Frozen-themed play dough [Sensory play]

Elsa and ElsaLike every other Mama, Elsa and Anna are honorary members of my brood. It’s tailed off a bit in recent weeks. I believe I’ve actually gone a whole 7 days straight without watching the movie or listening to the sound track. But the power of the icy pair remains strong. MoonMunkie loves it all and totally wants to be Elsa. She sings the songs and dances beautifully, dramatically throwing an imaginary crown at the appropriate point in the song.  MamaMunkie and MisterMunkie both prefer Anna – she more sensible, girl-next-door and much less neurotic-snow-strumpet than Elsa.

MiniMunkie wants to be MoonMunkie. That’s it. She just wants to be her big sister. She trails around after her, wearing a tiny blue costume and singing “…’et it gooooooo…” It’s so adorable I could eat her with a spoon. She thinks the movie is called ” ‘nowman” and that Elsa is called Anna. We don’t correct her. She’s so happy with it all and it’s of no real consequence. Watching her twirl and sing is one of the pleasures of my life.

Of course, this fandom spills over into our other activities and this week we wanted to make play dough. So Frozen play dough was the order of the day. I took our basic play dough recipe and added silver glitter, blue and green food colouring to get that perfect “Frozen blue” and a dose of American peppermint flavouring to give it a scented element too. It looked and smelled heavenly and my Munkies played with it for about 3 hours. Next door’s little Munkie also popped in to play and was so overjoyed with it that we just had to give her some to take home.

There are a bazillion-trillion recipes out there for play dough. Cook, don’t cook, edible, scented, you name it, there’s a recipe. And this is ours. The basic dough is based on a 500g bag of flour and makes enough for 4 children to have a great big lump each. This recipe doubles and triples very easily. I don’t have  bowl big enough to test beyond that!

Ingredients for basic play dough

500g plain flour

1 tbs cream of tartar

1 tbs of oil

4 drops of glycerine

200g salt

hot water to bind.

Method

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. If you have dry additions to add, this is the place to do it. We’ve tried all sorts of things in the past: tiny silver stars, sequins, glitter, seeds, dried lavender and sand all give different textures and characteristics.
  3. Add the oil, glycerine and a little hot water,  and mix.
  4. If you want to add colours or flavours now is the time. We’ve used natural oils like peppermint and lavender; food flavourings such as lemon, American peppermint, liquorice; and we’ve also added cocoa and coffee to the hot water in order to flavour the dough
  5. Continue to add hot water until the dough comes together.
  6. Knead on a floured counter top for 10 minutes until the dough comes together and is elastic and shiny.

20150926_110146240_iOSThe dough keeps in the fridge for a long time. It’s not edible, but a taste will not do anyone any harm. Leaving it out in the sun will dry it out – it becomes hard like
salt-dough if you leave it to dry for long enough.

MoonMunkie made herself a shrew. She’s been very interested in shrews since we found a dead one on our patio. MiniMunkie’s cat brought it to us as a gift, we think. The cat isn’t really MiniMunkie’s. But she desperately wants a cat and then big big tortoiseshell started to visit and it was as if her wish had been  granted. Ours too – a cat that visits daily, but we don’t have to feed it, clean up after it or worry about it when we’re not here. Perfect cat!

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Mermaid Bay [Sensory Play]

Mermaid Bay This summer was all about the mermaids here at Munkie Towers. My dear friend and her husband returned to live in town after being away for several years. In the meantime we had both managed to produce 2 small girls each, of surprisingly similar ages and temperaments. Her little ones were crackers for mermaids and so, Munkie-See-Munkie-Do (as the saying doesn’t quite go…) my little ones were crackers for mermaids too.

But we didn’t have any. And MamaMunkie was reluctant to spring for new dollies until we were sure this was a phase that was here to stay. Also, we have dollies. Our dollies have dollies. We are not short on dollies.

Instead, we converted some of our pocket-money dollies (£1 from Tesco) into mermaids with the cunning use of silver foil.

It actually worked quite well. By wrapping the foil around the dollies’ legs tinfoil tailsand then scrunching it tightly to the ankle, a pretty convincing tail was made. I then trimmed the fin shape with scissors below the feet, and voila – tinfoil tails.

The addition of some play sand, seashells collected at the beach, some slates that our turtles are no longer needing in their tank and some water that we dyed with blue food gel an a very nice sensory bin was complete. I also tossed in some Jelly Sea Life Creatures that I’d been dying to try out. They’re made from the same compound as water beads and grown to 8x their original size in water.

