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!

When Good Parties Go Bad

The day of the party is here, you are as prepared as you can be.  The games are great, the craft took plenty of time and actually looks like what it’s supposed to and the treats were gobbled up.  You look at the clock, there are only minutes left.  You are in the home stretch when Fate steps in and throws you a curve ball…

How many times after making yourself crazy, obsessively painstaking planning and hundreds of dollars, the party goes literally in the pooper.  Everything is going along great when the unthinkable happens, someone starts crying or my favorite someone throws up.  EEEEWWWWW!  Do not panic I have been there more times than I want to count.  I can help you be prepared.

The biggest tools in your arsenal are control, calmness and a game on hold.  Teachers have been through this many times so look to them to contact the custodian and approach the child.  Your job is to mitigate the damage.  Stay calm and control the situation by moving the children to another part of the classroom or even the hall if necessary.  Always have a game in your metaphoric back pocket.  I keep telephone phrases, words for jumbling and a quick game of bean bag toss if you need to move to the hall.  All of these games are cheap, easy to prepare and can be used again and again.  There are themed bean bag toss games available at Oriental Trading Company but you can just as easily buy bags from your craft store and use a bucket.  Keep in mind if you are going to use a word jumble for the real young ones it must be very easy.  Words like BOO, or TREE would be fine.

The next thing to consider is smell. I know this is really gross, but it is there so lets deal with it.  If there is an offending odor, you need to distract from it immediately.  The easiest way to do this of course is with Lysol spray but that can sometimes make the situation worse.  I suggest pulling out those markers and madly coloring.  Always keep coloring pages handy and some markers that smell.  I know, I know the markers that smell are almost always the staining kind.  You don’t need an entire packet.  Just a few markers strategically placed with each parent helper can help mask that troublesome odor.  The marker smell is powerful and not associated with sickness or cleaning so it will do the trick without the kids even being aware.

Lastly noise is essential.  I would normally never advocate a loud game but now you want to draw attention away from the poor child by creating a little pandemonium.  Start a rousing version of Row Row Row your Boat or any other song that can be sung in rounds.  This is VERY loud and the kids will easily forget what’s going on around them as they concentrate on their particular part.  This game can go on for as long or short a period as it needs to making it the ultimate flexible party activity.

Finally remember if something happens it’s no big deal and it doesn’t have to ruin the party.  As my Momma always says “Don’t sweat the small stuff”.

 

5 Easy Crafts for Kindergartners

If the idea of 25 Kindergartners with glue, glitter and scissors makes you cringe and run screaming from the craft table I’m your gal.  Don’t be intimidated.  It is possible to make cute, easy, non-messy crafts with the little guys.  You simply have to plan ahead and above all else keep them busy.  I have used all five of these ideas in parties many times and know first hand they are successful.  Some of these ideas do take some fore thought however,  so start early because they are well worth it.

1) Snow Globes

You will need clean baby food jars or small jelly jars with the lids, water, small charms or toys for the bottom of the globe, glitter or snow and super glue.  The jars do not have to be the same size or shape just small, clear and clean.  I suggest sending an email to the class roster the first of October asking for jars.  Have a deadline of one week before the party so you know just how many jars you have collected and how many you still need.  Ask your family, friends and neighbors for their empty jars as well.  The charms can be purchased in bulk from many online stores.  I have purchased mine from US Toys and  Oriental Trading Company.  The day of the party you will need either a pitcher of water or a sink in the classroom, two parents to help and paper towels to dry the completed jars.  Create stations to select the charms away from the water and gluing station as this “picking” process seems to create the biggest bottleneck.  Place the charms in two baskets at a table and have the children come to the charm station two at a time.  Once their charm is picked have a parent at the glue station super glue the charm to the underside of the jar lid.  Let the charm dry completely before moving to the water and glitter station.  It typically takes about 2 minutes to dry.  Finally add the snow or glitter to the inside of the jar and fill with water.  Lastly screw the lid on tightly and dry with a paper towel.  This craft will take approximately 30 minutes based on a class size of 20-25 children.  There is a great deal of down time with this craft before the charm is picked and after the globe is completed so I suggest having the children move directly to a coloring page station to keep them occupied and quiet while they are waiting.  A variety of crayon and marker colors and paper shapes and designs will keep kids attention.  Cut strips of paper into small rectangles for book marks, larger rectangles with holes at the top for door knob hangers, medium circles with holes for tree ornaments or hearts for valentines.  Start this craft early as it can use a lot of time and every child will want a snow globe.

