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.
FamilyFun 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. However, unless otherwise noted, I draw all the project templates. So things like the camping equipment, ice cream truck, produce stand, and Kate Wetherall’s red bucket equipment templates are all me.
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 commercial pages like other sites do. If I’m specifically highlighting a product, I try to mention the company I bought it from. But feel free to e-mail me anytime with a question about something. I also listed some of my favorite go-to companies in my response to the question 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 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.
I want to do a project, but where am I going to get 30 oatmeal containers for my classroom?
An excellent question! I actually dedicated a whole post to answering it. You can check it out here.
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.
Do you ever do super simple projects?
Definitely. In fact, I’ve dedicated an entire category to them. Check out our scented French pastry ornaments, pom-pom cannon, foam swords, flying books, snapdragons, little lanterns, wrist parakeets, and letter art!
Why don’t you include an image of the book cover in your story time posts?
Princeton University is very watchful of how other peoples’ work is used on its web pages, as well the sources images are taken from. So I can’t, for example, blithely snag an image of the book cover off Amazon or Google images. To use an image of a book cover on this blog, I would need to snap or scan it myself. Unfortunately, not all the books I use are photogenic (and/or way beyond my Photoshop skills)! Some books have mylar covers that are highly reflective and you really can’t see the details of the image very well. Other covers are very faded. Some covers are (quite literally) chewed up. Rather than post a less-than-perfect image of a book, I’ve opted instead to list the title, author, illustrator, publisher, and publication year.
I’m curious about the read-aloud portion of your story times. Do you have any suggestions, advice, or tips?
Definitely! I wrote a whole post answering this question. You can read it here.
Why do the templates sometimes have more than one thing on them? I thought the instructions were for just one project?
I’m always trying to conserve paper, so when I make a template for a story time project, I squeeze as much as I can on a single sheet (remember, I’m prepping the project for 22-24 kids). When it comes time to scan the templates for this blog, it’s easier to post them just as they are, rather than trying to modify them for a single project.
Do you have any recommendations for doing art at home with kids?
Sure! Click here to read a post on how I put together a little art studio, in a little house, on a little budget.
Do you have a Pinterest page? I’d like to see all the projects in one place!
Yes! Pop Goes the Page has a Pinterest page for easy project browsing, ideas, and inspirations. Just click here to visit!
Do you have a favorite project on your blog?
Oooo. That’s a toughie. The project that gives me a feeling of warm, fuzzy nostalgia is this one. It takes me back to the days when I was a kid, making coffee can homes for my little figurines (I can still smell the coffeeeee). My most triumphant project was this candy factory because it took me ages to figure out how to make a working conveyor belt out of cardboard and toilet paper tubes. I really like this spooky tree project (the book was one of my absolute favorites when I was a kid and I tried to bring that sense of thrilling adventure to the story time). Yet, I’m pretty proud of my pom-pom cannon. I love this little produce stand, this little magnet barnyard, this fast food restaurant, this Egyptian pyramid set, and this growing garden. ARGH! Ah well. Clearly, the answer is no. I don’t have a favorite. I have a ton of favorites.
My kids don’t want to throw any of these projects away, but we’re totally out of room in our house! Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with this?
Yes, I do! Check out this post. You can cull the collection while still preserving all of your child’s creative work!
What’s the most popular post on your blog?
Help! I’ve been asked to plan a Harry Potter program with lots of activities! Where do I start?
I’ve done plenty of Harry Potter activities, oh yes. Start with super inexpensive PVC pipe wands. A toilet paper tube wrist owl is a must. Magic quill pens will also serve you well at Hogwarts. As far as magical creatures, perhaps you’d like to meet a boggart, a phoenix, or explore a monster food chain? And even though these herbal amulets were originally created for a Medieval event, I’m sure Professor Sprout won’t mind (she might appreciate these snapdragons and this growing garden too). We had some Slytherin students share some spells at a School for Scoundrels program (Aragog made a guest appearance at the program as well).
These elaborate Harry Potter miniatures will make your jaw drop and, if you’re looking to get a little more intense, we had quite a lot of fun with a Chemistry of Magic program. My final piece of advice is to scour thrift stores to find old graduation robes to use as costumes. The robes come in a variety of colors, are comfy, and have the perfect wizardly drape to them. Honestly, I would wear them all the time if I could.
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