Thursday, April 28

Handmade Cords: Easy Crochet for Boys

This post is an update of one that I wrote in 2007. I'm writing an issue of my Crochet Inspirations Newsletter about crochet cords, braids, lanyards, etc., and how they work out well for boys and men too. 

Just sent it, here's the link! Crochet Inspirations Newsletter: Fancy Cords in 360ยบ -

At left is a simple lanyard that my son needed as soon as possible for his new school ID. I chained a bunch, then for Row 1: *hdc, ch 1, skip next ch, repeat from * to end of row.

It's holding up really well.

The 2007 post concerned a commemorative lanyard for a younger Toytester Bob, who was deeply involved in his new Nintendo DS Pokemon games. Here's another image of that lanyard that I photo-edited a bit for clarity:

A third cord I've crocheted for him might be called a fob? No--a tether. It is the simplest chain of extra-fine Jelly Yarn (r) in black (so that it looks like leather!) and it permanently tethers a special screen pen to a Nintendo DS XL device.
I'll upload a photo when I have day light!

Tuesday, April 12

Crochet Helps Make Chores Cheerful?

(Bottom of Bank)

 What is that?

Toy Tester Bob's endorsement, while looking back on his earlier years with Cheerful Chores

Toy Tester Bob
"It was fun and not complicated. It was easy to keep track of my money. It made me feel like I was earning something real because it was physical."

The basic idea: crochet as many "coins" as you need, a Parent Bank, and a Child's Bank (one for each child) using craft foam sheets and a small amount of colorful yarn. Everyone starts the day or week with some coins in each bank. Coins can be color-coded for each child to prevent accidental mixing. As the day or week goes on, the child can earn more coins, or may have to pay some fines or behavior "taxes." 

It's great for recycling containers, leftover yarns, and scraps of craft foam sheets. Older children who know crochet basics will enjoy helping with this project. 
I've created 4 site pages about this downloadable crochet pattern: at my DesigningVashti pattern shop, in my Ravelry shop, and the original "Crochet Family Banking!" project record. It also has its own Flickr photo set (most of the photos in it are fully public; a few, such as the template images and assembly, are accessible via a link in the pattern).

I was inspired by the philosophy of these books: Playful Parenting (1993) and Playwise (1996), both written by Denise Champman Weston & Mark S. Weston (published by Tarcher in the USA). I wish I had developed it sooner. In my limited experience (with one son), I imagine it would have worked well when he was as young as age five or so; however, I started using it when he was age eight, after trying other methods. It gradually lost out to the power of real money by the age of ten or so. 

Best of all: It appealed to his innate good nature and strengthened it. It rewarded Toy Tester Bob for considering other family members. It seems that the fair-minded purity of a young child responds beautifully to the idea of "taxes" as a negative consequence, rather than some type of punishment.
Even a young child can understand that if s/he doesn't do chores, a different family member has to. The "tax" is the price the child pays to reward someone else for doing that chore. I found that this cultivates compassion and empathy for others. The real message is that one's actions impact others, and when you love your family, you want to be responsible.
Inside of Bank

I wanted to hold off on using the traditional weekly allowance system of real cash for several reasons. Using crocheted coins remove the risks of careless handling of real cash. When someone gave my son cash as a gift, he preferred that I convert it into crocheted money and I was very happy to do so!

Children aren't born taking real money seriously the same way that adults do, so they're likely to do crazy things like:
- Leave cash sitting out in the open
- Stuff it partially into little pockets with no awareness of when it falls out
- Make unequal trades; for example, give someone a dollar bill in return for five pennies, because the five "pieces" of money look like more than one "piece."

Other advantages of this system for a parent like me:

  1. The “taxes” consequence is simple and easy for a child to comprehend. Parent sees real results faster, saving parent from that “wasted breath” feeling. 
  2. It's low maintenance. Parent can see at a glance how child is doing. 
  3. It seems to encourage saving! A pleasant surprise in my experience was that crocheted coins were rarely cashed in. Perhaps because there was something cozy and satisfying in the handmade coins themselves? They are pleasantly thick, so a stack grows in size quickly.
The appeal of this system for a child like mine:
  1. It’s playful, cheerful, and tactile. It seemed to charm him into making better behavior choices. It also made character-building life lessons more enjoyable, less punitive and bossy. 
  2. A crochet coin is big and colorful, so it feels like a lot of money to a young child. It seemed to change the experience of money, making it look and feel cozier, more substantial and satisfying. 
  3. It's simple and easy to understand: adults forget how confusing and abstract money is. Teachers of young children know how much struggle it takes to distinguish and memorize the meaningful differences between seemingly look-alike coins and bills. During this developmental stage, Cheerful Chores served as a kind of money that Toy Tester Bob could relate to, and start to understand basic concepts about earning, saving, and budgeting. 

