December 10, 20190

Crafty gift ideas for kids to make for Christmas  

Bells may be jingling at Christmas time, but chances are your purse is not doing the same. It is an expensive time of year, with many events to attend for school and work, and summer holidays to plan and pay for.

Christmas presents don’t have to cost a bomb though. In fact, the ones that are often the most appreciated are those for which time, instead of money, has been spent. Here are a few ideas for Christmas crafts that the kids can make and help with. These might be especially good for gifting to grandparents and other relatives, and for those end-of-year, thanks-for-putting-up-with-my-child, teacher gifts.

Coffee scrub

Save some jars and fill them with this easy-to-make mixture, have your child design a sticker label and voila! Homemade coffee scrub. An excellent present and especially good for shedding that winter coat in the summer season.

You will need:

  • 1 cup ground coffee (the cheapest you can find at the supermarket will work fine. You can use spent coffee but it doesn’t smell as nice).
  • 1 cup coconut or olive oil
  • ¾ cup sugar or fine sea salt
  • A few drops of vanilla or other scented oil if you wish


Mix all together in a bowl. If the coconut oil is solid, you might need to warm it up. Scoop into a jar and you’re done!

Photo calendar

Calendars make well appreciated presents and are very easy to make using websites such as Snapfish or Photobox. Simply upload 12 (or more) favourite pictures of your children from the year past and arrange them on a calendar template.

These websites often have specials coming into Christmas and you can usually get calendars for around $8 each. Your kids can help choose the photos they like and decide which to use for each month. There are layout options so they can put two or more on a month if they wish, and choose backgrounds and labels.

This is a useful gift that family members will love – and you can also buy an extra one for yourself!

Give the gift of greenery

We could all use a bit more green in our lives – especially with the problems the world is facing today. Potted plants make an easy and eco friendly gift for kids to make and give. Take them along to a garden store and buy some small terracotta pots and some seedlings of their choice. It could be vegetables, flowers or small shrubs. Purchase a bag of potting mix too.

Step 1: Let the kids get creative decorating the pots first. Test posts from Resene work best but poster paints will have a good effect as well. They could also stick sparkles on them or try some glitter glue patterning. Wait until it dries before moving onto step 2.

Step 2: Fill the pots with potting mix.

Step 3: Plant your seedling.

Step 4: Tie a ribbon around the pot or wrap with cellophane if you and/ or your child so wishes.

Paper mache bowl

This is an easy and virtually free craft activity that results in a useful and beautiful bowl for keys and small items. It can get messy but that is what makes it fun!

Step 1: Take a small bowl from the kitchen and rub vaseline, butter or oil on it. This is your mould.

Step 2: Mix flour and water to a paste.

Step 3: Tear newspaper into strips.

Step 4: Dip the strips in the paste and layer them on the bowl. Around five layers of paper will suffice, or more if you like. Leave to dry, then remove the bowl from its mould.

Step 5: Decorate! Let the kids go wild with paint or alternatively they can cut out images from magazines and create a collage. Afterwards you might like to apply a coat of clear varnish or fixative, which can be purchased from art supply stores or Spotlight.

Flax flowers/ Putiputi

This is an excellent craft idea for older children. It can be a bit tricky for young ones, but you could always help. There are several varieties of flax flowers and they look amazing together in a bouquet. This is also a great option for the summer months when flax is abundant and it’s possible to do your weaving outdoors. Make sure you have permission to harvest flax if it’s not on your property – and traditionally you should say a karakia before you cut it.

Here is a link to how to make a flax hibiscus flower from master weaver Ali Brown: http://www.alibrown.co.nz/weaving-a-flax-flower.html


Happy Christmas crafting!



August 20, 20190

Advertising campaigns might try to tell you otherwise, but there is no need to shell out for another pair of socks or a set of barbecue tools to let your kids’ dad know he is loved.

But what to make? Well, there are thousands of homemade gift ideas online, but for some reason a good number of them involve business tie cards and tired old handprint paintings – cute for babies, but we think your kids can do better!

Here are our top six Father’s Day ideas that won’t cost more than a few dollars and will get your kids thinking, making and doing.

Interview sheet about dad

You may have seen this idea doing the rounds on social media. It is very simple: ask your children some questions about dad and record the answers. Seeing your children’s verbatim quotes in print can be sweet and funny. To find a printable version, just google ‘father’s day interview sheets’ and find one that suits your family best, or you could make your own.

