Thursday, 23 August 2012

Travelling with children: two 30-minute ideas to entertain them on the way: I-Spy bag and Crayon Roll

I know, the summer holidays are almost over, may be thinking of a small trip before heading back to winter life?
If so, and if you have a toddler like I do, you will know what I mean when I say I DREAD travelling...especially flights and car trips, and I'm lucky because my girl is not a hyperactive kid...
So, before leaving for our trip to Sicily a couple of months ago, I looked up on the Internet for ideas of simple things to make to entertain toddlers (I don't like electronic stuff for small children).
If you have time before leaving, why don't you have a  look at my Car Cosy? It could be another good travelling toy...
I only had an afternoon to make my toys before leaving (as usual, I should say), so here they are:

I-Spy Bag

I won't get tired of referring to the wonderful projects of Homemade by Jill.
Her I-Spy bags appear so neat and precise that I would just suggest to have a look and follow her tips on how to make some. Check also out Gluesticks' I-Spy Dry Erase I-Spy Bag Tutorial, she gave me some pretty good ideas too (including the use of a dry erase pen to cross off found objects on a picture).

By the way, I didn't know I-Spy bags before stumbling upon those (I don't think they are very well known in England, or in Italy), but I think it's a simple and wonderful little game, that can entertain a child as young as two for a long time and improve his concentration skills. The game simply consists of looking for some little objects within the bag, hidden among some neutral material (rice in my case, or poly pellets, if you can find them), and cross the objects off a list. You can play the game against time, or you can look for similar objects (e.g. all the green ones, all the animals, etc.).
The bag is made of cotton fabric (or fleece, as some other tutorial on the Internet suggests), and a clear plastic vinyl window (I've cut mine out of a plastic envelope some crayons originally came in), inside there is rice (as said, you can also use poly pellets, but I couldn't find any in the time frame I had, and rice seems to be a more environmentally friendly option too...just remember not to wash the bag, though!) and a number of trinkets I found around the house, including a 5p coin, a tiny peg, a bead...but the majority of my little objects were novelty buttons, which I bought over the Internet. My Little Miss loves to look for the little pink rabbit in particular...The bag is not exactly square, I didn't measure the fabric (yes, I know, terrible corner-cutting attitude), but the finished bag is 12 x 13 cm, and it works quite well with Little Miss' little hands.

Because she is only two and can't read yet, I've taken Jill's suggestion not to write a list and took a picture of the objects instead (the one you see below) before I put them in the bag and sealed it. Then I printed the picture off and laminated it, in a size small enough to fit in the back pocket of the I-Spy Bag (but you could simply print it on photo paper or card, the laminator simply makes it more resistant: you can use the picture to identify easily and cross off any found object with a dry erase marker, and use it over and over again). I made a number of copies so that if we lose one picture we always have a spare.

The whole I-Spy bag took me no more than half hour to make (excluding the laminating and cutting pictures bit!), and I'm so glad I made it (in spite of my husband thinking it isn't a very interactive game), Little Miss' loved it and we spent over half hour on the plane looking for objects and classifying colours and learning new words (including "purple diamond"). And it's also a useful little game to keep in my bag for unexpected waiting at the doctors', at the station, etc.

Simple Crayon Roll Tutorial

A VERY simple project, this one, to make a roll to carry crayons with us when going around (before I used to shavel them in my bag!). Little Miss' loves drawing, so it was a no-brainer for me.
This project took me less than half hour to make.

All you need is:
  • 19cm x 22cm of felt (this will make a roll to contain 9 crayons)
  • a stripe of cotton (or another fabric that won't stretch too much) measuring 50cm x 3cm
  • matching tread.
Felt is great for this project because it doesn't need hemming, so just procede to fold the longer side of the felt by 6.5cm to create the pockets for the crayons.
Pin the fold in place.
Sew the edges of the pocket to the back.
Now sew at regular intervals of 2cm each to create 9 pockets as shown in the picture (you can see mine was done in a rush, I didn't even measure properly the pockets!). Go over each seam twice to make them stronger.
Now fold the other side of the piece by 3.5cm to create a flap that will prevent the crayons from falling. Sew close to the edge along the top to fix the fold.
Your crayon roll is done. Now to be able to tie the roll, you'll need your stripe of cotton (you could use instead a strong ribbon or a herringbone tape, but I wanted to add a touch of pretty to the roll).

Now, take the stripe of cotton, and fold lengthwise as you would to make bias tape (i.e. you could use a bias tape maker, or fold the edges towards the centre by hand and iron as you go...I did it, and then I run to the shop to buy a bias tape maker!!! you do the maths). Fold in the centre lengthwise, and press. Sew along the open edge.
Now you can stitch the tape you obtained to the back of the roll, somewhere above the pockets and below the upper fold as illustrated below.
And that's it!
Remember to take some colouring books with you and you are set for your next trip!

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