Archive for the ‘Chinaberry Craft Corner’ Category

Safety or Insanity: What the Press Didn’t Tell You

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Remember the lead-in-toy-paint scare during the Holiday season of 2007? While we all remember the recalls, the most significant offshoot of the situation is a law known as the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Information Act) which Congress passed the following year - an election year. A well-intentioned but deeply flawed law, it has resulted in the demise of many small businesses and cottage industries and economic hardship for all but the most enormous of companies.

As written, this law made felons out of handcrafters of one-of-a-kind children’s items, including organic and natural wooden toys and baby afghans sold at craft fairs (unless the finished item had been tested — often redundantly — by one of a handful of accredited labs in the US at a cost of several thousand dollars or sent to overseas labs, both of which typically result in the destruction of the item itself). Incredibly, the law also has the potential to make criminals of anyone having garage sales and reselling anything (clothing, bedding, toys, books printed pre-1985, etc.) for children 12 years old and younger if any item is found to be out of compliance with this law. For a short while, libraries and schools were anticipating having to dispose of, in hazardous waste fashion, all of their books for children 12 and younger. There are still storerooms of boxes filled with books printed before 1985, which are currently banned as children’s products.  Schools and libraries are no longer planning to dispose of post-1985 printed books, but science programs are still being held hostage by the rigid regulations, resulting in at least one school using posters to teach geology rather than using real rocks, and leaving others without access to items like microscope bulbs due to the necessary lead solder used to make them. The absurd fact is that CPSIA law covers virtually anything — not just toys — for children 12 and under — even shoes. Using the logic that made CPSIA a law, we should never let our kids go barefoot outside because the lead content naturally found in dirt could easily exceed the legal allowable lead content for anything intended for kids 12 and under.

Keep in mind that there were already laws in place concerning lead in paint in toys when the 2007 situation occurred. What we were seeing and hearing about at that time were toys that were not compliant with existing laws and should have never ended up in the U.S.  What would have made sense to ensure child safety with regards to lead paint would have been to enforce these existing laws. Instead, in a knee-jerk and politically-driven reaction to public concern, our legislators passed a law that has been, and will continue to be, tragically, the undoing of many makers of the very best and safest in children’s products. What started out as a law with bipartisan support has now become good ol’ politics. Congress has continued to push back scheduled meetings about the CPSIA, leaving everyone involved scratching their heads and guessing how to best move forward to comply. (There are more interpretations of this law than you can shake a stick at.)   On top of all this, there have been 11 proposed amendments that are going nowhere.

This is a law that is so monumentally extreme and cumbersome and, in our opinion, misdirected, that it will benefit few but huge retailers and toy manufacturers, and most importantly, not parents and children. Ironically, many of the toys we want for our children - those that are lovingly hand-crafted, inspire creativity, are made with the purest of materials, and won’t end up as landfill after several months of use - are now unavailable to us because of CPSIA. Ironically, what will make a toy CPSIA-compliant are expensive material and component testing that is cost-effective only in vast quantities — which brings us back to toys “made in China” in most instances. A bizarre turn of events, eh? And while European toy safety standards have typically been recognized around the world as the most stringent, many of these toy manufacturers have discontinued doing business in the U.S. because this law is so clumsy and unnecessary, safety-wise. It is a sad day when Grandpa in Minnesota, who crafts wooden toy trains in his garage, has been put out of business because he can’t afford several thousands of dollars of component testing, while factories in China the size of football fields - many with questionable regard for workers’ health and the environment — spew out toys made of plastic because they can afford the testing.

While this law has squandered literally millions of people-hours of those interpreting it, researching it, communicating about it, and attempting to be compliant with it, it has little to do with safety. Ineptly reported by the media, and passed in knee-jerk fashion by Congress, CPSIA is changing the landscape of items we can offer our children. Our legislators have created this mess and parents should be aware that their choices for items they purchase for their 12-and-under kids are being drastically reduced.

