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Keeping the kids busy this summer

Joanne Oppenheim of toyportfolio.com gives advice on how to use crafts to occupy your child’s free time during the school break.
/ Source: TODAY

Summer is great time for learning how to do new things and crafts are more than a fun way to use free time. Joanne Oppenheim of toyportfolio.com has advice on how to keep the kids busy during summer break.

Crafts often involve using reading and following direction skills, motivate kids to refine their dexterity and give them a chance to express themselves artistically. Very young kids like to simply explore art materials — but older kids prefer crafts with an end-product that they can use.

FOR THE GARDEN

We look for projects that are gender free - both of these will appeal to both girls and boys.

Build a bird bath

(Creativity for Kids $24.95) A parent/child project for the garden. Three pieces need to be put together and painted. Part of the National Keep America’s Birds Clean Campaign. (800) 311-8684.

Spiral Wind Chime Kit

(Balitono $17) This multi-segmented wind chime moves with the breeze and is great fun for kids to paint and then hang up in a breezy spot or in a tree where it can be seen and heard. 7 & up. (609) 936-8807.

JEWELRY

Many of these projects are very speedy and attractive to wear or share with a friend.

Alphadot Bracelet Kit

(The Bead Shop $19.99) Our testers loved this kit that comes with three watch-like thin bands and 85 Alphadot beads that slide onto the bands. You can change your mind and come up with a new “word-to-wear” everyday!

8 & up. (800) 492-3237.

Trendy Turquoise

(Alex $13 four) Our 11-year old testers thought the directions were not totally clear and needed some help tying off the end. But they were delighted with their bracelets that look totally trendy.(800) 666-2539.

Clikits

(Lego $11.95 & up five) Leave it to Lego to come up with a product designed for girls that will develop fine motor skills along with creativity. Flower shaped beads snap together with larger cut out flowers and leaves. This is more than a jewelry kit. Our testers raved about the handbag kits but also gave high marks to the jewelry, hair accessories, frame kits. No age label on package but we’d say 7 & up would be able to handle them. (800) 223-8756.

SEWING

Peasant Purse

(Alex $10) A pre-punched brown suede purse gets laced together with colored laces and colorful hearts and beads. Laces shed onto the purse, but wipe off with damp towel. Very wearable once it’s put together. 7 & up. (800) 666-2539.

Door Critters

(Quincrafts $6.49 each) What a great buy! We thought these might look young to our testers. But two 10-year old testers loved making these 9” kits that you hang on your door (select either a frog or a dog). They require sewing up the pre-cut holes, adding some batting, and gluing on some details. The liked the little notes you post to the critter’s pocket (e.g., please knock, messy room, doing homework). We suggest pasting the signs to index cards to make them sturdier. (800) 342-8458.

CLASSICS

Potholders & Other Loopy Projects

(Klutz $16.95) We’ve tested lots of looms for potholders. Most simply don’t work well or the loops are not good. Then this book and loom arrived. Don’t look any further, this is the best potholder set on the market. The supplies are vibrant and inviting and the book really does explain what to do. Weaving not only develops eye hand coordination, it involves following patterns, and problem solving. Marked 6 & up, we’d say more like 7 & up. (800) 737-4123.

Felt Crafting Fun

(Fisher-Price $14.99) Handsomely packaged in a big binder with all the fixings for this classic glue opportunity: 100 felt pieces, large felt sheets, glue, scissors, and project suggestions. We also liked the Foam and Bead Crafting Fun Sets from this new line. (888) 226-4190.