Tag Archives: craft

Project: Dragon boat festival

The dragon boat festival (端午节) is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month on the Chinese calendar (五月初五). This year, the festival falls on 12th of June.

This festival commemorates the sacrifice of Qu Yuan (屈原), a poet from the Chu State during the Warring States Period (476 BC – 221 BC). Qu Yuan was a very patriotic and loyal advisor in the court of King Huai. However, the king was misguided by corrupt officials, and sent Qu Yuan into exile. Without the loyal advisor’s counsel, the state was eventually defeated by the neighboring Qin State.

On this day, upon learning of the fall of his state, Qu Yuan is believed to have jumped into the Miluo river in despair. He was well-loved and respected by the people, and they wanted to protect his body from the fishes in the river. In order to do so, the villagers threw sticky rice dumplings into the river as food for the fishes, paddled out in their boats and beat drums in order to drive the fishes away. This practice has been carried on as cultural tradition: we continue to eat rice dumplings (粽子) and have dragon boat races (赛龙舟) on this day.

I wanted the kids to know more about our Chinese traditions and customs, and thought that it would be fun to do some related activities with the kids to celebrate this festival.

We began by reading a book on Qu Yuan that I borrowed from the library. It was a good chance to talk a little about Chinese history. Of course, there were a lot of questions from C on why he chose to jump into the river…


We then created our own dragon boats. I found a template online for the base of our dragon boat, and drew the dragon head and tail to be pasted on (I drew it freehand, sorry I’m not that artistic). The kids were given the template to decorate, before I cut and assembled the boats. I must say that I was pleased with how the boats turned out. C wanted to do more of them – we are going to try “racing” them tomorrow.

G dotting away

G dotting away


Dragon boats by C (background) and G (foreground)

We also made rice dumpling maracas. I found a tutorial to fold a triangular pyramid here, and made it together with C. We used 4 pieces of 12cmx12cm construction paper for each dumpling. C needed some help with some of the folds, but she managed to follow most of the instructions. C and G helped to add some rice grains into the “dumplings” before we sealed them up with tape. The kids loved these! Note: This could get messy! We had rice grains all over the table.

Rice dumpling maracas!

Rice dumpling maracas!

In line with the theme, I also created some homeschooling material to learn chinese numbers. The same material can also be used for colour matching, sequencing, or photographic memory practice.

Chinese numbers

Chinese numbers

What comes next?

What comes next?

For C, I made some worksheets for writing and hanyu pinyin practice.


Writing and pinyin practice

Of course, I’ll be preparing rice dumplings for the kids to enjoy! 🙂

Are you doing anything to celebrate the dragon boat festival? How about making a dragon boat for your own race?

Download your printables here!
Printable – Dragon boat craft
Printable – Dragon boat math
Printable – Dragon boat writing and pinyin

Note: You’ll also be able to find the links for the downloads on my Home Practice Materials page here.

denverartmuseum.org for the paper canoe base
visualmandarin.com for the chinese stroke sequence


Project: Shrinky Dinks

During my trip to Eat.Play.Love craft cafe, I saw some pretty charms on display. Initially, I thought that they were miniatures made of ceramic, but on closer inspection, I realised that they were made of plastic. Curious, I made some enquiries, and it was then that I found out about the existence of shrink plastics. Fascinated by the name and the results, I decided to do some googling to find out a little bit more.

Apparently, shrink plastics (or Shrinky Dinks) were very popular in the 1980s. They are actually large flexible sheets which, when heated in an oven, shrink to small hard plates without altering their colour or shape. According to wikipedia, Shrinky Dinks were invented in 1973 by two housewives of Brookfield, Wisconsin, as a Cub Scout project with their sons. They soon became popular as a children’s arts and craft product, and are also used in adult crafts like jewellery making.

I wanted to try it with C, but rather than going down to the cafe, I decided to track down and buy the supplies from a local arts and craft supplies store.

At first look, the shrink plastic looked like an ordinary sheet of flexible plastic. One side was smooth, while the other was slightly ridged.

Not an ordinary piece of paper

Not an ordinary piece of paper

According to the instructions, the plastic would shrink to 30% of its original size when heat was applied. For the trial, I drew a flower, making sure it was relatively big, and got C to colour it in using coloured pencils.


Adding colour

Here’s the result after cutting out the flower, and punching a hole for the charm to hang from.

Before baking

Before baking

I placed the cutout in my little toaster oven (instructions mentioned heating it at 160deg C, but I didn’t have a real oven). I set the timer for 4 minutes, and waited.

At first, nothing happened. Then, I was dismayed that the plastic seemed to shrivel up (the petals on the flower closed up towards the centre). At this point, C and myself were going “Oh no! It’s completely ruined!!!!“. I decided to wait a little while longer just to see what happened. Luckily I did. The plastic started to unfurl itself slowly and flattened out nicely into a tiny flower. It worked!!!!  And it really shrunk to a third of its original size! (sorry for the exclaimation marks, but you can tell how excited I was).

