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Activity Books for Hands-on Fun!

Do you want to try a recipe based on Native American cuisine? What about easy-to-sew hats and mittens of super-soft fleece? For dozens of engaging, entertaining, and enjoyable projects, try two great new activity books for children ages nine to 12.

Are you looking for some great hands-on projects for upper elementary school kids? This week, Education World looks at two terrific new arts, crafts, and activity books. These books are sure to provide hours of fun, entertainment, and education.


Book Cover Image As both an activity book and an introduction to Native American culture, Celebrating Our Heritage: Traditional Native American Crafts and Activities (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), written by Arlette N. Braman and illustrated by Bill Helin, is a welcome addition to any classroom. With projects ranging from cooking and sewing to pottery and woodworking, the book provides plenty of activities to appeal to most nine- to 12-year-olds.

The seven chapters of the book are arranged by geographical region:

  • the Northeast
  • the Southeast
  • the Plains
  • the Southwest
  • the Great Basin, the Plateau, and California
  • the Northwest Coast
  • the Sub-Arctic and Arctic
For each region, Braman provides the names of some of the indigenous tribes and a brief explanation of the way that they lived, followed by two or three projects. Each project begins with a more detailed description of the tribe and an explanation of the significance of the item to be crafted. The instructions are clear and easy to understand; where appropriate, steps that may require an adult's help are noted. Materials lists may include some items not commonly found in homes and classrooms, such as wild raspberries for a dessert typical of the Yupik of Alaska. In such instances, Braman offers suggestions for acceptable substitutes.

Each project is accompanied by several black-and-white drawings by Bill Helin, illustrating the featured Native American tribe and/or various steps in the completion of the item. At the end of each regional chapter, a page titled "The Tradition Continues" highlights an individual who helps keep indigenous art forms alive today.

Arlette N. Braman, a former teacher, is a writer of craft and cooking books for children. In researching Celebrating Our Heritage: Traditional Native American Crafts and Activities, she visited various Native American communities. Although she presents a wide range of projects, Braman was careful to avoid any activities that involve objects sacred to Native Americans, such as Navajo sand paintings.

Illustrator Bill Helin is a Native American artist of the Tsimshian nation. In addition to providing the illustrations for several children's books on Tsimshian life, he is a jeweler, painter, and sculptor. To learn more about Helin's work, check out his Web site at Introducing the Creative World of Bill Helin.


Book Cover Image In the introduction to Kids Can Do It: Making Fleece Crafts (Kids Can Press Ltd.), written by Judy Ann Sadler and illustrated by June Bradford, fleece is described as the perfect fabric to use for craft and sewing activities for nine- to 12-year-olds. According to Sadler, "Fleece is warm, soft, stretchy, colorful, non-raveling, easy to wash, quick to dry and, best of all, simple to work with." This collection of 15 projects shows just how versatile this fabric can be.

The introduction notes the tools needed for most of the projects, including fabric markers, needles, thread, and glue, and provides a very basic explanation of hand sewing, with instructions on the best way to thread a needle and some of the more common stitches. Then the fun begins.

Following Sadler's easy instructions, kids can make scarves, hats, stuffed animals, mittens, blankets, pillows, and more. Students with a wide range of abilities will find suitable projects. Most utilize hand stitching, although they can be just as easily machine-sewn. In many cases, fabric glue can be substituted for sewing. There is even a scarf that requires no sewing or gluing at all.

Each project contains simple step-by-step instructions and patterns. Photographs of the finished products and June Bradford's colorful illustrations of the steps required to achieve them accompany the projects.

Judy Ann Sadler is the author of many craft books for children. She lives in London, Ontario. She has run numerous school, library, and store workshops on both arts and crafts and writing.

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate a book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly.

  • Celebrating Our Heritage: Traditional Native American Crafts and Activities, written by Arlette N. Braman and illustrated by Bill Helin, is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158.
  • Kids Can Do It: Making Fleece Crafts, written by Judy Ann Sadler and illustrated by June Bradford, is published by Kids Can Press Ltd. , 4500 Witmer Estates, Niagara Falls, NY 14305-1386.

Article by Lauren P. Gattilia
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World