Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Crafty Creations! I Can Make That: Fantastic Crafts for Kids by Mary Wallace

To be human is to make things.

Making something that is good to look at, making something that does something interesting, making something useful, that's what people do, and as soon as little ones master their fingers, they start doing that, building with blocks, drawing and coloring.

Mary Wallace's new and revised I Can Make That!: Fantastic Crafts for Kids (Owlkids Books, 2014) looks to be the one handicraft book that  families, schools, and libraries must have. Big, bright photos are set in orderly fashion in appealing spot art layouts on pages that lie flat at any point from sturdy cover to sturdy cover, making this one a joy to work with.

With section on costumes (great for rainy day fun or school event-wear), puppets (stringed, sock, or finger-style), nature crafts that are good enough for gifts, and simple do-it-yourself toys and games, this guide is packed with projects that are varied enough to be used in group activity settings and are simple enough for many early grade children to make on their own. (The author provides advice in the directions for where to "Ask an Adult.")

Materials, listed in their own appended index, are primarily free or inexpensive and can be found or collected in the home or neighborhood, or readily available at reasonable price everywhere. Canadian Mary Wallace lists "bristol board," as a frequent staple, for which the ubiquitous American white or colored poster board is a suitable substitute. Bottle caps, yarn, wire, embroidery floss, plastic ties, and ribbon, household and kitchen commodities such as foil, glue, flour, toothpicks, lollipop and popsicle sticks, cellophane tape, masking tape, colored tape, rubber bands, string, toilet and paper towel rollers, fishing line, even, in the case of impromptu face paint from shortening, cornstarch, and food colorings--all are the staples of Wallace's creations. She even offers directions for constructing a decorative home crafts scraps chest into which such potentially useful discards can be tossed until needed, and is careful to show ways that odd bits and pieces and scraps can be incorporated imaginatively in all of the feature products.

There are patterns and ample directions for methodical kids, and plenty of free-form ideas for creative kids, whose fertile imaginations can be inspired by a few leftover balloons, some paper bags or twine, some bottle caps, empty cans or plastic items, or small twigs with "arms and legs" around which to design characters. There are projects that DIY-minded kids can work on alone for days, or projects and homemade games that kids can work on together in small or large groups--assembling a doll house with furniture or constructing a treasure hunt game, complete with foil-wrapped treasures and artfully aged treasure maps which can work as party games or large group activities.

If you could only have one handicraft book for kids, this is a good choice. With appealing page design pared with projects for quiet moments and boisterous play, I Can Make That!: Fantastic Crafts for Kids is the sort of book that begs to be picked up, browsed through, and put to use in many settings. From outfits for superheroes or sorceresses, toys from cornhusk dolls to race cars, games from board games to popgun bowling, it's got something for almost every kid.



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