Best Bead Kits for Young Children

I love beading for school parties because its relatively inexpensive, easy to set up and takes up a great deal of time. Young kids love bracelets and necklaces. Boys and girls alike will enjoy this activity. The other weird upside to this is it is an excellent vision therapy technique.  Optometrists have known for decades about the benefits of vision therapy but very few are truly trained in the techniques. Here is one who is great.

Unfortunately I have been lured into buying fancier bead kits that looked cool but were next to impossible for tiny fingers to string. When you only have a few parent helpers at each party this can make for a very frustrating afternoon. Little fingers and little eyes need bigger beads. There are literally hundreds, maybe thousands of kits out there ranging from “break the bank” to super cheap. Its hard to know from many of the pictures just what your getting. Let my mistakes and successes save you some time and money. Here are the best kits I have found.

candy corn bracelt

http://www.orientaltrading.com/halloween-charm-bracelet-craft-kit-a2-48_9963.fltr?prodCatId=550182– I have personally used this twice and each time I was happy.  Some of the beads were broken and a few times the correct amounts were not in the bags.  Since I was dealing with younger kids though this was not a problem as they did not need all the beads anyway.  I normally give each child a small bowl and place all of the pieces in  the bowl.  This keeps things tidy and gives the children a way to keep the beads from rolling away.

turkey necklace

http://www.orientaltrading.com/beaded-turkey-necklace-craft-kit-a2-48_6209.fltr?prodCatId=550182– Awesome Thanksgiving craft.  This one is easy to do and involves several different techniques.  I would suggest opening each kit and burning the ends of the cord to make beading easier however.  When I did this for my son’s kindergarten class it took about 30 minutes to do 30 cords.

candy cane necklace

http://www.orientaltrading.com/beaded-candy-cane-necklace-craft-kit-a2-48_6259.fltr?prodCatId=550182-This great necklace has larger beads and is non religious for Winter parties so you won’t offend anyone.  The colors are not as vibrant as some beads but most young ones don’t care.

perler

http://www.michaels.com/Perler-Beads%C2%AE-Assorted-Activity-Beads-Jar/kd2184,default,pd.html?cgid=products-kidsteachers-craftkits– If your creative you can design your own jewelry and buy in bulk which can really cut costs.  Just remember to buy string or cord for the base of the jewelry and some kind of charm for the main decoration.

glitter cord

http://www.joann.com/glitter-bead-n-stretch-super-stretchy-cord-for-jewelry-making/zprd_10198950a/–  This stretchy cord comes in several colors and is very pretty.  You can cut costs by using a pretty cord like this and not needing as many beads.  It is especially nive for a Valentine’s or Spring party and use hearts, candies and flowers for the charms.

jingles

http://www.joann.com/search/_jingles/?page=4– All kids like things that make noise.  jingles make a great charm or even make the whole bracelet out of bells.  They are a little more difficult to string though so you will need to help the kiddos with that part.  These are more expensive than most beads so make sure you have a coupon and buy these off season.

 

Remember these important tips and you will have a great craft.

  1. How much time and money you have to spend on these crafts.  If you have a very large class and not a great deal of help pick the easiest cheapest options.
  2. Read all the reader reviews, they are excellent resources and often will save you some heartache.
  3. Make notes about what worked and did not and why.
  4. Save your web searches into your favorites for use the next time.
  5. Stay calm and don’t sweat the small stuff.  If the kit calls for alternating orange and purple beads but one kid wants all orange and one all purple who cares.  The kids are happy and it all works out in the end.
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3 Themes for a Successful 7th Birthday Party

This one is personal.  My little guy is turning 7 next week and I have been thinking/agonizing over this for weeks.  Admittedly my son is a bit of an odd ball but these ideas will work for just about any group and are very customizable.  A good theme needs to be able to encompass games, party favors, snacks and foods and even costumes.  A few of these ideas I incorporate a specific location or event as well.  There’s nothing better than not having to clean your house or worrying about multiple little kids running wild in your home.

Renaissance Festival/Medieval Times-  This works for both boys and girls.  Boys can be knights or kings and girls princesses or queens.  Most festivals will work with you to provide a meal location and discounted food.  The food is always fun and messy so bring a pack of baby wipes for clean up.  All of the entertainment is included right at the facility so your set to go.  If you choose to go to a festival or show a much smaller group is necessary for cost and corralling purposes.  Think cat herding!  I would invite 2-3 kids maximum.  This theme can be done at home however by serving roasted turkey legs, orange icys in hollowed out oranges, candied almonds and spiced apple juice.  If you serve drinks in large plastic goblets your guests will feel very royal.  Games could include bean bag tosses, Nerf crossbow target and face painting.  There are great glitter tattoos out there that can be done by anyone.

