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Making a Woodmouse

I am dedicating this kid craft project to our friend Amber woodmouse, who was one of the original founders of the Etsy NaturalKids Team. Hopefully she will see this post and be proud of our efforts to keep the Naturalkids Team going strong!I realize that not everybody may own some of the tools used (for example: a vice) but maybe you could pay a visit to a friend’s, grandpa’s, or an uncle’s house and have them do this project with your child. Know any crafty aunts and grandmas?
Please, don’t be scared to try this! I swear I am not much of a woodworker, and if I can do this with the kids, anybody can! This craft is fun for girls and boys alike!
Young and old will be pleased with the results using these simple natural materials.

Materials:
Scraps of wood, untreated fir or pine scraps leftover from a project
nails with wide heads
scraps of leather
a few drops of wood glue

Tools:
A small handsaw/ coping saw
vice
kidsize or smaller hammer
awl or drill
scissors
sandpaper
wood rasp

My son has loved working with wood since he’s been a little fellow, 3 and 4 years old. My husband and I have always encouraged him to work on wood projects in the our basement. Please, keep in mind that this craft needs quite a bit of adult supervision! You should stay right by your child’s side and help them every step of the way, especially if they are younger! You know your child best! The amount of supervision depends on your child’s skill level and personality. I recommend it for kids 6 and up who like to swing a hammer and have an interest in wood work.

1.Take your piece of scrap wood and put in the vice. You will need rectangular pieces of wood cut into about 3-4 inches long sections. We used some old pieces of pine wood from a yard project. They were slats measuring 1.5x1x10 inches. This craft is great for teaching your child about measuring. You can have them measure and mark off several pieces. Have them draw straight lines across the wood piece and then cut along the lines.

2. Since mice have a pointy nose, the front of the mouse body needs to be shaped with two angular cuts. Again, have your child mark off the cuts with a pencil. Just tell them they need to cut off two triangular pieces at the tip and have them cut along these lines. ( Great for learning about geometry. =)

3. With the wood piece mounted in the vice, have your child use a wood rasp to smooth out all the edges. You may have to change the position of the wood several times. The head section needs to be flattened and shaped into a nice pointy nose. The back end can just be slightly rounded off. Don’t forget the sides!

4. Mark off the position of the eyes, ears, and tail with pencil. Then have your child hammer two nails all the way into the wood piece where you marked the eyes. They should be a closer together than the ears!

5. The next step is probably best done by an adult. Drill three holes in the spot where you marked the ears, and the tail.

6. Cut out ears and long thin piece of leather for the tail. Use a few drops of wood glue and glue the leather pieces onto the mouse body.

7. Finally use small pieces of sandpaper and sand off the rough or marked places. You can make your mouse as smooth and soft as you like. If you want to protect the the body from stains and water you could rub on some mineral oil or beeswax finish with a piece of cloth. We decided we liked the more roughhewn look of our new pets. =)

Happy Crafting!
www.germandolls.etsy.com
www.germandolls.blogspot.com

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Easter/Spring NaturalKids Team Blog-A-Thon

The NaturalKids Team was started by woodmouse in 2007. Early members included faerierebecca, fairiesnest, cozycottage. It was a small group, with a small presence on etsy. Since that time members have come and gone but our mission has stayed the same. To be a group of sellers dedicated to creating natural products for children. We are a diverse group of artisans who make natural toys, utensils, clothing and accessories for kids. Our sellers work with materials from the Earth, such as wool, cotton, silk and wood. Our goal is to support, promote and have fun together while building our businesses. 

One of our 1st Team Blog Post read as below and it is still true today….
We are a diverse bunch from all over the globe who have at least one thing in common:  we all work with natural materials in our products for children.  Oh yeah, and we’re all pretty darn crafty & talented too!  Wool, wood, cotton…just simple materials direct from the Earth.  


So who are we?  
Some of us are mothers of small children.
Some of us are mothers of grown children.
Some of us make dolls, some of us make hats, some of us make toys.
Some of us have been selling our wares for many years.
Some of us are just starting to discover our talents and start selling.
Some of us work with natural materials for environmental reasons.
Some of us work with natural materials as part of the Waldorf educational philosophy.
Some of us work with natural materials because we believe they are healthier and safer.
Some of us just like working with natural materials.
Some of us sell our wares for a living.
Some of us sell our wares as a hobby.

Since that time, some of us are fathers.

To see more items from The NaturalKids Team go here!

Thank you for reading and now join in the fun to take a trip to see what you may find at these NaturalKids Team Members Blogs! Happy Spring!!!
Visit these Blogs:

 

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Friday Feature with WoodToyShop

Tell us little about yourself!

