Creating Words (Literally)!

Mix, pour, and paint…constructing words has never been so hands-on! Today, Katie and her intrepid assistant are test driving the “Perfect Craft” Alphabet Craft Kit by Skullduggery. Intended for children ages 8 and up, this kit allows you to make three-dimensional letters from scratch. Did our letter kit make the grade? Take it away, Katie!


The winner of several awards from Creative Child Magazine, this kit retails on for around $20. It contains 2 two bags of casting mixture, 1 silicone letter mold, 6 small containers of paint, 1 paintbrush, 1 paint sponge, and 1 square of sandpaper. The suggested age range for the kit is 8+, but I feel younger children should definitely have adult assistance, especially when pouring the casting material into the mold. Children who are 10 and older can work on this craft kit on their own.

The instructions tell you to pour ½ cup of water into one of the bags of casting material and mix it together with your hands until it is a “melted ice cream” consistency. The original cast color is white, but you can give it color if you add paint to the mixture. My son and I decided to try and color our casting material orange, so we dropped in some red and yellow paint. Sadly, it did not come out as strong orange as we had hoped.

We debated what word we should create, and finally decided to spell out “Princeton.” However, we soon discovered a problem – there are TWO letter N’s in Princeton! We were going to be one letter short! Happily, we realized we could spell “Cotsen” with the letters we had already poured, and we could spell “Tiger” if we added the letter G. We still had extra casting mixture, so we also poured the letters A, K and Z, which are my son’s and my initials.

One entire bag of casting mixture allowed us to make 13 letters, but be careful! The instructions suggest you fill the letter mold about ¾ full. However, due to the fast pour of the mixture, we sometimes overfilled. As you can see, the final letters E and Z were quite thick!

We waited an hour for the cast to harden and then peeled the letters from the silicone mold. The letters had some crumbly edges that were easily sanded down using the provided sandpaper, but otherwise the letters looked fantastic.

We let the letters to dry overnight before we painted them. The hefty red paintbrush pictured on the front of the box? NOT the one that is included in the packaging! Ours was much much smaller!

The tiny brush really doesn’t provide adequate paint coverage, so I decided to try the kit’s paint sponge and multiple coats. In the photo below, you can see how I used the paint sponge and double coat on the C and S, the paintbrush and double coat for the T and E, and the paintbrush and one coat with the O and N. You can definitely see the color difference between the various methods.

As a final touch, I added a light coat of sparkle paint on all of the letters. Oddly, the sparkle paint removed some of the purple paint from the letter C, but not from any other paint color!

Perfect Craft’s Alphabet Craft Kit is ideal to keep children busy for a couple of hours. Creating and painting the letters was quite entertaining, and clean up was a snap. Once the letters are created, however, there’s not much more to do with the letters. I suppose you can use the letters to practice spelling different words? Or use them for a game of Boggle? Another thought I had would be to mount them onto a wood sign to hang on a child’s bedroom door, or create a family announcement board. Also, once you’re out of the casting mix, you are DONE! So think carefully about what you want to spell!

Final ranking: 3.5 out of 5 stars


As a precautionary measure, Princeton University closed the gallery of the Cotsen Children’s Library until further notice, and our children’s programming as been suspended during this closure. Until our library reopens, the blog will post once a week. So every Tuesday, please check in to see what we’re up to…from story time projects to awesome interviews!

Doing Flips

We’ve all been getting quite a bit of screen time lately, but what about if we take it waaaaay back to the early days of screens and animation? Turns out, it can be pretty fascinating. Especially if you have the flipbookit, a DIY hand-cranked miniature movie machine. Katie took the kit for a test drive with some pretty amazing results…take it away, Katie!


The flipbookit retails for around $35 and comes with everything you need to build your own flipbook animation of the historic “Horse in Motion.” The kit contents include instructions, a box to house the animation, pre-printed cards, and plastic pieces to create the spindle and flipping mechanism. There’s no suggested age range printed on this particular kit, but I would say it’s great for kids 8+ to build on their own. Younger children would need parental assistance.

The instructions, which are clear and easy to follow, have you start by building the cardboard box that becomes the “movie projector” (I loved the attention to detail with the snap rivets, which provide a fun industrial vibe).

I had two major issues with the box: the first was making sure the snap rivets were tight and secure. The second problem was when I was trying to insert the spindle, the opposite bushing (the part that holds the spindle in the middle of the box) kept falling out. It felt like I needed a third hand in order to secure the moving parts of pieces, but after a few unsuccessful attempts, I was able to build the spindle and attach the crank pulley.

The flip-cards are a thicker die-cut plastic, which offers the perfect rigidity to spin and create the “moving picture” effect when you turn the spindle. As you remove the flip-cards from the full sheets, you must be careful to not bend the sprockets (the small tabs on the straight side of the card).

The sprockets insert into holes on the spindle discs and if one is bent or torn, the “moving picture” effect might be lost. There are 24 individual flip-cards to insert into the spindle. Start with number (1) and work your way through all of them.

