Category Archives: Crafts

Stackable Wizard’s Tower for a Hero Kids RPG Adventure

img_2545I recently started playing Hero Kids with my own little heros. Hero Kids is a role-playing game like  D&D (Dungeons and Dragons), but much less complicated and geared towards kids. They love it!

I bought a bundle of Hero Kids downloadable adventures via DriveThruRPG.com. I like that you can print out pre-designed maps and paper miniatures for all of the adventures, making game prep very easy. Sometimes I’ll color the printouts to give them an extra bit of zing, though it isn’t necessary.

After having a few sessions under our belts, I decided to create something personalized to play on besides the printed maps. The Wizard’s Tower adventure features a tower with three floors, so I decided to make a 3D, modular tower with stackable parts, complete with a rickety roof.

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It started as a simple idea, but as usual, I very quickly got carried away.
I used Amazon boxes and lots of hot glue to make the main structure. The pieces were sized and shaped to the printable playing mats of the tower floors.

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Save those Amazon boxes!

img_0788 For the rickety roof, I used a cereal box, painted and cut up into small squares, and tiled over rafters comprised of heavily glued cardboard strips.

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Painted cereal box for roof tiles.

Painted cereal box for roof tiles.

My favorite part of this project was making the stone walls. I blended a sludge of water and newspaper, drained off most of the water, and baked it into thin sheets, using this really cool method found here. I then cut the sheets into stone blocks and glued them all over the box with Aleene’s Tacky Glue. This was the most time consuming part, but I really like the way the stone walls turned out.

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Finally, I painted the printable playing mats in watercolor and glued them to the tower pieces. I still have some finishing touches to add, such as balcony doors, railings, a crooked chimney, and a grand staircase, but my kids (and I) were really eager to play, so I postponed some of these details so we could finally begin to battle our way up to the top of the tower. I do plan to add them later for use in other adventures. I’m thinking that my little players will be become caretakers of the tower while the wizard is off wizarding somewhere.

Keep in mind you don’t need any special props to run Hero Kids, just some standard six-sided dice and downloadable content at DriveThruRPG. If you or your kids want an easy entry into the world of tabletop RPGs, then stop what you’re doing, download some content, and start an adventure!

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DIY Kite Messenger Parachute Drop

A kite messenger is a clever little device that slides up a kite string, releases a light payload, then slides back down to the bottom of the string for more fun. I made one with some cheap materials and finally found some windy days to test it out. Some kite messenger designs use sails to pull up the kite, but I’m starting out with a simpler design that uses toy parachutes to catch the wind. It can be made in just a few minutes using drinking straws, wire, tape, and a toy parachute.

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Here’s how it works: The front loop of the wire hits a simple cardboard bumper attached high up on the line. As the wire stops, the rest of the unit continues forward, opening the middle section where the parachute is held. Once the parachute releases, the messenger slides right back down towards the spool of string, ready to be reloaded for more fun.IMG_1338
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IMG_9652It’s fun to see the kid’s excitement build as they watch the messenger climb up the string, eagerly awaiting the parachute’s release so they can chase it down.

Here is a tutorial on how to build your own kite messenger. I used replacement Tervis straws that I purchased at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, because they’re much sturdier than your average soda straw. To hold it all together I used packing tape as well as a bit of super glue for good measure. The climb to the top of the kite line seemed to take a little long, so my next modification will be to use a much lighter gauge wire to reduce the overall weight.

Quick and Easy DIY Juggling Balls

DIY Juggling BallsMy kids are finally taking an interest in learning how to juggle. They’ve always loved throwing balls around whenever I practice, but they’ve never been interested in practicing the proper techniques until now. The problem is, my favorite juggling balls, the MMX Plus, are too heavy and large for their tiny hands. Instead of buying smaller balls or hacky sacks, I used plans from juggler.org to make several kid-friendly balls. This worked perfectly because I wanted to practice with them while their interest and excitement was high, and together we were able to crank out several balls in about 15 minutes. All you need to make your own juggling balls are balloons, tape, an empty water or soda bottle, and some filler (bird seed, sand, or rice). We used rice and the balls turned out great. Ok, kids, time to practice!Balls1 Balls3

DIY Juggling Balls

 

Make a Mischievous Leprechaun on a Shelf with Lucky Charms Cereal

LuckyForget Elf on a Shelf. Leprechauns are the original mischievous pranksters. Take Lucky—when he’s not cobbling shoes or hiding gold treasure, you can bet he’s out there playing tricks on unsuspecting citizens. One year, he turned most everything in our family room upside down. We knew it had to be him because the inside of our toilet bowls were suspiciously bright green!

