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Entries in arts & crafts (32)


A very Harry (Potter) birthday party (affordably)

Potions class, Herbology, Quidditch, and a trip down Diagon Alley is how we do ten years old around here. The minute we settled on an at-home birthday party this year (something I was pretty sure I'd never do), Calvin requested a Potter party. The series is a favorite amongst his homeschooling cohort; they play Hogwarts make-believe whenever the chance arises, rehash the stories in drawn out discussion on a regular basis, and are lobbying for the play to be their production this fall. Having just finished the series myself (yes, for the first time!), the subject was fresh in my own mind and the party seemed like a great idea.

There are innumerable ideas for Harry Potter parties on Pinterest, and they vary widely in cost, time expenditure, and required talents. Of course Calvin had lots of pie in the sky dreams for his ideal party, so we took his big list of ideas and narrowed it down to what was affordable and doable in the time and space we had. Making wands and jelly bean boxes got the green light, but creating a Whomping Willow in our front room got crossed right off, as did the making of scarves and robes for all the guests. The resulting party required some work, but was fun both in preparation and in realization.

Activities: a Quidditch tryout session in the backyard, Mandrake planting in Herbology, sundae making in Potions class, a Have You Seen This Wizard photo op, and a showing of the first movie. 

Take homes: Wands, monster books, feather pens, and Bertie Botts Beans, a "mandrake" if they potted one, and a Wanted Wizard sign if they took the photo op.

And now, here's some how-to.

The wands: 

The wands were by far the main stage attraction at the party, and they were cheap and easy, but time consuming. My only purchase for this was a bag of chopsticks, the rest of the materials I already had on hand.

I made the wands based on this tutorial. I purchased long cooking choptsicks from Amazon and used the high setting on my hot glue gun to make the handles. This involved a lot of rolling the chopstick in one hand while managing the gun with the other. Once the initial handle cooled completely, I used the low setting on the hot glue gun to add raised detail.  

I used three colors of Acrylic paint that I already had on hand. I started with a base coat in the darkest color. When that was dry I lightly added brush strokes in the lighter color to give it more depth. I finished by painting the raised detail in gold. I painted the entire wand but finished the handle completely first, then went back to paint the wand part.

I finished the wands with a coating of glossy Modge Podge followed by a coat of Fixatif.

The monster books:

The monster books were my own design, and they were easy and far less time consuming a project than the wands. I purchased packages of small notebooks at the dollar store and a package of pens from Amazon, while the remaining materials I already had on hand.

The monster books are actually monster book jackets made using gray felt cut to the the size of the open notebook plus 1.5 inches on each side and .25 inches each top and bottom. I folded the side edges over and hot glued them along the top and bottom edge to create pockets for the cover of the notebook, similar to a standard book jacket cover only more enclosed (they were not glued to the notebook so that they could be reused).

Once the felt jacket cover was made to fit a notebook, the rest was decoration. I cut teeth out of white felt and hot glued them the to the right edge of the "cover", then I cut fur to the size of the open book and glued it to the outside of the jack cover, overlapping the teeth. Lastly I glued eyes to the top right edge of the fur, near the teeth.

Bertie Botts (NOT) Every Flavor Beans

The Every Flavor Beans are available for purchase on Amazon, but they're pricey, the box is not authentic, and who really wants to stumble across a vomit flavored bean? Instead, we bought Jelly Bellies in bulk at our local grocery store and and printed off the template from this page to make our own authentic looking bean boxes. 

We printed the boxes on cardstock, and cut out the windows with a craft knife and the box itself with regular scissors. I did cut all the tabs a little larger than they are drawn on the template. I also added a tongue tab to the square bottom and cut a slit for it in the opposing tab so it could be opened and closed instead of just glued shut. That being said, when we put the beans in baggies and placed them inside the boxes, they were too heavy for the unglued bottoms, so we had to use a small piece of tape on each to keep them closed. If I had it to do over again I think I would glue the bottoms but figure out how to make the top work like an accordion so that it would be reusable from there.

Owl Bags

We placed the goodies in snowy owl bags, which was another of my own creations and made entirely from items I already had on hand: white craft (lunch) bags, white and black cardstock, a black Sharpie, and adhesives. 

I sketched an owl "mask" on white cardstock to use as a template. After cutting out all the masks, I used craft glue to add eyes and a beaks cut from black cardstock. I used Zots to attach the face upside down to the very top of the bag, and used a black Sharpie to draw wings, feathers, and clawed feet on the opposite side.

When the bag was filled and the top folded over, this created a snowy owl.

