Eraserhead

finished eraser headsEvery writer needs a pencil, and at the end of that pencil is…an eraser. By why settle for the cylindrical pink variety when you can opt for a colorful, unique creation of your own imagination? Enter the Creatibles D.I.Y. Eraser Kit, which retails for around $12. The kit includes a rainbow assortment of clay colors that you can sculpt and bake into custom erasers.

creatibles eraser kitOur kid tester, Hope, is taking a break to tackle middle school madness (classes, school play, going to regionals for the National History Day competition…go Hope!), so Marissa took the Creatibles Kit for a test drive. Take it away, Marissa!


At first, the clay was dry and crumbly. I had to knead it and warm it up with my hands, until it had a consistency similar to Play-Doh. After that, it was no problem to use!

prepping the clayWhen working on my first eraser, I was conservative in my design and how much clay I used. I didn’t think there would be enough (each color is only 0.63 ounces). But I soon realized that I didn’t need that much (unless you’re making a gigantic multi-color dinosaur). The more comfortable I became with the clay, the more I experimented with detail and size.

eraser assortmentSome of the colors (like black, green, and blue) will rub off on your hands and table. So it’s a good idea to wash your hands in between colors. Also, use parchment paper. It really helps keep clay residue off your work table.

Making an eraser that fits onto a pencil is a bit more challenging, because once you start adding detail, the hole you created for the pencil gets squished or warped. So every once in a while, make sure to refit the eraser to the pencil.

refitting eraser on pencilWhen adding little detailed pieces to your erasers, make sure you stick the pieces on well! I had a few eyes and limbs fall off because I didn’t press them down hard enough. Eventually, I used a plastic knife for pressing. Clay modeling tools would probably help and look cleaner, but you don’t have to get that fancy – a plastic knife works fine!

using plastic knifeblue girl finishedThe erasers need to bake at 210-250 degrees for 30 minutes (I went with 250 degrees) then cool and set for 1 hour. I used parchment paper to protect my cookie sheet as well. The hardest part of this project? Waiting the full hour while the erasers cooled down and hardened! I kept checking them every 15 minutes (and if you poke them and they haven’t set, you run the risk of leaving a fingerprint or losing small pieces).

I’m happy to report that the clay doesn’t change color when you bake it. There was no melting or shrinking either! Once your erasers have cooled and set, you can try them out…

pink shark eraser testAnd they work! The pencil residue will stick to the erasers, so if you’re truly using them to erase, they won’t stay pretty for long (or rub the eraser on blank paper to clean it). The eraser doesn’t break or wear down quickly either. Even after some rigorous erasing, the pink shark’s chin was still intact!

pink shark undersideThere’s no stated age range for this kit, but I think it would be good for ages 6 & up. However, because the clay starts out dry and crumbly, younger kids might have a difficult time handling it on their own. But once the clay gets to Play-Doh consistency, it’s fine. Also (and it says this on the kit) the clay could stain “certain finishes” and should be kept away from “carpet, clothing, and other porous surfaces.”

The Creatibles D.I.Y. Eraser Kit is easy to use, a snap to bake, the erasers work, and the sky is the limit as far as creativity. I made 9 erasers for the testing, and there was clay left for at least 2 more! So it would make a great group or party activity too. The kit does require a bit of vigilance with clay residue on your hands and work surfaces, but other than that, it’s fun. I highly recommend it!

Amazing Airships

one amazing airshipIt’s sky-high adventure at a our steampunk story time! These amazing airships with matching goggles are a cinch, thanks to our ready-made templates and a few sparkly extras!

We read Zephyr Takes Flight by Steve Light (Candlewick Press, 2012). Zephyr loves airplanes. She draws them, plays with them, and aims to fly one someday. But when an exuberant triple loop-de-loop spectacular ends with a crash in the living room, she is grounded in her room. That’s when Zephyr discovers a door behind her dresser that leads to the most wondrous place she’s ever seen. A hangar filled with paper, pens, plans, and amazing flying machines! She takes a test flight, but is forced to crash land in mountains inhabited by flying pigs. There she meets Rumbus, a little pig who can’t fly. Clever Zephyr builds Rumbus some wings, and in exchange, Rumbus and his family help her fly back home. She arrives just in time to hear her parents calling her for a triple-hug, triple-pancake, spectacular.

You’ll need:

  • 1 rectangle of white poster board (approximately 8.5″ x 11″)
  • 1 paper bag
  • 1 small box (mine was 2″ x 3″ x 3″)
  • 4 pieces of twisteez wire for the airship’s basket (approximately 5.5″ long)
  • 1 piece of twisteez wire for the airship’s carrying loop (approximately 9″ long)
  • 1 piece of twisteez wire for goggle strap (approximately 17″ long)
  • Templates, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock (more on these later!)
  • A selection of sparkle stems
  • A selection of metallic dot stickers
  • Hole punch, scissors, tape, stapler, glue for construction
  • Metallic markers for decorating

We’ll begin with the poster board framework that houses your airship’s balloon! Start with an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of poster board in landscape orientation. Fold the poster board from left to right.

airship step1Starting from the folded end, make four, 4.25″ long cuts. Each cut should end about an inch from the end of the paper. These will form the “struts” of your airship’s framework.

airship step2Unfold the poster board and flip it over. Currently, your struts have 1 central crease. You’re going to need to add 2 more creases on each strut (one on either side of the central crease). The new creases should be about 2.5″ away from the central crease.

