“ Brand: ELC / Type: Craft Supplies „
When The Early Learning Centre recently held a sale offering 50% off many of the arts & crafts products I took the chance to stock up on and diversify 22 month old Freddy's art equipment. One of the items I bought was this Bumper Collage Box that was on sale for only £7.50 instead of the usual selling price of £15. My main reason for choosing this particular box was that it appeared to be chock full of different materials for creating collages and models and looked perfect for what we call "making days".
==More Crafts Than You Can Shake A Stick At - Or What You Get==
The collage set comes supplied in a reasonably sized cardboard box that thoughtfully has a carrying handle. Now, while I appreciate the addition of the handle, I do feel that it would have been better for this to be supplied in a plastic box of some sort, as cardboard can become a little shabby and tattered over time. A little surprisingly the 21cm x 35 cm, 23cm tall box comes packed to the top with a variety of different collage and craft materials, there is actually very little room for extra bits and bobs to be added.
On opening the box the first material that caught my eye is a fairly large bag filled with multi-coloured shredded paper. This paper can be put to many uses, including hair and grass, but we plan on using it to fill mini Easter baskets that we'll be filling with Mini eggs and giving as gifts. Although this paper can also be used to craft such things as grass or fur, all the colours are mixed together and it is very hard to separate them without tearing the shreds.
There are also two flock covered, white plastic masks along with some elastic. Freddy particularly enjoyed painting these masks and we found that they took the colour of the paint well, but took a long time to dry. We further decorated the masks with feathers and sequins using the supplied, very small, tube of PVA washable glue. Rather than using the masks as, well, masks, I attached the elastic and then hung them on the wall as ornaments. What is nice about these masks is that if your child is older and wishes to create something for make believe, they have eye, nose and mouth holes cut out. The edges are also quite smooth, meaning they are less likely to scratch as the child puts them on or takes them off.
There are a multitude of different paper types within the box, all A4 in size. There are a ten of sheets of bright coloured paper and this paper is pretty thick, verging on thin card. The are two sheets in each of five different colours, red, pink, yellow, light green and green, which gives a nice variety of different colours for cutting out. As it's spring, we've particularly enjoyed cutting out flowers and leaves for a mural we are creating. The rest of the paper is really special and printed with various animal prints including, zebra, tiger, leopard, giraffe, scales and bumps. I especially like the paper printed with scales as the colour variates throughout and looks really nice. I do, however think that the tiger and zebra print could have been a little smaller as it is quite big and very bold. We've not used any of this printed paper yet, but that's the nice thing about this set, there are so many different parts that it we can use it for lots of different projects over the coming months and years.
One of the elements that particularly impressed me is a pair of cut out children. These are almost the same size as Freddy and great for talking about parts of the body as well as colouring in and making clothes for. I've stuck one of these on Freddy's door with blue tack and we're going to make clothes for him in the next few weeks as well as making labels for such parts as the hands, knees, feet, etc. The only problem with these people is that they are rolled up quite tightly, which makes them awkward to unroll and they do tend to roll back up, meaning they are not so brilliant for laying on the floor to colour.
There is a nice little set of shaped sponges included for sponge painting and printing. These sponges are rather small though, with the largest only measuring 6cm in length, so I've put these away and would suggest that you do the same if your child is at the younger end of the age spectrum (or like Freddy below it). All of the sponges are shaped as animals, with a mix of common farmyard animals (cow, duck, horse, chicken, sheep), zoo animals (camel, elephant), pets (cat, rabbit) and butterfly, so they could be used to by a child to recreate a visit to a zoo or farm. Although these sponges are small, I actually like that they can be used on smaller projects such as greetings cards without dominating the whole page.
I particularly like the addition of the EVA foam sheets, of which there are ten all in different colours. These A5 sheets of foam are perfect for cutting out shapes to create relief on homemade cards and decorations. Although you do need sharp scissors to cut this foam (so young children will need a lot of help) the variety of colours means that their (and your) imagination is the limit. There are black and white sheets that you could use to create a penguin, a brown sheet that you could cut a tree trunk from, green for leaves or grass, purple, red, blue, yellow and pink that can be used to create flowers. Or with Easter coming up you could cut an egg shape from one colour and then use pieces cut from other colours to decorate and attach it to a piece of card as an Easter card.
One element of this set that I haven't quite worked out how we are going to use yet is five paper doilies, all in different shades. Unlike the other elements these are a little girly, so I imagine that they are more likely to be appreciated by girls. Something Freddy and I do enjoy working with though is pompoms, of which there are two bags in the set, one plain and another glittery. Within both bags there are a good range of different colours and sizes, meaning that we can put them to many different uses. One of our favourite things to make with pompoms is little bugs, which we make by adding eyes and pipe cleaner legs. Sadly there are no pipe cleaners included in this set, but there are a number of "wobbly" eyes. Personally I would have preferred there to be more eyes included in the set (as there are only eight) and that they were in a variety of sizes. A lovely little piece we've made using the pompoms and eyes is a little chick (to go in a basket with the mini eggs and shredded paper) by gluing two different sized yellow pompoms together, then adding a tiny red pompom as a beak and a pair of wobbly eyes. Well it looks more like a duck than a chick, but we know what it's meant to be.
