Craft kits

In theory, craft kits are ideal for family bonding or a quick fix for boredom blues. Time Out Kids puts this to the test

Design a T-shirtWinner
Design a T-shirt

Flip-flop fun Image #2
Flip-flop fun
Make and Paint a Dragon Image #3
Make and Paint a Dragon
Paint with Sand Image #4
Paint with Sand
Pretty PetalsHighly Recommended Image #5
Pretty Petals

Highly Recommended
Stitch-it Elephants Kit Image #6
Stitch-it Elephants Kit

1. Design a T-shirt: Occasionally, we Time Out Kids types make our brethren on Time Out Dubai green with envy – and sitting around painting T-shirts while they furiously type away is a prime example. We spent a very happy hour trying to remember how to draw apples, cars and cupcakes. No stencils or suggested designs are provided so kids can really let their imaginations run riot (although we’d advise sketching out a plan on paper first – once you’ve painted something on the T-shirt, there’s no going back). In the pack is a set of regular paints in a good range of colours and four tubes of ‘puffy paints’, which you squeeze on then, once dry, blast with a hair dryer and watch them puff up. These do stay wet for quite a while and our left-handed reviewer found smudging unavoidable, but all in all, we’d recommend this to parents as well as kids: it’s an amazingly therapeutic experience.
Suitable for ages: 4+
Dhs79, Early Learning Centre (04 359 7709)

2. Flip-flop Fun: This was a total… well… flop, to be honest. First of all, you paint the butterfly and flower-themed pattern on the flip-flops. Sounds simple, but the brush is scratchy and raggedy, making it very difficult to paint inside the lines (yeah, yeah, we know, bad workman, tools etc). The paints are difficult to open, which would result in a big splattered mess if they weren’t virtually solidified with age, and there is a disappointing range of just four colours (two of which are red and pink, a combo no stylish mini-diva would mix). The next stage, in which strings of sequins are added to the foot strap, should have been a delightful process, had the double-sided sticky tape not lost any stickiness it had once possessed. We gave up, and focused instead on decorating the shoe’s centrepiece, a foam butterfly, but the tiny yellow beads, intended for supplementary decoration, lasted less time than a box of chocolates in a chocoholics convention. In case you hadn’t already guessed, this one gets a huge thumbs-down.
Suitable for ages: 8+
Dhs29, Toys R Us (04 206 6564)

3. Make and Paint a Dragon: Checking out this single plastic dragon mould, good for only one use, we were immediately struck by how creatively limiting this kit is. We got to work, only to discover that just coating the dragon in clay proved quite a challenge. The stuff is unbearably sticky and difficult to shape (imagine sculpting with chewed-up bubble gum). After an hour of kneading, we had a dragon shape that was OK: not good, but acceptable. The problems really started with the painting. The kit came with a set of primary colours and, desperate to inject some creativity into the process, we opted to paint the belly green and body orange. The problem is both colours require yellow, and we ran out in the middle, resulting in a very ‘special’ dragon. All in all, it’s not very exciting, and if we lost patience, your kids will too.
Suitable for ages: 5+
Dhs29, Toys R Us

4. Paint with Sand: While we initially gasped at the absence of instructions, it is pretty obvious what’s required here: peel off the blocks to reveal a sticky surface underneath, then dribble brightly-coloured sand over the gluey bits, spreading it finely with a special scraper. This will not challenge your kids creatively – they’ll have to be content with a choice of aeroplane, teddy bear and butterfly, rather than being able to invent their own designs. They will, however, need to think through their colour scheme and possess a certain degree of dexterity to complete the image. It’s not particularly messy – a major plus point in our book – and sand masters will be able to display their colourful handiwork in a cardboard frame. Unfortunately, this is where the kit falls down. It’s impossible to squeeze the paintings into the cheap frames – a real downer when you’ve spent over an hour creating a masterpiece.
Suitable for ages: 4+
Dhs49, Babyshop (04 266 1519)

5. Pretty Petals: This craft set has a lot going for it. For starters, it’s social. We grabbed two pals and together we made a whole bouquet. It’s also beautifully simple. Basically, you bend some wire in the shape of a petal (there are several moulds that offer different petal shapes), paint over the wire, and let it dry. The paint, when dry, has the look of stained glass and the feel of taut onion skin. Then you just take the petals and twist them into a flower. What we love about this is that there is loads of room for creativity; you can shape the leaves any way you want and paint any type of design. The end result is almost guaran- teed to look good.
Suitable for ages: 5+
Dhs39, Toys R Us

6. Stitch-it Elephants Kit: A real homely experience and great for quiet down time, our task here was to make an elephant mum and baby by cutting out the patterns, stitching them together and stuffing with the materials provided. The cutting bit was fine, but for kids (and parents) who don’t know their backstitch from their side stitch, there was little in the way of stitching explanation. The real beauty of this kit is the rustic style, which means you can afford to make a bit of a hash of it and it’ll still pass muster. Nice touches include a ‘made by …’ label where kids can take the credit, and a heart and three ‘personality’ stars that you place inside each elephant before stitching it up. Not a huge creative challenge, but it requires patience and concentration – qualities to be promoted – and will encourage youngsters to branch out into other sewing projects.
Suitable for ages: 8+
Dhs110, Kidz Inc (04 340 5059)

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