Organisation Ideas for an Art/Craft Cupboard

Jul 30, 2012

The more arts and crafts you like to do with your kids, the more supplies you will end up with. If you're anything like me you may start with a little box, which then overflows into a larger one, or a couple of boxes and then before you know it, it's craft supply city and you can't remember half of the supplies you have because they are too hard to access.

Time to get organised. Time for a craft cupboard makeover!

This is how I started. I *thought* I was pretty organised... I'd managed to claim the inside of one section of a wardrobe in our guest room/study but things were just piling up and becoming impossible to access.

Simple solution? You bet!
A quick trip to the local hardware shop. 
Some cheap shelves. 
A handy hubby with a spirit level and a drill.
And hey presto: We're organised!

Installing shelves inside an unused wardrobe hanging space means that you can store so much more and also be able to access everything easily.

At the very top, I put in a half shelf as I knew that I would never be able to reach anything at the back of a full shelf without getting something to stand on. And, if I can't reach it easily, I know I'll forget it's there and not use it.

I don't like wasting things so I took apart the little 3 drawer sets that I'd previously purchased from K-Mart and popped the drawers back into my new shelves as shown here. This worked well as it left some spare room for extra bits and bobs.

Labelling individual tubs and categorising your supplies will make things much easier to store and find

The tubs shown in the picture above are labelled: 
"Paper and Cardboard" (all our coloured paper, special papers and so on that will fit!) 
"Stickers," (I think my previous students would hyperventilate if they saw how many stickers I have in here!
"Drawing and Desktop" (this is office type supplies, new textas, staples, erasers, stickytape etc), 
"Fun Crafts" (glitter, patty pans, foam sticks... you get the idea), 
"Recycled Bits" (I have another couple of large recycled goods tubs at the bottom so this one is just for small bits and pieces that you'd otherwise throw out.. great for activities, crafts, games etc) and "Stamps and Stencils" (little ink pads, fun stamps, paper punchers etc)

At the top I have individually labelled tubs and other materials that we use very frequently. 
As you can see, the top shelf that has the paints is a half shelf  as explained earlier.

The tubs shown in the picture above are labelled: 
"Gluing"(It's amazing how many different type of products there are to stick things!
"Painting"(extra painting supplies that are less frequently used
"Fun Stuff" (yep, more fun things like craft sticks, balloons, sparkly pipe-cleaners, pompoms etc.) and 
"Stamping" (this one has bigger stamps for use with paint).

Everything is easy to see and therefore easy to use and keep clean.

You don't need fancy labels. If your tubs have other labels that won't come off, just stick a coloured piece of paper over it and stick a label over the top. These are just some handwritten texta labels but you could make some great ones on the computer if you have time.
Here you can see the easy access to our paint brushes and the use of a baby food jar.

Using recycled materials in your organisation saves you from buying tons of storage supplies.
The bottle caps are displayed in a vase and these marbles are in an old coffee jar.

Another coffee jar put to good use. You can also see a little bit of an old mini globe I had that had come off it's axle. a bit of fishing line and it's now a nice hanging feature inside my cupboard.

More recycled glass jars put to good use. I have a large plastic tub at the bottom of the craft cupboard where I put any glass jar with lid (and other recycled goods) to keep for future use.
Before I had the room in the cupboard, it used to sit at the bottom of the pantry so that my family could easily recycled them for me.

Handy Tips: 

- Before rushing out to buy new storage tubs it is wise to figure out the supplies you have first and how you're going to categorise them so that you know how many, and what sized tubs/baskets etc that you need

- Have a look around your own house for things you could use to store supplies. You'd be surprised by how many appropriate things you could already own and that will save you buying some things.

- Save glass jars with lids of different sizes to help store and display items. They look good, make things easy to find and don't cost you anything extra. Plus... you're helping our planet :)

- Plastic containers and lids are also great to keep but I find are more disposable. Use them for paint pots, mess catchers, crafts and more.