For more information about CPSIA, please visit the following sites:

http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html

http://learningresourcesinc.blogspot.com/

http://www.whatisthecpsia.com/

Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

710 Games and Activities for Ages 12 Months to 10 Years
by Bobbi Conner

You will never hear the words ”I’m bored” again from your children if you own this extraordinary book. It would take years for anyone to play all the games and do all the activities within its pages, so there’s the grand feeling of always having something new and marvelous to play, learn, or create. It is set up so you can begin when your child is a year old and keep going for ten years, adding more and more ways to imagine and create, run, jump, skip and exercise, be outside with nature, laugh and be silly, and share good times with others. All this instead of watching TV, surfing the Net, or playing video games that aren’t really about being connected, happy, and alive.

What a gift this book is. There are great pages with information about what children need at every stage of growing — how creative play helps children develop healthily and with joy. Each age range has sections: Solo Play, for the times you need children to play on their own; Play Ideas for Parent and Child to do together; Playing with Others, and Birthday Party and Group Play. The appendixes support family game nights and creating a well-stocked toy cupboard to be ready for fun at any time. I can’t imagine a childhood without this book now, so I am giving one to every child I know and love.

TV-Turnoff Week: Take the Challenge!

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Take the challenge—keep your TVs turned off this week. After you go through that initial media-withdrawal, you just might see a glimpse of the possible rewards of a TV-free lifestyle, most notably having more time to really connect as a family.

Continue in the spirit of TV-Turnoff Week by scheduling one unplugged day or evening a week when the only things you’re tuned into are each other. Chinaberry can help you to unplug from electronics and tune into family and community. Check out our wide selection of games, crafts, activity books, puzzles, and outdoor/active play toys and free yourself from TV for at least one day a week.

Crafting - Coloring Easter Eggs

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Decorated Easter Eggs

Decorated Easter Eggs

Last year around this time of year, I gathered all of our Easter egg supplies and took the activity outside where we could decorate without fear of spilled dye on the carpet or dripping fingers touching the furniture. I know that not everyone has the luxury of warm weather in the spring, but if you are able to get outside to decorate your eggs, it really is the best option. I have a little play table that is a good height for the kids so they can stand over the dye cups and not risk tipping the cups over like they might at a dining room table or kitchen counter.

I have my boys dress in old clothes and then let them go at it. I buy an inexpensive egg decorating kit that includes the dye pellets, a wire holder (though a tablespoon is generally easier to maneuver), and sometimes a few stickers, which I usually put into their Easter baskets. I’ve never gone for those complicated dye kits that add glitter or wrap plastic casings around the eggs. I think they take away from the creativity and imagination of making your own designs. My boys like to draw on their eggs with a crayon before dipping them to create patterns or personalize them with their names. The half-and-half egg is a popular one at our house but requires a steady hand to hold the egg only halfway into the dye before flipping it on the spoon and dipping the opposite side into another color. My eldest likes to use an old eye dropper to deposit small drips and make a swirl effect with a rainbow of colors.

Using dye is the perfect opportunity to learn about color mixing (last year we ended up with lots of purple eggs, the result of my littlest trying to make a brown egg!). My boys usually abandon their spoons and holders halfway through the proceedings and end up dipping their fingers into the dye to retrieve their eggs. I don’t mind a little mess as I think it encourages the imagination, but if you want the kids fresh and clean for Easter Sunday, the dye does stain fingers and nails so have them wear rubber gloves!

This weekend I will be setting up our egg coloring station in the front yard. I hope you will share your own family Easter egg coloring traditions with us!

Time to decorate those eggs!

Time to decorate those eggs!

