Let’s Get Small

lets get small

Book lovers dream of that big, beautiful library with the cozy chairs and the rolling ladder. But books can tend to take up quite a bit of space. Today, we have a solution for you! It’s the My Miniature Library kit by Laurence King Publishing, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (ages 6+, retails for $20). Katie took the miniature kit for a tiny test drive…

my minature library kit by laurence king publishingThe packaging for My Miniature Library is a delightful cardboard box in the shape of a book. When you open the box, you are greeted with a small instruction booklet, 18 sheets of books covers and pages, and a cardboard punch-out bookshelf.

kit contents of my miniature libraryThe 9″ x 12″ box containing the kit (and this is really cool) is also the set of the library. Prop it up on its side, and it becomes your library, complete with chevron hardwood floors, birds in flight wallpaper, and a window framed with fall leaves. When you are done playing with your miniature library, you simply pack everything inside the box, close the lid, and slide the kit on a shelf until next time!

set for my minature libraryThe kit contains the makings for 30 tiny books: 20 pre-written (both fiction and non-fiction), 8 books with title prompts you can author yourself, and 2 completely blank books for whatever topic you desire. Here’s a set of the pre-printed book sheets (which were primarily fairy tales):

ready made book sheets for my miniature libraryAnd here’s a set of the design-your-own sheets:

make your own book sheets for my minature library kitGenerally, the instructions are very clear, concise, and easy to follow. Especially the cardboard bookshelf. The books are where I started to run into some trouble. To create a miniature book, you first cut out the 2 strips that become the book pages, and the cover of the book. Then you carefully accordion-fold the book pages together, and glue them inside the front and back of the book’s cover.

book folds You have to carefully cut the 2 page strips in order to not lose any of the text or images. You also have to cut out the cover. For 30 books, that’s 90 pieces of paper to cut. That’s a lot of cutting.

Also, folding the 2 page strips is a bit tedious. These books are small (1″ x 1.5″), so it takes nimble fingers to make sure the tiny pages are folded just right. The covers have a tiny spines that require more nimble finger work.

It took me around 6.5 minutes to make a book from start to finish. Multiply that by 30 and you are looking at well over 3 hours to make all 30 books. Also, the packaging doesn’t mention needing glue to attach the pages to the cover. That piece of information is buried deep within the instructions.

However, when finished, the library is positively adorable. The stories are cleverly edited, so nothing is lost in the retelling. I love the option for children to write and draw their own books. The quality of printing is top notch, and the book illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini are just incredible. Here’s an illustration from Hansel and Gretel:

hansel and gretel illustration by daniela jaglenka terrazziniAnd here is the finished library, bookshelf and all. We placed my toilet paper tube portrait of Johnathan Swift (who you first met here) in the library so you can get an idea of the size ratio.

finished my miniature libraryHowever, I disagree with the recommended age of 6+. I think children 10+ are better suited for the complicated cutting and folding to put these books together. With an estimated 3 hours to craft all 30 books (and that’s after all the cutting is done), I can imagine many children would give up well before all of the books are finished. Children under 10 might also have trouble writing small enough for the design-your-own books portion of the kit. Still, there’s no denying the awesomeness of your very own library with readable books and gorgeous hardwood floors!

Recommended, with caution. Be prepared with good scissors, strong cutting and folding fingers, a glue stick, and lots and LOTS of patience.

More Cowbell

more cowbell

Is that a drum solo? Or the sound of a massive stampede? YOU decide when your buffalo finger puppet performs on this awesome drum set! It took a little work, but we figured out how to get this entire drum set on a single sheet of paper. Just cut, color, fold, and rock out!

We recommend reading Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums, written by Audrey Vernick, and illustrated by Daniel Jennewein (Balzer + Bray, 2011). From the first time you brought that baby buffalo home, you knew he was destined for great things. So order a drum set and wait for the magic (and don’t forget a couple cases of earmuffs for the neighbors)!

