It's nearly Halloween!

Halloween Cut-out Dolls
It's nearly Halloween and where I am it's getting a little cooler now autumn has arrived.
Autumn is the time of good long walks through crunchy leaves, and bonfires and arts and crafts indoors when the weather is dreary outside.  

Ask an adult to print them out for you, best on thick paper or thin card





The long hot days of summer are well on the way and that means strawberries and lemonade, trips to the seaside and picnics.  We have some lovely paper dolls for you to print out and cut out with the children and recipes for Caterpillar Cupcakes and strawberry ice-cream along with free print-outs and plenty of inspirational fun for celebrating fair days and rainy days! 

Cut out dolls

 Cherry Blossom Time 
April is Cherry blossom time and in Japan cherry blossom time marks the arrival of spring and much celebration.  People visit the parks and gardens where the cherry trees are in bloom and many families enjoy spending time together picnicing under the cherry blossom trees. The illustration we have chosen is a decorated woodcut by Helen Hyde an American artist who lived and studied in Japan. Blossom Time in Tokyo, 1914.

Cut out dolls
Cut out dolls in keeping with our Cherry Blossom theme. The little girl and boy have two outfits each: regular spring clothes and tradition dress to wear during their Cherry Blossom picnic.
   To print out the cut out dolls simply click on the image and print onto thin card or heavy paper. 


Crafty Spring Inspiration

Elsa Beskow was a Swedish writer and illustrator, she was born in the 19 century and her illustrations are wonderfully inspirational - the Scandanavian Beatrix Potter.  This illustration is from the book Emily and Daisy!

Easter Decorations

 Easter Decorations

Seasonal decorations from the kitchen! Cook up a saucepan of homemade white clay from cornflour and bicarbonate of soda. We used Easter cookie cutters and they turned out beautifully. 
 To make the clay you will need:

1 cup cornflour
2 cups baking soda
 1 1/2 cups tap water

Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Stir constantly over a low to medium heat. Keep stirring until the mixture resembles mashed potato. Take off the heat and tip it onto a plate. Cover with a damp tea towel. When cool enough to touch it is ready to use. You could colour this clay with food colouring.


An adult needs to make this clay as cooking on a hot stove is required. Do not touch the clay with your hands until it is quite cool!

 When the clay has cooled to room temperature it is ready to use.  Shapes can be moulded or you can roll out the clay and use cookie cutters to create suitable Easter or spring shapes.  

 We used the end of a drinking straw to make holes in the cut out shapes.  Carefully place the cut out shapes on a baking tray and set aside in a quiet warm spot overnight or until they have completely hardened.

 When your decorations have completely dried they are ready to decorate. We used poster paints (acrylic paints) to decorate ours but you could use water colour paints.  Thread ribbon or string through the holes and hang the decorations on some pussy willow set in a sturdy vase. 

making pasta threading beads

Colouring Pasta to Thread

Threading is generally considered a pre-school activity and large wooden or plastic beads are available, however suitably shaped pasta can used and can also be painted or dyed to excellent effect.  Prettily decorated rigatoni (little tube shapes) or rotelle (the cartwheel like shapes) are great for threading and easy to paint or dye.  

Older children may enjoy painting pasta whilst younger children will enjoy threading!   

We painted the pasta with poster paint, and a couple of odd knitting needles to hold the pasta while drying. 

We threaded the pasta onto a few odd knitting needles (dowel or pea sticks would also do the job) and painted the pasta with poster paint.
Once the base colour had dried we decorated the beads with spots!
Do remember knitting needles are very pointy, and not suitable when crafting with children. 
Dying the pasta is also effective and a lot quicker, although the result is a little less decorative. You will need a ziplock storage bag for each colour, add a couple of teaspoons of vinegar and sufficient food colouring to colour the vinegar fairly brilliantly.  Add the pasta and seal the ziplock bag. Move the colour through and around the pasta keeping the bag firmly sealed at all times.  Once you are happy with the colour of the pasta, tip onto a baking tray and place in a cool oven (100C) for about 30 minutes to dry. Alternatively dry in a warmish spot out of harms way (if air-drying you could protect the baking tray with clingfilm or kitchen paper towel).
Bags of prettily decorated pasta beads would make  party favours for a pre-schooler and are a good standby activity generally.  A bag of prettily decorated pasta beads and a couple of leather beading thongs (available from your local beadshop) or some medium length shoelaces could be a fun addition to the dressing-up box!

Inspired by Jam Tarts

Blanche Fisher Wright
Something as simple as making jam tarts offers much in the way of inspiration and learning. 'The Queen of Hearts' rhyme is, as we all know, taken from Lewis Caroll's classic novel Alice in Wonderland

Apart from being a novel every child should have read to them, the stories have inspired so much stunningly good illustration.The stories of our childhood stay with us all our lives and the value of reading to children should never be under-estimated. 

The illustrations we have included are: on the right the the Queen of Hearts carrying the tarts.. and below the perfect image of a little girl rolling out pastry - Elsa Beskow, a Swedish designer, writer and illustrator started contributing illustrations to magazines in 1894 - her books are still in print!

Elsa Beskow

Jam Tarts for Valentine's

What better teatime treat than Jam Tarts, simple to make, the kids will love them and if you use a  tiny cookie cutter to press little hearts out of the pastry lids you will be spot on for Valentines Day. We made our own sweet pastry which is fairly easy to make (see recipe below) however for efficiency and speed use a 500g block of sweet pastry. (available from all good supermarkets). You could also use regular short pastry - after all the jam will sweeten things up. 

You will need
 500g block of sweet pastry 
jar of red jam (we used strawberry)
butter to spread on the baking tin
a little flour to sprinkle for rolling the pastry.

  1. Melt a little butter and use a pastry brush to butter the baking tray - definately a job for the children.
  2. Sprinkle flour over a clean work surface and roll out the pastry to a thickness of a one pound coin (20mm). 
  3. Use a suitable cookie cutter (or a clean glass) to cut shapes from the pastry.  You will need larger bases and smaller lids. We used a tiny heart shaped cutter to press out the hearts. Stars would also be fun. Place a base in each patty pan.
  4. Spoon a small teaspoonful of red jam into each pastry base. Cover each jam-filled base with a lid.
Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes at 170C (150C fan-assisted).  Keep an eye on the tarts, if they appear to be browning a little too quickly, lay a piece of aluminium foil over the baking tray. 

The tarts are ready when they are lightly browned. Remove from the oven with care as the jam will be incredibly hot. Never allow children to remove hot items from the oven. Allow to cool and enjoy for tea! 

A Useful Box

   Creating a Useful Box

 Before starting any craft activity you will need to protect your work surface. A large vinyl table covering.Choose a neutral coloured vinyl fabric, something not too busy a pattern that will not look out of place where ever you use it.

Wipe down childrens aprons or tabbards are also a good idea along with a good easywipe vinyl apron for any adults involved - it's amazing how messy paint and glue can be!  Once the fun is over wipe the surface down, hang out to dry, or wipe dry with paper towel.