Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cousin Camp 2007: Crafts

Any mom knows that if you're going to gather 8 kids for five days, you'd better have a bunch of activities to keep them busy. Knowing that most of these kids enjoy "crafts," I worked in as many as I could.

Now, I'm not a "busy work" crafts kind of person. If I make a craft - or have kids made a craft - I don't want it to just sit around and collect dust. I want it to be useful. So I chose the following crafts with that in mind.

First of all, I bought foam visors (3-4 to a pack), self-stick foam letter stickers (1 pack did everyone's names) and two packs of self-stick foam stickers (1 boy theme, 1 girl theme) from Dollar Tree. I think I paid around $5 total and we have enough stickers leftover to do them again this year. The visors were essential since we had many outdoor activities planned!

The next project was equally utilitarian - personalized cups for the week (so we didn't have to wash cups every fifteen minutes). I started out with the intention of buying paint pens and letting them write their names (and any other decorations they chose) with those. But I found a great price on Sharpies and thought it would work equally well. It didn't. The names washed off almost entirely after the first washing. They were faint enough that we could go back over them with the Sharpies, but it wasn't what I had in mind. This year, I'm buying the paint pens. (But, as you can tell, they did have fun doing it!)

One of my pet projects last year was the stepping stones. I wanted to make them in the worst kind of way, but I didn't want to have to buy those expensive kits for each child. Even at 40% off, they're pricey for what you're getting.

So I looked it up online and it turns out that I was right - they can be made much cheaper. For the molds, I bought those clear round plastic protectors you put under houseplants. I got the 12" size in a 3-pack at Dollar Tree, and they are reusable.

I bought an 80-lb bag of regular old cement mix at Home Depot for $3. It easily did all eight stepping stones, and we had some left over. One word of caution here: this cement mix is not ground as fine as the kind you get in the kits. If that matters to you, buy the cement mix refills for the kits (with your 40% off coupons at craft stores, of course).

We pressed their hands into the mixture and wrote their initials and the year with a stick. If I had it to do over again, I'd buy the letter press set they make for these stepping stones ($5-6, I think). The end result looks much more professional! But we still got to make the keepsakes for a fraction of what I would have paid otherwise. (It cost about $6 total for everyone's.)

Another quick note about the stepping stones: don't let them "set up" too long before you press their hands into the mixture. By the time we got their hands imprinted in the stones, it was almost too late. The impressions were not as deep as I would have liked, but they're there.

And if you'd like to further accent the handprints, you can paint them with patio paint, a weather-resistant acrylic paint that comes in small bottles just like the other craft paints you've seen in the stores. DecoArt makes a patio paint, but look around because I'm sure there are other brands out there.

I was planning on having the kids do their own mini scrapbooks of the week, but I ended up doing it for them. By the end of the week, we weren't willing to give them glue sticks, scissors and permanent pens. That's okay - they still immensely enjoyed the pictures and were able to share them with their families. I chose about 6 pictures of each of the kids individually participating in the activities, as well as a few group activities. Of course, I had planned this ahead of time, so I made sure I took a bunch of pictures of each of the kids.

I cut costs on this project by making my own scrapbooks with square coasters (made out of chipboard), regular cardstock and my binding machine. I also cut costs by developing the pictures in wallet size, which I was able to do at my sister's CVS store. That way, I was getting two pictures for the price of a 4x6".

By the way, my niece specifically requested more crafts this year, so I've been collecting ideas all year. My goal is to have a craft for each day that we'll be sticking around the house (which might not be much this year, but I'll talk about that later).