Christmas Craft Book

Christmas Craft Book
Laura Minter & Tia Williams
GMC Books

If you’re looking for inspiration for some festive projects to do with children then this could well be a boon. It’s a veritable treasure trove of thirty ideas that look impressive and are easy to make, mostly from household items, that will keep youngsters entertained in the next couple of weeks as the excitement rises.

Laura and Tia, award-winning bloggers and creators of several other craft books begin by giving an introductory page to get users in the crafting mood, followed by some words on materials, tools, tips and safety: then come the seasonal activities themselves. There’s plenty of cutting and sticking as well as printing, painting, and some sewing.

One activity I particularly like that requires the latter two is the Festive Story Stones with their own bag.

(You could easily adapt this one for other festivals such as Easter or Diwali, which gives it an extra bonus.)

Another one I was drawn to straightaway was the Elf and Fairy Peg Dolls. These would look great adorning your Christmas tree if you take up the suggestion to add a small length of ribbon to each one, but there are other ways you might use these: what about adapting them as winter puppets which could then be used in some fairyland dramas.

Young children are usually very eager to try and catch sight of Santa so what better use could they put a pair of Santa-spotter Binoculars than to have them ready for Christmas Eve. They could also leave ready for him some of the Tasty Treats (there are instructions for making Christmas cake truffles, Pinwheel Cookies and Crunchy Snowmen on the last few pages).

Every activity is clearly set out with step-by-step instructions and colour photos, and the book ends with some templates. Ready, steady … let’s get crafting.

Science School / Out and About Minibeast Explorer

Science School
Laura Minter & Tia Williams
Button Books

Covering such topics as magnetism, gravity, change of state, oxidation, the growth of fungus and much more – all relating to basic scientific principles, the latest collaboration from Laura Minter and Tia Williams offers thirty STEM experiments, some crafty, for youngsters to try at home.

None of the activities require sophisticated equipment; rather they can be done at home with everyday materials you’re already likely to have knocking around somewhere. A list of what’s needed is given at the start of each project and there are photographs showing what to do, beneath each of which are step-by-step instructions, and, the science behind the experiment is concisely explained in the final ‘Science Made Simple’ paragraph(s) that often takes the science a bit further too.

My experimenters especially enjoyed making the “Magnetic Dancing Robots’ and other characters. 

Important at all times, but even more so as COVID is still with us, is the experiment showing the difference after around 10 days to three slices of bread: the first wiped all over with unwashed hands; the second wiped with sanitised hands and the third with hands that have been thoroughly washed with warm soapy water for 20+ seconds, completely dried and then wiped on slice number 3 (make sure the bag into which each is placed is labelled before putting it in a dark place.)

Providing hours of fun learning, this book is particularly useful for homeschooling.

Out and About Minibeast Explorer
Robyn Swift, illustrated by Hannah Alice
Nosy Crow

Published in collaboration with the National Trust, this handy guide for youngsters features more than sixty minibeasts about which Robyn Swift presents a wealth of information related to identification, lifecycles, habitats, anatomy and more. Did you know that a decapitated cockroach is able to live for up to nine days; that the blood of slugs is green, or that seagull sized dragonflies lived before dinosaurs roamed the earth?

The importance of minibeasts is explained and also included are some pages of activities, a classification chart and a quiz.

Hannah Alice’s illustrations of the creatures are clear and easily recognisable making this a super little book to tuck into a backpack when you go out and about no matter if it be in town, countryside or the garden.

Eco Craft Book / The Extraordinary Book That Eats Itself

Eco Craft Book
Laura Minter and Tia Williams
GMC Publications

In their latest book, Laura and Tia offer some cool ideas for using bits and pieces that might otherwise end up being thrown away.

Instead of consigning that old T-shirt or other no longer worn garments to the rubbish or recycling bin, why not suggest your children try a project like the T-shirt friendship bracelets here.

Alternatively, if the T-shirt is white, it can be dyed using a natural plant dye and refashioned into a ‘no-sew tie-dye bag’. Those are just two of the fabric projects.

