Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Best of the Art Room

It's that time again folks - time for another round-up of all things wonderful in a particular corner of the store. Today let's visit that gem of the chapter book room: the art room! While the rest of the downstairs is geared for school age and up, the art room is safe for artists of 3 years and older.

Who doesn't love a good box of crayons? Alex takes this staple of childhood artistry to a level with Farm Finger Crayons. Each chunky crayon of this 24 piece set has a different, rotund farm animal face, and is easy to hold, stack, or wear on your fingertips like claws.

For more hands-on (harr harr) coloring action, Alex also carries face painting sets. Body Art Sticks comes with 6 adjustable crayons that wash off easily with soap and water. Face Painting Party includes paint crayons as well as a tray of 10 colors and sponge applicators. Who says face paint is just for Halloween? Some days you just need to be a pirate.

Some days you just need to lounge around in pajamas. Animals slippers are so last year: instead, try Alex's decorate-your-own slippers, Slip 'Em On. These fuzzy pink mules are covered in buttons that you can decorate with the over 50 felt shapes included (and you can always make your own!). The sizes generally fit girls ages 6-8 and 8-10.

For the fashion-minded tot, typical paper dolls can be difficult to cut out or decorate, but Alex's Crafty Fashion Show was made for the younger doll lover. This kit comes with 4 cardboard dolls, pre-cut shapes, and an assortment of buttons, stickers, ribbons and so on for accessorizing.

For older boys and girls, Action's Curiosity Kits present more challenging activities. Magic String Tie-Dye T-shirt doesn't have the mess of buckets of dye: the dye is in the "magic string" which you wrap around the shirt to make crazy patterns. The Fiesta Dinosaur Pinata is great for upcoming birthday parties or any dinosaur fan. Kids can build and design the dinosaur pinata, and stuff it with miniature dinosaurs (that's my favorite part!).

When it comes to clay, we carry a whole variety from oven bake Sculpey to reusable Play-doh. Sculpey clay 10-piece packs come in themes like Classic Collection, Bright Ideas, Pearls & Pastels, and Naturals, or you can try the 30 piece sampler with a bit of each. Sculpey's website has numerous ideas and techniques for projects. Adult supervision is required during the baking stage. We also currently have Play-Doh Party Packs, a tube of 10 mini-cans of this super fun, super popular reshapeable squishy modeling clay. (Sometimes we carry more varieties of Play-Doh, we may have more soon!)

For the sculpting enthusiast (or soon-to-be), we carry Alex's Deluxe Pottery Wheel. The wheel operates by electric foot pedal and comes with centering, shaping and carving tools as well as the clay, paints, and even glass marble pieces to decorate with. No kiln or oven baking is required, the clay dries overnight. While the product doesn't say adult supervision is required, I'd suggest some help may be needed to get started.

One of my favorite little craft kits is Pom Pom Pals, from Chronicle Books (love them!). This adorable boxed kit with a magnetic closure (someone explain to me why this kind of thing is so satisfying) comes with instructions to 14 fuzzy critters with yarn, buttons, felt, and pom-poms. The creatures featured on the box remind me of Shaun Tan's illustrations. If you like this style of quirky crafts, try Aranzi Aronzo's books Cute Stuff or Cute Dolls.

Once you and yours are hooked on sewing crafts, you can graduate to Alex's Sew Fun sewing machine activity kit. This brightly colored case contains an electric or battery-operated sewing machine in funky purple and pink colors, and all the needles, thread, pins and fabrics to design your own bags, clothes, and accessories. It has an easy drop-in bobbin, adjustable stitch-lengths and two speeds for beginning sewers.

Alex's Color A Cuckoo Clock puts the "fun" in functional (you know I had to make some cheesy joke in here at some point). You can personalize this clock with the permanent markers included, and then hang it or stand it on a table. Battery-operated, the clock chirps every hour, with a "silent" button for nighttime. If you must have a clock, at least have one you can make your own! (See here for a Dad's thoughts on kids owning timepieces that we overheard in the chapter book room).

One of the coolest art kits has to be the Car Design Studio from Art Lab. This incredible set comes with a light table for tracing car bodies, nearly 100 body accessories, and detailed, step-by-step manual covering the basics from shop-talk lingo to drawing rudiments like shading, through the more intricate details like gull-wing doors and convertible tops.

For artists that prefer blank (or near blank) slates to create their own masterpieces, we carry Melissa & Doug writing and coloring pads. There is the lined Storytelling Paper, the blank, heavy paper Fingerpaint Pad, or the Giant Construction Paper Pad with a multitude of colors.

Out in the chapter book room, we have an assortment of kits, papers, and books on origami. Activity and craft whiz company Klutz brings us Origami, an easy-to-follow instruction book and 10 sheets of colored paper (you can order refills of the paper, as with any other Klutz book). Classic Origami, by author and master paper-folder Michael G. LaFosse, has almost 100 sheets of colored and patterned paper and instructions for origami projects from beginner to advanced. Origami and Kirigami from Alex contains 200 sheets of colored paper of different sizes and easy instructions for paper folding and cutting.

You can find more beading, shrinky dinks, and other craft and activity kits described in the new feature, The Frugal Shopper, where we showcase quality, affordable gifts.

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