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  • Quirk Books

    A fuzzy plush penguin is one of the projects found in Sarah Goldschadt's "Craft-a-Day."

  • Quirk Books

    Paper bird mobile from Sarah Goldschadt's "Craft -a-Day."

  • Chuck Kennedy / C&T Publishing

    Brenna Maloney's book "Socks Appeal" is full of animal projects that kids can make from socks.

Fun projects to keep the kids busy on weekends or holidays

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4CALIFORNIA LIFE

It's inevitable during the winter months: Kids get bored. But the doldrums are just the thing for unleashing children's creativity.

Give them a few ideas and supplies, and step out of the way.

Here, three crafts authors offer ideas for turning the blahs into hurrahs.

Animal templates

If they can wield a pair of scissors, children can make the cute characters in Sarah Goldschadt's book, "Craft-a-Day" (Quirk Books, 24.95, 432 pages). It provides a crafting motif for each week of the year, and a simple paper cutout or small felt object each day. There's a new iPad app for downloading templates and instructions.

The animal patterns, including a penguin, a dog and a raccoon, are most likely to grab a child's imagination. After tracing a template, kids can use it to make ornaments, cards, magnets, gift tags, mobiles and cake toppers.

Goldschadt, a graphic designer, recently shared some of her crafts with teenagers in an after-school program at a library near her New York home and was impressed by the kids' dedication to finishing their owl and bird ornaments.

"It was the most quiet they'd ever been," she said, "and they stayed longer to get it done."

Goldschadt's website: www.


Brenna Maloney, a Washington, D.C., mother of two, is the author of three sock-project books, including "Socks Appeal" (C&T Publishing, $17.95, 127 pages) and the new "Sock It to Me" (Stash Books, $17.95, 144 pages).

She turned to sewing with stretchy socks five years ago to offset job stress. Replicating a favorite sock bunny that her mother had made her when she was a girl, Maloney then turned to crafting snakes, mice, sea creatures – and, more recently, evil clowns and snowman assassins.

Some of her biggest fans are preteens, who pose new project ideas and ask for help.

"I work with (the kids) and bring them in on it," said Maloney, now an editor at National Geographic Explorer magazine.

For kids who know how to use a sewing machine or would like to learn, Maloney suggests starting with a snake, a turtle or a starfish; the snake project is posted at Maloney's website,

"Think about the sock and how it's shaped. Turn it and twist it," Maloney said. She uses a sock's pattern plus stuffing and embellishments to turn it into a creature.


Emily K. Neuburger's crafting projects evolve around storytelling. A former teacher, she offers art and writing classes for children out of her Amherst, Mass., home.

The projects in her book "Show Me a Story" (Storey Publishing, $16.95, 144 pages) and at her website,, encourage kids to play and experiment. She advises parents to leave out interesting new supplies, such as pinecones and paint, for children to explore.

Help them "begin that process of imagining new worlds and telling stories," she said.

Neuburger suggests that kids can share a personal memory or retell the Christmas story using memory cards or story stones. Pictures from the story are glued to cardboard surfaces or small stones. Neuburger uses colored paper and fabric scraps to make simple images.

"Learning to know what to include in a story and what to leave out is an important storytelling skill," Neuburger said in her book.

She also recommends making a story grab bag: Allow kids to search through magazines, maps and catalogs, and cut out interesting words, numbers and pictures. Find other images online. Also, kids can draw, paint or stamp their own images.

Glue these storytelling prompts to card stock (or cereal-box cardboard). Neuburger follows with Mod Podge to seal the images, but this step can be skipped.

After the images dry, place them in a bag. From there, children can pull cards to build a story together. It can feel like a game, she said.

"That element of the unknown and the randomness – kids love it," said Neuburger. "They have to work with it. There's humor."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jennifer Forker

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