Thursday, January 20, 2011

Life-Saver Men and Marble Maze Game

Well, I'm still doing after-Christmas cleanup and collecting all the little projects my kids did.  As they get older, they are doing more and more crafts on their own, and these make great gifts.  The girls made life-saver-man Christmas ornaments for their friends.  I had made these as Christmas gifts for my friends when I was their age.

1) To make each set of arms and legs, wind about 20 lengths of red or green yarn length-wise around a six-inch ruler.  
2) Slide the yarn off the ruler, tie shorter pieces of yarn around each bunch near each end, and cut the ends so that all of the yarn ends are loose.  
3) Cut one long piece of yarn for each life-saver man and tie one end of it around the middle of the leg piece, forming two legs.
4) Thread the long piece of yarn on a long needle and push it through the center of the life-saver candy roll.  We used the large life-saver candy rolls, so we actually had to tie the yarn around a crochet hook or knitting needle to get it all the way through.
5) Tie the long piece of yarn around the middle of the arm piece, forming two arms.
6) Thread the long piece of yarn on a long needle again and push it through the center of the styrofoam ball for the head.  For this one, we used a plastic kiddie-needle for plastic canvas.  It was long enough to go all the way through and had enough of a point to go through the styrofoam.
7) Keep the long piece of yarn on the needle and push it through the center of a small shape cut from cardstock or felt for the hat.
8) Tie a loop for hanging in the top of the long piece of yarn.
9) Use markers to draw a happy face on your life-saver man!

My son built Marble Mazes for some of our family friends who have children for Christmas, and of course he made one to keep for himself and his siblings!  I found this craft in a magazine - I believe it was Disney's Family Fun magazine several years ago - along with an article describing how these were popular games for children in the late 1800s and early 1900s, long before the age of DSs and PSPs!  Unfortunately, I can no longer find the magazine or the article.  You can rearrange the rubber bands in countless ways to make various mazes to roll the marbles through, then challenge your friends or siblings to roll the marble all the way to the end without dropping it.  Add more marbles for extra fun.

1) Have a piece of sturdy plywood cut to 1' x 1'.  
2) Use a pencil to draw a grid of 1-inch squares.  Paint each of the 100 squares in the center (10x10) different colors.  Paint the one-inch border around the edges a solid, dark color.
3) Hammer nails into corners of the squares.  The nails are a little close if you place them every inch, so you could place them every other square or make the squares themselves bigger - 1.5"x1.5" or 2"x2".  My son painted one-inch squares but then placed nails haphazardly in the corners of various squares, wherever he felt like putting them!
4) Stretch multi-colored rubber bands around the nails and add a marble.

My son is 11 and made 4 of these by himself, except for cutting the original piece of plywood, which my husband did.  If you have a boy who loves to get into Dad's tools and hammer anything in sight, this is a great project!  It also gave him a very simple application for all that geometry he's been doing.  He's the type of kid who doesn't care much to learn it if he doesn't see any useful application!

Happy crafting!

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