It was brilliant. MiniMunkie was entranced. The mermaids dived and swam and rode the turtles. The sand mixed into their hair and muddied up the water. The sensory bin looked like a scene from CSI Atlantis. In the future I’m going to exchange the sand and water for blue Water Crystals . I think it will be less of a disturbing clean up!

Time for Tea [Sensory Play Idea]

At the beginning of the summer I tidied out all of the kitchen cupboards and disposed of all the extraneous items that I’d gathered over the 5 years we’ve been here. I’ve been trying to destash the entire house, but it’s taking years. Literally. I’m a hoarder and so it’s hard and emotional work. But I digress.

The kitchen is now as near to perfect as a working, home kitchen is ever going to be. Which is to say that I’m going to have to find another way to bump off MrMunkie, because things no longer fall out of cupboards as we open them.  However, my enthusiasm for the clear-out waned when it came to the tea and coffee  cupboard. I opened it, quailed in  fear and then closed it again. But tonight I found the courage and attacked it with vigour. The outcome was as I expected: 3 click-its of out of date sweetner; 2 half used jars of decaff coffee; 3 boxes of flavoured tea with 2 teabags left in each; a packet of loose tea that went past its BBE in 2013.

20150830_150957624_iOSAfter sorting and re-stacking the shelves, I was left with about a dozen tea bags that were unsuitable for human consumption, along with a packet of breakfast tea leaves and about 2 tablespoons of my favourite  Jasmine Pearl Tea that was stale and sad. The smell in the kitchen was heavenly though and it gave me an idea for a sensory activity for MiniMunkie.  She’s all about the “hot tea” at the moment. This is the way she distinguishes between teatime and a cuppa. “Hot tea” has been inspired by her Godmother and her children who sit together and drink tea a couple of times each day. MiniMunkie is very taken with the whole activity20150831_174236766_iOS. When she’s not drinking tea for real she’s making pretend cups – in the gorgeous Cath Kidston tea set, given to her by the same friends.
So waiting for her when she wakes up is an invitation for tea. The sensory bin contains the loose leaf tea and also the few left over jasmin pearls. There are some boxes with a couple of tea bags in each. Her tea set is ready and there’s a little “cafe” waiting too, so that MoonMunkie can join in if she likes. I don’t advocate going out to buy these things for play  – good tea is expensive and not to be wasted! But this lot was going in the bin anyway.20150831_174250416_iOS

I’m pretty sure she’s going to love it, because she’s so keen on tea right now. But watch this space and I’ll let you know.

More sensory activities coming soon!

 

First Sewing Projects for Little Ones [Free tutorial and pattern]

MoonMunkie made Yellow-Stitch Fifield a week or so ago. It was her first sewing project and she was so thrilled with herself. Stitch came on holiday to Yorkshire with us and he been given a veritable palace to live in.

It was so successful that I’m going to put together a book of first sewing projects for little ones. And to give you a taste of that, here is a pattern and tutorial for Stitch. It uses the smallest amount of fabric and stuffing, so you can probably make it without needing to buy anything. However, I would definitely recommend purchasing a set of doll-making needles. They are large enough to allow more independence for small people learning to sew, but are still sharp enough to sew with. See my previous post for more tips on teaching small people to sew.

Materials11794312_10153419749700491_5740603297487370971_o

Wool felt off-cuts

Stuffing (wool roving or polyester filler)

Anchor embroidery thread I like Anchor, as I’ve said before!

Doll-making needle

30cm wool in contrasting colour

Pattern (Free PDF download)

 

 

Instructions

Body

  1. Cut 2 body pieces from felt and place them together, right sides out.
  2. Thread a doll-making needle with embroidery thread, tying a knot at the end.
  3. Show your little person how to push the needle through from the front to the back, carefully drawing the thread all the way through to the knot.
  4. Bring the needle back to the front, the yarn trailing over the top of the work. Move the needle along about 0.5cm (1/4 inch) to the left and push it in from front to back again. [TIP: if they need help keeping stitches even, make dots on the fabric to show them where to put the needle in.]
  5. Continue this whipstitch all the way around, leaving about an inch open.
  6. Stuff the mouse with wool roving or polyester toy filler.
  7. Stitch up the gap using the same stitch.

Ears

  1. Cut two ears from felt. We used a contrasting colour.
  2. [Optional] Fold the ear in half. Mark the dart line in pencil. Use a small running stitch to stitch the dart. This will give the ear more shape, but is not essential if it’s too fiddly for little fingers or they are in a hurry. Repeat for second ear.
  3. Help your little person to attach the ears to the body, about a third of the way down from the pointy end of the mouse. Sew straight through from side to side, through the flat edge of both ears.