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Marshmallow charms and other treasure.

While his presence can be annoying, it does have its advantages. You see, Lucky never hides his entire treasure at the end of a rainbow. He always reserves a few gold coins and some Lucky Charms to hide for the kids. I think he does this to mess with the Easter Bunny, but that’s just my theory.

Lucky can stop by your house this year, too! Just grab some Lucky Charms and carefully cut him out of the box. I made a stand for mine by decorating a cardboard toilet paper tube and taping him to the inside edge.

Pick out some of the marshmallow charms (they’re magically delicious!) and make some little treasure bags to hide on St. Patrick’s Day before Lucky’s grand appearance. Sure, the kids will notice that he’s missing from the box long before then, but that will just add to the suspense.

Where did he go?

Where did he go?

For wee little ones, try leaving some rainbow streamers or a trail of clover confetti leading to your treasures to make them easier to find. Remember, you don’t have to make a daily commitment with this like you do Elf on a Shelf, though you certainly could if you’re into that. The investment is basically nil, especially if anyone in your family enjoys eating Lucky Charms! Lucky 2If Lucky visits your home, please send some photos my way so I can post them here!

Scuttlecam Test Run #2

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I’ve been keeping the Scuttlecam in the trunk, because you just never know when you’ll come across parking lot seagulls eager to make new friends. It worked out the other day, as we happened upon a rather large flock on the way out of a grocery center parking lot.
Unfortunately, the seagulls weren’t interested in the least, although we did get the attention of a white SUV that drove over to take a closer look. Perhaps with a large flock, the birds are more skittish, moving together collectively just like a school of fish. The smaller group that we encountered on our first Scuttlecam run was far more accepting of the Scuttlecam. Even though we know better, we prefer to believe that the seagulls just get grumpy sometimes when the weather is lousy.

Arrr! Pirate Treasure Box Wood Burning!

Pirate treasure boxLittle by little, I’ve been painstakingly working on my very first wood burning project: an old wooden box that I’m making into a pirate treasure chest for my son. As usual, I had no clue what I was getting myself into, so I vastly underestimated the time and patience that would be necessary to finish such a “simple” new project. I finally just finished the centerpiece on the front of the box. While it took a lot longer than I anticipated, the results have been well worth the time, and the smell of lightly burning wood has been an added bonus that perfectly compliments autumn weather.

The ship is a design from Etsy shop Eleitheliel, which I’ve used with permission. Thank you Emily and Hannah! Please be sure to check out all of their awesome, original ink drawings and other wares at their Etsy page!

Once all of the wood burning is complete, I plan to adorn the box with some gritty parts, like this iron lock that I purchased on eBay. I may even modify the box so that it glows when opened. Aye mateys–stay tuned for more project updates, though I reckon it may take me until next ‘international talk-like-a-pirate day’ to finish it!Lock

Wood Burning Pirate Ship

Jazzy Cat walks the Plank

 

Maker Dad, Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects

As my daughter has grown, we’ve moved up from simple paper and glue crafts to working through more involved project books. I’m now always on the lookout for good project books suitable for the whole family. One of our favorites that we’ve found is Mad Professor, by Mark Frauenfelder. We’ve done several of the projects, such as the Shrunken Head, Old Tyme Robot, and Mini Glideabout, which the kids loved, but the dog–not so much. 

Shrunken Head project from Mad Professor

Shrunken Head project from Mad Professor

Now Mark has a new book that we’re even more excited about, called Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects. We’ve already completed our first project–astro ice cream. When I was young, I only remember completing a handful of projects from the project books that I had. Many were too complicated, used exotic chemicals, or were just plain boring. I’d pick the coolest ones (often repeating them) and then move on to something else.

When I flipped through Maker Dad with my daughter and asked her which projects she wanted to tackle, she said all of them! So did I! For a family project to work, everyone has to be interested and engaged, and this is where I think this book stands out. All of the projects seem challenging, educational, and fun for kids as well as parents.

We’re especially excited to make a Friendstrument – an instrument you play with a friend. We’ll be  sure to post our finished product. If you’re looking for a great family project book, be sure to check out Maker Dad.