The pack of coloured feathers has also come in handy, these are all quite large and very brightly coloured and just as in real life they are a variety of shapes, with some blunt and others tapering to a point. One point I will make here is that they are real feathers and so if your child is allergic to feathers then you should remove them, they are also a little sharp at the quill end so I would say to take care when using them. These feathers are great for adding wings and tails to birds, or simply jazzy up a picture (or mask). Another way we've used these feathers is to simply touch and explore them as well as seeing how tickly they are.
There is also a bag of sequins, with the sequins themselves coming in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes. One thing all these sequins have in common is that they are small and could cause a potential choking hazard to young children, so supervision is a must. I do like the variety of different shapes here though, there are sequins in the shape of leaves, plain round sequins, sequins that look like gems, sequins in the shape of snowflakes and sequins in the shape of flowers. Some of the sequins are about a centimetre across and others are tiny, so there's plenty of scope for imagination. I'm not going to count them but I would say there are at least a hundred and my only criticism is that they come in a small bag and I had to find a container to hold them.
I was really pleased by the addition of polyballs within this set, I'd been looking for some for a while now without much success. There are a total of sixteen included in the box, twelve small and four slightly larger. These balls can be used for any number of different craft activities. Get a black felt tip pen, draw some hexagons on one and you have a ball perfect for a game of blow football. Stack a smaller ball on top of a larger and you have a snowman ready to dress with a hat and button coat. Take a square of white material (or a tissue) and elastic band, place the material over a ball, secure with the elastic band and you have a ghost.
Another great and versatile element of the set is a bag full of plastic buttons. Again these come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes with the very smallest being choking hazards. The can be used in many ways depending on the age and ability of the child. They can be glued to collages as buttons on clothes, or eyes, you can talk about the colours and shapes and for older children then even have holes so they can be sewn onto cloth. The buttons can even be threaded onto elastic to make jewellery.
I was also impressed with the addition of ten paper straws (two each of five colours). I'd sent Freddy's Daddy out to buy some straws for making flowers and he's come back with bendy ones, so I was really glad to see these. These straws can be use whole as flower stems or cut to size for other elements such as fencing, legs or relief. Or you could draw and cut out faces and tape them on straws as puppets. The included lolly sticks can be used in a similar way, as the handles of puppets, or fences or for model making. There are also a number of coloured matchsticks that can be used in various ways, including decorating the outside of a homemade trinket box.
The final elements of the box are a tube of glue, pack of eight crayons and idea leaflet. Although it's easy to be accurate with the glue, the tube is simply too small and you will need to buy more very quickly (especially if your child is like Freddy, who definitely think more is better). The crayons are of the small stick variety and of decent enough quality, but I've put them away for now as Freddy prefers to use his chubby crayons. The ideas leaflet is pretty good for giving you some where to start, but it is not really readable by young children and it is only an idea leaflet not an instruction manual.
==Let's Get Crafty - Or Suitability And Developmental Benefits==
Although the recommended minimum age for this set is three years there are elements that can be shared with children far younger than this. Freddy and I have already shared many activities where this set has been invaluable. We really enjoyed painting and decorating the mask and we've made some pompom animals. We're also really looking forward to using this set to complete many more projects over the coming months and even years as Freddy steadily becomes more competent at craft activities.
I actually feel it's really important to introduce children to as many different arts and crafts activities as possible, even if they are too young to manage on their own. Of course I'm not suggesting that you simply plonk this box in front your under-three, but by allowing them to watch you having fun creating things and join in where they can, you are helping them develop their own creative side and hand-eye coordination. The range of different materials in this set means that there are plenty of opportunities for them to try out different techniques and it really does "grow" with your child.
As you can probably tell, I think this is a fantastic collage set, although I do feel it would be more accurately described as a starter craft set. There are enough different materials to allow any child's imagination to run wild and encourage them to try out different materials. The wide range of different materials also means that this set is suitable for a large range of ages. There's something in this set for toddlers (even younger than the minimum age of three) and something for crafty pre-teens. Some of these materials are even suitable for the adult looking for craft materials to make homemade gifts.
Although it's possible that you could purchase the separate elements cheaper than the standard asking price of £15, there is the bonus that there is no need to hunt around and some of the materials are harder to find (the polyballs). Ok, so you will still need to buy a few extra materials to make the most of the set, more glue is a must and felt tips and paint are helpful, but I still feel this set deserves a hearty five stars out of five and a place in any child's art and craft collection.
Everything you need to create your own masterpiece. Contents: A collection of art and craft materials including: coloured paper, wobbly eyes, white face masks, animal sponge shapes, coloured doilies, paper straws, coloured matchsticks, lolly sticks, feathers, pompoms, EVA foam sheets, sequins, buttons, pollyballs, animal print paper, paper people, shredded paper, crayons, box, glue and ideas leaflet.Not suitable for children under 36 months due to small parts. Age range: From 3 years.