Felt Creatures

This project was created by two of our summer volunteers. They found the craft in a book called The Big-Ass Book of Crafts by Mark Montano. They drew posters and advertized, made a sample, got materials out, and assisted people who were new to sewing. Participants made bears and bunnies, as well as earless creatures that looked like gingerbread men. It was a fun time for everyone, and it gave the activity leaders a sense of pride and ownership that is only formed by creating your own activity. Notes for creating creatures: Help them draw a general template for the body to make cutting the bodies out a little easier. Also, sew the face on before you sew the body together, and make sure everyone’s needles will fit through their buttons.

Dream Snatchers and the “Maker Faire”

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We had this really cool idea: a “Maker Faire.” This idea and it’s name originated from Make Magazine.  At the Faire there was a blacksmithing demonstration (sorry, no photos) a mixed media mobile/dream catcher activity, and a stop-motion animation activity. I brought in sticks from my yard for the mobiles, Scott got out the play dough and paper for stop-motion animation, and we had some hotdogs to grill while the blacksmithing demonstration was happening. While the turn-out was less than what we expected, there were some valuable lessons learned: never underestimate the exodus that occurs after school lets out. In addition, the day after Memorial Day is also like a holiday; no one is in town, and if they are, they are probably worn out from traveling. However, I think the teens who were there had a very enjoyable afternoon, and we were able to spend some quality time with them. The “dream snatcher” pictured above is one inventive solution. It is designed to trap good dreams (instead of bad ones), and may appeal to those who like to be scared. Below is the stop-motion animation short made by one of our teens.

Wood Monsters

Wood Monsters was was one of our Convenience Crafts, which were created with the intention to provide time for teens to work on their projects for an entire week, or at least more than one two-hour period. So far, lots of people have spent more time on their projects.

Materials for this project were very inexpensive; the only things we bought were wood glue and sandpaper.  I have a large box of donated acrylic paint, so that was free. Googly eyes and hot glue are part of the craft supplies we have on-hand. I collected scrap wood for this project from some friends who were making their own frames, which created interesting shapes and sizes. I also brought in my handsaw. In addition, I had some electrical wire for hair.

Notes: You might want to encourage teens to glue on eyes and hair before they paint. Googly eyes can be wiped off easily when the paint is wet, but hot glue will not stick to wet surfaces. Also, tell them wood glue is stronger, but it takes longer to dry. I used torn cloth strips to hold the wood in place while it dried.

Planting Pumpkin Seeds

While most of my posts are about crafts, gardening is another awesome activity for teens. This summer I will be leading a gardening program in collaboration with the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center, which has a branch on the outskirts of town. Today we had our first gardening experience; we planted pumpkin seeds with the Children’s Department. First, we listened to a story about how pumpkins grow. Then we met the extension agent who taught us how to plant the seeds. There are many benefits to learning about gardening, one of them being the opportunity to see how our food is grown and develop an interest in the environment.

Wire Sculptures


Making wire sculptures is a great way to reuse leftover electrical wire. (We also had bendy balloons in the Children’s Department on the same day.) You can have the teens think of their favorite animals, but they will probably not need any help thinking about what to make. If you are very careful, you can strip the outer layer off of the electrical wire to reveal the copper color. I also supplemented my electrical wire supply with a thick, easily bendable wire. Materials: wire, needle-nose pliers, wire cutters, and imagination.

Wood Transfer


Transferring images onto wood is really a two day process, but you can rush it. The trick is to transfer the ink and remove the paper.

Materials: sanded wood pieces (any shape, but they must be flat and smooth), images printed on a laser jet printer, brushes, and Mod Podge.

Directions: 1. Brush a thick coat of Mod Podge onto the printed side of the paper. 2. Paste the image face-down on the wood and press firmly to remove all the air. 3. Wait overnight (or skip this step for a more rustic look).  4. Wet your finger and rub it gently back and forth over the paper. The paper will ball up and the ink will remain stuck to the wood. Here are some helpful links.

Lengthy and more foolhardy method: http://content.photojojo.com/diy/diy-photo-transfers-on-wood/

Quick method: http://the-artful-crafter.blogspot.com/2012/09/quick-and-easy-mod-podge-laser-image-to.html

Minecraft Swords

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Foam Minecraft swords are all the rage, and they can be bought online for a pretty penny. I decided to use the thinner 1″ Pink Panther insulating foam. Here are some foam cutting tips: Unless you are cutting the foam with a heated wire, or an extremely sharp knife, it is challenging. The easiest way I found to cut the foam involved cutting an outline of the shape and then breaking off the excess pieces of foam. After I cut the swords out, we painted them with acrylics. The wet paint deterred swordplay, creating a highly safe and successful activity.