November 29- December 7
Bull City Craft, along with more than 40 other Sustain-a-bull member businesses, will be offering special events and discounts. As part of our week long celebration, we’ll be sending special daily email deals, holiday tips, and craft ideas. If you’re not already subscribed, you can join our email list here.
At Bull City Craft, we’ve hosted hundreds of birthday parties and we’ve learned a lot about how to have a party that is fun for kids and stress-free for adults. September through November is always our busiest birthday party season, and Frances’ birthday is also in the fall. As we plan all of these parties, we wanted to share our tips on hosting parties for kids.
1. A Grand Entrance
Remember that moment when you walked into your wedding reception and all your friends and family were waiting and applauding your arrival? You can recreate that amazing feeling for your child on every birthday by having him or her arrive after the guests. Arrange to have someone bring the birthday child a few minutes after the party starts. The grand entrance gets the party off to a fun start!
2. Time of Day
Start early. Our most frequently booked party time is 11:00am. All the sugar and excitement that comes with parties can be a road to meltdown city for some kids. Younger children especially fare better in the morning before they get too tired or hungry.
3. Length of Party
Keep it short. At parties for younger children, the kids might have the stamina for a three hour tour, but the parents will be ready to go after an hour and a half. For older kids who will be dropped off, parents are happy to let the party go on! Save your own sanity and don’t make it too long.
4. Number of Guests
It depends. Does your child seek out quiet corners by herself, or does she love to be the center of attention? Is your son going to get lost in a party of 25 kids? Would he rather just have his core four or five friends at his party? Some of the best parties at Bull City Craft have been a smaller groups. Also consider that until age five, most parents stay at the party with their child and may also bring siblings.
5. Pacing the Party
Provide a balance of structured activities and time for open-ended play. Whether at Bull City Craft or at home, we like to start parties with simple activities that need no guidance, like play dough or toys. Once everyone has arrived and had time to greet each other and acclimate to the party atmosphere, then we move on to more structured activities like a game or craft. Save the cake for last, and don’t forget to take a group photo before the sugar takes effect!
6. Special Touches
You don’t have to plan a Pinterest-perfect party to make your child’s party fun and memorable. Think back on your childhood parties– what you really remember is that feeling of excitement and having all your friends around you. Choose just one thing and make it really special– a spectacular cake, a funny game, or handmade party favors. For us, it’s our personalized “happy birthday” chalkboard signs (pictured here throughout the years). You really don’t have to go overboard on every aspect of the party.
Free download! Print the pumpkin (we used orange paper, but you can use white paper and color it). Cut out the pumpkin, the semi-circle inside the pumpkin, and the circle. Punch a hole in the center of the circle and on the edge of the semi-circle and attach the two pieces with a paper fastener. The circle will spin to reveal the different eyes for the jack-o-lantern. For extra fun, flip the pumpkin over and draw your own mouth and eyes, or add a body made from scraps!
I’ve started planning activities for camps this summer, and it got me thinking about what activities and projects have been the most popular in years past. Here are the kid favorites from each of our camps.
Crafty Critters Camp: Art with Animals
Sure, moms love the cute owls made from paper tubes and hermit crabs made from their child’s tiny hand prints, but preschool aged kids are really more interested in the process than the product. Playing with animal figures in play dough and paint is a fun favorite with our littlest campers.
Color Camp: Fizzy Color Mixing
We do a lot of color experiments at Color Camp, and one of the most fun is Fizzy Color Mixing. I fill trays with baking soda, mix vinegar with liquid watercolor (or food color), and give the kids droppers. As they drip and drop the colors onto the baking soda, it fizzes and bubbles in a crazy color mix!
Artist Camp: Ice Cream Puppets
What could be a better combination than ice cream + puppet?! I got this idea from the book Every Day’s A Holiday by Heidi Kenney. I thought it would be a fun way to engage kids with the whimsical illustrations of Andy Warhol and the luscious dessert paintings of Wayne Thiebaud. At Artist Camp, we stash all the artwork away until the end of the week for a big art show and reception, but the kids could not wait to take these home as soon as they made them!
Fashion Craft Camp: Sharpie Mock Tie-Dye
I think the girls could have spent the whole day, and possibly the whole week, on this activity. They loved drawing the circular designs with Sharpies. Watching the designs transform into “tie-dye” was fun too, and the final shirts were gorgeous.
Kinderstil, an online retailer of children’s apparel and gifts based in Raleigh, recently invited me to write a guest post for their blog. I wrote about some of Frances’ favorite craft materials and activities during her first three years. Here’s a quick rundown of the list. You can read the full post here.
1. Rainbow Rice
4. Paint Glue
I was planning a Valentine Photo Shoot event at the store with Raleigh photographer Elizabeth Galecke, and I offered to make a photo backdrop. We agreed it was a great idea and I jumped on Pinterest to get some inspiration. I noticed right away that most of the backdrops were not painted, but instead embellished with balloons, banners, crepe paper, glitter, and other items that can just be hung on a wall or fence. Hmmm…well, I had promised painted, so I decided to just jump in.
