Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Projects on a Budget

So I have a few pet peeves, but the one thing that truly bothers me is when people spend tons of money at craft stores on really expensive craft projects that just end up in the garbage. I have been teaching, heading camps and art programs for nearly 12 years now and it never seems to stop bothering me. I have heard all the excuses and I am completely aware that it can be a very daunting challenge to pick the "right" glue that won't dissolve in the wash, or the "right" paint that says it's washable, but come on we all know it's never coming out of your daughters expensive shirt anyway.

SIDE POINT- One of my favorite stores to shop in is Michaels and when I first moved to Jersey, they didn't have one! So I went searching for other local stores, but for the really good stuff I would order from Dick Blick. Finally a Michaels opened up about 2 minutes away (I know right? I was sooooo happy!) - Baruch Hashem!

Needless to say, I understand the horrors and the sheer craft overload one may feel when they go into a craft store. It is so much easier to pick the projects that have all the pieces ready to go, like kits, rather then finding new "creative" ways to save money by finding the pieces individually. The only place I would ever buy kits from because it is SO economical would be Oriental Trading the only downside to this company is that you have to buy the projects in bulk - usually sets of 12. This can be good since kids like to make projects multiple times, and they can make projects for grandparents, friends, or siblings, also it spreads out the time of the activity. The only time I would ever buy wood pieces or foam craft pieces (they are so expensive in craft stores) is if the project we were making would be kept and cherished. These are the projects you save.

When I started teaching Preschool kids 6 years ago I found Discount School Supplies. They are like Oriental Trading with crafting kits, but they also have coloring and painting supplies. My favorite item in the whole world to do with little kids is the Colorations Liquid Watercolors they come in large bottles for $2.99 and you put about 1 tsp into one of the 6 paint cup holders and fill the rest up with water. They come with nifty tops so you don't have to spill it out when they are done painting, you can save it for next time! The best thing about watercolors by the way moms, is that it should - notice how I stress the word should - come out of most fabrics since it's water based. Just a few things you might want to be aware of. The best type of paper for water coloring is hard card stock. If they paint with regular paper, it will get too wet and the paper will rip. If you have your own printer then you can google any image - for example let's say your kid wants to paint a picture of a ladybug. Just google "ladybug coloring page". Click on the top tab "images" and tons of pictures of ladybugs will come up. Pick the one she wants and copy and paste it into a word document. Resize it so that it's big enough for little hands and print it on card stock. You can get that at any Staples, Office Depot, or Target. I'm telling you she will have hours of fun, plus you have the bottles of paint that will last you virtually forever, and all your real cost is new card stock every few months. It's a really nice alternative to markers and crayons, and not as messy as "real" paint. One last idea is that you can put the water color into spray bottles and when it's sprayed you get the most amazing effects! Your kids will LOVE IT! You could do this with white lunch bags (make some for the start of the new school year), use the effect as a background for a card, or spray the entire car in watercolor and then give it a wash!

The last idea I have for you is something that I also fell upon about 8 years ago. My other favorite cheap art supply is liquid starch. You can pick this up at most grocery stores. When applied to paper it makes it crisp and hard. I found this to be very helpful when I was trying to save money as a teacher not laminating every project. I wanted to use flimsy paper, but at the same time give sturdiness and stability so the project could be saved. The best craft items to use with starch would be colored tissue paper. You can also get the type that bleeds when wet so the color run into each other. Just have you child put some starch down unto the paper to get it wet, then add the tissue paper on her picture. When she is all done seal the entire picture and tissue paper with the starch. FYI- this is a sticky project so sensory sensitive kids beware. Also you must wash the brushes immediately after use or they will get hard and crusty. Other ideas to use with starch is using sentence strip to make crowns, cut out the picture punch a hole at the top, add string and voila! a necklace, and lastly you can make beautiful seasonal door signs that will last through the weather. 

One last thing and I can not stress it enough. Sign up for the craft store cards and add/include your email. I receive coupons weekly, for 20-50% off an item, plus you can rack up points to save even more. For example at AC Moore, if you reach 200 points they send you a $10 coupon in the mail. Just last month Michaels came out with their own saving card. Also check out the websites of these craft stores for project ideas. They always have some really good ones.

I think I have given you guys a few good ideas to get started. I will be posting project ideas that are GREAT for any budget throughout the summer. Please comment below and let me know if this was at all helpful to you and if you have any ideas of your own PLEASE SHARE! I love getting new ideas!