Some sample questions might be:

My dad is ____ years old.

My dad loves it when I….

My dad loves mum because…

What my dad does at work:

Word cloud about dad

This is an idea for older kids who are savvy with computers and might not be so interested in getting their hands sticky with glue. A word cloud or wordle is an image made up of words. There are several online wordle generators, like www.edwordle.net that you can use for free to make a word cloud.

The child can go to the site and type in some sentences about their dad. What he likes, what he does, where he likes to go, his favourite food, etc. Then once they have a paragraph or two, they make their wordle and print it out for dad. It can also be used to create printable products like mugs and mouse pads, if you want to make it a bit more permanent.

Breakfast in the shape of dad’s face

Breakfast in bed is a classic for Father’s Day and this idea makes the cooking a bit more fun for your kids. Using the plate as a face shape, they simply arrange the breakfast items in the shape of dad’s face, with eggs for eyes, mushrooms for a moustache, spinach for hair, etc! Your child could plan the breakfast in advance and help you with the shopping for extra learning opportunities.

Comic about dad

Any young artist or fan of Captain Underpants will love the idea of making a comic for dad. This one takes a bit more time and the child might need to start making it a couple of weeks in advance, but it can be a lot of fun. They could think up a character, like a superhero, for dad to become, or it could be a ‘day in the life of dad’ story. The child can illustrate it and write the text or, for younger kids, dictate it to you. Simply staple together a few sheets of paper, provide art materials and be sure to stay available if your child needs help with spelling or ideas.

Painted rock

This one is fun for primary aged kids and can double as a foraging expedition. Take the kids out to the beach or the park to look for a good sized rock. Flat ones are best if you want dad to be able to use it for a paperweight. Then head home and allow them to go crazy with paint. They could design it first on paper if they like – and dad-related art makes this gift the most meaningful. You could go further and buy some magnets to stick to the back of the stones, creating a nice piece of refrigerator art. What better way to show dad he rocks?!

Homemade frame with photo

This idea is nothing new but it is a lasting classic for a reason. Print a photo of your child/children with their dad – a recent one is best – and have them make a frame for it. You can cut out a cardboard frame shape and provide items to stick on, like shells, glitter, sticks and small stones, or they could decorate with felt tip pens. For a bit more of a challenge, they could make the frame from coloured or even recycled iceblock sticks stuck together with a hot glue gun. Obviously for younger children, this will require some adult supervision. The result is a piece of art to remember 2019 by, which will hopefully last for years to come.

We hope these ideas help to inspire you and your children to get making!

Happy Father’s Day!








June 4, 20190

The quest for the perfect eco-friendly lunchbox

It can feel overwhelming looking for the perfect lunchbox for your kids. There are so many options out there, from the cheap plastic numbers available at the supermarket to the more pricey bento boxes that can be purchased online or from health and eco shops. But is there a lunchbox out there that will meet all your needs as well as being eco-friendly?

Depending on your children’s eating habits, you might require separate sections for pieces of fruit and veges, dry snacks and sandwiches and perhaps a sealed section for wet meals like salads or pasta. For active, growing kids with big appetites, the hope is that one box will fit everything they need for their school day.

Many parents will balk at the price attached to a stainless steel lunchbox but the upside is – as long as it is not lost or suffers a broken clasp – it should potentially last forever. When you think about how often a plastic lunchbox needs to be replaced, which for most kids is at least annually, the price of a stainless box is actually quite reasonable. Stainless or not, with all the terrible environmental news out there, many of us are looking for a lunchbox that won’t have an adverse effect on the environment and will last a long time. The best way to do this is to avoid plastic, so we have picked out five great, non-plastic lunchboxes, and reviewed them according to affordability, hardiness, longevity, ease of use, size, and sustainability.

The perfect lunchbox may not exist, but here are a few that come pretty close.

Wean Green 850ml glass lunchbox – available online from The Sleepstore Glass might seem like an odd choice for primary kids, who tend to throw their bags around, but the glass used here is up to 5x stronger than regular glass. They are also very economical, easy to clean, completely recyclable and non-toxic. An insulated lunchbag could be used to prevent breakages if you’re not sure you’re monkey can handle glass. These tick all the size and ease of use boxes, as they can fit a whole piece of fruit and are able to be thrown in the dishwasher. The lids also seal to prevent spills. $17.95 for 850ml box.