Herbology Mandrake potting

Pots from the dollar store and a single packet of miniature zinnia seeds from the local hardware store, plus dirt we had leftover from our potting this spring. We put the seeds in a jar which we labeled as Mandrake Seeds, and I added food coloring to water in another jar to make the dove's blood that Mandrakes all need (or so I've been told).

Decorations and such

We purchased a brick wall from Amazon to make our front door into the Station 9 3/4 entrance post. There was plenty of wall, so we also hung a portion of it inside to use as a backdrop for our Wanted Wizard photos (which we took using our Instax camera).

We printed signs for various locations in Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, as well as labels for potions and the Mandrake seeds, our Wanted Wizard mini posters, and an image of Moaning Myrtle for the bathroom. You can easily purchase these in bundles of printables on Etsy, but with a little more effort we found good stuff for free online (a simple Google search worked wonders), or made on our own. 

I decorated our Great Hall (dining room) with stars and glowsticks (candles) hanging from the ceiling. We got a red plastic table cloth to use as a runner on the table and gold plates, bowls, cups, and utensils to round out the Gryffindor color scheme.

Lastly, I used duct tape to join two old mop handles together and hang a hula hoop from one end, then tied the contraption to the deck railing with rope. This resulted in a hilariously serviceable Quidditch goal. We used ping pong balls for the team tryouts activiity.


Weekend tinkering

Tinker Crate this month was all about circuits. And paper. Step one: construct a lantern. Step two: wire the included LED bulb and complete the circuit to light up the night. I missed out on the fun because I was out working in the yard, but I could hear the laughter from there, so I know the guys were having a good time, then I found these shots on Calvin's camera.


Tree of the gods

As in family tree. Of the Greek Gods.

This was a fun activity. We have a beautiful book, D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, that we've been enjoying throughout our study of that beautiful civilization. It not only clearly describes the relationships between the various gods in writing, but also has a chart in the front for the more visual learners. Of course, the intricacies of godliness in ancient Greek culture is rather convoluted, seeing as there were several mortal, half-god men walking the earth at that time. Of course. Take Pythagoras, for instance. To simplify things we confined our study of the gods to the more literal of the group—those who had phenomenal powers, immortality, and jobs pertaining to the (then unexplainable) processes of the natural world.

Calvin's tree took a few days to create. We went online together to find sketches of the different gods, which we then printed for him to color. He picked out a blue poster board for the background. He made Gaia out of cut paper (green for her earth body, blue for the lakes and pools that form her mouth and eyes), and sketched, then cut the tree from postal paper before gluing everything down.


Clay pot making

Give a kid some clay and some paint and this is what you get.

What I love about projects like these is that they encourage patience. It is not the kind of thing that you can sit down to and finish in an hour, not even in a day. He started the process last week using what he'd read was an ancient Greek method for making clay pots. Then it took several days to dry, then a few more days before we could find the time for painting. I suggested that he give it a Modge Podge finish, later that afternoon.



Sometimes it is easy to forget how important crafting can be to a sense of homeschool well-being. A sheet of correctly solved math problems is very satisfying, and definitely should be, but tapping into our creativity encourages mental stretching that gives us the strength to think on our toes, finding new and unique solutions to problems. Plus the process of imagining, pursuing, and then completing an entirely unique project, with final product in hand, gives a sense of fulfullment that, honestly, knocks internal self-patting right out of the park.

Clay, paper, paint, markers, name it. There are lots of outlets for creative expression. This week Calvin made a pot, created a picture by pressing colored non-drying clay onto a sketch of his own, designed and built with Legos, and started a new scrapbook. This in addition to writing stories, noodling on the piano, and singing songs of life at the top of his lungs from the shower. And, of course, drawing.

We've always done a lot of drawing. Calvin illustrates most of his journal entries, and he loves to draw maps, as well, creating the worlds, real and imagined, that he explores in the books that he reads. I love his youthful symbolic drawings—the ones where birds have wings and four feet, suns have clearly visible rays, and people have oddly circular torsos—but he's entering the stage of more realistic images, so we've embarked on a journey of self-lead lessons with Drawing With Children, by Mona Brooks. This week we tried self portraits, taking pencils and clipboards and sketching pencils into the bathroom to use the mirror. Calvin did a first sketch, then we spent some time talking about the difference between his first sketch and the image he was seeing in the mirror and he made a second sketch. Then, just for fun, he made the likeness out of construction paper, too.

Clay pot making, inspired by the ancient pottery we saw behind the scenes at the museum

Pressed clay landscape

self portrait sketching