You’ll need:

First, cut the drum set from the template. It will looks like this…

drum set step 1Decorate it with markers, and don’t forget to write the name of your band inside the circle of the bass drum! When you’re done coloring, flip the drum set template over:

drum set step 2Roll the lower drums inwards, and tape them to the back of the set.

drum set step 3Next, fold the tabs downward along the dotted lines. These are your drum heads. Use scissors to shape them to the tops of your drums, then secure them with tape.

drum set step 4Repeat the same process with the upper drums.

drum set step 5Now fold the long base of the drum set upwards, tucking the cymbal stands between the lower and upper drums.

drum set step 6Turn the set around, and stick small tape loops to the tops of each cymbal stand. Pinch two circles of tin foil onto the tape loops. Your cymbals are ready, and your drum set is done!

drum set step 7Use scrap paper from your template to fashion a pair of drum sticks and finger loops. Tape the sticks to the finger loops, and slide them over your fingers.

drum sticksFinally, your buffalo drummer! Cut and color the buffalo finger puppet from the template (or use the full color version here). Cut finger holes in the chest. Then ready your drum sticks, step behind the drum set, and JAM!

more cowbell

Light It Up

light it upWhen it comes to crafting, the best way to send that project over the edge of coolness is to LIGHT IT UP! We’ve wired flannel boards with conductive thread, tested a neon sign writer, made super simple lanterns, made some slightly-more-complicated lanterns, crafted a vehicular night light, a castle votive, lightning bugs, cities of light, and illuminated underwear. And who can forget the interior lights on Marissa’s blog birthday cake?

glow baby glow croppedSo when we spotted the Circuit Clay kit by Klutz we were excited. Ideally, the kit allows kids to do all sorts of electrical experimenting, with the added bonus of sculpting unique creations. But conductive clay? Would that even work? I must admit, we were a wee bit skeptical.

klutz circuit clay kitThe Klutz kit retails for around $22 (ages 8 & up). It contains a 52-page instruction booklet, 4 packs of color conductive clay, 1 pack of white insulating clay, 20 color LEDs, a battery pack (4 AA batteries required), and 52 paper embellishments for your projects. Katie put the kit through its paces. Take it away Katie!


Following the instruction booklet’s explanation of a basic circuit, I molded two balls of green clay into cubes, pushed the wire legs of a red bulb into each cube, and inserted the positive (red) wire and the negative (black) wire into the cubes. Lo and behold, the bulb illuminated when I flipped on the battery case!

klutz circuit clay battery pack and bulbFeeling certain in my understanding of basic circuits, I moved ahead in the instruction book and created a Princeton University-inspired orange and black flower, complete with a little glowing bee and butterfly from the kit’s paper add-ons.

The flower project required the use of the insulating clay, which doesn’t allow the electric current to flow through it. However, the instructions were straightforward. The clay petals were pretty thin, so it was challenging to make sure the bulb’s wire legs were fully inserted. One wrong move, and the bulb would go out. This issue would be doubly hard for kids. However, the end result was pretty cool:

klutz circuit clay flower projectA note about the instruction book: it is an exceptionally well written and illustrated manual that provides easy to understand lessons for kids about electricity. Kudos to Klutz for using every inch of the book with colorful images and educational descriptions.

klutz circuit clay bookletRiding a wave of confidence, I decided to crank it to 11 and make my own design with as many lights as possible. As I was forming the letters to say “Hi” and the circle around it, I had to remember to maintain the circuit between the conductive clay and the insulting clay. I will admit this was a little challenging, and I *may* have broken several bulbs putting it together. But eventually it worked! Here’s a photo of it in full darkness. Notice that the blue bulbs are much dimmer?

hi in the darkNow for the bad news. I found the clay was quick to crumble and shred, even fresh out of the package. It was sometimes tough to keep the LED bulb’s long wire legs fully inserted into the designs, and it was frustrating at times to figure out how to set up the different circuits. Finally, the book says to “keep your clay in a resealable plastic bag or container so it won’t dry out.” I did seal it in a Ziploc bag, but a couple weeks later, the clay was dry, flaky, and nearly impossible to manipulate.

crumbled clayThe Klutz Circuit Clay is definitely a clever way to teach kids about electricity without them accidentally getting hurt or shocking themselves. It’s an activity children with patience and strong reading skills can do on their own, but younger kids will definitely need assistance. The suggested age range may be a little low (ages 8 & up), but I’m not sure if kids older than 10 would find this experiment worth their time and attention.

Following in the footsteps of our kid tester, Hope, and weighing the pros and cons, I rate this product 2 out of 5. The lessons about electricity, circuits and positive/negative charges are great, but the flaking clay, easy-to-break LED lights, and tough-to-mimic designs might be frustrating for kids.