Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Dyed Salt Rangoli for Diwali using the Cricut Mini

Dyed salt Rangoli for Diwali

Rangoli are designs that are created on the floor, either indoors or outdoors, usually using natural materials like dyed sand, dyed rice, coloured powders or flower petals. The designs can be simple or intricate, and are often based around geometric shapes and patterns. Rangoli are often seen at Diwali as decoration and to encourage the goddess Lakshmi to enter homes. They are a fun activity to do with children because there are so many different ways that you can design and make them.

This year we've made Rangoli using dyed salt in a cardboard template placed on sticky clear contact paper. I used a Cricut Mini to make our templates but you can easily cut them by hand

You need:

Salt and food colouring
Template shapes - mine were cut using a Cricut Mini
Clear contact paper (sticky backed plastic)
Tape to hold in position on the table
(Laminator if required)


This activity does require some preparation, and it's a lot easier to do if it's all set up beforehand!

First you need to dye the salt. I used cheap supermarket salt and liquid food colouring. Pour the salt into a bowl and mix in a generous amount (at least a teaspoon) of food colouring. Stir well, then leave somewhere warm to dry out. I prepared my dyed salt a few days in advance.

How to dye salt to make Rangoli for Diwali

Then you need to prepare the Rangoli template. I used a Cricut Mini to cut out my shapes. A limitation of the Cricut Mini is that you can only cut shapes that you have in your library - I'm too mean to purchase additional cartridges, but I find that the basic shapes included in the Craft Room are very good. I used a selection of designs including circles, ovals and leaf shapes, and tweaked them a bit to get the shapes that I wanted.

If you are cutting the shapes out by hand I'd recommend using a craft knife and cutting mat. There are lots of designs online that you can use for inspiration, it's best to look for a simple one like this basic Rangoli pattern. Cut the design from thin cardboard in a contrasting colour.

Cricut Mini template shapes

Lay your clear contact paper out on the table sticky side up and secure the corners with tape. Lay your design out and make sure that it is stuck down firmly to the sticky paper. 

Rangoli template

Then you can let the children loose! Use fingers to sprinkle the salt and press down onto the paper. It doesn't matter if you put down too much salt as you can carefully shake off the excess salt over a bin. Seal the design with a second sheet of clear contact paper stuck down over the top. 

How to make a dyed salt Rangoli for Diwali

The finished Rangoli were fine as a temporary craft, but I wasn't sure if they would last well if I hung them up. So I ran them through the laminator to make them a little sturdier and to be sure that no salt would escape.

Dyed salt Diwali Rangoli

The dyed salt can also be used to make a temporary Rangoli design outdoors or on the floor with older children. Simply draw out a design on the floor using chalk and fill in with the coloured salt.

I've made several different types of Rangoli with the children. We have made Rangoli using dyed rice, and I've also designed Rangoli using Hama beads. We've made large Rangoli Hama bead patterns and small Rangoli Hama bead designs.

You can also find all sorts of different Diwali crafts and activities on my popular Diwali Pinterest board.

Follow Jennifer Jain's board Diwali Crafts and Activities on Pinterest.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - Stone Age Man in Britain

The Ladybird book Stone Age Man in Britain is part of Series 561 - Adventures from History. At the time my copy was published in 1961 it was the only book in the Prehistory sub-category.

Vintage Ladybird book Stone Age Man in Britain

The book begins with an introduction to the world as it was before the Stone Age, although with no real timescale, just "thousands of years ago". It's specifically about Britain, after the glaciers receded and Britain became warm enough for the very earliest ever people to live here to move across from France (which was actually joined to Britain then).

Ladybird Book Stone Age Man in Britain

The book describes a very basic early civilisation of cave men, with no metal, or pottery, although they did have the knowledge to make fire. They hunted wild animals like the mammoth and sabre-toothed tiger, animals which have now disappeared. Then about six or seven thousand years ago a new group of people called the Neolithic people arrived in England, a more intelligent civilisation with greater knowledge of weapons for hunting and a more developed brain. These were the Stone Age men, able to hunt with flint knives, fish, build houses and sew clothes.

Stone Age Man in Britain Ladybird

The book describes the way that they lived and the skills that they developed in some detail. For example, the process of making a boat from a hollowed out tree trunk, the beginnings of farming, and finally the building of Stonehenge.

It's a really fascinating book, and as always the illustrations really bring the information to life. I know that the Stone Age is a subject that Harry will be covering at school at some point, and this will be a handy reference!

I'm joining in with Ladybird Tuesday at Being Mrs C. You can see all my previous Ladybird Tuesday posts here.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Book review - Taming the Tiger Parent by Tanith Carey

Recently I've been reading and reviewing Taming the Tiger Parent by Tanith Carey - 'How to put your child's well-being first in a competitive world'. The book is about how today's parents feel trapped in a never-ending race to ensure that their child is the brightest and the best, but while it's completely natural for us to want our kids to reach their potential, at what point does too much competition become damaging?