- If you are worried about "wrecking" the inside of a cupboard by installing shelves, don't be. It's just as easy to take them all down again if you one day need to use the wardrobe for hanging clothes again!

- Your art/craft supplies will change and grow over time so making a space that is flexible (I can change the position of the shelves if I like) and offers different sized spaces (having a half shelf at the top also lets you stand taller things up on the shelf below it) will be the most user friendly for you.

- Remember, the easier things are to see, access, find etc, the more inspired you will feel to use them and the more likely that you *will* actually use them. My daughter gasped in wonder and amazement when I first showed her the cupboard makeover and right away saw things and got ideas for ways she could get creative. You will be more likely to get out different supplies for your child to use if you are well organised so this is of great benefit to them... (that's what you can tell the person you get to screw in the shelves for you if you enlist some manual labour to assist your creative process) ;) 

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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5 Top Tips to Prepare your child for Overseas Travel

Jul 26, 2012

travel with kids

In a few weeks, we are jetting off on a family holiday to Bali. We've never been before and are very excited about it. This isn't our first overseas trip as a family but it's the first trip where we have a child old enough (3.5) to be really, truly excited about it all!  

I love the idea of my children being citizens of the world and gaining a greater understanding of their place as well as acknowledging their good fortune at being born into such a lucky country.

The final week of the MeMeTales Readathon is here and conveniently for us, the topic for this week's free ebooks is Global Culture. After reading (and loving!) this week's books (see end of post for details) with my daughter, I knew it was time to start really getting her prepared for our upcoming journey.

Here are my Top 5 Tips to help Prepare your Child for Overseas Travel

1) Where in the world?

The first place to start when preparing a child for overseas travel is helping them to learn and understand where they will be going. It's a hard concept for little kids but these ideas can help:

- Talk to your child about where you are going

- Get out a map, atlas, globe (or all three) and find where you are going

- Have your child find where they live in the world (or show them)

- Have a look at the distance between where you live and where you're going.

- Discuss how it doesn't look far at all (and measure if you like) but explain how long and how you're getting there.

Try sticking stickers on your current location and your destination

2) Culture/Customs

The most exciting thing about travelling to another country is discovering different cultures. Understanding that everywhere in the world, people have a different way of living, talking, believing, playing, eating and more based on where they live and how they were raised is important. It is also important for children to understand that despite those differences, we are all humans, we should all have the same rights and that deep down there are many similarities too.

- Use resources such as books and the internet to find information about the Culture/Customs of where you're going
- Talk about how this is different to where you live
- Talk about how this is the same to where you live
- Try to make it kid friendly by finding pictures of native children and information on how children live at your destination
- Find a game (try a Google search) that native children play and play it with your child
- Do a Google image search on your destinations Culture and pick out the best pics to show and discuss with your child.
Our google image search on "Bali Culture"

3) Food, glorious food!

She decided this Indonesian classic looked delicious!
For many kids, this is one of the most important topics! Use books borrowed from the library or the internet to find the local foods and dishes. Having a bit of a heads-up on what to expect could help with fussiness later

- Talk about how many or what types of food that they have that you also eat at home.

- Discuss foods that are new to your child

- Make a local dish together to get an idea of the types of flavours and ingredients commonly used

- See if you can spot any of the local foods at your next trip to the supermarket

4) Language

For some children, overseas travel will be the first time they've heard languages other than that spoken at home. If you're travelling to a destination where different languages are spoken, preparing your child and arming them with the basics can help them form a connections, understand some of the differences before they arrive and help them to get along while they are there. Plus, it's fun :)

- Depending on the age of the child, look up and learn a few basic phrases that they can manage. My 3 year old is focusing on learning to say "hello," "goodbye," "please" and "thank you." for our upcoming trip

- If you are going somewhere that's first language is the same as the language you speak at home, have a look at some of the different names they call things and how and if these differ to what we're used to.

- Check your local library for any children's books you could read together about your destination

- Role play being at your destination using the new phrases you've learn

- Practice your new words a lot in the lead up to your trip

5) Climate and Packing

Sunny Bali, here we come!