Getting even closer to nature, youngsters can make a collection of interesting shaped leaves, grasses or perhaps feathers and use them to make some printed cards (or perhaps wrapping paper)

and if you want to attract more wildlife into your garden, there are instructions for creating a bug hotel using for example, old tin cans.

Each mini project is succinctly explained with step-by-step guidance and clearly illustrated with colour photos. In addition there are spreads that talk about climate change, what youngsters can do to help protect the environment and why it is important to immerse children in nature.

This book would be a boon to parents who are coping with home schooling, but all of us who work with children have a duty to nurture their creativity and to encourage them to think about the impact on the environment of all they do.

The Extraordinary Book That Eats Itself
Susan Hayes & Penny Arlon, illustrated by Pintachan
Red Shed ((Egmont)

If you’re looking to engage a child or children in some environmental projects here’s a book to try. It’s packed with eco-projects – thirty in all – and each page (as well as the cover) is cleverly designed to be used in an activity – hence the title.

It’s amazing just how much difference simple everyday actions such as turning off the lights when you leave a room, and at night can make, not only for the safety of animals but to reduce electricity consumption. Ditto, saving water by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth or using your bath water to ‘feed’ your plants (of course that takes a bit of effort but every drip and drop counts). There’s a Make a Difference in your home’ page with additional suggestions .

One of my favourite projects is Throw a seed ball to rewild a built-up area, something I’ve never tried, although I have scattered plenty of packets of wild flower seeds. This is really clever though and all that’s needed in addition to wild flower seeds are water, flour and soil to make your mixture. Can’t wait to have a go at this.

(The reverse side suggests making seed paper for writing a message on – another clever idea.)

Whether or not home schooling continues, this is certainly worth getting hold of.

A Clutch of Activity and Craft Books

Scratch and Learn: Space
illustrated by Victoria Fernández
Scratch and Learn: Animals
illustrated by Natasha Durley
Wide Eyed Editions

These are new additions to the series, both of which have seven interactive spreads and an attached stylus for young readers to do the scratching.

Each spread explores a different theme and in the Space title, these start with the Big Bang and the scratching reveals 10 galaxies. Then come a look at the solar system, the Moon, ‘Spacecraft’, which has the Space Shuttle as a featured image, a peep at life on board the International Space Station, an account of the life cycle of a star, and finally, a constellation map.

Spencer investigating the map

There are 10 ‘scratch and discover’ shapes to investigate with the stylus on every spread as well as a lead-in, easy to understand, factual paragraph (or two), clearly labelled objects and an additional ‘fact’ most in speech bubble form, for example ‘The light from the closest star still takes 4 years to reach us.’

The Animals featured in the second book come from different habitats around the world and as in the previous title, Lucy Brownridge supplies the succinct text.

Ten animals have ‘hidden’ themselves in each of Natasha Durley’s alluringly illustrated locations: the Amazon rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Sundarbans Mangrove forest, (between India and Bangladesh), the grasslands of the African Savannah, a coniferous forest of northern Canada, the arid Gobi Desert and Antarctica.

Both titles are appealing early interactive books that can be brought out anywhere especially on a journey or a rainy day.

The Mermaid Craft Book
Laura Minter and Tia Williams
GMC Publications

Prolific craft book creators, Laura and Tia have added a new title to their series, this time with a mermaid theme.
It’s filled with ideas for making things to use, things to wear and tasty things to eat.

Having provided a list of what is needed, the authors give step-by-step instructions for such diverse projects as creating a seashore garden, making aquarium puppets and a theatre to use with them,

and you can even bake a mermaid cake or throw an ‘under-the-sea’ party serving only sea themed food and serve up that cake then. Young merpeople will love it.

Youngsters will also be enthusiastic about the book as a whole though they’ll require adult support with several of the activities.

Ancient Egypt Adventure Activity Book
illustrated by Jen Alliston
Button Books

Historical fun aplenty Ancient Egyptian style is found in this activity book.

