Easy activities for toddlers that you can do at home

A while ago I posted about some easy home-made baby toys that I made for the twins when they were little. Things have moved on a bit since then (the twins are now 22 months old), and they require much more than a pompom or two to keep them occupied! Once again, Pinterest has been my friend and a great source of inspiration and I’ve tried a few things out that I’ve found on there. So I thought I’d share with you some easy activities that the twins enjoy doing.

1. Edible paint

My twins still put things in their mouths, especially if it looks like it might be edible so I’ve been making this edible paint recipe from The Imagination Tree whenever we do painting. The paint itself is quite thick so it lends itself well to finger painting but when it dries it does crack a bit and tends to make the paper shrivel and warp a bit (instead of staying flat). Having said that, it’s quite easy and quick to prepare and I think it’s quite nice that it doesn’t have chemicals (bar the food colouring) in! My only tip is that sometimes it doesn’t thicken for whatever reason so I find that gently heating it makes it thicken up to the right consistency (which is apparently custard-like). Also, they will keep for a short while in the fridge, but I wouldn’t leave them too long (and they dry up a little so you need to add a bit of water to bring them back to the right consistency).

toddler activities - edible paint

The twins aren’t overly into painting and drawing yet, but they will have a good go whenever I get these paints out – even if the enthusiasm often doesn’t last very long!

toddler activities - finger painting

2. Beads

This is currently one of the twins’ favourite activities and it comes out pretty much every day. Basically, I bought a number of large holed plastic beads from a bead shop in Sham Shui Po (Hong Kong’s craft district) and some shoelaces from a nearby market stall and gave them to the twins! They love playing with the beads – and not just threading them on the shoelaces (which they still need help with). For a start, they find it much easier to put the beads on chopsticks, so they can stack them up and let them fall off again! The beads also get rolled around, put in pots and generally investigated and played with.

toddler activities - threading beads on shoelaces

3. Foam shapes on the window

I got this idea, again, from The Imagination Tree. It’s so simple – cut shapes out of sheets of foam, make your window wet with a cloth (or they use a sponge in the link above) and let your toddlers stick the shapes on the window. It’s taken quite a while for the twins to get the idea that you stick the shapes on the window and don’t just pull off what mummy put there, but they are finally getting it.

toddler activities - foam shapes on window

The window needs to be pretty wet (and in the heat of a Hong Kong summer it dries pretty quickly so we have to keep re-wetting it!) but the twins also like to make the window wet again so that’s another plus point for this activity.

toddler activities - wetting the window

4. Cotton wool balls

Another simple (and low mess) activity is to get a bag of cotton wool balls out. Add in some pots to put them in and out of and some scoops or spoons to help transfer the balls around and you’ve got a great activity. This one doesn’t keep my twins entertained for too long at a time but they do like it!

toddler activities - cotton wool balls

I found this idea here.

5. Pipe cleaners and a colander

Sticking pipe cleaners into the holes of a colander is surprisingly entertaining when you’re almost 2. When I first tried this activity with the twins a few months ago, they found it quite frustrating as it was just that little bit too difficult for them to get the pipe cleaners in the holes but now their fine motor control has improved to the point where this is a great activity for them.

toddler activities - pipe cleaners in colander

And you don’t have to limit it to the colander either! Pipe cleaners make great bracelets, hats, necklaces and glasses!

toddler activities - playing with pipe cleaners

This idea came from here.

6. Songs with musical instruments

This is my backup if the twins are starting to get a bit antsy! I just pull out everything we have that could pass as a musical instrument (shakers, bells, tambourines, clappers etc) and we each pick one and sing nursery rhymes. Usually the twins change instruments about every 10 seconds, but that’s part of the fun! The twins are only just learning to talk so it’s really just me doing the singing, although Isobel does like to join in a bit, which is incredibly cute :)

toddler activities - playing musical instruments

So those are just a few ideas of activities that you can do with a toddler. There are lots and lots more that I have pinned to my Activities for Toddlers board on Pinterest so check it out if you’re looking for more inspiration!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

 

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Custom handmade jewellery designs

One of the nicest things about making jewellery is when I get asked to make something specific for someone! I love doing custom designs. And I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to create two of them recently.

The first was a very open brief – a friend wanted something fairly simple in style, but it had to be purple! I decided to make a bracelet from some beautiful purple swirled glass beads that I have. I bought some lilac Swarovski crystal bicones to match and pulled the design together with some silver spacer beads. The overall look is quite a slim bracelet design, which I chose because it is pretty but not too flashy.

