Projects: Beading and other hands-on occupations keep kids productive and happy during the long, hot days of summer.


August 02, 1998|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For those long car trips, rainy days at the cabin, or lazy August afternoons by the pool, there's nothing that cheers a bored child like a bit of creative crafting.

This summer, parents can't go wrong if they pack lots of round pony beads and ribbon into their suitcases, beach bags and totes. This summer's hottest craft is the Beady Buddy or Beady Baby, a little creature made by threading beads onto ribbons.

Boys and girls of all ages love to collect the beads ` which can shimmer, glitter or glow in the dark ` and store them in the compartments of plastic embroidery-floss cases. The beads are used to create everything from geckos and skunks to Christmas trees that children can wear as jewelry or hang on their backpacks.

"I've seen kids come in the store wearing 15 around their neck," said Jennifer Rinker, a department manager at the craft store MJDesigns. She devises beaded-creature patterns for instruction sheets that are distributed at the store.

"Children like to trade them with their friends and share ideas," she added.

We talked with a number of area summer-camp directors, teachers and craft-store managers to find some of the other crafts popular among kids this summer.

One craft frequently mentioned was origami, the traditional Japanese art of folding paper into flowers and animal shapes. The news these days is in the wide variety of origami papers available for play ` glitter, hologram, glow in the dark, animal print and metallic.

Clay was another summer favorite, especially soft and pliable polymer clay such as Sculpey, which children mold into colorful beads and trinkets and then bake in the oven.

Sheets of colorful foam are another option for three-dimensional play. Animals and other shapes can be cut from thin sheets of colorful foam available at craft stores and used to decorate clay pots or layer onto felt pennants to hang on a bedroom wall.

And in a continuation of a popular activity of past years, youngsters are still carrying around brightly colored embroidery floss and keeping their hands busy braiding friendship bracelets. The newest twist on the bracelets and chokers is to use hemp string and add beads to the jewelry, said Kris Zittle, a sales associate for Jo-Ann etc.

Tired of shopping for Beanie Babies? Jennifer Becker, art teacher and co-director of two summer programs at Summer Fun at Montessori School in Lutherville says you can make your own, as her campers did. Just cut out felt or muslin in the shape of a snake, platypus or lizard and stitch together with fabric inside out, leaving a small opening. Turn right side out and draw the animal's markings using markers. Fabric can also be colored with purchased dye, or you can make your own natural dye by boiling red onionskins or lily of the the valley leaves. Fill with lentil beans. Stitch hole shut.

For a musical project, make an Indian drum. Cut off the narrow end off a 9- or 12-inch balloon and stretch the rest over the top of a 1-pound coffee can. Secure with rubber bands. Cover the outside with paper and decorate with yarn, feathers and drawings.

Kids at Camp Red Eagle at McDonogh School in Owings Mills loved decorating papier-mache heart boxes with sponge painting and stencils, said Cindy Ingram, an art teacher who is head of arts and crafts. (A chip-wood box and stickers can also be used.) With a soft brush, paint on Mod Podge, a nontoxic, water-based sealer, glue and finish that will give the box a glossy luster.

They also made wall hangings by drawing with fabric crayons on muslin that they had tie-dyed.

While these are some of the most popular crafts for children, arts and crafts stores are filled with possibilities.

"Anything a parent does with a child is going to make a closer bond," said Irene Grossman, director of Camp Bravo at Towson University. "If parents are excited about the craft and participate with the child, it's going to work."


1. Choose a craft that is age-appropriate.

2. When working with children of different ages, start with a simple idea for the younger children and allow the older children to add on to the project.

3. Make sure you have everything you need before starting. Organize materials ahead of time.

4. Give clear and simple directions.

5. Demonstrate each step and show the child a finished product.

6. Set up materials at several stations so children can move through the steps easily.

7. Kids like to get dirty, so why not move outside to the deck or patio to decorate a picture with glitter or use animal-shaped sponges to paint a T-shirt, sweat shirt, apron or sun visor?

8. A container with a shaker top will cut down on the mess when children use glitter indoors.

More crafts kids will love:

1. Embellishing artwork with stickers

2. Making anything with plastic lacing, also known as gimp

3. Fusing Perler or Hama beads

4. Painting wood models

5. Drawing with watercolor pencils

6. Looking for the objects that emerge while coloring in an optical illusion coloring book such as Images (available at A.C. Moore)

7. Using stencils

8. Sand art

9. Making jewelry and key chains with Shrink Art (available at A.C. Moore)

10. Folding tissue-paper flowers

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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