For the Sydney Morning Herald


And Melbourne's leading newspaper The Age


Dream it up

By Seamus Byrne

May 21, 2005                                  




The Toymaker


Has it been a while since you gave the creative side of your brain a workout? This site offers a wide selection of clever toys and dolls, all made from paper. PDFs of all projects are available for free download, so get the kids involved and work on beautifully illustrated creative projects.


Puppet theatres, fairy houses, spinners and bunny baskets are all here to cut and paste in the traditional sense. Projects are also available for all the major festive seasons of the year. Plus there are some plain-paper models so you can design and paint your own. Rarely are such high-quality craft projects available for free download.



From Ireland


Ten Things to do without the TV

 What did we do before TV? It's a question parents often ask themselves in despair, as the children won't be torn away from the box / computer / gameboy. The answer is to strike a balance. Restrict the amount of time your kids spend with the TV, and have some fun and creative alternatives for them to try instead. You'll all be the better for it.


1. Dressing Up

Kids love dressing up. A big box of your old clothes, together with clever finds from jumble sales and charity shops, makes for an exciting dress-up box. Get inventive - net curtains make bridal veils, old scarves turn children into pirates, costume jewelry becomes wonderful as a treasure trove.


2. Picture Board

Most of us have piles of old photographs we're always intending to put into albums. Take the best ones out for framing, and then turn the rest over to the kids to turn into a photo board. You'll need to help them to get started, but basically all you need to do is cut around the people, places, pets and glue them onto a big sheet of card to create a collage of memories. Cover with clear sticky-back plastic to last a lifetime.


3. What's Cooking?

Plan a special teatime, and get your kids to do the cooking. Snacks like crackers with toppings and special sandwiches are easy for kids to make. Try tuna mayonnaise, cream cheese, cucumber and pate. Pastry cutters can be used to cut sandwiches into fun shapes. With so many delicious cakes, cookies and treats coming in handy mixes, all you'll need to help them with for the sweet section is adding eggs and water. Be on hand to deal with the hot oven - and to help with eating the goodies afterwards! PS - don't forget to invite all the teddies and dolls...


4. Camping (indoors)

I'll always remember one wet and miserable day when I was a kid, and my Mum suggested we make an indoor camp. Out came the old blankets, sheets and a tablecloth, and we draped them over the furniture, making a wonderful den for my brother and me. My half was a house for all my teddies and dolls, while my brother turned his into an army command camp.


5. Paper Planes

Sometimes the simplest things are the best fun. Remember paper aeroplanes? Have a flying competition in the sitting room, or along the landing, to see whose can go furthest. Forgotten how to make one? Fold a sheet of A4 paper lengthwise. Fold the top corner of one side down to meet the bottom fold, fold again. Repeat on the other side. From here on, all folds to make wings, Concorde noses etc. will be the subject of much debate and adjustments... From simple beginnings, paper plane folding can become highly specialised...


6. Board Games

Don't forget how much fun board games and jigsaws can be. From Scrabble to Monopoly to Mousetrap, the old ones are usually still the best. Just remember to have a copy of the rules handy...


7. Make your Own Musical Instruments

It's easy to make musical instruments with things you'll find around the house. An empty pair of water bottles filled with rice or lentils makes instant maracas. Biscuit tins can be drums. Don't forget the old trick of folding paper over the prongs of a comb for a harmonica too. Or you can be more ambitious and use strong elastic bands of different widths, stretched over a bowl to make a groovy string section.


8. Have a Concert

Now the instruments are made, it's time for a concert. Let the kids take over the living room, setting up the chairs and sofas for the audience, planning the gig, writing a programme. You never know, they may even want to charge admission...


9. Tidy Up Time

Ok - so this isn't as much fun, but it's important to make tidying up part of the routine of playing. Otherwise you may well end up wanting to plonk the kids back in front of the telly for a bit of tidy peace and quiet!


10. Fun Online

Yes, I know the object is to get the kids away from the computer / TV - but the internet is a great resource of ideas for things to make and do. Try for art ideas;, or And just look at for an absolutely beautiful site of paper toys and cards to download, print out and make. The livingonline editor recommends:


(c) eircom net 2004