Today was my darling daughter’s first day at pre-school, and as I dropped her off, a collage of images filled my mind – it was like one minute she was this cute and cuddly newborn, so delicate to put down in an infant car seat as we made our way home from the hospital, and next minute she is this poised and perfect 3-year old, excited to be at her new school, telling me that “You can leave now Mamma, I’m OK. Don’t worry!”, as tears glistened my eyes while bidding her bye-bye! How time flies, and all we can do is go with the flow. But I’m sure she’ll be fine, just like millions of other kids going to pre-school all around the world, and millions of Moms still shedding a tear, just like me, while sending their little angels off to school!
Last week, we did a lot of fun activities at home to get her excited about the new phase in her life, as well as to engage her in age-appropriate art and craft activities so she can look forward to her days at school. One of them was making this super easy DIY Craft-Stick Puzzles , featuring her favorite Dora and Pooh characters. It is a create way to introduce your child to puzzles, and the travel-friendly homemade puzzle is a great resource to keep your little ones busy on road or plane trips. Just collect the pieces, tie them with a rubber band, load all the bundles into a zip-lock bag, and off you go. In fact, these are great for keeping kids entertained at a restaurant or a gathering, especially because they are so small you can easily fit them in your handbags too!
These puzzles are made using photos or picture-cutouts of your kid’s favorite friends (Dora, in case of my 3-year old:)), some jumbo popsicle sticks, all-purpose mod podge, and a sharp knife or pair of scissors. Just choose pictures or photos that are not too intricate, depending upon your child’s ability to solve puzzles – you don’t want to make it so hard that they can’t piece them together at all, driving them away from the game, at the same time, keep it challenging enough, so it helps them hone their skills. I would recommend getting them involved and choosing their favorite pictures to get them interested. Also, make 3-4 puzzles, ranging from easy to hard, so they have choices when needed. Plus, they are so easy to make, and so very economical, that you can easily create 7-10 puzzles from one pack of jumbo craft sticks, that’s like 2 puzzles for $1, including cost of other supplies. What more could you ask for in an engaging and challenging kid activity?!
Homemade Craft-Stick Activity Puzzle
Jumbo popsicle craft sticks
clear tape/cello tape
all-purpose mod-podge glue/adhesive
small painter’s brush to apply mod-podge
5-6 inch wide photographs or picture cut-outs
Small sharp craft (X-Acto) knife
Safe cutting surface (like a thick piece of old cardboard)
Cut out your photograph or picture at least 5-6 inch in width, and you can choose any height that you like. Use heavy-duty paper to print your pictures, and please try to align it with the number of craft sticks needed (each popsicle stick is generally 6 inch long and 1/2 inch wide). So a 5×7 ( 5 inch wide, 7 inch tall) picture will need 14 popsicle sticks.
Lay out all your popsicle sticks side-by-side so that the edges are touching each other. Use the sticks that look same is size and contour, for best results. Use a piece of scotch tape or cello tape to stick them together, preventing them from shifting while making the puzzle.
Flip the whole thing over and evenly coat the top layer with mod-podge, covering every area of the sticks. Apply a coat of mod-podge to the wrong side of your photograph too, and stick it gently over the popsicle sticks, flattening it out and removing any air bubbles from being trapped inside. Apply another layer of mod-podge on top of the right side of the picture, and let the whole thing dry for at least 20 minutes. The top layer of mod-podge is like a protective coating applied to prevent photograph paper from tearing.
When the glue has dried completely, remove the scotch tape from the wrong side, and place the puzzle (photograph down) on a safe cutting surface, like an old piece of cardboard. Use an X-Acto knife, or a very sharp craft knife and cut the photo into strips along the seams between the popsicle sticks. I found that I had to use a pair of scissors too, to help create clean cuts, and that’s why using an x-Acto knife is highly recommended.
Once done, flip over and check to see that your sticks look clean. If there’s any paper that’s coming off, glue it again. And that’s it, just collect all your puzzle pieces together, tie them with a rubber band, and store until time to play!
You can make several such puzzles using a single pack of jumbo popsicle sticks, just tie all the bundles together and store them neatly in zip-lock bags. These are great options to engage your kids while on the go. Mod-Podge is one of my great new finds, and I’m loving experimenting with it. My daughter loved these mini puzzles, especially because they are small and easy enough for her to figure out, and I love these because they have a 50c a piece price tag, plus it earned me a priceless smile on my daughter’s face!