When selecting crafts to offer your children, choose ones that will naturally become part of your children’s play, rather than just doing craft for craft’s sake. Aisha chose today’s craft — hot-air balloons — perfect for taking the girls’ little people for a high ride!

Hot-air balloon craft, August 2010
Once the hot-air balloon is assembled, it's great for taking toys for a ride!

This craft is not much more than an excuse to paint huge amounts of glue. But paintbrushes are a favourite tool of pre-schoolers. And it’s very satisfying for the children to see the colours covering the balloon. The last steps are to wind wool around the plastic cup to make a basket and tie it all together.


Choose your spot. You need to be able to suspend the balloons above your children so they can paint all over them. This is a messy craft, and you also need to be able to lay down newspaper where ever there may possibly be glue drips. Do you have an outside clothesline you can work under? We chose to do ours at the kitchen counter, and I hung the balloons from a wooden beam that runs directly overhead.

Cut tissue paper into pieces. I started with cutting about 20cm off a 20-sheet multi-coloured pack and then cut that into strips and then pieces (while they were still in their layers — who wants to cut individual sheets up?) That amount seemed about right for covering three balloons.

Water down the glue. I squirted glue into plastic cups and mixed some water with it. Initially I thought I had watered it down too much, but it still worked well. I also discovered that the brushes were too heavy to sit properly in the cups, and so after Brioni knocked her glue-cup over, I gave her a heavier tea-cup of glue, and that was more stable.

Assemble your materials and tools.

Hot-air balloon craft, August 2010
You'll need tissue paper (crepe paper), wool/string, balloons, plastic cups, glue and stickers for added decoration. You'll also need to use paintbrushes, scissors and sticky tape.

(Invest in good balloons. Pay $2 more and buy really good balloons, or this craft will end prematurely in tears. My balloon popped before I could assemble it, and the girls’ popped within an hour of the balloons being assembled — not a lot of playtime and very, very sad.)

Get going.

Blow up your balloons. Tie them up so you can paint all around them. Provide glue and the tissue paper, and start painting.

Hot-air balloon craft, August 2010
This is lots of fun and kept my 5yo and 4yo busy for about an hour.

Let the wet balloons dry.

Hot-air balloon craft, August 2010
I moved ours outside to dry in the sun and then put them up _very_ high because the girls tended to try to jump up and swat at them.

The balloons still dripped glue, so lay newspaper under your drying spot for easy clean-up. It was at this point that my balloon (centre — isn’t it beautiful?) popped — possibly because I blew it up too much so the air couldn’t expand as it heated up.

Make your baskets.

Hot-air balloon craft, August 2010
Wind wool or string around the plastic cups to make your baskets.

Use sticky-tape to secure each end, and also to hold the wool in place if you’re trying to get full-coverage over the plastic. Alternating colours makes the basket look more interesting. (I was able to re-use some string that I had taken off the submarines we made last month — so be generous with the wool, you can always retrieve the lengths later before you bin the craft at the end of its life.)

Further decorate the ballons.

Hot-air balloon craft, August 2010
When they're dry, you can decorate your balloons with stickers.

Assemble the bits.

Hot-air balloon craft, August 2010
Hang the basket underneath the balloon with lines of string and lots of sticky-tape to hold it all in place.

This is the most Mummy-intensive part of the craft. Basically I did all the stringing and taping, and the girls just held their balloon in place.

Find some toys to take for a ride.

Hot-air balloon craft, August 2010
Once the hot-air balloon is assembled, it's great for taking toys for a ride!

Mummycraft factor: 7. There was a little bit of preparation in cutting the paper, preparing the glue and blowing up the balloons. I didn’t need to intervene when the paper was being glued on, but I took the balloons outside to hang them to dry. In making the baskets, I taped the ends of the string to the cups. And finally, I assembled the whole lot. (The Mummycraft factor tells you how much of the craft the mummy ends up doing. 10 is full-on-Mummy-does-the-craft and 0 is walk-away-and-come-back-to-a-finished-craft.)