Friday, April 8

Happy Birthday to Toy Tester 'Bob,' Fan of Carnivorous Plants

Toy Tester Bob kicks back with his tiny cousin
As of his birthday yesterday, Toy Tester Bob received by mail the last installment of his exciting collection of carnivorous plants. They are small and delicate when they arrive, and need special care. Bob set to work researching how he could help them feel more at home here. When he heard that music can help plants thrive, he said,

"If any plants like rock music, it would have to be Venus Flytraps." 

I knew I had to blog that! (After researching it, he learned that classical music is a safer choice for any type of plant.)

Venus Flytrap Toy with suspenseful lace-up action
My birthday boy has been captivated by carnivorous plants for most of his life. When he was his tiny cousin's age, we learned about them from picture books.

During elementary school years we created a batch of these crochet Venus Flytrap toys for his school's "Mini-Mall" day. As I've previously blogged, Bob conducted extensive toy testing and delivered a sales performance report to me on the way home from school: the Venus Flytrap Action Toys SOLD OUT to a wide age range after a BIDDING WAR for the last one. (Crochet pattern for Venus Flytrap toy is available at my website.)

Toy Tester Bob is now completing his first year in middle school. If the Venus Flytraps weren't dormant right now, I'd provide a photo here so that you could appreciate the compelling realism of the crocheted version :-) Here's a pic of two pitcher plants, in relation to the size of the Toy Tester's fingers. 

Bob notes that the larger pitcher ate a small ant the other day. He also learned that although they are often called "Monkey Cups" (because monkeys really do drink from them), it's better to call them by their botanical name, Nepenthes, when searching for information on them.
Toy Tester Bob is having a great first year in middle school. Last week he performed in a musical review called Brand New Day. (This is the best photo I could get with my cell phone, no flash permitted. He's wearing a microphone headset.) He did great on stage: not only did he speak his lines clearly and loudly, he had a solo in a song! I'm very proud.

Monday, March 14

Crochet Toy/Amigurumi Pattern NOMINATED FOR AWARD!

"What an incredibly creative way to teach measurements of this sort!"  
                                                                     --Carol in Ravelry

I'm pleased and excited to report that one of my crochet toy patterns is an award finalist! The Teacher's Gallon Friend, an educational toy that helps teach the relationship between cups, pints, quarts & gallons, has been nominated by the Crochet Liberation Front for Best 2010 Crochet Design for Children!

Here's what people have been saying about it in Ravelry since the Teacher's Gallon Friend pattern PDF was released in November 2010:

"This is really clever! I need to make one for my small granddaughters. They will love it."

"Awesome idea! Love it!"

"This is totally cute and a great learning device! Every child should have one. (And maybe adults, too! LOL) I’m going to try to make one of these from your pattern. And kudos to your son for his amazing drawing!"

Wonderful! I think I need one for my kitchen."

"cute + brilliant!!!"

My son was a part of it from the very beginning (starting at age 9). So it's a special feeling for both of us to announce it in this toy designing blog. When I began this blog a few years ago, I didn't imagine that the things I crochet for my son and his friends would qualify for awards, I was just keeping a journal of how crochet is play and adds to the fun that I can have as a mom. I hope that as my son grows up, this blog will become a record of how crochet grows along with him. 

I do have other crochet toy patterns in mind, and you can bet that just being nominated, and seeing the wonderful designs in this category, inspires me to design more and to blog here more too ;-) 

Please visit this Crochet Liberation Front page to see all nominees. (It may take a while for all images to load.) The CLF founded the annual Flamies Awards about three years ago. You will be amazed to see all the wonderful crochet designs. Starting tomorrow, Mar. 15, you can cast your votes in all award categories. 

Monday, February 7

Crochet Accessory Wins First Place.... son's heart as padding for the strap of a musical instrument.

A tenor saxophone is a heavy instrument for a kid! All of the weight is felt at the neck. 

It only took about 20 minutes to crochet a rectangle of puff stitches with the softest yarn from my stash: one full skein of Moda Dea Aerie yarn. Then I seamed it into a tube while it was wrapped around the strap. 

Longer practice times are now enabled with this simple solution.

The fire red color probably has something to do with its success. It has been his favorite color most of his eleven years, with time out for blue and electric turquoise. Also, briefly in preschool years, sunshine yellow. Well, I should call it "Spongebob Yellow."