Family Fun with Creative Crafts: Oven Clay, Paper Making, and Puppets

Beat the boredom blues by gathering the family around the table for some crafty fun.  Family craft time is perfect for those rainy or chilly "can't get outdoors" days.  All you need are some simple household items you probably already have on hand- no need to make a trip down the crafts aisle.  Everyone, from youngest to oldest, can get in on the fun with these activities.

Oven Clay

This activity starts in the kitchen.  First, you need to mix up your clay dough.  In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of salt.  Then add 2 tablespoons cooking oil and 3/4 to 1 cup water.  Mix into a soft dough, then knead on a floured surface.  You can roll out the dough with a rolling pin ( be sure everyone gets a turn) and cut out shapes with cookie cutters, or make your own free-form shapes.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for an hour at 250 degrees.  While your clay creations are baking and cooling, get out your paints.  You can use watercolors, tempra or acrylic paints to decorate.  If you remembered to poke a small hole at the top of your creations before baking (use a toothpick) you can add a ribbon or yarn stringer to make ornaments or create a mobile with your clay shapes by tying them to a coat hanger.  For a glittery effect, sprinkle on glitter while your paints are still wet, or add some to your dough.

Paper making

This craft provides a lesson about how paper is made.  You can make different types of paper, depending on the types of paper you start with.  You'll need a blender, scrap paper (from your recycling bin is perfect because it shows how paper is reused) and an old window screen.  If you have splatter screen for your frying pan, that can be used too.  First, select your paper.  Using newsprint will produce a very dirty-looking paper, so use white or light colored paper.  You can add scraps of colored construction paper to make white paper look pastel- red scraps will make pink, etc.  This is the part the kids will love;  that paper needs to be torn into tiny pieces, the tinier the better. Place all the scraps into the blender and add a little bit of water.  Educational fact: when the paper is mixed with water it is called a slurry.  You don't want to add too much water because all that water will have to be squeezed back out of your paper mix,  which is the next step.  Once you've blended the paper bits with the water and your slurry is smooth, pour it out onto the screen, which is placed over the sink.  Take turns squeezing out the water and flattening the paper pulp.  Place the screen in an airy or sunny place to dry- this could take a day or more depending on the thickness of your paper.  Once it's dried completely, your new paper should lift easily from the screen.  Use your paper to make cards or gift tags.  Be sure to draw the recycling logo on the back!

Puppet making

While we tend to think of socks as the perfect medium for puppets, they can be made with so many other household items.  You can use wooden or plastic spoons, for instance.  The bowl of the spoon can be decorated as the face.  Draw on facial features with markers, use felt scraps or yarn as hair.  Cut out clothing from magazines or catalogs to dress your puppet, glue to the spoon's handle.  For a fun project, create your own fashion show, a la "Project Runway".  Cut out miss-matched fashions and glue them on to cardboard.  Let your model dry, then cut out and glue a popsicle stick on the back to "walk" your model down the runway.  Make up your own silly commentary for each outfit, then vote on a winner.  You can use the same idea with popular cartoon characters, then act out your own show.  What would happen if SpongeBob met Mickey Mouse?

Paper bags and small boxes can also be used to make puppets.  Decorate with markers or cut out features from colored paper and glue on.  This is a great project for younger kids and once they're done with them, they go back into the recycling bin that they came from- but maybe a little happier!

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Posted on Aug 26, 2010