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During that time when I was wracking my brain for appropriate kids’ crafts, I came across this idea from Michael’s.  It’s a foam bottle holder that requires very little assembly and you can decorate it after.  I’m fond of crafts that are useful, so this project definitely had potential.  But I felt that it might be a little too easy for the kids I work with.  The original design called for just braiding three pieces of ribbon and then using that as the handle.  I replaced the ribbon and braiding with Chinese knotting (because I have LOTS of Chinese knotting string) and I had a good (and cost efficient) project for the kids.  Tada!

Here is the sample I made.

Materials:

  • Foam can holder (available at dollar stores or the dollar section of Michael’s)  [1$/ea]
  • Foamies stickers (or other foam pieces).  I used a package of ladybugs and leaves Foamies stickers, which was enough for 6+ bottle holders.  We also had some letters on hand.  [2.99$]
  • 1-24″ length of Chinese knotting string (basically satin cord), color of your choice.  This will be the core of the handle and the part that ties to the can holder.
  • 2-24″ lengths of Chinese knotting string, color(s) of your choice.  This will be the thicker handle.
  • Sharpies or related (optional)
  • Glue or a lighter to seal the ends of the string

Procedure:

  1. Just follow the directions you find on Michael’s site.  I’m including the Chinese knotting below.
    Some notes:

    • I made holes about 0.5″ from the top of the can holder.
    • You don’t need a hole punch to make the holes.  I used the awl on my Swiss army knife.  You could easily use a bamboo skewer to make the holes or the tip of some pointy scissors.  It’s foam.  It’s not hard to make a hole in it.
    • If you don’t want kids playing with sharp objects, you probably want to pre-punch all the holes before giving them all the materials.
  2. Tie or pin about 6″ from the end of the core string down to anchor it.  I had the kids tie one end to a table leg and they sat on the floor while they were knotting.  I have also used a push pin before and just pinned the end of the string to a board.  Or you can just have someone hold the end for you.

    I have already put all the supplies away. You'll just have to deal with poor illustrations.

  3. Tie the two handle strings in a double knot toward the top of the strings.
  4. Place the two handle strings under the core string and you can stick the pin through the core string into the middle of the knot.
  5. With the right side string, make a loop over the core string and under the left side string.
  6. Take the left side string and bring it under the core string and through the loop on the right side.
  7. Pull the knot tight.  You’re basically making a bunch of single knots around the core string.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 until you run out of string.  Always make the loop on the right side to make the twisted effect.  If you alternate sides, you’ll get a flat string of knots all the way down.
  9. Untie the original double knot you made at the beginning of the handle.  Cut off any excess and seal the ends with glue.  I normally use a lighter and just melt the ends, but I was working with kids and I didn’t want to bring a lighter for them to play with.
  10. Unpin or untie your core string and poke one end through one of the holes in the can holder.  If your holes are small, use a pencil to help poke the string through.
  11. Repeat on the other side.
  12. Adjust the lengths so that the handle portion is in the middle.  You want a really long handle (as in, use almost the full 24″ of the core string) you can firmly hold one end of the core string and pull the whole mass of knots that make up the handle.  It should move freely on the core.
  13. Tie down the core string on either side of the foam holder.  I used a fancier knot that would allow me to adjust the length of the whole handle.  I had the kids just tie double knots.  If you use double knots, make sure they’re tight.
  14. Cut the excess and seal the ends of the string.
  15. Decorate with the stickers and/or pens.  I went with a ladybug theme and made dots with a Sharpie.  The kids really liked the ladybugs and now I’m left with a bag of leaves.  They also but their names on their bottle holders with the Foamies letters.

Someday…someday…I’ll be home during daylight hours and then I can take nice, bright pictures with natural lighting.

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.