ormulu frame Some time ago we had a clear out in the pantry.  We never throw away ends of packets or out of date food however. (Even if we did it would go on the compost to help grow more food!)  Odds and ends of beans and pasta are useful for so many kids craft activities.

This time around we have taken our inspiration from the ornate, ormulu frames of the 18th century.  The original technique involved the heavy use of mercury.  Exposure to this toxic metal meant that few gilders ever lived to see their 40th birthdays.  Never fear!  This is a fun and safe way for Little Sparks to make their own ormolu frames.

We thought we might make our own little art gallery, but it is also a nice way for kids to present photos of themselves as presents for grandparents or on mother’s and father’s days.

To make our ormulu frames you will need the following items:

  • A cereal box or similar.
  • Left over odds and ends from the pantry.  (You could also experiment with using yarn or string, small beads or even pea gravel.)
  • PVA glue.
  • Non-toxic metallic gold paint.
  • Paint brushes or small sponge.
  • A photo or picture that you would like to frame.
  • Pencil and ruler.
  • Scissors or a utility knife (This last is strictly for adult use only!)

What to do:

The trickiest part of this craft activity is cutting the right sized hole in the middle of your cardboard.  Adult help will be needed, especially if you are using a utility knife.

  • Cut out the two largest sides of your cereal box.  Put one aside for later when you are ready to frame your picture.
  • One one side of your cardboard, draw two diagonal lines stretching from corner to corner to form a large cross.  These will help you to locate the middle.
  • Place the picture you intend to use over the middle of the cross.  Make marks where the outer corners of your picture touch the lines.  Remove your picture and make another mark half a centimetre nearer to the middle of the cross.
  • Join these last marks together  using a ruler, these are the lines you need to cut out.  For the best results an adult should do this with a utility knife.   The hole will be slightly smaller than your picture so that no unsightly gaps are created.

That’s the tricky bit over!

  • Once you have cut out your picture frame, spread PVA glue all over it.  We use one of the off-cuts of cardboard to do this as it makes a nice, even layer of glue.
  • Now create the pattern of your picture frame using the odds and ends.
  • Wait for the glue to dry completely.
  • Once your frame is dry cover it with gold paint.  We found it easier to dab paint on using a sponge.  Build up layers of paint gradually.  Leave to dry completely.
  • Now it is time to frame your picture.  Place glue all along the inside edges of your frame and the other side of your cereal packet.  Using a tiny dab of glue to hold your picture in place, sandwich the two sides of the cereal box together.


snail race I have very fond memories of spending long summer afternoons with my brothers and cousins searching for snails in order to race them.  Sadly I have yet to meet a snail that understands the concept of a race!  Yet they are fascinating to watch.  Our attempts to lure snails into athletic performances by dangling lettuce leaves before them might not have worked but it clearly kept us thoroughly entertained.

Why not make a snail farm instead?  For your snail farm you are going to need a clear, plastic container.  We used a large five litre water bottle turned on its side.  Cut a flap into the top large enough for a hand to pass through so that you can carefully put the snails in without dropping them.  You will also need to pierce or punch breathing holes in the bottle at regular intervals.

Your snails will need food also.  This little snail picutred above is happily munching her way through a hosta leaf which is a real favourite with the snails in our garden.  Lettuce leaves will also prove popular with these gastropods.  You could experiment with a variety of leaves, make observations and find out what a snail’s idea of fine dining is.   Make sure you have permission from the head gardener in your family before stripping the garden bare!  Add a few stones from the garden also, French snail farmers give their snails chalk.  Snails need the calcium carbonate to make strong shells.

Finally you need to find some snails.  Small snails have quite delicate shells so leave them alone unless you can pick them up very carefully.  Larger snails are more robust but do make sure Little Sparks understand the need to be gentle with them.  The best time to look for snails is on damp evenings, look under leaves and flower pots.  If your snails seem a little sleepy you may need to ‘activate’ them by misting them with water from a clean spray bottle.  It is fine to keep your snail farm for three or four days, after that you should return the snails to where you found them.


Spaghetti Tension!

July 7, 2011

We absolutely love bridges here at Raising Sparks.  They encapsulate human endevour in so many ways.  We were really excited when we saw the pictures of the new Jiaozhou Bay Bridge which opened in Eastern China this week.  At over twenty-six miles it is now the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world.  It is a stunning [...]

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Half A Pound Of Tuppeny Rice!

June 30, 2011

Rice and other dried food stuffs make a great alternative to sand play and offer a totally different sensory experience for toddlers to explore.  Little Sparks (and considerably older children believe me!) love this kind of sensory play and will explore with great concentration, busying themselves for significant time periods.  This is just as well because it certainly makes a mess!  You [...]

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Paper Plate Crafts For Kids

June 28, 2011

Paper plates are definitely a staple in our craft cupboard and lend themselves to countless possibilities (as well as picnics!)  Here we have some of the Raising Sparks all time favourite paper plate crafts for kids. You can click images to enlarge. Paper Plate Clown Young toddlers just love this paper plate craft, especially the clown’s nose made [...]

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Acids And Bases For Kids

June 23, 2011

A few weeks before sowing or planting out cabbage I apply garden lime to the vegetable beds to increase the pH of the soil.  Members of the cabbage family find it much easier to grow in base-rich or alkaline soils.  I wouldn’t dream of doing this to my blueberries though, they are acid lovers!  But what do we [...]

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Ugly Bug Ball Maths

June 17, 2011

We’ve categorised this post under maths activities, but like all good learning experiences it is so much more – and more importantly will engage Little Sparks with mathematical concepts in a way that is ‘real’ and enjoyable for them.  We love to mix things up here at Raising Sparks because in truth few of us ever learn very much in segments [...]

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Make An Insect Hotel

June 15, 2011

This outdoor activity for kids was inspired by a question from one of our Little Sparks several years ago and we’ve been making insect hotels in a wild part of the garden every year since!  That question was, ‘Where do butteflies go when it rains?’ Well the answer is they seek shelter as best they can, [...]

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