Apple Orchard or Pumpkin Patch Party-  Most apple orchard and pumpkin patches offer a variety of packages for parties.  Many choices include hay rides, apple or pumpkin picking, petting zoos and bee keeping.  They are traditionally inexpensive and the added benefit of supporting a local farmer is always nice.  You can encourage your guests to wear their Halloween Costumes and decorate with fall leaves and scare crows.  Games should include bobbing for apples and pumpkin seed spitting.  I know its gross but if its outside and controlled the kids will love it.  Crafts can be pumpkin decorating with markers and stickers and scarecrow making.  Here a few of my favorite crafts:

scarecrow1                   scarecrow2

Foods should include of course all things apples.  Apple pies, apple cakes, apple bread, apple cookies, apple crumble to name a few.  Pumpkin bread, candied or salted pumpkin seeds and apple cider round out a fun menu.  A lot of places will even allow a campfire for hot dog or smores.  You will of course need a lot a parent supervision for this!

Masterchef Party-  This one is a little strange I know.  Both my children like to cook and I don’t know a kid around that doesn’t like to decorate cookies or cakes.  Many Hy-Vee’s and Social Suppers have facilities dedicated for these purposes.  It won’t mess up your kitchen and you won’t have to prepare any food.  Its a win-win!  I would suggest making something all kids like spaghetti, tacos, grilled cheese, or pizza.  Pizza is very fun because the kids can pull the dough and choose their own toppings.  Its also very hard to mess up.  Guests should receive Chef hats, coats and aprons and party favors could include a small pack of cooking utensils.  Cookie or cake decorating can complete the evening.

utensils                                      utensils2

I hope you and your kids will have as much fun with these party ideas as I have had.  Wish me luck with my son’s party.

Cheap Popsicle Stick Crafts for School Parties

School Parties can often be quite expensive for the Room Moms.  If your child has a full classroom it can mean buying supplies for 20 or more people.  My children are spread seven years apart and as a result I have had a lot of practice with party crafts.  I know what works, what doesn’t and most importantly what won’t break the bank.  Here are a few of those ideas.

  • Popsicle stick flowers-  Popsicle sticks are like the vanilla cake of the craft world.  they are easy and cheap to come by and can be added with almost anything to create something new.  All you need for this is a bulk box of popsicle sticks that can be found at any craft store, glue(sticks or Elmer’s), construction paper, scissors and glitter.  Kids can pick the colors, petal shapes and glitter options.  I have seen children spend 20 minutes or more cutting and gluing this project.  If this is used for Kindergarten or 1st grade boys and girls alike will enjoy it.  It’s perfect for a Valentine party and can be combined with a book about Spring Showers.  A coupon for Hobby Lobby Online can be found here.   A Total cost of the project for 30 kids is $16.97.

flowers

  • Wood Christmas Trees-  This is another project that can easily be completed with popsicle sticks, glue, markers, string for hanging, and glitter.  If you buy your supplies in bulk you can purchase enough for several parties and several different projects making the cost even cheaper.  There are many different options for these trees allowing them to be made by a wide variety of grade levels depending on difficulty.  Typically each child will need 3-6 popsicle sticks. The children will first paint or color their sticks and then glue them into whatever design you choose.  I have included several pictures below for inspiration.   Coupons for Michaels and the weekly ad for your store can be found here.  This project typically takes 15 minutes.  Total cost of trees for 30 kids is $20.05.

trees 2                                trees 3                                wood christmas trees

  • Popsicle stick bracelets-  These are really cute, can be used for any party and best of all super cheap.  If you buy the popsicle sticks in the 1000 pack mentioned above you easily should have enough sticks for all three crafts!  I have tried several different techniques and have included information about each.  Depending on technique this project requires about 10-20 minutes.

bracelets 2                                                             bracelets

  • If you form the bracelets completely plan on starting the process the week before to ensure you get a full classrooms worth formed and ready.  Here is a great detailed site for directions on forming these.  I found the second option with the yarn is much easier to plan for and can use up that extra yarn from previous projects.  If you choose the second option cut the sticks to size and form them in the same way as the full size bracelets.  You will need to drill small holes in the ends to attach the string.  Many of these projects call for contact paper, paint and Mod Podge.  If I am doing this for a school party I skip all these more expensive and time consuming options and allow the kids to paint, glitter and sticker decorate their bracelets.  Odds are they will lose the bracelet at home in the first 48 hours anyway so no need to worry about preservation.  Sometimes contact paper can be found on sale and that is a very viable option, but only if its on sale.  A final great option that will avoid sanding is duct tape.  Duct tape is about the only thing  more universally used than popsicle sticks.  You can buy several rolls of different colors and patterns and let the kids mix and match.  Several duct tape rolls should do an entire classroom with a lot left over for the next project!  Coupons for Joann Fabrics can be found here.  Total Cost of bracelets is $21.97.