Tail

  1. Cut three lengths of wool against using the line as a measure.
  2. Leave 5 cm (1.5 inches) at the top, tie a knot to secure the 3 strands together.
  3. Plait the strands and tie a knot near the end leaving a cute fluffy end.
  4. Use the 5cm at the top, to tie the tail through a stitch at the blunt end of the mouse body.

Eyes

[Option 1] Draw ‘em on with a felt tip pen. Cute and quick.

[Option 2] Stitch back and forth on the spot, from side to side through the entire body in a contrasting colour.

[Option 3] Buttons look cute, but can be fiddly for tiny fingers.

 

Happy Stitching!

Really Easy Felt Cupcakes [ Free Tutorial with PDF pattern]

I’m hoping to take part in Handmade Monday, over at lucyblossomcrafts next Monday. This is going to be the first time that I’ve joined in a link party, but I hope I’ve understood how it works!

 

We’ve been at the cupcakes again! Although this time they’re felt and completely calorie free. We had such a great time that I put together a PDF pattern with instructions to share at Handmade Monday. I hope it goes ok! Do drop me a line in the comments below and say hi!

I’m just putting the finishing touches to 2 more tutorials which will be uploaded before the end of August, so drop back in soon!

037Materials*

Wool blend felt offcuts

Anchor embroidery thread in matching or contrasting colour

Needle

Pattern (Free downloadable pattern and instructions PDF)

Silicon cupcake cases (optional)

6 cup baking pan (optional)

* contains Amazon affiliate to a product I recommend. See disclosure  for more info.

Instructions

  1. Use the pattern to cut out the various pieces of the cup cake – don’t feel constrained by the colours. Go wild!
  2. Using blanket stitch, attach the base to the smaller curve of the cupcake side. Ease the curved edge around the base. It’s a bit tricky, but felt is very forgiving, so don’t worry too much. (I like Anchor 100% cotton thread – much longer-lasting and less tangly than the cheaper multi-buy brands.)
  3. Stitch the 2 short edges of the cupcake side together.
  4. You could turn the inside out now, but I rather like the stitching effect on the edge.
  5. Attach the icing top, centrally, to the cake top. You could use a contrasting colour for a fancy icing effect. Use running stitch or any decorative stitch.
  6. Attach the cake top (with recently stitched icing) on to the cake base you completed in step 2.  Again, use blanket stitch and don’t forget to leave an inch empty to stuff!
  7. Stuff with wool roving for a nice weight or with polyester stuffing if you prefer.
  8. Continue with the blanket stitch to close up the hole.
  9. At this point, if your cupcakes are going to be a toy, it’s worth considering over-stitching the top and bottom seams for sturdiness. For a pincushion or decoration, this step probably isn’t necessary.
  10. To make the icing swirl, tie a knot in a long piece of matching embroidery thread. Along one long edge, make a fairly loose running stitch along the edge. Don’t tie it off when you get to the end. Slowly
  11. Pull the thread to gather up the fabric. As it begins to wrinkle, encourage it to twirl. Don’t go too quickly. It will eventually curl in on itself, in a spiral.
  12. When it is swirly enough, use the tail of the thread to firmly stitch the bottom of the spiral so that it won’t untwist.
  13. Using blindstitch, attach the swirl to the centre of the icing on top of the cake. Again, if it’s going to be a toy, take some time over this so that it won’t come off during play.
  14. For authenticity, you can place each cake you make into a silicon cake case. For play purposes, a cheap bun tin also adds an extra element of fun.

Et voila – cupcakes. Make some for your little chef today!

 

Teaching Small People to Sew

11794312_10153419749700491_5740603297487370971_oIt gets confusing when I talk about MoonMunkie. The original MoonMunkie is my oldest daughter.  She spent a lot of time awake at night when she first arrived. I had PND and spent a lot of time sewing to get through it. (If you want to read more about my journey out of PND then you can head over to my other blog Followed By a Black Dog. I don’t need to write it any more, but I keep it as a reminder.) That’s how the name was born.

Since I started my little art and craft business, it seems that I’ve become MoonMunkie. It doesn’t really matter at all. We’re all Munkies together here. But this post is about the original and best. My amazing winter baby. My MoonMunkie. She’s 5½ now. Unbelievable.