Brandenburg Heavy-Duty Lunchbox – available on Amazon, You may find it more affordable to order stainless steel lunchboxes through websites such as Amazon, although bear in mind this has the added carbon footprint of your parcel being shipped across the globe. This can perhaps be countered if you are buying a few at a time – and if it is the only way you can afford stainless steel, it is probably still better than buying breakable plastic boxes. These fit almost anything, although you will need to chop large fruit. They also have a nice upper layer tray that can take dry snacks such as nuts or crackers. $22.95 NZD + postage.

4MyEarth Cotton Canvas Insulated Lunchbag – available from Earth Mama Generally speaking, insulated lunchbags work well for a time, but tend to get manky unless you are very careful to look after them. The linings will often tear and they are hard to keep clean and dry. They do work well as insulation and protection for other lunchboxes, especially if heat or cold is a problem. This one looks good though, as it is handmade ethically in India from BPA, Phthalate & lead free cotton canvas. If looked after well and cleaned out regularly, it should last at least a couple of years. The good thing about these is you can fit anything inside and can use your own small containers and wax wraps to contain snacks or sandwiches. You can even get a drink bottle in there, along with a cooler pack if needed. $36.95

Large Double-Layer Meals in Steel – available at Meals in Steel If you would rather buy local and receive your package more quickly, without the guilt associated with international online purchases, the larger Meals in Steel boxes are very similar to those available on Amazon, except instead of the upper tray, they come with a small container that fits inside for yoghurt or small snacks. No whole piece of fruit here either but the separate, stacking sections are good for keeping chopped fruit from soggying your sandwiches. $54.95

Planetbox – available from The Lunchbox Queen These are a fun, high quality variety of stainless steel lunchbox that will be sure to bring a smile to your child’s face. Your bank account might suffer for that smile though, as these are on the high end of the price scale. They have the bonus of many different compartments for snacks but, again, do not take a whole piece of fruit. You can get cute magnets and dishwasher-proof stickers to personalise them but note these can also be used for other stainless steel lunchboxes. From $95

Any other suggestions?


May 14, 20190

Top Kids’ Reads for 2019

The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder, which means a lot of indoor time ahead. No matter what age or stage your kids are at, this is a great time to get into reading. To find out what the trends are in children’s books this year, we spoke to Dorothy Butler Bookshop’s co-owner Helen Wadsworth.

Dorothy Butler Bookshop is an institution in the world of children’s books in New Zealand. It originally opened as part of its namesake’s home in 1964 and is still going strong now in its Ponsonby location. Helen has co-owned the shop with her sister, Mary, since 2015, and is passionate about reading and kids’ stories.

Hi Helen. To start with, can you give us your top five picks, both for picture books and chapter books, that have been released so far this year?

Sure. Picture books first:

  1. Granny McFlitter: A Country Yarn by Heather Haylock and Lael Chisolm (NZ). This is an hilarious rhyming story about the knitting granny who saves the A&P show from destruction by a bull.
  2. Encyclopedia of Grannies by Eric Veilie. A quirky, funny book – everything you need to know about grannies!
  3. Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. The third book in the Shape series – very funny!
  4. The Go-Away Bird by Julia Donaldson and Catherine Rayner. This book combines Julia’s great way with words and Catherine’s gorgeous illustrations to craft a story about how we all need each other sometimes
  5. The Cat from Muzzle: A High Country Cat’s Incredible Walk Home by Sally Sutton and Scott Tulloch (NZ). Based on a true story, this book tells the tale of Dwayne the cat who walked all the way from his new home in Kaikoura back to his old home on remote Muzzle Station – a journey of five week.

For chapter books;

  1. A Place of Stone and Darkness by Chris Mousdale. An epic new fantasy by a New Zealand author, who also illustrated the book.
  2. Amundsen’s Way: The Race to the South Pole by Joanna Grochowicz. A second non-fiction narrative book from this New Zealand author, about Antarctic adventurers.
  3. Bullseye Bella by James T Guthrie. Winner of last year’s New Zealand Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award, this is the heart-stopping story of a girl who can play darts like a pro!
  4. Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente. This is Book 1 in the Starfell series, about a witch whose talent is to find lost things – but can she find the lost day?
  5. Where Dani Goes, Happy Follows by Rose Lagerkrantz and Eva Eriksson. The latest in this lovely series about a little girl called Dani, describing the ups and downs of real life for small people. Beautifully told.