As you can see with some careful planning you can significantly cut the cost of school party crafts but still have a fun and unique product.  Even if you use these crafts over many years, all of these supplies can be stored for later use.  I can’t stress enough to buy in bulk and plan, plan, plan.  When you combine your planning and purchasing with store ads and coupons the cost goes down even further.  There is no need to break the bank for your kid’s party.  Enjoy those crafts!

1st Grade Books Perfect for Halloween Parties

If your school is like my kids sign ups for parent reading sessions are already in full swing.  Despite school only having just started teachers are already planning their schedules for parent reading schedules.  I have listed six of my most favorite, tried and true Halloween books for use.  I have used all of these books in my oldest classroom when he was younger and have even incorporated them into the Fall Party.  Think Musical Chairs with a book.

1. The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies– This is a compilation of short stories.  Some are scarier than others so read the stories first before selecting them for the classroom.

2. Hallo-wiener– Very popular because the title is super funny to little ones and the dog is cute….awwwwww

3. Big Pumpkin– It’s all about working together.  The voices that can be added to the many characters add some fun and the repetitive nature of the story allows for “kid actors” to play many of the rolls.

4. Dry Bones– This book is a little juvenile for the age group but when combined with a skeleton making craft and a bone lesson it offers fun and education.

5. Skeleton Hiccups– Another great craft and book combo.  Also it’s a great discussion starter about what cures the students hiccups.  Everyone has a different goofy cure.

6. Where the Sidewalk Ends- These poems are easy to read in a short setting and the fantastical nature of the poem stories make it a clear hit for both parents and kids alike.  This is not a Fall or Halloween book per se but the stories are odd enough they do not seem out of place.

I hope you and your children enjoy these books as much as my family has.  Happy reading!

Snacks for School Parties With Allergies

Well that time of year is here again.  The fabulous school year.  Depending on when your school year starts, mid August to early September is the best time of the year.  It is a parent’s favorite holiday for sure.  Backtoschoolaween is by far and away my favorite day.  It also means planning for classroom treats, birthday treats and party foods. 

As I was reviewing all my old party ideas I received an email from my son’s first grade teacher.  There were many food allergies in the classroom this year including, peanuts, fish and eggs.  What’s a Mom to do?  Many of my go to ideas centered around decorating cookies or cupcakes.  As I panicked I began listing in my mind all the things I thought contain eggs or gluten.  After much schizophrenic talking to myself I began the task of researching safe alternatives.  To my surprise there are many, not that expensive, options available out there.  As with anything please read every label before proceeding.  Some dips and salad dressings may contain things you would be surprised by.  Here are my top 10 ideas:

  1. Sunflower or almond butter with celery stalks-Raisins can be added for bugs on a log.  It can be fun to combine a creepy story about eating bugs while the kids are making these treats.
  2. Popcorn and candy corn hands-Assuming no corn allergies of course.  This is a great treat and craft.  You simply take non latex clear plastic gloves(powder free) and fill with popped popcorn.  The fingernails are placed first.  One candy corn pointy side down per finger.  After the bag is filled tie with a colorful string tightly and enjoy.
  3. Sliced apples and caramel dip-Read the labels carefully as some dips contain or are manufactured with eggs.
  4.  Cut fruit arranged in funny designs-This takes a little planning but can be super cute and popular.  First take a picture and enlarge it to cookie sheet size(or draw your own if your creative).  Next decide what colors work best with each part.  Next go to the store and pick fruits with colors that will work with your design.  The great thing about this is you can cut the fruit into whatever size and shape you need so color is the only limiting factor.   
  5. Yogurt with granola or fruit-Most yogurts are safe but check the labels.
  6. Jello
  7. Cut veggies and hummus
  8. Cheese and sausage-Be careful to check the labels as some sausages contain eggs or are processed in a facility with egg products.
  9. Chips a Hoy Chocolate Chip Cookies
  10. Oreo Cookie Tower-Oreo cookies come with their very own glue so the skies the limit when it comes to design.  They can be mixed and mashed(literally) together to create shapes, designs, pictures and towers.  To make a tower use small dowel rods or popsicle sticks and “glue” them together with the creamy center of the Oreos.  They will not support a ton of weight but half the fun is the destruction right?

Most baked  goods including crackers are out unless your willing to pop for the much higher cost of gluten free/dairy free products.  There are many out there but they can be quite pricey.  if your school is like mine baking your own is out of the questions as only prepackaged items are allowed.  With an open mind and a little creativity you can still have a fun and rewarding party.