This can be a tedious task, especially when you get to the final cards and there’s not much room to squeeze them into place. Once they are all attached, put the flipbookit on a table and turn the hand crank. Voila! You can watch “Horse in Motion” over and over and over again!


The company also offers a blank DIY card kit, giving you the opportunity to create your own animation. It retails for around $14 and provides 24 blank flip-cards and five sheets of blank white label paper for you to either draw or print your own animation.

On their website, flipbookit also has a free Maker Tool where you can upload a video or a series of photographs. The online Maker Tool will then transform it into an animation and allow you to preview, make changes and finally, it will create a .pdf for you to print onto the blank label paper.

It wasn’t hard to convince my son to help me create a short video for the flipbookit. We tried out several different scenarios and finally decided to have him kick a soccer ball down a hallway in our house. He went back and forth, doing various tricks and movements, which gave me plenty of choices for the animation.

I was amazed at how easy it was to put everything together. Our original video was almost two minutes and the final version that became our “Soccer in Hallway” movie is just 2.6 seconds long. You will need a printer, preferably color, to print the .pdf of your final animation. It took nearly 30 minutes to affix the printed labels onto the blank flip-cards, and then insert them into the projector box.

The time was well spent because the final product is fantastic! My son has officially claimed the flipbookit  and I regularly hear the projector spinning in his room, undoubtably playing “Soccer in Hallway,” while he should be working on his online schoolwork.


My rankings:

KIT: 4.5 out of 5
I loved the simplicity of the cardboard projector. However, it doesn’t assemble in minutes as stated on the front of the box and there are a few parts to the construction that are challenging.

INSTRUCTIONS: 5 out of 5
The creators did a fine job making the instructions concise and well written. The images were perfect to help better explain the written tasks. Plus, they have the instructions available on their website to reprint if your original copy gets misplaced (as I learned from personal experience!).

BLANK DIY CARD KIT: 4 out of 5
As awesome as it is to create your own animation, it’s rather expensive for just one kit. The cost would start to add up if you had several artistic children who all wanted to create their own animations.

ONLINE MAKER TOOL: 5 out of 5
This was, by far, the coolest feature of the entire flipbookit. I was able to test and create several animations before settling on our final movie.

OVERALL: 4 out of 5
flipbookit  is very cool. It is a brilliant way to introduce children to an early form of animation and moving pictures. However, the cost to purchase the kit and DIY cards can be prohibitive for some people. I can also see it losing its appeal when one grows tired of watching a “Horse in Motion.”


As a precautionary measure, Princeton University closed the gallery of the Cotsen Children’s Library until further notice, and our children’s programming as been suspended during this closure. Until our library reopens, the blog will post once a week. So every Tuesday, please check in to see what we’re up to…from story time projects to awesome interviews!

O Tannenbooks

Reuse, repurpose, and redecorate this holiday season! Katie crafted this clever little book tree using 6 recycled books, wrapping paper, a cake support rod, and a bit of drill work. The results? Fa-bu-lous!

You’ll need:

  • 5-6 books
  • Mod Podge
  • 1 foam paint brush
  • Green wrapping paper
  • 1 cake support rod
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base
  • An electric drill for construction

Katie was inspired to do this project when she spotted this beautiful book tree at Drumthwacket last year. Drumthwacket is the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey, where Katie proudly serves as a docent for their historical tours. Every December, local gardening groups deck the halls, and this little tree stole her heart. She was determined to craft one of her own.

Let me start by saying that Katie selected six OLD books for this project…retired editions that had torn pages, faded covers, and ripped bindings. Because otherwise we would have been cringing during the first step of the project…drilling holes in the spines of the books! Katie used the largest drill bit in the set – a 5/16″ bit to be exact – to drill holes in the center of the books’ spines. Next, she used a bottle of Mod Podge and a foam paint brush to glue wrapping paper onto the covers of the books. We went all schmancy and bought our wrapping paper from Paper Source.

While the book covers were drying, Katie construct the tree base. She glued together two, 12″ cake pads, then glued wrapping paper on the top circle. She again drilled a hole in the center of the base, then threaded a cake support rod upwards, through the hole.

If you are like me and have NEVER heard of cake support rods until today, they are metal or plastic rods and bases used to build multi-tier cakes (think wedding cakes or elaborate Kardashian baby showers). Katie found her rods in the cake decorating section of Michael’s craft store. The rods a package of fourteen, 12″ rods costs around $8.

Annnnd here’s the finished base, ready to support some books!

Since the initial holes Katie drilled in the books were covered with wrapping paper, she carefully re-drilled them. Then she threaded the books onto the support rod. Almost immediately, she noticed a problem. The books sagged down the smooth rod and flattening out! Katie quickly fixed the problem by wrapping rubber bands around the rod to brace each book.

When the books were stacked, Katie added a star to the top. This was a cheap ornament with a sparkle stem wrapped around the ornament’s loop. The sparkle stem was threaded inside the cake support rod, then the star/rod connection was reinforced by a second sparkle stem. Add a strand of lights and you are done!