Indonesians Believe Each Person Is An Artist. If You Can Follow A Recipe You Can Make A Toy

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sensory Box with Mermaids Toy Tutorial and "GiveAway!"

Explore the Ocean from Home!
(or at least fantasize that you are alone on some tropical island with no laundry to do)

As a creative blogger it is hard to come up with an original idea. I have had this concept in mind for a very long time. When studying Anthropology, Levi and Radcliffe introduced me to the theory that an idea (pottery, agriculture etc.) can be invented on several different continents at the same time. This phenomenon is still seen today in the fields of art and science and of course in the blogisphere. Felt ecosystems are pretty popular "toys' to make. I am sure you have seen them everywhere.

I have seen clothespin mermaids on several mom blogs.

I had two clothespin dolls as a child, a bride and a Navajo maiden.
I still have them in a box for the Kaz. Princess when she is older.


Most Montessori blogs mention sensory boxes filled with all manner of grains and legumes for exploration.

If you have a child with sensory issues, even mild ones like mine, you will be tempted to venture into the world of learning and emotional regulation through the five senses.  The Kaz. Princess has a very short attention span for Montessori activities unless they involve water. I usually just allow her to explore them however she wants and that means not the way they were originally intended.  If I make them about fun and imaginary play with Mom then I have more success. Hence the addition of mermaids, shells, sea creatures, treasure chest, palm tree, and paper umbrellas (which is the one thing she was most drawn to play with because they are a part of her real life).  Kids from an orphanage just don't do things according to the books and experts. This has taught me a greater appreciation for how wonderous the human brain is and that each child should be parented based on their unique experiences and temperament. I just follow my heart and instinct and it works.



Pour your rice into the container you plan to use as your sensory box to "measure" how much you will need to dye. A bag of 10-20 lbs should be enough for most boxes and they are cheapest at an ethnic market.

Next pour the measured rice into a container you don't care very much about.

Dilute 1/8 tsp of cake icing dye in 1 cup of water and pour it onto the rice.

Using gloves mix the rice until it is all colored. You may want to use a second round of dye for a deeper color. I have not had good luck with other kinds of "colorants".

Pour the rice onto a large tarp and let dry in the sun for a few hours.

When you are done be sure to clean up well , leaving  no rice behind for critters to eat as it can make them quite sick or even kill them in large amounts.


You will need wooden clothespins, ribbon, fabric, tissue paper and other craft materials

The possibilites for creativity are endless.

Use a template to cut your felt fins.

Cut a rectangle of fabric for the body or use tissue paper to makes some very nice scales.

Use the fabric to make a tube which you will glue around the "body".

Overlap and sew the fins as shown above.

Embellish with tulle, fabric flowers, beads, sequins etc.

To make hair from wool roving

Pull or cut a piece of wool rovingfrom your budle.

Use soapy water to wet it and a sushi matt as your "working" surface.

Twist, roll, and work the wet felt into the desired shape.

As it dries you can needle felt the details.

Sew or needle felt all manner of beads or sequins into your hairstyle.

When fully dry use a strong non-toxic glue to adhere the "wig" to the head of your doll.

The faces can be "painted" or left bare for more imaginative potential.

(what possible form would a beehive take under the ocean than a spiral shell?)

Would you like to win this lovely mermaid? Find out how at the end of this post!


I just cut some interesting shapes from felt, freehand.

I then layered and sewed them by machine.
(not bad for my third sewing project ever)


Wrap a piece of felt around a large straw, pinning tightly along the edge.Leave enough material for the seam. Sew parallel to your pins and then turn your "tube" inside out. Slide it over the straw.

Make palm tree templates. Use them to cut at least 18 leaves from various colors of green felt.

Wet felt three wooden beads with brown wool roving to make your coconuts.
When dry sew these together to make a "bunch" which is then sewn to the top of the trunk.

Jam all the leaves one by one into the straw with a toothpick.

Sew the trunk to one of the islands on your sandbar.

Cut a hole in the sandbar, on the backside,  right below the opening of the straw.

To make your tree stand up straight in the box

Jam a pencil or dowel in a lump of playdough.

Stick this to the bottom of your box.

Thread the straw/trunk over the pencil.

Rules for winning the purple mermaid "GIVEAWAY"

Leave a comment at the end of this post.

Join as a follower of my blog if you are not one already.

You must live in the continental US to enter.

GIVEAWAY ends August 4th, 2010.
Winner will be chosen radomly and announced August 5th.