This is for the Birds: A Midwinter Tree

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Making a feast tree for the birds and small woodland animals that live by our home has always been one of my children’s most treasured holiday activities. They love the whole process—making the food, decorating the tree and then watching through the kitchen window as the little animals eat their treats. We usually make our tree for the birds out of our own Christmas tree after we have dismantled it, but most any tree will do. We drag it outside to a sheltered spot in the backyard where we can unobtrusively observe the animals’ doings and then decorate it with all kinds of yummy bird and squirrel treats. This is a fun activity that preschoolers manage with ease. In case you are interested in trying this out for yourself, here are a few ideas on how to decorate your tree.

  • Strings of Popcorn—All you need to make this welcome delicacy is plenty of freshly popped corn (omit the butter and salt) and a needle and thread for each person. Knot the thread and then carefully push the needle through the popcorn. Some young children have trouble making these, as the popcorn needs to be threaded with a light touch or it tends to crumble. You’ll have to judge your child’s dexterity level. Some enjoy this activity greatly; others find making popcorn strands tedious. Our family has found that if we appoint one person to read aloud and have the rest of the family stringing, our popcorn strings grow much longer with much less effort. We have tried stringing cranberries but the animals in our area, anyway, don’t seem to care for them.
  • Peanut Butter Pinecones—This treat is always the first to be eaten by the birds at our house. They’re simple to make and a big hit with the preschool crowd. Be forewarned, these can be a bit messy to make but are always worth the effort. You’ll need pinecones (most any kind will do, the more open the better), string, peanut butter, birdseed and sunflower seeds. To begin, knot a string loop on the cone so it is easy to hang the finished product on the tree. Next, mix the seeds together and pour them into a shallow pan (a pie pan or a small roasting pan will both work well). Slather pinecones with peanut butter, using a knife or your fingers to gently push the peanut butter into the cracks. I tend to assign this task to the oldest child, if she is willing, since it is the messiest and small children have trouble getting enough peanut butter on the cone. If there are no older children available, an adult might want to do this. And last, roll the cone in the seeds, trying to get as many seeds as possible onto the peanut butter. (Many two-year-olds are fabulous at this messy task!) It should look like one big blob of seeds when you are done.
  • Fruit Strands—Slice apples and oranges in rounds and string like the popcorn.
  • Suet Balls—For this nutritious tidbit, ask the butcher for suet. You will need to have a few empty paper egg cartons on hand, as well as some birdseed and a bit of yarn or string. To begin, melt the suet over low heat (be very careful with the hot fat and young children). Add in an equal amount of birdseed and stir. Gently stir the suet-birdseed mixture as you pour it into the egg holes in the egg carton. Make a loop of yarn or string and place it into the melted suet mixture. (This is a great job for three- or four-year-olds.) When the suet cools, the yarn will become the handle with which you hang the suet on the tree. Some people like to add some peanut butter to this mixture for extra nutrition. Allow the suet to harden and then gently peel away the egg carton to hang the suet balls on the tree.
  • Once you have gathered enough goodies to decorate your tree, make it an event. (For inspiration read Night Tree by Eve Bunting. After you decorate your tree, don’t forget the ground-feeding birds. Leave a few peanut butter pinecones and some extra birdseed on the ground for them to nibble, too.

Holiday Spirals Craft

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Here is a quick and easy holiday craft that, while simple to make, adds extraordinary beauty to your home. All you need is a needle, thread, scissors, paper (colored origami paper, gold paper or slightly stiff paper all are good choices) and tape. Simply cut out a circle of paper—four to six inches in diameter. Then with scissors, gently spiral your way to the center of the circle, cutting a quarter-inch in from the outside of the circle as you spiral your way in. Once at the center, leave a half-inchwide
center piece and use a needle to attach a knotted thread to the center. Make the thread long enough to dangle from your ceiling at a pleasant height. Attach your spiral to the ceiling with tape.

We dangle spirals all over our home and let them dance and sway in the gentle breezes of the blowing furnace. You can also hang them high above a lighted candle (high enough that it won’t catch on fire) and have the spiral spin continuously. These spirals are especially pretty when made with gold or silver paper, as the metallic sheen of the paper glimmers in the light.