I have two daughters ages 9 and 12, who help me a lot in the workshop. It’s great having them around and they give me a lot of great feedback for my toys. I have a BS in Finance and MA in Economics. I have worked in many different fields including finance and as a consultant in economics. I have also worked as a software engineer and a flight instructor. I like making toys the best and have been doing it the longest.

What do you make and how long have you been creating?
I started making wooden toys when my first daughter was two and I made her a locomotive. It was a big project and looked beautiful. It kind of lit a spark for me that eventually became a full time job.

What inspires you?
I like to make toys that do things. My favorites are rubber band powered vehicles and catapults.

What got you started working with wood?
I started out taking a woodworking class while in grad school. I made an end table. After that I built my own house, and built the cabinets for it during the winter before we broke ground.

Tell us more about your “off the grid” work space?
My workspace is the basement of our house. So my commute is down the stairs. We aren’t off grid, but we do have thermal solar panels that makes our hot water and photovoltaic panels that produce about a third of our total electricity consumption.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I have been on Etsy for 1 1/2 years and it’s been great. Orders trickle in during the year and stream in at Christmas. It’s a nice place to get exposure both for retail sales and linking up with wholesale clients.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?
Keep at it, your business will build over time and don’t be afraid of nurturing wholesale accounts.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?

The natural kids group has been very helpful. The efforts as a team I think have made a big difference for me. Also there is a lot of very good advice that team members provide.

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?
I’m not sure if I have good thoughts on this subject, however I have seen plenty of eyes twinkle when kids(young and adult) pick up a catapult and imagine the trouble they can get into.

Your items can be found where:

http://www.woodtoyshop.com/
www.1000markets.com/users/woodtoyshop/

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard

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Friday Feature with Maple Shade Kids


Tell us about yourself and how you became an artist..

My name is Wanda Hirsch and I live in Derry, New Hampshire with my 4 business partners.
• My husband, who is my patient teacher, providing me with all the skills needed to use saws, drills, and power tools.

• My 8-year old daughter, who is a great source of inspiration and full of wonderful advice. She is still asking for business cards with her name on them. ☺
• My 5 year old identical twin boys, who always provide me great feedback along with lots of wonderful hugs when I am feeling a bit
tired.

Growing Up
As a child, I grew up in rural Maine clim
bing apple trees, skipping stones, balancing on old rock walls, and creating lots of gifts for family members. These gifts ranged from paintings and collages to wood boxes and baskets – you name it, I did it. My most precious creation, to this point, was a painting of my grandfather’s childhood farmhouse (very amateur I must admit). However, it was hung proudly in my grandparent’s home until they passed away and now hangs in my mom’s home. My grandfather used to say he wouldn’t sell it if someone had offered him a million dollars. This filled me with such joy! This is the same feeling I have today when I send one of my products to a mom creating a special nursery or a parent and child working on a “big kids” room.

An Artist? I would call myself a designer and creator. I have a degree in nutrition and worked several years as a Registered Dietitian. First, working in a hospital, then teaching low-income inner city moms, and lastly working on a breast cancer research study. It was 6 years ago that we moved into our 1830’s New England farmhouse and I rekindled my passion for designing and creating. With lots of imagination, a little non-toxic paint and colorful papers, I was able to transform neglected bedrooms and old dressers into creative, fun designs that my children adore. When I started “redesigning” my children’s bedrooms and furniture, I knew it was time to extend my craving for design into products for others. So, here I am designing, creating and loving life!



Tell us about Maple Shade Kids and What you make and sell?

At Maple Shade Kids you will find unique, earth friendly wooden children’s décor and art. In my designs, I strive to elicit joy, nature and love by combining the natural beauty of wood grains along with fun patterns and colors in paper. This combination creates such a happy and organic feel.



How did you become inspired to make your wares?

My motivation to create comes from my desire to bring a little bit of love and happiness to a person’s home. I tell my husband if we ever become independently rich (yeah right!), I will continue to create, but give my products away. It fills me with so much pleasure to know that I can bring a smile to someone’s face. I get excited to take a beautiful piece of wood, turn it into something that is fun and unique and have it placed into a special child’s room.

I’m inspired by beautiful paper, colorful fabric, the beautiful 200 year old maple trees surrounding our home, the little critters living in them and many amazing children’s illustrators. My children have learned that it can take a bit of time to get through our nighttime ritual of reading books as I often stop on each page and think out loud of the how the colors and textures work together. I’ve rubbed off on them as you will often hear them say things like, “Mommy, look how beautiful this picture is. I just love the colors!”

