Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Angry Birds Birthday Games - Toddler Approved!

In my previous post, I detailed how we made Angry Birds Visors as party favors for my son's third birthday.
Here I'll explain two quick and easy games we played that were appropriate for our guests aged 18 months through 5 years.


Angry Birds 3-D! 

  • An assortment of empty boxes in various sizes
  • Candy or favor filled eggs (or baggies), several per child.  You could use green tissue paper to wrap "piggy packets;" we just used Easter eggs. 
  • Tape, for marking the throwing line on the floor. 
  • Missiles! We used the angry birds I crocheted, but you could use either purchased Angry plushies, bean bags, or light weight yellow, red, and blue balls.  
  • Optional: a light weight, toy sling-shot, such as is sold by the Dollar Tree in summer time for firing water balloons. 

To Play 

  • An adult sets up the "scene" by stacking the boxes on top of one another, then placing 3-4 candy filled eggs (the "pigs") in strategic locations throughout. 
  • Each child stands behind the throwing line and is given the same number of "birds" to toss. 
  • Any "pigs" that fall down and hit the floor are collected by the child after he's thrown all of his "birds."  
  • The adult then resets the scene for the next child.    
  • Consider making two "throw" lines for different ages of kids, and definitely be ready to adjust on the fly.  It is surprising how difficult it is for a three year old to throw a ball with any accuracy even 3-4 feet. 
  • If you have older kids, definitely considering creating a sling-shot of some sort for firing. 
  • Let the adults play too!  It's quite entertaining!   

And now, a bonus game

Pin the Face on the Bird

  • Big piece of white poster board
  • Big piece of red poster board
  • Construction paper in white, black, and yellow
  • Double-sided tape (or loops of ordinary cellophane tape) 

Construct the Game 
  • Use a compass to draw a circle on the red poster board about 70% of its width for the bird's body. 
  • I jury-rigged a compass from a string and two pencils, one of which serves as the pivot and other of which draws. This is harder than it sounds... be patient!  :) 
  • I think I used a second piece of white poster board for the tummy, but I don't remember.  You could patch something together out of two pieces of white paper.  Again, making the curve takes a little effort: I recommend tracing the bottom arc of the bird body, and then reversing that line for the top arc of the tummy.  
  • Eye-ball the rest of the features and cut them out of construction paper.  
  • I made two white eyes, two black eyeballs, two black eyebrows, two red head feathers, a beak, and a set of black tail feathers.  
  • Mount the red bird body (and, if you like, the tummy) on the white poster board.  Add a title, if you'd like.  Hang the whole game on a convenient wall or door at kid's eye level.  

  • Prepare each piece with a piece of double-sided tape on the back.  
  • Have each child take one piece and apply it to the appropriate place on the board.  
  • (Make sure you hand out pieces in rough order - i.e. eyes before eyeballs, and eyebrows last of all!) 

  • Depending on kid age, you could blindfold the players before they place their piece on the board.  We didn't, because they were mostly 2 and 3 years old.  
  • If you have older kids you could brainstorm ways of making the game competitive, a-la "pin the tail on the donkey." Again, we didn't - it was plenty of fun just to build the face, and all 5 or 6 kids were into it.  
  • Or, just enjoy the funny face when they're done - I thought ours ended up looking more concerned than angry!  :) 

DIY Angry Birds Visors

This is part one in a two part series on putting together a quick, dirty, toddler-approved Angry Birds themed birthday party.

OK, I admit it: my entire inspiration for James' third birthday party's theme was the red bird I crocheted from a pattern found here. Isn't it cute?  Of course, Yellow Bird, three Blue Birds, and a piggy joined him in good time, and my theme was born.

Anyway, since he's (a) only three, and (b) I'm ridiculously stingy frugal by nature, I didn't want to spend a ton on licensed party-ware and favors.  So some friends and I got together and made these hats for the guests.

(Thanks to Grace and Kenza for modelling for me!) 
Here's how to make your own! 

Materials & Tools
  • Red and/or Yellow foam visors 
  • Craft foam in Red, Orange, White, and Black
  • Paper and Sharpie for making templates
  • Scissors
  • White Glue
  • Stapler (full sized, with a long arm), Optional

I bought all my materials at Michael's Crafts, and with my 20% of Everything coupon, the cost per hat came in just under $1.  Yay! 
I paid a small premium for self-stick white and black foam. In retrospect, I might not do this.  While it make the hats go together very quickly, it didn't have much staying power.  My littlest gleefully pulled hers apart pretty quickly.  And James, who actually wanted to wear his several times after the party, ended up losing eyeballs and brows. So you may want to just go with Elmer's.

1. Cut Face Pieces
I made the red and yellow bird's faces identical (except for color), and I went with a simple triangle for the beak.  Please feel free to use your artistic skills to design a more accurate curve!   
The photo above shows the approximate dimensions. 
  • For the eyes: Trace a milk bottle cap
  • For the eye-balls: trace a Sharpie cap, or use a hole punch
  • For the beak: Make and trace a template approx 1 3/4 inch wide at the base, by 1 1/4 inch tall.  
  • (Red Bird actually has a yellow beak in the game.  Again, I economized by using orange for both!) 
  • For the eyebrows: Make a rectangle template about 3 inches by 1/4 inch.  Fold it in half and cut a shallow angle to the center.  Trace onto foam and cut as a single piece, then cut in half for your eyebrows. 
  • (Red Bird has black eyebrows; Yellow Bird has red eyebrows.) 
  • For the feathers: Make a template with a straight line about 4 inches high with a bulge about 1 in wide at the widest point.  Cut two per bird (red for Red Bird and black for Yellow Bird) of the same size.  You'll attach them slightly offset.  

