the bottom of the bag moves up and down like a mouth.
OCTOPUS: For this you need leftover yarn. Cut it in 24-30 inch lengths (you need quite a lot of them). Tie a piece of yarn tightly around the middle of the strands to hold them together. Take a styrofoam ball or just make a tight ball of paper or foil and drape the yarn over it spreading it to cover the whole ball. Tie underneath the ball with another short piece. This is the octopus' head, Separate the yarn into 8 sections and braid each one tying the ends with contrasting yarn or ribbon (this is his legs). Glue on googly eyes or cut small felt circles for eyes. You can also tie a ribbon around his neck if you want to get fancy.
NECKLACE: Take tubular shaped pasta (big ones like Ziti or Rigatoni work best). To color it mix a few drops of food coloring into a bowl of water. Add pasta and stir around. Drain and spread pasta out to dry. When it's completely dry you can string it on pieces of yarn or string.