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The second was a little more specific. I was asked to create a two layer necklace using some beautiful flat teardrop shaped lapis lazuli beads that had already been picked out. I played with a few designs and decided that the lapis lazuli matched well with some blue goldstone beads that I already had. I wanted the beads to be fairly spaced out so that the necklace didn’t look too heavy so I linked the beads together with wire wrapped loops. This took me quite a long time! I’m not sure whether I’d make another necklace like it again due to the time it took, but I was really pleased with the result.

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Luckily, both people loved their new jewellery!

It’s so much fun to design something for someone specific. If you’d like me to design you (or someone you know) a piece of jewellery, just get in touch. The best way is to email me at littlekoojewellery@gmail.com. I’d love to hear your requirements and work with you to produce a beautiful piece of jewellery.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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Updated – craft supplies in Hong Kong

A while ago I wrote a post on where to buy craft supplies in Hong Kong, and it’s by far my most popular post! Since then I’ve become aware of a whole load of other great sources of art and crafty goods so I’ve added these to that post and totally updated it.

Take a look if you’re interested.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Bead stash busting

Recently I looked over at my ever growing pile of beads and decided to challenge myself to create new designs using only materials that I already owned. Have you ever done this? It could be called bead stash busting! I have loads of pretty beads and it seems a shame not to use them, in fact some of them have never been used in designs at all before now.

In order to help inspiration to strike, I took a few beads of each type and mixed them up together. This was actually really useful as it helped me to see how beads look next to one another and which beads go with which. I also realised that I have two main colour palettes – pinks and blues/greens! Maybe I need to branch out…

Random mix of beads

Anyway, after a fun couple of evenings playing around with beads, these are the finished designs. I’m really pleased with them! I think they may make their way into my Etsy shop soon :)

These designs are made with jewel coloured crystals:

Little Koo - Purple crystal earrings

Little Koo - Blue crystal earrings

Little Koo - Jewel coloured crystal necklace

These ones are in pretty pastel mint and pink, with pearls:

Little Koo - Mint crystal and pearl earrings

Little Koo - Mint crystal and pearl necklace

Little Koo - Pink crystal and pearl earrings

Little Koo - Pink crystal and pearl necklace

And finally, a couple of random designs, firstly one that reminds me of Arabic style patterns. I think I may make a necklace of this design too!

Little Koo - Cushion style earrings

And some fun drop earrings with large sparkly goldstone beads at the bottom:

Little Koo - Blue goldstone earrings

What do you think? I hope you like these designs!

Have you ever tried challenging yourself like this? I think you could do stash busting with all sorts of craft supplies. They really build up!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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Making a beaded headband

We’re going back to the UK next month for a close friend’s wedding and whilst I have a dress (although it needs altering), I was wondering what to do with my hair! I’m planning on having it cut for the first time in about a year so it’ll be shorter and I won’t be able to do much with it in terms of putting it up. So what better than to dress it up with a pretty headband? I wanted something pretty but discreet and decided that the best way to find exactly what I wanted was to make it myself!

handmade beaded headband

This is a pretty simple craft – I don’t have time for long complicated ones any more! It took me only a couple of hours, including the time to mess around with beads and figure out what design to do.

Here’s what you need:

  • Simple headband
  • Nylon cord (fishing line or similar)
  • Beads
  • Glue (I never know the best glue to use in different applications. I used Hypo Cement because that was what I have, but if you have a better recommendation please let me know!)
  • Scissors

beaded headband materials

1. Decide on your bead pattern. This will probably depend on which beads you have available, the width of your headband and your personal taste. I wanted to use these pearls (which I bought here) and I decided to alternate the pearls with a row of seed beads. I wanted to keep it pretty neutral so I used the clear/silver beads mostly with a few gold ones interspersed.

2. Cut the nylon cord to length. By doing a trial section of the headband with the beads I calculated that I would need about 8′ of cord (this was a slight overestimate in the end but it wasn’t far off). The length you need will depend on the size of your beads and the width of your headband.

3. Tie the nylon cord to the headband where you want to begin beading. I just used a double knot for this. Then wrap the cord around the headband several times to help secure the knot. I tried to keep this neat and make my wraps lie neatly next to one another.

tie a knot in the cord

4. Thread your beads onto the nylon cord – enough for something like one-third of your headband. I found that doing this first made it a lot quicker and easier to attach the beads to the headband.