2. Assemble the Face 
Attach the feathers.  I recommend using a stapler for this, and stapling twice each as low down as your stapler will reach.  This way you can hide the staple behind the eyes.  
You can always use glue, but because of the size and weight I recommend clamping it.  I used some mini-clamps I found in the kitchen, and they did leave a mark which faded after 24 hours or so.  
I also used self-stick black foam for Yellow Bird's feathers because I used the same sheet as for the eyeballs and brows.  Just be sure *not to take off the backing!*  :) 

Then attach the eyes, eyeballs, beak, and finally the eyebrows at the appropriate "angry" angle!
Again, I used self-stick foam in white and black, but I would probably just go with glue if I did it again.    

And there, you're done!  If you assembly-line it, you can probably make 8 or 10 in an hour - especially if you have a friend or older child to help!  

Next time: two toddler-approved Angry Birds party games!  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Great Quick-n-Dirty Magnetic Tube Toy

(With apologies to teachpreschool.org)

Let me begin with a little bit of philosophizing.  Some may call it maundering, or whining, but I'll let you decide!
Sometimes I get a bit of a complex when I compare the toys I make for my children and the ones you find on my favorite blogs (or, more likely, Pinterest.)  In fact, I even get a bit of complex when I compare them to the ones I made for my children before they were born.  Because let's face it: most of what I make now days is not exactly pretty.  Or even straight.  :}
For instance, after having conceived and executed the "Buckle Octopus," my Pinterest browsing just happened to lead me to another mommy who'd come up with basically the same thing - only hers was beautiful, with brightly colored ribbons, straight seams, and matching thread(!)  Clearly I am not worthy to have a crafting blog. Or probably even children!
When I start to get all hard on myself, though, I am trying to remind myself of my developing philosophy:

A good toy that you make for your child is the toy that he or she actually plays with.
The best toy that you make for your child is the toy that he or she actually plays with for longer than it took you to make it! 

To be honest, I am starting to believe there is involved here a law of inverse proportions - or at least diminishing returns.  For instance, take pretty much everything I made for them before birth. Beautiful, soft blocks with my son's name on them.  Time on my end: many hours.  Play time for him?  Occasionally they're used as missiles.  For 3-5 minutes at a time.  An adorable plushie-style stuffed elephant complete with rattle.  Occasionally glanced at or possibly chewed by one or the other in infancy.  A "taggie" toy - 'cause all babies love them, right?  Neither ever cared for it.  The cute stuffed monster made from Dollar Tree cleaning clothes? Never even gave it to the kid because I managed to sew a pin inside.  I could have taken it apart and removed it, but honestly he wasn't ever that keen on the thing.  But the incredibly quick-n-dirty fabric squares with some crackly cellophane inside and silky cord loops on the outside?  My daughter actually loved these when she was 8-9 months old.  Just like she loves her buckle octopus (which has been enhanced recently, by the way, with a screw-on lid, because I caught her playing with an OJ container from the recycle bin heap!) And then there's today's project, which was 100% inspired by this post over at "Teach Preschool." 

Mine, however, is uglier, safer for smaller children, and incredibly fast. In fact, I did the whole project in about 10 minutes while my youngest was nursing!
Oh, and by the way, it was incredibly cheap, with all materials (save the TP, which I assume you have on hand!) purchased at the Dollar Tree.  Should run you about $3 if you haven't got any of the items on hand. (And by the way, you should have some pom-poms around on general principle.  I got some last week and we've already found 3 distinct things to do with them that don't involve glue or googly eyes!  Perhaps a follow-up post on that later?)

Here's what you'll need
1. 5 toilet paper rolls
2. 5 (or preferably 10) magnets
3. A roll of heavy tape, such as electrical tape
4. A light (disposable?) plastic cup (optional)
5. Pom-poms

A note on safety: 
The original post from Teach Preschool used rubber marbles.  Aside from not having any, I am thinking my 19 month old would still mistake them for candy. Pom-Poms, while not exactly nutritious, are not quite as likely to cause life-threatening choking.
Secondly, swallowed magnets are a very bad thing.  My version, which uses tape instead of glue, can certainly still be disassembled by a motivated child.  However, since the tape goes all the way around the tube in a loop, the magnets won't fall off by accident or under normal usage - unlike hot glue on cardboard.  So assuming basic supervision, I am not too worried.

The Process
To construct each tube, I cut a length of electrical tape, placed a magnet on the sticky side, and wrapped it all the way around the TP roll, attaching it to itself, not simply the cardboard.
I also taped a magnet to the plastic cup, which serves as a catch-basin for the pom-poms.
I then stuck each roll to the fridge, end-to-end, handed the kids some pom-poms, and watched the fun.

Here are a few things we learned by experimentation: 
* We had a rubber bouncy ball that was the correct size to fit through the tubes, but larger than your average marble.  It worked, but not well, because it was too heavy: if the tubes were at any angle, they pivoted around their magnets and spilled the ball.  If you want to use something heavy, you'll need two magnets per tube.  (This will also require more planning during construction, since they need to line up with one another!)

* The average refrigerator or front door (ours is magnetic!) isn't large enough to accommodate more than five tubes (at least if you expect your 3-year-old to be able to reach the top one.)  I had a paper towel roll on hand, but decided not to use it because it is too long for the space.  

* 19-month-olds like this game too - although they are more likely to drive their older siblings crazy by pulling the tubes off the fridge and stealing the pom-poms!