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It’s another craft review!  Huzzah!

tl;dr?  Verdict: Appropriate for elementary school kids.  You might think that would be obvious since the package itself says it’s for ages 6+, but sometimes they use weird mutant 6 year olds or something for testing.  Also, provide some glue.

Anyway…

A few weeks back, I mistakenly thought I needed to prepare a craft for the following Sunday’s craft time with the younger kids.  The thing was, it wasn’t my turn to be with them, so I couldn’t do any number of crafts that I already had in mind.  That’s because I’ve been told that the crafts I choose to do with the kids are “complicated” and likely come out of the engineer in me.  Meh, I says to that.  MEH.  They aren’t hard and the kids are smarter than you think.  Whiny, yes.  Dumb, no.

Anyhow, since I thought I wouldn’t be overseeing the craft time, I had to find something that any of the others who help care for the kids could oversee.  My whirlwind run to Michael’s yielded these:

Darice (R) Foamies (R) Modeling Kits

As it turns out, it was all a miscommunication.  I wasn’t responsible for providing the craft.  But the modeling kits still seemed like a good idea and a good emergency craft that doesn’t take a lot of prep work.  So, I tried them out with the junior high and high schoolers again (because I often use them as my test subjects) to see how they would react to the craft.  It also helps me gauge the amount of time it would take to do the same thing with the elementary school kids.  What I found is that yes, you can do these with younger kids, BUT you probably will also want to provide some glue and be patient in trying different ways to assemble these things.

The kits are very generous with the clay.  You have more than enough clay to make the two of the featured item.  However, you only have enough eyes for two creatures so if you want to use the extra clay to make another critter, you need to provide your own googly eyes.  Speaking of, that might not be a bad idea overall, because the eyes they provide are kind of strange.  The eyes don’t have “whites” per se.  They are all colored and it makes me think that these snails or whatever are all diseased.  That might just be me, though.

Aside from providing your own eyes, you will also want to provide some glue.  The kits’ (wondrously detailed) instructions only say to look at the picture and construct something similar out of the parts they give you.  Later on it says that you can try using the clay to stick the eyes and rhinestones on your creation.  That…doesn’t work very well.  The clay isn’t very sticky.  It even has some difficulty sticking to itself.  If you want to put the rhinestones or foam pieces on your creation, glue is the way to go.  Otherwise, the pieces might stick for awhile but the moment you move your creation, stuff starts falling off.

Here were the results from the tests:

Our strange, diseased creations.

A better shot of one of the butterflies:

I'm not really sure what that lavender thing is. One of the girls got creative and decided to combine a bunch of extra clay and make something different. Also, I think the mouth and cheek lines are Sharpie.

The girls who made the butterflies resorted to shoving a pipe cleaner down the center of the body of the butterfly because the individual balls of clay wouldn’t stick to each other very well.  She also used a small strip of clay to hold the wings in place.  It kind of worked.  Glue would have been better.  The wings started to fall off as the clay dried.

The pink ladybug used to have rhinestones where all the pink spots are on the wings.  But they all fell off.  Surprise!  Again, glue.  I had to reattach the wings with some glue as well.  They stayed on ok while the clay was still pliable, but when it dried the wings fell off.

A few weeks ago, I decided to go through a trial run of crafts I was planning on doing with the kids (grades 3-6) in my church group.  I had never done them before, so I thought I’d test them out on the older kids (jr. high and high school) first.  Plus, we needed an activity for our Friday night time, and I didn’t have the energy or time (or motivation) to prepare something else.  So, enter these Creatology Makit & Bakit Suncatcher kits.

Basically, all you need to do is place the metal frame on a baking sheet, fill the spaces with the plastic beads included in the kit, and then bake at 375 degrees F for 15-25 minutes.  I didn’t think it was that hard.  But I heard so many complaints over the course of about 30 min while two jr. highers, a college student, and two other counselors (of sorts) were doing the craft.  I was going to make one too, but I ended up helping out with some wedding place cards that had to be finished up, so I couldn’t really attest to how it was going.  The suncatchers turned out ok, but there were some uneven portions and there were some random holes where the plastic didn’t melt into the area.

Based on their complaints and the results of the batch, I thought maybe it would not be a good activity for 3-6 graders.  But, just in case, I made one of the leftover ones myself (the ape you see above, if you didn’t figure it out already).

I put mine on a foil covered pie tin because I didn’t want to use a whole sheet pan for something that was only 3 inches tall.  I filled the empty spaces with beads, except for the hanger hole, and stuck it in the oven.

Not the best picture, sorry. It's hard to take pictures of things on foil with your phone.

First off, they tell you to pile the beads high in the center and even with the edge.  From the test results, I realized that if you didn’t have enough beads, the end product would have weird holes.  So I piled in the beads and hoped that they wouldn’t overflow as they melted.  Oh, and you see some colors that weren’t included in my kit because I had SO. MANY. BEADS. left over from the test batch so I just picked beads from my leftovers.

And here are my results.  You can see that there are some holes despite what I thought was a generous amount of beads, especially around the edges of the frame.  There was also a weird hole in the right foot.  So, they weren’t kidding.  You really need to pile in the beads.  The chest region came out nicely filled, but a bit lumpy.  The whole thing was rather lumpy.  The instructions in the back say that it should be a smooth, glass-like finish.  Well, it was definitely smooth, and I guess it would be glass-like if you were the worst glass-blower in history.  This was after 25 minutes in the oven too, the upper limit of their suggested baking time.

So lumpy! So hole-y!

To see what I could do to combat this, I decided to fill in the holes with more beads (tweezers were very useful for this) and I stuck it in the oven for almost another 25 minutes.  The results turned out much more to my liking.  There were fewer lumps from uneven melting and all the holes had been filled in.  And no, nothing caught on fire.

Less lumpy! Less hole-y! The line you see on the right side is from a crease in the foil.

So, I’ve decided that this would be a decent activity for younger kids, especially since you see that it’s advertised for kids 6 and older.  But, when you do them, be prepared to supply tweezers (my test group didn’t have any, which probably let to some of the complaints, but you can safely ignore the suggestion to provide straws or spoons) and be prepared to bake the suncatchers twice.  After the first time you’ll see where you didn’t have enough beads and you can fill in the holes.  Twenty-five minutes in the oven is too short, if you’re only going to bake them once, and nothing is harmed if you keep them in longer.  Just don’t forget them in the oven, obviously.

In the end, I didn’t use the suction cup they provided, and just strung my suncatcher on some invisible thread and strung it over my rear view mirror.  Huzzah!

Hang!