5. Push the first bead (or beads, if you’re having more than one bead in a row) onto the top of the headband and pull the cord tight. Now wrap the cord round the headband once more so that the cord lies straight under the beads you have just attached. This has two functions: (1) it helps to secure the beads well, and (2) it keeps the row of beads straight. I used the teeth of the headband to ensure that the second wrap was straight under the first one. Then I took the end of the second wrap through the next tooth (or the one after that, depending on the size of the bead) so that the cord comes up in the right place to make the next row of beads lie straight.

wrap the first bead

6. Repeat step 5 with the next bead or beads, and continue until you have used up all the beads you had threaded onto the cord. Then thread some more beads onto the cord and continue until you have covered the whole headband.

beaded headband in progress

7. Finish by wrapping the cord around several times and tie a knot. I found it very difficult to know what knot to tie here, maybe you know better? Anyway, I did something approximating a double knot that vaguely worked. Then, continuing to hold the cord taut, I applied a load of glue to the knot and wraps at both the beginning and end of the cord and left it to dry. I hope it holds when I’m wearing it!

wrapped beaded headband

So here is my finished headband. I think it looks quite pretty! (I do love pearls and sparkles) What do you think? Let me know if you have a go yourself!

beaded headband with pearls

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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Bead making in Ghana

A few years ago some friends of ours lived and worked in Ghana for a couple of years and Tom and I took advantage of having friends in such an unusual location by popping over for a visit! We had such a great time seeing a country so unlike anywhere we’d been before (well, Tom went to Tanzania when he was quite young but he doesn’t really remember it) and seeing how our friends lived out there. I have a lot of respect for them, it was so much more of a lifestyle change for them compared to us moving to Hong Kong!

Our friends worked for an organisation called Global Mamas. The aim of the organisation is to employ local women to make handicrafts which can then be sold abroad, mainly in the US, at a profit to maintain the business. The idea behind it was to empower women to generate their own income as the male incomes are often unreliable. Our friends set up a new site for Global Mamas on the edge of a village called PramPram near Accra. They learned the process for batiking fabric and sewing clothes and then turned an abandoned site into a workshop and employed local women to create Global Mamas garments. Impressive stuff!

This is where our friends lived (by the sea – beautiful!). They had to make the house habitable before they could live there, it looked like really hard work!

Our friends house

While we were staying with them, we visited another Global Mamas site and my friend and I did a bead making workshop. It was such fun! We made very simple one-colour beads, although they make much more complicated ones there as well. So this is how you make beads:

1. Crush glass with a weighted pole (very heavy!) until it resembles a fine powder

1 Glass crushing

2. Sieve the glass to get out any large particles

2 Sieving glass powder

3. Take your moulds, which have holes in the bottom. Place a stick into the hole and cut with the blade so that the end of the stick is level with the top of the mould

3 Putting sticks in bead mould

4. Mix dye of your chosen colour into your glass powder

4 Mix glass powder with coloured dye

5. Fill your mould with the glass powder

5 Fill bead mould with glass powder

6. Put your mould into a kiln and leave for 15-20 minutes. The stick burns away leaving a hole in the middle of the bead! (clever!)

6 Put bead moulds in kiln

7. Remove the mould from the kiln and leave to cool

7 Cooling handmade beads

8. Tip the beads out of the mould and make a bracelet or necklace!

8 Finished handmade beads!

I have to admit I’d never given much thought before before to how beads are made. It was really interesting and the guy who showed us how to do it was lovely. He does this all day long, hot work in a hot country. Here are some of the other beads he makes:

Global Mamas handmade beads

You can buy jewellery made from Global Mamas handmade beads online, just click here to have a look!

Ghana was a lovely country to visit, full of very friendly people. It’s quite poor though, and people live pretty simple lives. It’s also very un-touristy so I think it would be a difficult country to visit if you didn’t know anyone there. I feel very privileged that we had the opportunity to see it.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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Buying craft supplies in Hong Kong

*******This post was updated on 18/04/2016**********

As I have mentioned on more than one occasion, shopping in Hong Kong can be a very frustrating experience, especially if you are new here and want to buy something very specific! There are very few big chain stores so it can be hard to know where to go. I have found that the same is true for buying craft supplies. In the UK, you can pretty much rely on Hobbycraft for most things, but I knew of a few other chains where I might be able to find crafty things so I could generally find what I want (plus internet shopping is great in the UK compared to here, although I do now have a post on online shopping in Hong Kong). However, in Hong Kong it is a different story.