She sewed her first softie this week. Yellow-Stitch Fifield, commonly known as “Stitch” is a purple mouse. He’s made from wool felt, stitched with yellow wool, stuffed with raw wool roving. He has BIG pink ears. You can probably guess what they’re made of. And, if we’re being honest, he’s a wee bit cheeky. He’s not keen on bedtime. He has commandeered the dining room furniture from the Sylvannian Families. He sleeps on their table. He likes to hide and then we all have to spend AGES looking for him. We haven’t been able to find the NowTV remote control since he arrived, and although I’m not directly accusing him of hiding it, you have to admit it’s a bit of a coincidence.

I digress. Tips for teaching small people to sew was my purpose for being here. And here they are:

Mostly, it’s about allowing the small person to have ownership of the project. Show them some simple projects on Pinterest and let them think about what they want to make. Guide them in the direction of simple shapes and little and therefore fast projects. Quantity is way more important than quality when you’re 5.

Let them choose their own fabric, or at least the colours. Wool felt makes sense because it’s forgiving, doesn’t fray and comes in at least a bazillion colours. I buy kilo bags of pure wool felt offcuts from Ebay for not a lot of pounds. They have tons of shades and are perfect for so many crafts. And being offcuts I don’t get all precious and obsessive about cutting into them.

Purchase a doll-making needle. They are reasonably sharp, but long and quite chunky.  Easy to thread. Easy for small fingers to hold and manipulate. Hard to lose. Unlikely to get swallowed by SmallestMunkie. I found a bodkin was too short and too blunt to sew with, even for grown up hands. I had to show MoonMunkie that I could press it against my skin and it didn’t hurt. She was worried about getting scratched, but the doll-making needle was very easy to control and we had no injuries.

Allow for short concentration spans and for messy workmanship – see my note on quantity not quality. I firmly believe that if we encourage mistakes and free thinking now, it will develop creativity and a love of the task in hand. Tidiness and “perfection” will come along in their own time.

Choose a strong, chunky yarn for first stitching. Pick a contrasting colour to the fabric so stitches can easily be seen

Whip stitch is a good one to begin with. The needle only goes in one way and comes out one way. No “which side am I on?” confusion. It’s fast. It’s sturdy. You can quickly see where you’ve been. The rhythm of it is conducive to finishing a project.

Resist the urge to help unless asked. This is hard for me! I like things even and neat. MoonMunkie wanted the mouse finished fast. I sat on my fingers and bit my tongue and just allowed her to stitch. She loved it so much, and that was my reward for not interfering. She was pleased with what she’d achieved, rushing off to show MisterMunkie.

Finishing touches may be hard for little, inexperienced hands. Stitch had to have yellow button eyes. Had to, you understand. So MamaMunkie had to do those, or they would become a choking hazard for SmallestMunkie. A piece of wool was attached as a tail, but it wasn’t taily enough, so it was replaced by a short chain of crochet. Again, MamaMunkie needed to assist there too, but only when she was asked!

She adores her finished mousie. So do I, but I love him because I watched her concentrate and work hard and make it herself. And I saw her feel good about it when she was done. She already wants to make him a baby!

 

 

 

In the faraway land of Once Upon A Time, they all lived happily ever after.

Moon Munkie has been living up to her pseudonym. Sleepless nights when she just wants to be close to Mama Munkie. And stories. She wants me to tell stories. At 3.30am, I don’t want to put on the light and find a book to read.  Lying in the dark, with my eyes closed and my Moon Munkie cuddling close I begin, “Once upon a time in a faraway land there was a princess;  there was a castle; there was a wicked queen;  there were three bears, three little pigs and a big bad wolf; there were two small children; there was a little Munkie who didn’t want to go to sleep.”

It’s awoken my inner Anderson. I want to help Moon Munkie make her own stories. So I’ve been creating the cast of “Once Upon a Time”. And here they are in the  shade of the carrot bed. So far we have the King and Queen of Once Upon a Time, 2 princes and 4 princesses. Given Moon Munkie’s fascination with the Frog Prince story, I also made a frog and a lily pond. We found a little yellow pom-pom (or “ponpon” as Munkie calls them) to be the golden ball. She told the story to Daddy Munkie after tea, using the new dolls. Then we set to making a tower for the princess from building blocks, but got distracted because Munkie thought they each needed a throne. The frog had to have one too. A green one.