Below you can see the poster board with 1 central crease. The strut at the very bottom, however, has 3 creases.

airship step3Crease all the struts, then circle the poster board and staple both ends. Your airship framework should now look like this:

airship step 4Punch four holes in one of the struts. This is where your airship’s basket will attach later.

airship step 5Now for the balloon! Open, then crumble, a paper bag. The more wrinkly the bag, the better it looks! Keeping the bag crumpled, slip it between the struts. Gently fluff the bag to fill out the framework.

Originally, I asked the kids to pull the bag apart with their fingers. But one mom came up with this clever maneuver. She pulled the opening of the bag through one end of the framework and briskly blew into the bag to inflate it. Genius!

puffing up the balloonI have to say, that’s got to be the weirdest blog photo yet. And that’s saying a lot. Come to think of it, doesn’t it look a bit like a steampunk asthma inhaler?

Time to attach the basket! If necessary, cut the lid and tabs off a small box, then punch a hole in each corner. Secure four, 5.5″ pieces of twisteez wire to the holes. Attach the other ends to the holes in the strut.

finished airshipYou’ll notice that the airship in the above photo has a hanging loop at the top. That’s a 9″ piece of twisteez wire circled around the top strut. Secure the loop to the underside of the strut with tape.

At this point, your ship is done and it’s time to decorate! There are tons of things to choose from in the templates below:

Bird wings, butterflies, gears template
Gears, little wings template
Big wings, little wings template
Medium wings and rudders template
Goggle template
Assorted propellers

Originally, the templates were created by artist Aliisa Lee for a steampunk hat craft (except the assorted propellers, airship wing and rudders – I, ahem, drew those chunky little things).  We reused the templates for this miraculous mechanism. Now we’re using them for airships. It just goes to show the elegance and versatility that is steampunk.

To allow kids lots of creative time, we prepped the airship frameworks in advance. We also cut out various items from the templates and stuck them in individual buckets and baskets for easy browsing.

basketsIf you’re using a bucket, it helps to stick a little picture of the item on the front, for kids who are too short to lean over and peer inside.

bucketsThese buckets are great for organizing art supplies. I found them in the bulk candy section of Party City when I was researching red buckets for this Kate Wetherall project. As Kate has proven time and time again, they are super handy! We also offered sparkle stems, metallic markers, extra twisteez wire, and metallic dot stickers for a little bling.

fully decorated airshipTo make goggles, simply color a pair from the template, punch holes on the ends, and knot a 17″ piece of twisteez wire through both holes. Adjust for size, and perch the goggles on top of your head like a headband. Some kids, however, cut holes in their goggle’s eye pieces, which were incredibly adorable. Look at this duo!

fantastic goggles

You’re So Dull (I bet you think this post is about you)

you're so dull

Today, we’re going to be boring. That’s right. The whole point of this project is to make your house look exactly the same as everyone else’s. No variations please. Will we be using bright, bold colors? No way. We’re using grey, brown, white, and black. Feel the dullness lulling you into a stupor…lull…lull…lulllllll. Until, of course, you turn the house around and look at the other side. Wow! It’s a wild, crazy plethora of patterns. A virtual riot of color! Dullness begone!

really exciting houseWe read Meet The Dullards, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (HarperCollins, 2015). The Dullard kids (Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud) are causing trouble. For starters, they’re – gasp – reading circus books instead of staring at blank pieces of paper! And last week, their parents caught them trying to play outside! Things are getting so chaotic, the Dullards decide to move to a less exciting neighborhood. But while Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are (literally) watching the paint dry on their news walls, the kids sneak outside to play circus. This is just too much! The Dullards move back to their old neighborhood. As Mr. and Mrs. Dullard fall asleep, they feel assured that their lives are finally back to being perfectly boring. The kids, however, have other plans. They’ve joined the circus.

You’ll need:

  • 2 rectangles of tagboard or poster board (approximately 7″ x 11.75″)
  • 1 house facade template printed on 8.5″ x 14″ paper
  • Rectangular white office file stickers (optional)
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • A selection of eye stickers (optional)
  • Construction paper (including multicultural construction paperr)
  • Decorating supplies (more on that below!)
  • 1 large tissue box
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by tracing the house facade template onto 2 rectangles of tagboard or brown poster board. Cut, and set one of the house facades aside. On the other facade, use office file stickers to make plain windows and doors. At our story time, each kid got the exact same pre-marked windows and a door (if you don’t have office file stickers, just use markers). I strongly (yet comically) encouraged the kids to make their houses look exactly like my example.

dull houseNext, we made a dull toilet paper tube person. Here, I used the book’s illustrations as a guide. Grey clothes, black hair, etc. I only offered one kind of eye sticker too! We don’t want any overstimulating variations on eyes now, do we?

dull personYour dull house and person are finished. Set them aside. Pick up the second house facade…and go CRAZY! We brought out the Bling Bin, a bunch of additional supplies, and encouraged the kids to decorate like mad. They also received more door and window stickers. Here’s Marissa’s super shiny house.

exciting houseOur decorating supplies included mylar, patterned paper, feathers, pom-poms, construction paper, large gemstones, craft sticks, foam beads, patterned tape, self-adhesive foam shapes, , and embossed foil paper.

While the kids were decorating their houses, they were also decorating a second, non-dull toilet paper tube person. Check out the yellow cellophane cape on this little lady!

exciting personWhen the exciting house facades are finished, hot glue them to one side of a large tissue box. Hot glue the dull facade to the other side of the box. Twirl the box around to view the dull and exciting sides. And speaking of exciting sides, check out these masterpieces…

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That’s not to say that dull houses that look exactly the same are necessarily bad. I mean, I hear that Camazotz is quite lovely this time of year. Especially if you’re looking to score a delicious turkey dinner. Leave your little brother at home though.