OK, it’s not as easy as it seems.
We bought a large canvas drop cloth and spread it out in the garage on top of some old drop cloths. We had some leftover chalkboard paint from recently updating the chalkboard in our store. I also had some red and pink paint sample jars that I had gotten free with a magazine coupon. First I primed the whole thing with Low VOC Kilz– it used up the half can I had, and I didn’t even reach the edge of the canvas!
The next night I measured and marked the canvas. I decided to do a simple heart about the width of two people. I sketched the heart and painted it with a combination of the red and pink. I painted around it with the chalkboard paint. I figured if it looked boring, I could always add chalk drawings or text. I also made a felt and paper heart banner and some heart wands for props.
The third night I touched up some areas and cleaned up the edge of the heart. When it was finished, Elizabeth came over for a practice photo shoot, and the results are amazing!
Over the holidays, Franklin and I had a little time to do some projects around the house. He had a great idea to up-fit Frances’ old rescued -from-the-curb, beat up, sad looking art table with a hand-me-down easel (thanks Kelly from LabourLove Gallery!) and some fresh paint.
First, he painted the table with some blue paint we had on hand.
Then he disassembled the easel. He took the whiteboard side of the easel and the two rulers and attached them to the top of the table. Ta-da! Now Frances has a whiteboard tabletop with built in rulers! It looks a lot cuter, too.
Last week I had the pleasure of appearing on My Carolina Today to decorate pumpkins with the hosts Valonda and Mike. It was a lot of fun! Mike was very warm and funny, and Valonda was gorgeous and absolutely sparkled in person.
We have also been decorating pumpkins at the store for a family craft event and drop in crafts. I wanted to give a bit more detail on how I made each pumpkin. I used papier maché pumpkins, which are great because you can save them and use them again. They are also very lightweight. You could easily use these techniques on real pumpkins.
The first pumpkin I did is a monster pumpkin, inspired by our monster doll kits. I painted the pumpkin black and painted a neon green oval for the face. I also added a little black glitter paint around the face.
For the next one, I realized I needed something really quick and easy that could be completed on a very short TV segment. I prepped the pumpkin with neon orange paint and a neon green stem. I found that the neon paint was not very opaque, so I used 2-3 coats and mixed it with a little white. I sprinkled some superfine glitter onto the stem. Then for my genius idea–skull and crossbones duct tape! I cut the tape into triangles encircled the pumpkin with a banner of tape, similar to a cute pumpkin I had seen on Pinterest. For the final touch, I added green jewels reminiscent of leaves.
We use Platypus Designer Duct Tape, which is from a local company in Raleigh. They have great designs and the tape has a nicer feel, almost like fabric. Plus the guys who started the company are super nice! They taught us the parchment paper trick– I put strips of tape onto parchment paper and then cut them into any shape I want. It makes it much easier to work with.
For the last pumpkin, I painted it white and used wood grain duct tape for the stem. For a Raleigh “City of Oaks” theme, I drew and painted oak leaves of different sizes using neon pink and orange.
I was really happy with the combination of traditional and unusual elements. When we let the kids make pumpkins with these same materials, they came up with some really fun ideas!
I’ve put together a Pinterest board of all the homemade art supplies and kids’ creativity toys that I’ve come across. Frances and I have slowly been trying them with varying levels of success. Here are the recipes you should make, the ones you should tweak, and the ones to avoid!
1. Sidewalk Paint– Make it!
So easy to make, and so fun to use. As you are painting it doesn’t look like much, but when it dries (and it dries quickly), it looks great. It’s also fun to combine with regular sidewalk chalk. Super simple ingredients (just cornstarch, water, and color). I used liquid watercolors to color it instead of food coloring, and I was a little worried it might stain the sidewalk, but it washed away completely when it rained.
2. Slime–Make it, but make it right.
Definitely worth making for the fun factor, but tricky and messy. I’ve tried a couple of recipes for this, and sometimes it has worked better than others. I’ve tried it with regular white school glue and with Elmer’s clear glue; I thought the latter worked much better. I haven’t yet tried the recipe that requires liquid starch because I haven’t been able to find it.
3. Bath Crayons–Don’t Make it!
Yikes! What a mess. Hard to mix, even more difficult to form into anything resembling a crayon, and nearly impossible to use. Maybe it was an operator issue? I say just buy yourself some nice Crayola bath crayons and call it a day.
4. Lightbox-Make it!
Even I like playing with this one. I don’t remember where I originally saw it, but it was easy to put together in a moment of desperation and a trip to the garage for a plastic tub and Christmas lights. I added some transparent plastic colored lids and later some awesome small transparent colored discs we found at a teacher supply store (they’re meant for counting activities). We’ve had lots of fun sorting colors, counting, and just rearranging objects on the light table.
5. Colored rice–Make it!
It sounds too simple, but kids really love this! I have a big bowl of it with seashells in it, and everyone wants to play with it. It just feels good. The only drawback is sweeping up frequent spills.
I’ll post more reviews as I make them!