What are the materials you use in your products?

My products are created from a combination of FSC-certified wood and rescued wood. FSC certified wood is sustainably harvested wood coming from well managed forests and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC works to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous people and violence against people and wildlife. Most of the rescued wood I use in my designs comes from a ship builder’s scrap pile. .


Any Advice for anyone interested in starting to sell on Etsy?

Etsy is the perfect place to set up shop and try selling your handcrafted products, vintage items or crafting supplies. It is full of so much support and community! I would recommend that anyone interested check out “The Etsy Seller’s Handbook”. It is full of great information, both for the newbie, (which I still consider myself) and the veteran seller. You can find it at:
http://www.etsy.com/storque/how-to/the-etsy-seller-handbook-all-our-how-tos-about-
selling-2383/

My personal advice:
• Create a product that you love and that makes you proud.
• Learn how to take great pictures. Pictures are so important when it comes to selling on-line. Again, refer to the Etsy Seller’s Handbook for some great picture taking tips!
• Think of the whole package! Packaging is the extension of your product. Give your customers a feeling they are receiving a gift versus just a product. Try to put as much love and thought into your packaging as you do your product. Carefully wrap each purchase, enclose a personal thank you letter or card, and maybe give them a small gift letting them know how much you appreciate their business. I believe this type of care and concern, along with a quality product, is what brings customers back.
• Find balance. Don’t work too hard or too little, write lists, set small daily goals, and have fun!

Where can people find you and your products?

Currently, I am strictly selling on Etsy. It’s perfect for me, and fits into my lifestyle beautifully!

Any easy Earth day tips you want to share?

Avoid harmful cleaning products
• Along with spring, comes spring cleaning (who has time, right?). Well, if you do get the spring cleaning bug, try to ditch the harmful chemicals. Vinegar and baking soda can be used to clean almost anything. Mix in a little warm water with either of these and you’ve got yourself an all-purpose cleaner.
Avoid buying plastic water bottles.
• Billions of plastic bottles are thrown in the trash each year and take up valuable landfill. Save some money AND the environment by drinking from the tap. If you are travelling, use a steel water bottle filled with tap water.
Buy organic.
• Try to buy organic when you are able. It isn’t just about avoiding the yucky pesticides that can make us sick. It is also about helping protect our waters and soil, and about creating a healthier environment.
Use reusable sandwich bags/containers
• If possible, avoid or decrease the use of plastic baggies. There are lots of icky toxic chemicals needed to make them and it takes lots of energy to manufacture and transport them. Instead, opt for reusable containers and/or earth friendly reusable sandwich/snack bags. They are available in so many fun colors! Etsy has some great options to choose from.
Reuse
• Think twice before buying new. I have to confess: One of my favorite pastimes is turning worn furniture, sometime left on the curbside for trash, into pieces I love. Our home is filled with reused stuff. My grandfather’s old wood desk now is my “business station”. An old kitchen table (that came with the house) now works as my art work table. An old buffet from my grandfather’s farmhouse is now painted sunshine yellow and is used to store my children’s school papers, bills, and office supplies. An old window now serves as a unique picture frame. It feels great knowing that I have prevented so many items from being thrown into land fills, plus they are quite unique!
Buy Natural Gifts
• I can’t pass up this opportunity to say buy handmade natural gifts! It’s a win-win situation. We are supporting talented artists AND as a consumer we receive a unique product, full of love that helps preserve our earth by avoiding the mass production of products. This cuts down on global warming in addition to avoiding all that plastic packaging and annoying twisty tags that are nearly impossible to remove!
Together we can make a difference!
• If each of us reduces a bit, recycles a little, avoids toxic cleaners, buys organic/local occasionally, reuses once-in-a-while, and buys natural often, we can make a positive change for our environment and the health of ourselves and families. Happy Earth Day!

Thank You Wanda for a Great Interview!
Visit www.mapleshadekids.etsy.com to see more of Wandas work!
-Sue (Ecoleeko)

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Friday Interview with Mamakopp


Hi all! Here’s another interview with a member of the NaturalKids team. Meet Mamakopp whose wonderful shop is full of amazing woodwork toys, fun stamps, and way cool robot arm bands! Come and get to know her…


What is the main thing you make and sell in your store? What else do you make and/or sell?
The main things I sell in my shop are wooden toys. I started wood working long ago. Four years, but got into making things with a scroll saw over two years ago. When I discovered nature tables, I couldn’t afford the sweet wooden animals from the German companies so I asked for a scroll saw for my birthday and received it! I have been making the fox, raccoon, skunk and mole with the same template I hand drew then. I make all my own templates. Drawing is something I do in my spare time. I hope to soon to share some of my drawings on Etsy too. I also knit and make stamps. I make books for my kids and sew.