Taming the Tiger Parent book review

Carey uses case-studies in the book to explore what this contest is doing to the next generation, and there are some worrying results. Children are being pushed by their parents to make sure that they are not just academically ahead but also well rounded and excelling in other areas such as sport and music at the same time. Planning and executing a child's busy schedule as they are ferried about to after school activities and tutoring can put so much stress on both parents and child that it leads to the breakdown of relationships and has the completely opposite effect than the one desired.

I must admit that this book was an alarming read. Firstly because I had no idea that there was so much competition out there. It actually made me panic a bit that we don't have a plan in place to make sure that our children are headed on the right path to a good university. But then secondly because if you do go ahead and book your children into the correct enrichment classes, tutoring, extra-curricular activities and so on, then you run the risk of damaging both them and your relationship with them, and all that hard work will have caused it.

I always say that I just want my children to be happy, but this book made me realise how competitive I actually am. This is the first time I've really thought about it, but I do compare Harry to the others in his class. I want to know what reading book level his peers are on, and I check the work on the walls of his classroom to see which children have neater handwriting and can draw more recognisable pictures. The book contains a list of different types of tiger parents, and I could see my own traits in many of them, from The Spy to the Humblebragger.

Of course I want my children to be happy, but as parents we do have certain expectations and I just assume that one day they will go to university and have good jobs. If I don't push them, how will they get there? Ram is very competitive too. But something that particularly struck me was that it's all very well to help your child reach the top of the class, but then they are faced with the continuing pressure to stay up there, and if they fall below that high standard then they will feel like a failure.

The book is divided into three sections - How tiger parenting became a global force, How competitive parenting and schooling affect our children and How to shed your tiger parenting stripes. I think that I found the final chapter most useful. There are some really good suggestions on how to take a step back and really connect with your child, as well as helping to spot early warning signs in both yourself and your child.

This book really is one that I think all parents should read. I read it in two sittings on the train to London and back and it made the journey fly by. It flows smoothly, and I found myself marking many paragraphs that I wanted to refer back do. I'd definitely recommend it, whether you consider yourself to be a tiger parent or not.

I received a copy of this book to review.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Review - PlayMais from Crafter's Companion

I was recently sent some PlayMais from Crafter's Companion to review with the children. It's not a crafting material that I'd heard of before, but you can choose from a wide range of sets, both themed sets with instructions to build particular things, or sets which just contain lots of the little coloured pieces. I chose the PlayMais Fun to Learn Numbers set, priced at £11.99, which contains over 550 PlayMais pieces, along with printed cards, a cutting tool and a sponge.

PlayMais numbers crafting set review

So what is PlayMais? Well it's actually very similar to packing peanuts, albeit in much prettier colours. The soft, squashy pieces are made of corn starch, water and food colouring, meaning that it is natural, safe, and 100% biodegradable. When you dampen the PlayMais pieces they become sticky, meaning that you can stick them to each other and to other surfaces, for example cardboard. Then when they have dried out they become hard and solid.

PlayMais review

PlayMais is recommended for children aged 3+ (although I think that younger children would also have fun with it if supervised!). I set both children off first with the number card activities.

PlayMais review

This whole set is themed around numbers, and it comes with a set of 14 cards. The cards each have a number and a picture, with coloured outlines for where you need to stick the pieces. Some of the outlines are smaller, some larger, and some are shaped, so there is plenty of scope for practising different designs. There are also four cards with shapes that can be pressed out to make a small train and carriages with little animals to go inside. We've not got to those yet but I know that the children will have fun making it.

Children crafting with PlayMais

Mia loved putting her picture together. She wasn't particularly bothered about matching the colours but she was very proud of her finished picture. Harry did enjoy pressing the PlayMais onto the cards, but he had more fun using it to build his own 3D creations. He quickly saw that the pieces resembled bricks, and so with a thick piece of card as the base he built a sweet little house complete with doors and windows. I helped him with it and really enjoyed it, I think we'll be building more of these!

PlayMais house

There were loads of pieces in the set in a range of bright colours. Definitely enough to complete all the cards with some left over for free creating. It wasn't too messy, we did get a bit sticky but it was easily cleaned up. The PlayMais pieces are definitely biodegradable too, Harry enjoyed putting a couple in a bowl of water and watching them dissolve.

If you're looking for a fun new craft to try with the children then I'd definitely recommend PlayMais. There is a lot of scope for the things that you can create.

We received this PlayMais set to review.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Holidaying in Florida

As a family, our favourite holiday destination has to be Florida, and more specifically Orlando. I visited for the first time with my parents when I was a teenager, then Ram and I had a great holiday there back in 2011. I always knew that I wanted to take my own children there one day, and we've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit as a family twice in the last few years.

In a few weeks time we are lucky enough to be heading out to Orlando again for another fantastic family holiday, and we can't wait. We are returning to the accommodation that we have stayed in for our last two trips, so we are familiar with the area which makes it much less daunting when it comes to leaving the airport in what feels like the middle of the night with two small, grumpy children!