I’ve been in Hong Kong for a while now and over time I have had some success in finding craft supplies so I thought I’d share with you the ones that I have found in the hope that it helps you too!

Sham Shui Po

This is well known in Hong Kong as being a great area to get craft supplies such as beads and fabric. Leave the Sham Shui Po MTR station by exit C2 and walk straight ahead one block (through the market) to the next street, which is Yu Chau Street. This street has lots of bead shops in particular, mostly clustered one block either side of where you are now. I find that a lot of the jewellery supplies aren’t that great quality, so I buy some of my supplies for the shop from here but not many. But for someone who just wants to make jewellery for fun it’s bead heaven!

Here are some of the shops that I like to buy jewellery supplies from:

  • A&A Accessory Co (211 Yu Chau Street) – sequins and seed beads
  • Lap Sun Gem Company (192 Yu Chau Street) – semi-precious gemstone beads
  • Mee Ngai Wah (289-291 Yu Chau Street) – sterling silver findings and wire
  • Star River (283 Yu Chau Street) – wide range of metal chains, findings, spacer beads and seed beads
  • Universe Accessories Ltd (Shop C, 213-217 Yu Chau Street) – large selection of bead caps, spacer beads and (probably fake but still pretty) Swarovski crystals

This street is also great for buttons and ribbon, and some other haberdashery, and this continues onto the next parallel street further away (Ki Lung Street). There’s one little shop on Ki Lung Street where I’ve been a few times for sewing supplies such as fusible interfacing, elastic and felt. There are also several shops in this area selling leather and lace.

I found that Sham Shui Po isn’t quite the fabric heaven that I was led to believe. If you continue south-east on Yu Chau Street or Ki Lung Street and cross over the large road (Nam Cheong Street) there are loads and loads of fabric shops but they are all full of small swatches of fabric and most only sell wholesale to businesses. There are a very small number of fabric shops in this area which have bolts of fabric (you have to seek them out), and also a row of market stalls along Ki Lung Street which sell fabric from bolts.

However, all is not lost. If you head back north-east to the intersection of Yen Chow Street and Lai Chi Kok Road, you come to the Yen Chow Street hawker bazaar, which is crammed full of fabric stalls! I’ve been twice now and many of the stall owners weren’t around but they have a phone number on their stall which you can call if you want to buy some fabric. I was a bit apprehensive about this, but I had found some fabric I wanted to buy so I rang the number and asked if the guy spoke English. He did have a little English and after about 30 seconds he came round the corner! So I don’t know if all the stallholders are hanging about nearby or if I just got lucky, but it’s always worth a try :)

Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar

Western Market

The top floor of the Western Market in Sheung Wan also houses a number of fabric sellers, which may be more convenient if you are on Hong Kong island. It’s in a beautiful building, so worth taking a look just for that! It can be found at 323 Des Voeux Road Central (but you can’t really miss it).

Tailor and Alteration Needlework Club

This little gem is well hidden away in Causeway Bay (and there is another one in Kwun Tong but I haven’t visited that one) but is worth seeking out for all things sewing, knitting and crochet related! It’s a pretty small shop but crammed with fabric, wool and associated tools and accessories (plus loads of Japanese magazines). Well worth a look if you fancy a rummage. The lady who runs it is very friendly and helped me find the things I want and explained what was what because a lot of the tools and accessories had Japanese packaging. Tailor & Alteration is on the 14th floor of the Kin Tak Fung Commercial Building, 467-473 Hennessey Road, Causeway Bay, and can also be found at Room C 12/F, Block 1, Yip Fat Factory Building, 77 Hoi Yuen Road, Kwun Tong, Kowloon.

Cheung Nam Stationery

Also known as CN Square, apparently this place is the largest stationery store in Hong Kong.┬áIt’s certainly impressive, spread over four floors with a different theme on each (office supplies, craft supplies, art supplies etc) and a huge range of products. This should probably be your first port of call if you’re trying to find something specific craft related. Head to 503 Nathan Road, Yau Ma Tei to check it out!

Artland

Artland is an art supplies shop in Wanchai which also has a fairly large range of craft supplies as well. It’s definitely one of the places I go to if I’m looking for something craft-related. I think the prices are a little inflated because there are so few stores like this in Hong Kong but it’s not too bad. Artland is on the 3rd floor of the Lockhart Centre, 301-307 Lockhart Road, Wanchai.