2.)Soup Mix and Recipe

This is a super easy craft that creates very little mess.  The teachers love this craft as the children practice their writing and measuring skills.  I suggest using this craft for the February party as the kids will have developed better writing skills and will be better able to complete this task.  You will need a soup recipe,  I have included mine below as well as find this great recipe here from IFoodTV, large Ziploc baggies or bags with rubber bands or ties for closing, notecards or paper cut into rectangles with a hole punched to attach the bean recipe, string or yarn to tie the recipe to the bag, spoons for the children to ladle the beans into the bags and the beans you are mixing.  Most bean mixes will use just about any kind of bean available and I suggest buying whatever is on sale and modifying the recipe to fit the bean.  Place the different types of beans in their own bowl, with a card sticking out and the number of spoonfuls needed, and place the bowls at a table.  You can set up multiple tables with identical bowls, bags and cards to accommodate all the children.  Place a parent helper at each table to assist the kids.  Instruct the kids to spoon the exact number of spoonfuls of beans into their bag.  Do this for each type of bean.  Finally have the children copy the recipe from the chalkboard and attach to their bag with the string provided.  Parents helpers may have to assist children with the writing, closing and attaching of the recipe.  This craft typically takes about 10 minutes.

8 spoonfuls Dry Navy Beans

6 spoonfuls Dry Black Eyed Peas

5 spoonfuls Dry Red Kidney Beans

3 spoonfuls Dry Pinto Beans

2 spoonfuls Dry Split Peas

Recipe:

5 Bean Mix

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 large carrots chopped

2 celery stalks including leafs chopped

1 small onion chopped

ham bone or leftover ham cubed

1 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

1/2 tsp each garlic and celery salt

Brown celery, carrots and onions in 1 TBL olive oil over medium high heat until onions are translucent.  Add chicken stock and remaining ingredients.  Cover and reduce heat to medium.  Cook for 6-8 hours.  Stir the soup and check on fluid level every hour.  If stock gets to low add more as needed to keep at a constant level.  This recipe makes soup for 4.  Serve with bread and salad.  It can also be placed in a crock pot.

3.) Cookie Decorating

This craft can be done very easily and many parents will volunteer to buy the plain sugar cookies or supplies as this is an easy way for them to help.  To keep messes contained place plastic table cloths on and under each table being used for easy clean up later.  You will need plain baked sugar cookies, icing, sprinkles or candies and spoons.  It is also helpful to have small plates handy for kids to place their cookies.  Have several different colors of icing and colors of sprinkles, candies and edible decorations.  All of these things can be found easily at any grocery store.  Place the supplies and spoons at the table and let the kids go at it.  You will need to keep an eye on the children however, as some  invariably will try to eat the icing or decorate themselves.  This craft will take about 10 minutes.

4.)Create Your Own Tote

These bags are hugely popular.  If they are to be used in the Fall call them candy bags and for the Winter call them gift bags or totes.  I received many phone calls and emails from parents thanking me as they had forgotten candy bags for Halloween and this was a huge time saver for them.  These bags can be purchased at Oriental Trading Company or any large craft store.  They can be decorated with as much or as little as you would like.  Use scraps of leftover material, fabric markers, glitter, foam board, cotton balls.  Just about anything you can glue to the bag can be used.  Place the bags and supplies at each table needed and let the kids loose.  This craft will take about 10-15 minutes.

5.)Flower pots

You can choose to decorate the pots with stickers and glitter before planting the seeds.  If you decorate the pots let the ink or glue dry before planting the seeds.  I suggest decorating the pots first, playing games and then planting the seeds.  You will need a small pot for each child, dirt to fill the pot, a pitcher of water and seeds for planting.  Pots can be purchased at any large craft store or online in bulk.  This craft works best for the Spring parties.  Have the children spoon dirt into their pot until it is 3/4 full.  Sprinkle several seeds on top and cover with dirt.  Pour a small amount of water over the dirt.  These pots can be placed into plastic bags to take home.  Both flowers and fruits are hugely popular with the children.  Having a variety of seeds is best.  This craft will take approximately 10-20 minutes depending on if the pots are decorated.

All five of these crafts have worked very well and I have used them multiple times.  Most of the crafts are not going to break the bank either as other volunteers will be willing to contribute items.  The key to a good party is planning, planning and more planning.