On our first trip to Orlando it was all about Disney World. We spent two weeks exploring the Disney theme parks, and that was pretty much all that we did. The children were small, but we took it slowly with plenty of breaks. We arrived early at the parks and saw as much as we could before they got too busy, then headed back to the villa in the afternoon for a rest. Sometimes we returned to the parks later in the afternoon and sometimes we just relaxed by the pool.

Small children at Disney World

On our second holiday we also did a Disney cruise as part of our trip, so we didn't feel the need to spend all our time at Disney. Instead we visited some of the other tourist attractions in the area and we discovered some really wonderful places to visit. They were cheaper than the Disney parks and also much quieter, and it was so nice not to have to queue for everything! We particularly enjoyed Dinosaur World and Gatorland, and the Kennedy Space Center was another very good day out.

Dinosaur World in Orlando

On our upcoming holiday we are going back to Disney, and this time we're also going to be visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I'm very much looking forward to visiting the new Diagon Alley attraction at Universal Studios and travelling on the Hogwarts Express between the two parks. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride at Magic Kingdom is also a new attraction since our last visit, completing the Fantasyland expansion, and it looks really good. We'll be there over Halloween, and I'm interested to see how differently it is celebrated in the United States, I think that it's going to be a lot of fun!

I'm hoping to fit in some shopping too. I love visiting the American craft stores and seeing all the different products that they sell, I've already started a list of things to look for. We might even have time to do some clothes shopping too, although that's not always easy with the little ones in tow!

Have you visited Florida? If you are looking for a holiday in Florida, check out the Cosmos website for cheap package holidays and deals.

This is a sponsored post.

Hama bead Roman mosaic border designs for children

Hama bead Roman mosaic designs for children

Recently I held a Roman themed day, and one of our activities was making Roman mosaics from Hama beads. We do love Hama beads, and they seemed like the perfect way to recreate a Roman mosaic! I left my son to come up with his own design, but I knew that I wanted to revisit the idea myself and come up with some Roman mosaic designs. Here are the patterns that I came up with, based on real mosaic photographs found in a guide book for Fishbourne Roman Palace.

Firstly I looked at circular designs. I thought that these would make a nice frame, either as a standalone design with a photograph or drawn picture inside, or else a child could come up with their own Hama bead picture to fill the centre circle. (The dot in the centre is just to help with positioning the design centrally on the large circular peg board).

Hama bead Roman frame mosaic design

Roman mosaic frame in Hama or Perler beads

Roman Hama bead designs

Once I have ironed my larger Hama bead pieces I find it a good idea to leave them for a few minutes between two cork heatproof mats with the iron rested on top as a weight. This ensures that as they cool down they stay nice and flat, as there can be a tendency for them to bend.

Hama bead frame in a Roman mosaic design

Above is my finished frame. The mosaic picture inside the frame on the right is a postcard that I bought from the archaeological museum in Naples, it's a mosaic found at Pompeii. Below is the finished frame around a picture of a mosaic from Fishbourne Roman Palace. I think it looks pretty good!

Roman mosaic design Hama bead frame

Next I had a go with the large square peg board and made some borders, again inspired by real Roman mosaics from my books. I think that these designs would also make nice borders for a frame around a mosaic design or picture.

Roman mosaic square borders

I think that the designs look good with two contrasting colours. For my designs I've used brown and flesh coloured Hama beads, but you could also use black (or any other darker colour) and white.

If you enjoy using Hama beads to make patterns rather than pictures you might also like my Hama bead Rangoli patterns which I designed for Diwali. I have created large Hama bead Rangoli and small Hama bead Rangoli.

You can also find all my Hama bead projects for both children and adults on my Hama bead page.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Review - Penpals at Home handwriting books

I was recently sent two new books from Cambridge University Press to try out with the children. The Penpals at Home series is aimed at children aged 3-5 years old. Penpals books are used in schools to teach handwriting in children, and this is the first time that the books have been published for parents to use with their children at home. The books teach early handwriting skills such as patterns and print letter formation. 

Penpals handwriting books review

Mia tried out Penpals at Home - Getting Ready for Handwriting. She's 3 1/2 and I've not really done any work on writing with her so I was quite impressed with how quickly she picked it up. She wasn't interested in holding the pen correctly so we still need to work on that, but she loved tracing the shapes with a suitable dry erase pen (not included) and then rubbing it out afterwards. She worked through the book once straightaway and then was asking for it again later.

Penpals Getting ready for Handwriting book review

Each page uses digital watermarking technology to make the patterns and letters on the page come to life through a free app which you can download to your phone.

Review Penpals Handwriting book

Harry is 5 and in Year 1 at school. I tried him with Penpals at Home - Forming Letters. Although he is writing with some confidence, he still often writes letters backwards and he also tends to write his letters rather large, so this book was just right for him.

Penpals handwriting wipe clean books

Harry really enjoyed working on this book. I found that the app worked really well for this book as it was at a higher level, and it demonstrated how to form the letters for him. Harry worked through the book with the app at his side to remind him how to write them. So although the books work fine without the app, it's a nice addition to have.

I'd definitely recommend these books if you are wanting to work on handwriting with your child at home.

I received these books to review.
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