Do you see a trend in the subject matter of books released this year?

This year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing so we’re seeing lots of new and beautiful books published about space and the space race – for all ages. We are also seeing books about activism again for all ages, right from board books for babies.

What is an exciting new book that is being released soon?

 A new children’s book about Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay is coming out in June. Called Everest:The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, it tells the story of the two men who made it to the top – and the team that got them there. But it’s not only about the climb up Everest, it covers the life stories of the two men and the impact they’ve had on Nepal. Should be good!

Then in July we’re expecting a new adventure story for 8-12 year-olds by master storyteller Katherine Rundell. Set in 19th century New York, The Good Thieves is the story of a brave young girl and her circus friends who attempt to save her Grandfather’s house from destruction by a ruthless businessman.

What classics are still popular in your store?

Classics are big sellers here at Dorothy Butler. Parents and grandparents love to read their old favourites with their kids. In terms of picture books, we still sell a lot of Hairy Maclary, Margaret Mahy books, as well as Peepo and Goodnight Moon. Then in chapter books, we have some beautiful editions of stories like Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, and lots more!

In your opinion, what is the best way to get kids reading and excited about books?

A really effective way to get kids excited about books and reading is to take them along to author events. The opportunity to meet and listen to writers and ask them questions is inspiring and makes for a memorable experience. Then, reading the book that is being talked about is a natural follow-on and it becomes a much more personal experience. We see the excitement authors and illustrators generate every time we have an event at our shop.

Apart from that, all I’d say is that children are more likely to read if the book is about something they like. If your 11-year-old is into basketball, buy him Stephen Adam’s autobiography. If your child is into Star Wars, get her a Star Wars story book!




April 8, 20190

This latest trend ‘Fiver Party Invitation’ sweeping the schoolyard could be a solution for a birthday party that won’t break the bank!

Kids love receiving invitations to birthday parties but, for some parents, it can be an expensive exercise to purchase gifts for your children’s friends every few weeks. And for the parents of the birthday child, you are often left with unnecessary plastic toys that add to the clutter in the home, not to mention the clutter on the planet.

Enter: the Fiver party. Instead of bringing a gift, each party attendee brings a five dollar note tucked into a card. The birthday child can then use the money to buy something they really want.

Sound good? For some parents this idea will be polarising, as asking for money from friends can seem a bit…unseemly. Careful wording in your invitations will counter this for most parents. The idea should be more of a suggestion than a request. One way of wording it could go like this:

Presents are not required but $5 contributions to Elsa’s scooter fund will be greatly appreciated!

As the Fiver party concept becomes more commonplace, the wording can perhaps be replaced by a simple declaration like, ‘This is a fiver party!’, but in the meantime it is best to tread carefully so as not to offend anyone.


Why have a Fiver party?

The Fiver party concept allows children to choose carefully what they spend their money on. It encourages learning around saving and making change, and it can also spur conversations around waste and looking after the planet.

The importance of a card is driven home. Often, children will ignore the card attached to a present as they hungrily rip into the wrapping. At a Fiver party, the attendee can write a heartfelt message or draw a picture that will actually be seen – before the cash is snatched and pocketed, that is!

No Fiver invitation but still want to keep to a budget and/ or reduce waste? How about these gift ideas:

  • A special and bright kids mug with some sweets in it (if you like) won’t cost much and will often be well-used in the home when kids have hot chocolate or Milo.
  • Books are always appreciated by parents (and by kids later, once the excitement of the party has died down), although they are not always cheap. Buy them on sale and keep for when birthdays come up. The Scholastic Lucky Book Club brochure usually has a few $2 books on offer.
  • Art supplies can be found at reasonable prices and can be combined to make an inspiring gift. Items like pipe cleaners and sticky note shapes make for interesting, creative projects.
  • Cookie mix in a jar. Simply layer all the dry ingredients you need for a batch of cookies into a large jar and label it with instructions. The birthday child can then add the wet ingredients and make their own treats. You can get your child to help design the label and measure the ingredients for an extra learning opportunity.

Tips for birthday gift etiquette

  • Don’t go overboard on the expensive gifts, even if you can afford it. It can make other parents and kids feel bad. You might even upstage the birthday child’s parents.
  • If more than one of your children is invited to a party, bring a gift from each child if you can, even if each gift is small.
  • Avoid noisy toys and items that will take up a lot of space, if you want to remain friends with the parents of the child you’re buying for, that is!



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