Who if anyone has been instrumental in helping you hone your craft? Where do you get your inspiration?
My children. Often a new design comes from those eager little voices asking for mommy to make this or that. The griffin and phoenix were a request from my son Lucas. My children always get the first of anything I make. Also inspiration comes from the natural world and my innate desire to always create and always challenge myself to take it a step further. It helps to be selling as well 🙂 This always keeps me going, knowing that my work is appreciated and loved. I love being a part of heirloom toy making. I think often about all the neat toys my grandchildren will have that my children played with and loved. Some I made and some they made. I enjoy doing this for other families as well.

What are your favorite materials?
I LOVE to work with wood. My drawing abilities come shining through in a three dimensional work. That’s neat. I also like to knit and sew.

What advice would you give other Etsy sellers and those interested in opening up a shop?
Take it slow and enjoy the process. It’s a wonderful feeling to find yourself through art, if you are true to the process.

What advice would you give to beginners in your main craft?
Take it slow. Don’t let the scroll saw intimidate you. Buy the good stuff.

What is your Etsy shop address and name? Where else can we find you?
www.mamakopp.etsy.com
www.livenlearnnow.com

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Instructions Not Included Part 2


Two weeks ago I began this blog topic. It is such a powerful idea to me, that children should be allowed to play without parental direction or instruction, that I decided to do the article in two parts. I am focusing on only one of the ways parents can step back and let their children do what they do best and naturally: play. That is, to provide them with toys they can figure out, which are open-ended, meaning the child can use her or his own imagination to complete the toy. It is difficult for some parents to understand this concept and choose a natural toy when they are bombarded by advertising from so many big “name” brands. In the first part of “Instructions Not Included,” I gave several examples from my fellow artisans from Etsy’s Naturalkids Team. I’d like to invite new readers to start with my last post. In this current post, I will continue to offer suggestions in this area with additional links.

Here’s something to consider:I read somewhere that invention is not necessarily creating something new with a purpose, but giving a new purpose and way of using to an existing item. Take the item pictured above from Fairiesnest. Yes it is a wand…or is it? If so, is it for a wizard, a fairy a princess? The answers to these questions will be completed by the child. What new way of using this timeless toy will be invented, what enchanting scenarios may be created? And since it is not licensed or branded by a multinational corporate identity, the possibilities are truly endless.

“Waldorf dolls, such as those made by Bellawinter,
FaerieRebecca,
Germandolls or
Woodcreations’….convey little expression. Like the “Mona Lisa,” they are enigmatic and allow the child to decide their emotional state.

In imaginary play, this aspect of allowing the child to complete the toy by deciding if the baby is sleepy or awake, sad or exuberant, not only exercises the child’s imagination, but may also be therapeutic, allowing the child to work through emotional struggles. When Eva was 2, she slipped off the step in our pool. One second later, I lifted her out. This upset her nonetheless. The next day, she had her baby in the bathtub and was teaching it to swim. Clearly she was working out her feelings about water. Mommy’s only job was to wring the toy out later and allow it to dry!

Here is a gnome by Oritdotan. Who is he? Where did he come from? Is that a shell really a cauldron with stew? This playset does not offer any solutions to these riddle. Instead, it offers endless possibilities for the child to imagine.

Beneaththerowantree‘s gnome is quite different…almost a beehive…is he friendly or shy, abiding or mischievous? The child can decide what adventures to send him on, what his future in their present will be.



And who are the gnome’s or the doll’s friends?
Perhaps a needle felted bird, by Thesingingbird

…or some tiny hedgehogs…by Purplemoonfibers.

How about a snail from Woodmouse?

 

…or Freedomrainbow’s custom order cat…

Is it a really a cat or a woolly forest creature or someone from another universe. this is for the child to decide.

The conversations and adventures these creatures could have with each other are endless, because they come free of history, branding or any other known fact.

There are so many examples I could give from my colleagues on Etsy.com’s Naturalkids Team. But I hope these few examples will give readers a taste of the endless play their children could delight in with toys made from natural materials as they project their fantasies onto them. Like Cozycottage’s strawberries, the sweetness is there, ready to be enjoyed by all the senses, and it begins with the imagination.

In my next blog, we’ll explore another aspect of the playroom. Til then, be well.

By Rebecca Varon-Remstein
nushkiedesign