Little ones can immerse themselves in the world of mummies, pyramids, pharaohs, hieroglyphics and ancient gods as they engage in mask making, maze manoeuvring, maths, message decoding, crafty creations, unscramble muddled up words and more. There are more than 100 activities in all as well as 4 pages of stickers to use to complete some of the scenes.

While engaging in these activities youngsters will likely learn some Ancient Egypt related language and facts too, as well as developing their fine motor and observational skills.

Jen Alliston has provided the illustrations and where relevant, answers are provided at the back of the book.

The Big Book of Outdoor Activities

The Big Book of 100 Outdoor Activities
Laura Minter and Tia Williams
GMC Publications

This bumper book is just right for trying out now the better weather has arrived – for a few days at least. It’s absolutely jam-packed with simple and quick activities and creative possibilities that will encourage children to get involved and at the same time find out more about the natural world.

The book is divided into seven sections, the first being Wildlife Spotting – love the pine-cone bird feeder and bug hotel herein. Ditto the ‘Flowerpot person from the In the Garden section.
I’m all for getting messy especially where young children are involved: I know they will thoroughly enjoy making bubble snakes and plunging their hands into the oobleck or cornflour goop and finding petals, leaves etc to add to the mixture – always a favourite with children in my early years classes. Both these are found in the Messy Makes section along with over a dozen other ideas.

The natural paintbrushes in the Art and Crafts pages look terrific fun …

and have great potential for getting creative. So too do the nature faces although I’d rather have the children draw faces for themselves on the card.
There are lots of exciting possibilities in the Rainy Day and Games sections so it’s definitely a good idea to do as the authors suggest in their introductory tips and take a carrier bag for collecting items. You might for instance gather up sticks and fir cones and save them to make a set of the funky stick people. Once done there are lots of ways these could be used – as fridge magnets or finger puppets perhaps: no doubt children will come up with ideas of their own.

All in all this is a great book for using with children – the ideas cost very little or nothing at all – just the thing to pack into a rucksack for a weekend away, or for teachers and others organising forest school sessions to dip in to.

The Leaky Story / The Pirate Craft Book

The Leaky Story
Devon Sillett and Anil Tortop
EK Books
On a shelf sits a row of books; books waiting to be read, not left untouched gathering dust and feeling unloved. One particular book though has a mind of its own. So powerful is its longing to attract attention that it starts to swell,

and drip. The drips become a trickle, then a series of plops until it spills down into wonderfully sploshy puddles on J.J’s living room floor. And thus begins an amazing adventure populated by J.J., his sceptical parents,

sea creatures and a dastardly pirate crew. The battle, both verbal and physical, between the Blossoms and the pirates is wonderfully funny; and, when a kraken appears, woefully waterlogged and a tad uproarious.
Finally though, the whole crazy episode appears to have run its course: the creatures shrink and the water begins to recede.

As J.J.’s world becomes increasingly saturated with salty brine, Anil Tortop’s scenes offer all manner of highly colourful perspectives on Sillett’s surreal story.
What a wonderful way to engender an enthusiasm for books in young listeners, as well as to further the development of their imagination.

On the topic of pirates is:

The Pirate Craft Book
Laura Minter and Tia Williams
GMC Books
Subtitled ’15 things a pirate can’t do without’, this contains piratical projects aplenty for would-be sea dogs. There are clothes – the full gear including eye-patch and hat complete with monogram, buccaneer boots based on a pair of old wellies, a waistcoat, (best worn with stripy T-shirt) and a belt and cutlass to make.
All self-respecting pirates have a parrot on their shoulder, so there are step-by-step instructions to make a felt one, either stitching it together by hand or by machine. A chest in which to stash all the treasure is another requirement and the one herein is made using an old shoe-box; and to find the treasure, a map is most likely needed; so here we have instructions to make one from felt.
Once you’ve got all these things, a pirate party might be fun so there’s a page of ideas for that, and another giving a recipe for a yummy chocolate treasure chest cake. Basic templates for many of the items are provided on the final three pages. None of the projects is particularly difficult, though many would require supervision. Avast me’arties: what are you waiting for?

I’ve signed the charter