Quite often when we travel overseas, it's to places with a different climate to our own. It's fun to involve your child in the packing and prepare them for what's to come.

- Find out what the average temperature will be at your destination

- Talk about how this differs (or is the same) to where you live

- Discuss the type of clothes you'll need to pack

- Role play going to your destination and dress up in appropriate clothes

- Make a list together of everything to take. Older children can write or draw this themselves.

Even if you're not about to jet off on an overseas adventure, you can still teach your child about other Countries and Cultures.

How about you start by reading these great ebooks with your kids? They are free this week!!

(click the picture to take you to the book)

Happy travelling,
Debs :)

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Science for Kids: Water bottle fountain

Jul 25, 2012

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science activity, fun science

A little while back while watching our favourite kid's show together, Play School (Australia), we saw them do a very cool experiment that we just had to have a go of ourselves.

This experiment allows children to see that air takes up room and is always present even though we can't see it.

Ages: 2 -12+ 
(see the bottom on how to simplify or extend to meet the needs of your child)

  • Empty water bottle 
  • balloon
  • straw 
  • blu-tac (or similar)
  • tray for catching the water (optional. You could always do it outside, in a bath, or near a sink)

Begin by blowing up a balloon and asking your child "What is in the balloon?"

Let the balloon go and talk about what happens.

Next: Take the empty water bottle and ask your child "What is in the bottle?"

Blow up the balloon again and place the mouth of the balloon over the empty bottle without letting too much air escape.

Ask your child, "Why isn't the balloon going down?"

Investigating to see if she can see why the balloon is not going down.

Explain that the balloon is not going down because the bottle is full of air so the air inside the balloon has no where to escape.

Now, to make the water bottle fountain

Carefully, with a pen, poke a hole in the empty bottle just big enough for a straw to poke through and seal with blue tac. (This is the hardest part of the activity and is best done by an adult. If the bottle is wet, the blu-tac will be hard to stick)

Ask your child, "What do you think will happen if we pour water in?"

Pour water into the bottle over the level of the hole.
(NOTE: Make sure that your straw is pointing up, (unlike what's pictured here) and that you fill the water so that it's level with the very top of the straw.. this is because water will level itself out so anything above the top of the straw will probably come out)

Plug any leaks that you have by squishing down the blu-tac. 
At this point with the water at the same level as the top of the straw, it will not come out.
This, you can see was quite surprising for her :)

Blow up the balloon, hold it closed and put the mouth over the top of the bottle.
Let go, and wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! a fabulous fountain!

She loved that you could see the balloon go down as the water streamed out the straw

She understood that "the air in the balloon pushed down on the water and forced it up the straw."

But she especially loved it when the balloon ran out of air and the water fountain did some funny last spits before stopping!

Handy Tips:

- Simplify this activity by not questioning your child as much and just letting them experience the joy of the water spouting out the straw as the balloon. Do the very start of the activity with the air and let it rush out on their fingers or toes and then ask them what's in the balloon or tell them that what was in the balloon was air. When you show them the water fountain experiment, tell them that the air in the balloon is pushing down on the water like it did on their toes, so the water goes up the straw.

- Extend this activity by having your child make the prediction about what they think is going to happen etc. You could even extend as far as having them write a report on it or write it up properly with a hypothesis etc.

- Allow your child to manipulate or be in control of as many of the steps as they are capable of. 

- Talk with your child about what they are doing. This will help them understand the physical and mental processes they are going through as well as giving them the vocabulary to describe it.

- Use new language and descriptive words like, "invisible" and "pressure." This will help with their language development.

- Listen to your child talk as they go through their experiences. This will help you determine where they are at with their learning, knowledge and understanding and help you to develop the activity (or future activities) to their level and interests.

Want more Science Activities for Kids?
Here are some of our most popular science activities

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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Make a Cereal Bracelet

Jul 23, 2012

activity for kids

Age: 2-6+

Materials: Breakfast cereal with a hole in the middle*, string, stickytape
*we used "Cheerios" and "Heart Harmony" cereals .

