You’ve been framed

Keeping crafty devils amused is tough, and can be as messy as it is memorable. Joanna England tries her hand at combining both the ‘m’ words


It’s not often I have a creative epiphany. Like many over-stretched working mums, I just don’t have time to think laterally. But one quiet Saturday, my mother-in-law’s birthday was looming, my sister was having a house-warming and I hadn’t had time to sort either of them out with a gift. To top it all off the little monsters were being, well, little monsters, and in no mood to be dragged round shops filled with the kind of ‘delicate items’ their auntie and gran love so much. I had no other option than to attempt a little ATY (amuse them yourself).

I already had a large supply of PVA glue and an old ice-cream carton full of odd bits and pieces that had fallen or been yanked off various toys, items of clothing etc (I collect them with the good intention of fixing them which, of course, I never do). I bunged in a few pasta shapes and, after unearthing a carrier bag from Ikea full of those little wooden frames at Dhs1 a pop, we were set. I covered the kitchen floor in plastic sheets, stripped the toddler and strapped him into his highchair – and put my four-year-old in one of his dad’s old shirts. Each child was given a paint brush, a frame (with the Perspex and back board removed) and a tray of paint.

Jack (the four-year-old) got straight to work with the paint and then proceeded, with impressive dexterity, to glue all sorts of bits onto his coloured frame (and everything else in sight). Rupert (the toddler), it has to be said, ate more paint than he actually applied. But he still managed to apply quite a lot – and, to my amazement, did a pretty good job of covering his frame. I drew the line at him sticking bits on it though. All those dry pasta pieces looked far too tasty for an 18-month-old to resist.

An hour later, Jack was still going. He made three different frames using different painting methods he’d delightfully discovered, the most effective being simply squirting the paint straight from the tube all over the frame in thick, gooey lines. He squidged them about a bit to cover the wood and left it to dry (this took about four hours). Afterwards, we painted his frames with the PVA glue to make them nice and shiny and to doubly secure all the extra stuck-on bits he’d thoughtfully arranged on them beforehand.

The final affect was amazingly artistic – and, as they were enjoying themselves so much, I took a few snaps for posterity. At the end of it all, we printed off those pictures and popped them into the finished frames.
Fantastic! Not only did I have two children who’d happily done something more constructive than watching DVDs all afternoon, but I also had my housewarming and birthday gifts as well – both of which went down a storm with the doting relatives.

You will need

1 Several 4x6 natural wood frames from Ikea (Dubai Festival City; 04 203 7555). You can buy them in packs of three for Dhs3.95, so it doesn’t matter if your little ones make a complete mess of them.

2 A few tubes of ready-mixed non-toxic poster paint (we used ones from Early Learning Centre, Mercato 04 344 6519 and other branches across Dubai). The palette versions (where you mix the blocks of paint with water) work too, but you don’t get such a good effect because it can’t be applied as thickly.

3 A few pieces to stick on, such as old beads from broken necklaces, buttons, sequins, dried pasta shapes, dried lentils, beans, twigs and seeds etc.

4 Lots of white non-toxic PVA glue (available in large quantities from any stationers and ELC).

5 Any old paintbrush will do. Again, you can buy packs of them at ELC.

6 A camera to capture those creative moments.

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