Amazing shrinking flower!

Success! The amazing shrinking flower.

The colours were very vibrant after shrinkage, and both C and myself really liked how it turned out.

Of course, C was really happy (and probably as excited as me!). She got down immediately to design more charms.

More self-designed charms

More self-designed charms! Clockwise from left: rainbow flower, portrait of daddy, a fish tank for grandma, a star charm for G and a “mummy & me” charm for yours truly!

It is a really easy craft, and yields very, very pretty results. I think I’m going to stock up on these – they are going to be used to make a lot of presents this year! 🙂

Have you tried using shrink plastics?

Eat.play.love craft cafe

During the recent May Day holiday, we brought the kids to Eat.Play.Love craft cafe at Aliwal Arts Centre for a play date with my niece and nephew. I had heard about the cafe from various blogs and FB updates (check out Zee’s post here!). Lovely pictures of the cafe’s interior, as well as the promise of crafting fun for the family made it a “must-check-it-out” venue on my list.

We arranged to meet at 5pm, as the cafe was closed for a private event held earlier that day. I had expected to have trouble finding parking lots on a public holiday, but was pleasantly surprised to find that there were ample parking spaces available (perhaps because we beat the dinner crowd). Parking was also free on Sundays and public holidays. 🙂

The cafe was bustling with activity when we arrived. There was a slight hiccup as they had not prepared a table for our group of six although my sis-in-law had made reservations. While they sorted out the seating, I took a look around the cafe.

What struck me first was the lovely decoration on the walls behind the counter where I stood, declaring the name of the cafe:


Lovely deco

Lined along the counter were all sort of snacks I remembered from my childhood. There were even old-school toys available for purchase.

Memories from my childhood

Memories from my childhood

In front of the counter, tables made from recycled crates and secondhand wooden chairs were arranged to accommodate groups of friends, couples and families with young children. I loved the laid-back vibe about the place.

Love the tables and chairs!

Love the tables and chairs!

There were two craft areas, located at opposite ends of the cafe. I thought that was well-thought out, to prevent overcrowding at one station.

Craft areas

Craft areas

Soon, we were seated at a table near the one of the craft areas. We decided to get some food for the kids first, to get them in a happy mood.

The kitchen was closed from 3-6pm, but desserts and snacks were available. We ordered some milo tarts (3 for $2) and a Nutella banana waffle (I think it was $4.50?) for the kids. I didn’t get a chance to taste the tarts, but the waffle was lathered with chocolatey goodness (nutella and banana- Mmmmm!)

Yummy snacks! (Left: milo tarts; Right: Nutella banana waffles)

Yummy snacks! (Left: milo tarts; Right: Nutella banana waffles)

After the energy booster, we proceeded to the craft area. We paid $5 per child for 2 hours of unlimited use of the craft supplies, and it was definitely worth it! There were plenty of materials to choose from: markers, craft punches, paper, pipe-cleaners, pom-poms, buttons, felt, ribbons… the list goes on. Craft books were also available in case you ran out of ideas. I really liked that the supplies included recycled material like egg cartons and bottle caps.

For the older children and adults, there were also plushies and soft toys to be sewn and decorated, as well as shrinky dink crafts (shrink plastic was available for purchase). Really pretty samples were shown on display, but I forgot to take a close-up of them.

See the egg cartons and baskets of bottle caps?

See the egg cartons and baskets of bottle caps?

The difference in my two children was evident when we allowed them free rein at the craft supplies area. C was overwhelmed by the choices available, and was at a loss where to start. She was used to guided crafting. G on the other hand, was off to a running start, gathering all the available material, then asking for glue and scissors to “cut” and “paste”.

The pom-pom goes here...

The pom-pom goes here…

In the end, C settled down to do egg carton flowers upon my suggestion, while G was busy working on his own collage on a paper plate, occasionally helping himself to the craft material that C collected. It was nice to see the children working quietly side-by-side. Even better, I didn’t have to worry about clearing up the mess. 😉

I'd like to have that please

I’d like to have that please

We took a break for dinner after an hour of crafting. Dinner menu was reasonably priced (around $10-20), with choices from both Asian and Western cuisine. We ordered the tom-yam noodles, Mac n cheese, chicken chop for the adults, and pineapple rice for the kids. I think the tom-yam was nicely done, and the kids enjoyed the pineapple rice (especially the chicken winglets).

Clockwise, from top left: mac n cheese, tom-yam noodles, pineapple rice, fries

Clockwise, from top left: mac n cheese, tom-yam noodles, pineapple rice, fries

After dinner we did a little bit more craft work (beading and such), but all too soon, it was time to pack up and go, as the kids were getting tired and cranky. The kids left the cafe holding on tightly to their precious works of art.

