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Screen-Free Crafts Kids Will Love Review by Sheila Quach

Hands-On Projects That Promote Learning
Lynn Lilly and the CraftBoxGirls Team
Ulysses Press
PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703

Screen time was so different when I was a kid.  It meant for an hour or so after school I watched cartoons and on Saturday mornings at the crack of dawn with a bowl of sugary cereal.  Now days my kiddos can literally be plugged up in front of a computer, phone or tablet screen, 24 hours a day.  And honestly, it's not the television I worry about.  I found it was easier to corral them away from screens when they were younger, but now it seems like a handful of popsicle sticks, some dried beans and a sheet of stickers just doesn't cut it anymore.  I knew I needed some major back up in the Mom, I'm bored department.

Luckily for my crew I have found an amazing resource for hands-on projects that are fun and promote learning without breaking the bank or causing me more gray hairs.  It's a fabulous book from Ulysses Press called Screen-Free Crafts Kids Will Love Hands-On Projects That Promote Learning written by Lynn Lilly and the CraftBoxGirls Team.  The book is almost 130 pages filled with projects organized by theme.  And conveniently lists the recommended ages for each project based on difficulty as I guide.  Any age could do most of these projects, just some will need more parent involvement then others.

Whenever I get a new resource book like this one, especially if it's crafts or project related I like to do a quick flip through right away, flag a few things with sticky notes that stand out to me and start a need to buy list that I place right on the front cover.  Upon first flip through I realized I would need a notebook, not a sticky note.  There were several projects that would either fit in right away with what we were learning, doing as a family or worked with an upcoming Holiday.  So, notebook and pen in hand I started from the beginning.  The introduction was great, a note to me and a short note to the kids giving them the go ahead to break loose and create.  They also listed various craft supply websites for easy reference when getting supplies and a helpful supply and resource list.  I just want to add that many of the supplies needed I already had on hand.  I have only had to purchase two things so far.  In the front of the book after the intro they offer a visual rundown of all the projects in their own theme section along with the title and page number, called a Project Gallery.  This means I don't have to do a flip through or mark up the pages because it's all right there for me in the front.  It also means that my kiddos can find something they want to do quickly without having to flip through tons of instructional pages in between projects.

So, what kind of projects do they have you ask?  Well, we have done a few in most of the categories.  The first is Toys and Games, this grouping is fun because it's not just a cute little craft, kids can actually play with what they created over and over again.  Kaden wanted to make the homemade kite and the duct tape sword and shield.  The kite wasn't a plain old kite, it was a 3-D structure we built with straws, tissue paper and a few extra things.  It was crazy fun to build and doable with the step by step instructions included, along with great pictures of the process to go along with the instructions.  And the best part, we got it up in the air! The sword and shield was a lot of fun to do with Kaden also, I think we may have a Halloween costume for this year. 

Speaking of Holidays, their Holiday section has everything from Valentine's Day love arrows to salt dough ornaments.  Kaden has his eye on making a glow-in-the-dark spider web this weekend, I just need to get my hands on some glow-in-the-dark paint.   Kaden's most favorite category was called In the Kitchen.  We found a super sneaky Christmas gift idea this year in this section.  He has decided to do the no-sew kitchen apron for his Sister and Dad.  All his idea, he even picked out thoughtful fabric choices for both of them.  Also, he has made some pretty tasty movie snacks, like the chocolate pretzel popcorn and the two-ingredient fruit roll-ups.  Honestly, I had no idea it was that super easy to make my own fruit roll-ups.  Kaden was able to just take right over in the kitchen and needed very minimal help from me.  He also loved the Pets section because he has a service dog and he has made some much-needed veggie breath dog treats and even recycled some of his old T shirts into a dog toy for him.  Next on the agenda is a bird feeder for the local birds this fall. 

There were two categories we haven't tried yet, Party Time that includes fleece blanket making, ribbon wands, maracas and Kaden's favorite—a guitar—just to name a few.  The other is Art Decor, this section is filled with step by step instructions for putting together your very own terrarium, dream catcher, duct tape tote bag, pizza box canvas art and many more snazzy projects.

Overall this book has given us a lot of fun projects that didn't include a screen.  The other day I even found him collecting the things needed to make an accordion notebook with his Sister.  I'm thrilled how easy it is to use, it offers very straightforward directions that are great for young readers and us busy parents.  This book is definitely something I would purchase again, just by flipping through it one time because of the picture detail and organization it offers.  That's just so important to me when looking for a project resource.  This would be a terrific addition to anyone's homeschool arsenal for fun days, rainy days and most importantly screen free days.

-Product review by Sheila Quach, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2017