Where do you get your ideas?
I get asked this a lot, and I still don’t have a good answer! Perhaps the first inkling of my craftiness emerged when, instead of wanting to play dress up with my sister’s Barbies, I wanted to design retail stores for them, complete with themed merchandise displays.
I’ve always loved doing art and my work with children has always involved some sort of project, activity, or game. After some time, you start to get an instinct for what works with certain materials and certain audiences.
Family Fun magazine has also been a fantastic resource for me. For six years, I would routinely comb through each issue, clipping out interesting projects and adhering them to a scrapbook page. I currently have four volumes (three for crafts, one for adorable food projects). I still refer to them from time to time when I’m having “crafter’s block.”
But mostly, I have a brain trained for creativity, deft fingers for scotch taping, and a mission to create something glorious, magical, and literacy-linked for kids.
Did you draw the artwork on the header of the blog?
I wish! The “art machine” was created by the incredibly talented Mike LaRiccia – illustrator, comic book artist, and graphic designer.
Why don’t you provide links to the products you use?
This is a non-commercial site hosted by Princeton University, so I can’t create links to outside pages like commercial or personal sites do. If I’m specifically highlighting a product, I try to mention the company I bought it from. But feel free to me anytime with a question about something. I also listed some of my favorite go-to companies below.
Where do I buy X, Y, or Z?
I buy most of my arts & crafts supplies online from Discount School Supply. Occasionally, I’ll use Classroom Direct or Blick Studio. And there’s always good old Oriental Trading Company – especially for plastic hats.
I order the boxes I use bulk from Nashville Wraps. Sometimes, if I’m looking for something very, very specific (like a 7″ x 7″ inch brown box with with a clear window) I’ll do a Google search to find it at the best price.
Locally, I go to Michael’s Crafts for last-minute items or something I can’t find online. I also keep my eyes open whenever I’m out shopping. You never know when there’s going to be a clearance on 25 pairs of bedroom slippers!
This is art! Where’s the paint?
It’s true, you don’t see much paint in my projects. My program space is carpeted, has no sink, and is part of a Rare Books and Special Collections Library. So I work within those parameters. For the times I do have paint in a project, I use the foam paint from Discount School Supply (comes out of the can like hair mousse, but it’s paint!). No spills, no splatters, no drips!
Another thing you’ll notice is missing from my projects…glitter. I don’t do it folks. It gets EVERYWHERE. In clothes, in hairs, in EYES. Sigh.
Where am I going to get 30 oatmeal containers to do this project with my class?
Here at Princeton University, I have a recycling program that involves the entire library system. I send out periodic calls for things like oatmeal containers, tissue boxes, paper towel tubes, etc. And people bring these things from home and drop them off at our office. People also drop off useful odds and ends as well, like old jewelry, wrapping paper remnants, plastic lids, and ribbon. Sometimes, I’ll request something very specific like change from foreign countries to serve as “pirate treasure,” or old neckties to transform into stuffed snakes.
People also know to contact me if they discover 50 clear VHS tape containers lurking in a forgotten supply closet, unpack an extra-large box, are recycling some old archive boxes, or have an avalanche of brown packing paper to get rid of. I can take almost anything and turn it into a project.
You could do this sort of program too! Send word to the staff at your library, school, or workplace and you’ll be surprised at how many useful things roll in!
Some of these projects seem a little elaborate. Can kids really do them?
The short answer is yes. The projects posted on this site have all been “field tested” at our library! The projects in the “Story Time Projects” category have been completed by 3 to 5 year-olds. It’s important to add, however, that most of those 3 to 5 year-olds have a grown-up with them. If the grown-up is busy with little brother or sister in the baby area, the kids get help from my student assistant. Sometimes the projects DO hit a snag and I have to simplify a step, make a quick change, add something new, or completely drop something. I always try to mention that in the blog post.
Simpler projects can be found. Like this awesome pom-pom cannon I designed for a large scale event for children ages 4-14, this fancy decorative tail, or this fabulous ice cream truck, complete with template.
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