To make it easier for little hands to thread, stick a bit of sticky tape around the end of the string to make it harder and pointier

Fabulous practice for developing fine motor skills and hand eye coordination

We were actually going to make a necklace but she didn't have the patience for that.

She was very excited about her edible bracelet!

Handy Tips:

- Simplify this activity by getting cereal with bigger holes. Fruit Loops would be easier for littler hands (and prettier too) but it's not a cereal we buy so we went with the healthier option :)

- Extend this activity by putting more of a focus on patterns. The greater the variety of cereal choices (or colours) gives your child more options for pattens. We started with loop-heart-loop, then she moved on to loop-loop-heart-loop-loop-heart... but then the pattern got a little lost as she decided the loops were much easier and faster to thread than the hearts :)

- Mix it up by having your child brainstorm other edible items they could thread and try making different lengths, patterns etc.

- Include some sorting practice with your child as well by starting with your cereal varieties all together in one bowl and provide some tongs for them to sort into different varieties/colours/sizes etc.

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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Recycling Sorting Activity + Free Printable Recycling Signs & ebooks

Jul 19, 2012

It is week 5 of the MeMeTales Readathon and this week the theme is Earth/Green. There are 2 free ebooks on the theme that you can read. "What Does It Mean To Be Green?" and "Let's Go Chipper!"
You can go HERE to read these books with your kids and to see more info on joining the Readathon. (It's Free!)
Did you know that in Week 1, 2, 3 and 4, over 5500 kids joined the Readathon?! That means they've donated over 5500 meals to hungry kids via and that kids read 59,838 books!
Pretty impressive! 
After reading these books we had a discussion on what it means to be "green" and the ways that we try to be "green" at our house.
Older kids could make a list.

Being that we do a lot of crafts and use a lot of recycled goods, we always have a full tub of clean/safe recyclable materials.
I thought that while learning about being green, we could also incorporate some Early Numeracy, sorting & categorising skills and so this easy, fun activity was born.
learn with play at home, kids activity, recycling activity, memetales

Ages- 2-6+ (Can be extended for older school age children as well)
Materials: Recycling Labels (click for free printable), Recyclable goods (paper, plastic and glass)
Optional: Tubs/Boxes etc for sorting into (you can see I used some large plastic dishes)

Our recycle box with our usable materials.

Attach your labels to wherever you'd like the recyclable goods to be sorted.
(Extra: you could get the children to make their own labels or colour in the ones I've provided)

Maddie (3.5) was so eager to start she could barely wait for me to get set up

Reading/sounding out the words on the labels meant she knew where each item was intended

Diving in!

She declared that "sorting is fun!"

Once done, we could see our most popular recyclable materials and the ones that we don't tend to use as much of. Ask your child why they think this is?

Added Math skills. "Weighing" and comparing a larger plastic tub and a small glass jar.
Which do you think was heavier?
(Talk about heavier, lighter etc)

Handy Tips:

- Simplify this activity by assisting your child to sort the different materials into the 3 groups. Talk about how they can tell the difference

- Extend this activity by having your child sort and categorise unassisted. Ask your child to explain to you the difference between the materials. Can they feel a difference in weight? Can they hear a difference when tapping the items? Etc. Have your child brainstorm uses for the recycled good.

- Mix it up by making a pretend recycling truck out of a cardboard box and “transporting” the recycled goods from the starting point to their separate groups. Add gross motor skills by having these at either ends of the room so they have to travel.

- Have more fun by providing some sticky tape for the children to get creative with the recyclable goods once you’ve finished sorting and categorising them.

- Brainstorm all the ways that they “Go Green” around the house and out and about

- Talk with your child about what they are doing. This will help them understand the physical and mental processes they are going through as well as giving them the vocabulary to describe it.

- Use new language and descriptive words like, "recycle" “conserve” etc. This will help with their language development.

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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