I didn’t get a chance to try the shrink plastic crafts, nor adopt the super cute plush monsters this time round, but I’ll definitely be back again!

Eat.love.play craft cafe is the perfect place for families, couples and friends to meet, chat and do a little craft work. Lovely venue for a birthday party too. Highly recommended!

Are there any craft cafes in your area?

Masterpieces by C & G

Masterpieces by C & G

Eat.Play.Love craft cafe
28 Aliwal Street #01-07 Aliwal Arts Centre
Singapore, Singapore 199918
Phone: 6444 6400
Opening hours: 12 noon – 10pm (they are closed on Tuesdays)

Project: Puppet theatre – Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?

After the success of the felt playset based on an Eric Carle book, I decided to start another project, inspired by a popular title: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
brown bear

For those who are not familiar with this book (a collaboration between Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle), it’s targeted at preschoolers, and introduces a list of different brightly coloured animals (including a purple cat and a blue horse) using catchy repetitive text. I love this version on Youtube read by Bill Martin.

To bring Brown Bear alive, I decided to make a mini puppet theatre, complete with the various animals introduced in the book. The “theatre” was a recycled cardboard box from a previous book purchase, decorated with coloured construction paper to form a backdrop. C and G chipped in to make the backdrop, with C painting the paper plates for the trees and bushes, and G fluffing and pasting the cotton wool for the clouds.

I had initially wanted to make handpuppets, but decided to make my life easier by printing and laminating the various animals instead. To make the animals stand on the stage, I used a piece of cork, and pasted a piece of magnet underneath (I’ve these left over from old magnetic toy pieces). With a magnetic strip below the stage, the show begun!

I see a red bird looking at me.

Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me.

With a bit of practice, I was able to control the movement of the puppets so that they turned and moved on cue as I read from the book. The kids were amazed to see the animals come alive on the stage! To quote C: “They are moving by themselves! It’s magic!” Of course, she found out about the magnets later, and wanted to try it herself (the magic of magnetism will be explained to her in due course).

The whole cast

The whole cast

I decided to velcro the tree stump and tree so that the “theatre” can be easily folded and kept (with puppets stored neatly inside). This can be reused for the next story telling session, with different props and puppets.

Judging by the looks on the kids’ faces during the performance, I think they liked it 😉

Have you read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? Which is your favourite Eric Carle book?

Crafting with C: Mandarin Oranges

In line with the Chinese New Year theme, I decided to do a mandarin orange craft with C.

Mandarin oranges are an essential part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. When visiting friends and relatives, it is important to bring along a pair of mandarin oranges for exchange (always in pairs, as Chinese believe that even numbers are auspicious). Why mandarin oranges and not apples? That’s because the word for mandarin oranges sound like luck in Chinese 🙂

Getting started
The materials needed were simple: orange netting, floral tape, a leaf for decoration (optional).


Floral tape, orange netting and leaves

Making the orange
To make the orange, start with the open end of the netting, flip the netting outwards and roll it towards the sealed end. Really easy!


Flip open and roll outwards

Here is C at work. She actually did a teaching video, but I’ve yet to figure how to edit and upload the video :p


C concentrating on her task

Complete the oranges by wrapping floral tape around the sealed end to make the stem, and add the leaf. Ta-da! Completed oranges! A quick 5 minute craft. 🙂


A pair of oranges to wish all luck in the year of the Snake!

Do you have any simple crafts to share?

Cotton bud painting with G: Chinese New Year card

Last week, I received a letter from G’s school stating that they would be holding a chinese new year contest. To take part, the child would simply have to make a card with his parent and submit it by Monday. I thought it would be fun to create a card with G, but did not have time the past few days as I was busy at work.

Today, I finally found time to sit down with G to do his card. Deciding between a cut and paste project (which would be less messy for me) and a painting project (much more fun for G), I settled for the latter. We would paint plum blossoms 🙂 Plum blossoms are popular during the chinese new year, as the five petals symbolise the five blessings(五福). However, instead of using a conventional paint brush, I decided to use cotton buds, which would be simple for G to handle, and easier for cleanup (just throw!).

I tied five cotton buds together, figuring that it would be easy for G to dip and print:

Cotton bud flower

Cotton bud flower

G didn’t need much prompting, and was soon happily painting away. Alternating between his right and left hand, he soon filled the page with pink prints.

Printing in pink

Printing in pink

Getting more paint

Getting more paint

In the end, he decided that finger painting was more his style, and ditched the cotton buds.

Fingers are best

Fingers are best

Mummy had to do some touchup after G had completed his part. This is the completed card for submission tomorrow:

Completed card!

Completed card!

Wish us luck! 🙂

Do you make your own greeting cards too?