If you want to make peg dolls of your own, I can recommend Lil Blue Boo and her wonderful tutorial. I didn’t follow it very closely because I wanted more than princesses, but I was grateful for help with the hairstyles. And the King of Once Upon a Time looks suspiciously like Burt Reynolds, does he not

I’m just going to go and make 20 eiderdowns and 20 mattresses so we can play the Princess and the Pea tomorrow. I’ll probably scale it down to just 5 of each. And after that I’m thinking maybe Snow White and then Cinderella. Dwarves and Fairy Godmothers could be quite good fun to make. I hope that after some time Moon Munkie will start to inter-mix the characters from different stories to make her own. I hope they all live Happily Ever After!

Strumpet Barbie

A friend bought Moon Munkie a Barbie-esque dolly back from her holidays. I feel ambiguous about these toys. On the one hand pretty dollies are a mainstay of childhood. They encourage imaginative play; life skills like hair brushing, face washing and getting dressed; they assist with development of fine motor skills as tiny fingers learn to dress and undress, do up and undo; and generally they make little ones happy. One the other hand, they seem to promote a type of beauty that is unachievable for most women; reinforce an unhealthy focus on appearance, hair, clothes and weight; and I feel that they encourage a materialistic and consumer-orientated approach to life too.

So here’s my dilemma. As a kid I wanted a Sindy so badly. I asked for one for months. My Mum eventually capitulated. I was so excited as I opened my Christmas present, knowing there would be a dolly in it for me.
And there was. A freckled Sindy with long chestnut hair. And a trench coat… A long, toad-green, trench coat.

Here’s a cracking photo of me, having just opened it, before I got my “polite face” on, holding the dolly with an expression that clearly says, “What the Dickens is that? ” Of course, in my 4 year old naivety, I hadn’t specified that I wanted a dolly with a pretty dress, it just seemed obvious.

[Edit: Having re read this, I’m concerned that I sound like I’m whingeing. Really, I’m not. With hindsight my Mum probably had similar ambivalence towards the pointy-plastic-breasted ones as I have now. My life was not ruined. I am not emotionally scarred! I learned to sew in order to make new clothes for her. It’s just a funny story.]


That’s part one of the dilemma. I wanted one, so badly that I don’t want to say no out of hand. Part two is that Moon Munkie fell instantly in love with what I’ve come to call Strumpet Barbie. Of course she did. She’s a dolly with blonde hair to her knees and a “pretty” [read: slutty] gold and red dress. With gold metallic decoration. What’s not to love when you’re 2 and a half?
Anyway, I’ve decided not to make too much of a fuss for now.  Trollop Barbie can stay, although I’ve made her a new princess dress which is altogether more demure and  pleasing. I got a lovely and very easy tutorial from Miss B Couture. Given that I think she’s writing in her second language, this tutorial was easy to follow and easy to adjust to a slightly different doll. Also, I wanted it to be a long dress right to the floor.

It was a quick make, just a couple of hours. The top fabric was sheer and hard to work with. I was toying with making Moon Munkie the same costume. But I don’t  know if I physically could. I’m not good with slippy fabrics.

And that should be the end of the story. But after I’d taken the photos for this post, I presented Princess Barbie to Moon Munkie, full of motherly pride and creative joy at having made something so lovely for her. She gave me a look reminiscent of trench coats and said, “I want red one.”

*sigh*

Streetwalker Barbie is back.

Nappies for Baby dolly

 

Today Moon Munkie was playing with Baby. She wanted to change her nappy but the disposables I have were WAY too big for the 14″ dolly. She was having the best time, but the big girl nappies were less than satisfactory. When it was time for Moon Munkie to go to bed, we convinced her that Baby needed to stay downstairs tonight. And I spent a pleasurable hour stitching up 3 little reusables. They are so sweet and I managed to design the pattern, cut, stitch and finish off in about an hour and a half. So if your little one’s little one needs a clean bott, as we say in the Munkie Household, then grab the Reusable nappies for baby dollies template and photo tutorial.

This is my first photo tutorial, so I’d be really grateful to hear what you think. If it’s not useful, how could I do better? If you decide to try, don’t forget to send me a picture and let me know how you get on!

Sew Thankful: Giveaway

Sew Grateful Week

I just decided to join in with today’s Sew Thankful Giveaway. It’s the last minute, I know! My giveaway is for one  felt cupcake pin cushion. (You can see a set of 6 below that my Moon Munkie is baking in her oven – minus the pins of course!)  You can enter by leaving a comment. If you’d care to follow me too, I’d be so grateful. But it’s not a requirement for entering.
I’ll leave the giveaway open until Wednesday 14th 15th February (because I’m away for the weekend) so anyone who wants to has lots of time to enter. And even if you don’t win, you can go to the cupcake post and get the template and pattern to make your own! What could be nicer to celebrate Sew Grateful Week?