I recommend that only older kids play with this mermaid. It should be handled very gently as the sequins are vintage and probably made of glass. This toy has not been tested for lead or safety. May be a choking hazard for younger children!

Have fun making toys and good luck to all those who decide to enter.

Wew that was one long toy tutorial!

I am linking up to several parties for this post so please visit the LINK PARTY tab above if you want to see where I have traveled.

If you are visiting from Fireflies and Jelly Beans thanks for stopping by!


  1. This is a lovely idea! We might have to do this over the summer.. (I'm not in US so can't enter the giveaway, but I love the idea anyway!)

  2. You make the most beautiful things! I follow your blog and hope to win. :)

  3. what a cool idea. I will share this with my daughter!

  4. This is so cool! My daughter was walked by when it was on the screen and said "I want that." (She is 3). What a great idea! I might make one in the fall for my classroom.

  5. that is such a great idea...I should try it with my daughter who has sensory issues too

  6. As a Mama of 2 (both with unique and very different learning styles!!) and teacher (former, but will return again when little one reaches school age!) I could not agree more in recognizing the beauty and intrinsic worth of parenting and teaching to the individual child and their individual strengths and weaknesses.

    This project is wonderful for so so many reasons ~ all toddlers and preschoolers share a limited attention span at one time or another, and creating something hands- on and visually appealing is a huge plus! Add to it that it can be done indoors and the mess is contained, while the imagination is not...well, this is a keeper!!

    Plus its just plain pretty!! I love it!
    Good for you Mama!!

  7. Very cute! I love the little palm tree and the mermaids. Well done! Thanks for linking up. I've featured your link in this week's top 10. Please come again!

  8. Very cute and creative! Thanks for sharing at It's Party Time Thursday at PonyTails&FishScales!

  9. This is so great! I have some sea shells and we love rice boxes-thanks for sharing your great ideas!

  10. That is so beautiful and **inspired**. I love it. Thank you so much for sharing. You have definitely inspired me!

  11. Love this idea! We have 5 kiddos and 2 with SPD and they would be so excited if their rice was colored!! We're gonna try this and make alot of different boxes with themes!

  12. Oh WOW! This is so, so cool! I'm totally blown away and want one for myself. =) I would love to link to this if you didn't mind.

  13. Thank you so much for this fun idea!! I am just getting geared up to start trying sensory boxes with my 18-month-old son and am looking for tons of ideas. Thank you so much!

  14. She is adorable and my girls would love her.

  15. Thanks for linking up to the Mad Skills party!

  16. Hi Lesley! I just adore this idea - super cute! My little guy loves playing in rie and I think he would love the little additions even more! Fantastic idea! Wanted to let you know I'll be featuring this today. Stop by and grab a featured button if you like. Thanks so much for joining the Sunday Showcase - I greatly appreciate it. Hope you have a fabulous week! ~ Stephanie Lynn

  17. What a fun idea. Too bad my "little one" is 18 now and too old for such things. Love the mermaid.

    I’m having a new link party “Cheap Thrills Thursday” starting this Thursday the 29th. It’s for creative ideas that cost under $20. If you have a project you’d like to share, I’d love for you to stop by and join in!

  18. Yes...lots of moms have made clothespeg mermaids, but yours are the BEST ones I've seen by far!!! How gorgeous!?!
    I'd LOVE to enter your contest, but we're in Canada! I guess I'll have to make my own darn mermaid!
    xo maureen

  19. this would be adorable to give to my niece.


    Sincerefaith at

  20. Thank you for the tip on how to dye the rice! SUCH great mermaids. Thanks for the how-to.

  21. Wow Lesley! I just love those mermaids and the great tutorial! Great to see you again on Craft Schooling Sunday! all the best!

  22. What a fabulous idea! I love how you died your rice and made this amazing sensory toy! Thanks for linking up to Hoo's got talent!

  23. So darling! My girls love mermaids and this is giving me all sorts of new ideas!

  24. I'm not entering your lovely giveaway (I live outside the US), but I did want to comment to let you know how lovely this post is - so kind of you to share the how-tos and the idea itself. I especially LOVE the palm tree with the coconuts. :) Thank you for sharing your creativity!


    Counting Coconuts

  25. Found you from the Iron Crafter contest. Love it. Those mermaids are gaaaah-jusss! I'd never put that much effort into something. I'm far too sloppy/lazy! I'd just buy a doll to toss in my sensory tub! I'm definitely a follower now!

  26. Love your clothespins mermaids and as a mom to two kiddos with sensory issues I love this idea!

  27. Very cute, I love this kind of toys. Mermaids are really beautifull. Congratulations!