The Art Shop

The Art Shop has a great selection of art supplies, and some crafty materials too. It’s hidden up a flight of stairs so I just happened to come across it by chance one day. I didn’t compare the prices to Artland, but it makes a great alternative I think. You can find it at Upper 1/F, 36-40 Johnston Road, Wanchai.

Stationery shops

I love all the little independent stationery shops in Hong Kong – they’re everywhere and they all have a great range of stationery supplies, and most have some craft supplies too. It’s a bit hit and miss in terms of what a given shop will have but it’s worth looking round a few if you’re looking for something in particular. I won’t give the addresses of any here as there are just too many! You normally don’t have to go looking too far before you find one :)

Craft Supplies Store

I only stumbled upon this stop yesterday by accident but the name suggests it might be perfect for craft supplies! Craft Supplies Store isn’t that big and in my opinion has a slightly eclectic range of supplies but definitely worth a browse. I visited the one in Wanchai but apparently there’s one in Mongkok too. Here are the addresses: G/F, 173 Sai Yee Street, Mongkok, Kowloon & G/F, Sun Hey Mansion, 68-76 Hennessey Road, Wanchai.

Student Exercise & Education Co., Ltd.

This place is a bit out of the way but it has a fairly wide range of craft supplies (stamping, needle felting, clay etc), and it seems to be all Japanese goods. If you go to Anhui Street, just off Ma Tau Wai Road, you can’t miss it – the street is very short and there’s a massive sign saying ‘Art and Craft’ in English! (but the name of the shop is in Chinese) The official address is: Shop No.6, G/F Kar Shun Bldg, 238 Mau Tau Wai Road, To Kwa Wan, Kowloon.

Popular Books

Popular Books has many outlets around Hong Kong. The one near me has a pretty good range of basic craft supplies and stationery so it’s the most convenient place for me to pick up some supplies. The list of stores can be found here.

Living Plaza by Aeon

I recently stumbled upon Living Plaza, and I was in heaven! Basically it’s Hong Kong’s version of Poundland – pretty much everything in there is HK$12. They have some art and craft supplies in there, so if you want something cheap it’s a great place to have a nose around. Again, there are loads of them so take a look at this list to find your nearest one.

Cheer Wool

I saw this shop from the bus a while ago and again only went in for the first time yesterday but this wool shop has a very wide selection of types and brands of yarn and some other craft supplies too such as needle felting kits and embroidery supplies. I think it would fulfil most knitting-related or crochet-related needs! I bought some wool for another nursery project, but you’ll have to wait and see what it is! Cheer Wool can be found at G/F, Shanghai Industrial Investment Building, 48-62 Hennessy Road, Wanchai.

Here are some other places that I’ve heard of but not tried out yet. I really want to check them out though!

Artsman – Flat A, 2/F, Kiu Hong Mansion, 3 Tin Lok Lane, Wanchai

Kwong Yick Art & Design Materials Ltd – 169 Sai Yee St, Mong Kok

HK Art Supplies Professional – 77 Bute St, Mong Kok

International Art Supplies – Room 14, 17/F., Chai Wan Industrial City, Phase 1, No.60 Wing Tai Road, Chai Wan & Shop No. 6, UG/F., Wing On Plaza, 62 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East

Age Fine Arts & Co, 97 Kwong Fuk Road, Tai Po

Double Knit Yarn – 1/F, 179 Fa Yuen Street, Mongkok

Fliegen Scrapbook & Craft Store – Room B, 5/F, Savoy Mansion, 49 Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Paper Art – 1/F, Hung Tak Building, 106-108 Des Voeux Road, Central

Tree Children’s Lodge – range of felting, art and craft supplies. 2/F 10 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay.

The Crafties – co-working craft space which hosts a range of workshops and also has supplies for sale. 1/F Sing Kui Commercial Building, No. 27 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan

For online only paper supplies, take a look at Mei Li Paperie and Paper Crafts. If you’re interested in paper stamping, take a look at Bymamalaterre – she’s so talented! (and you can buy her stamp creations and make beautiful things yourself!) Also, check out Knit Cat Cafe for yarn and knitting supplies.

Apparently, the HK Knitting & Crochet Facebook group has a great list of yarn stores, but you need to be a member of the group to see it.

Another Facebook group that I would highly recommend is Hong Kong craft lovers. A great group of people to ask for help from if you still don’t know where to buy what you want!

So that’s about it for the places that I know to buy craft supplies in Hong Kong. Do you know of anywhere else? Please leave a comment below and let me know! I love to find new places :)

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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