Blake Endelman
LEFT: Blake Endelman, 3, uses a pair of make-believe binoculars he made with toilet paper rolls. (Arielle Endelman)

Arielle Endelman said all these crafts ideas are simple and can be done quickly, which makes them ideal for parents trying to juggle childcare while working from home.

If you are a parent of a preschooler and possess an ample supply of last year’s coveted rolls of toilet tissue and paper towels, hang onto that cardboard center. According to Arielle Endelman, creator of the recently launched Instagram crafting site @itsmarthajewart, the humble cardboard roll can be used for countless projects to keep preschoolers occupied during these long pandemic months.

Arielle Endelman Craft
Arielle Endelman

When Endelman, of West Bloomfield, is not working from home at her job as director of admissions for Frankel Jewish Academy, she is keeping her 3-year-old son Blake entertained though the joy of arts and crafts.

Endelman and Blake began their foray into craftiness at the beginning of the pandemic by collecting those toilet paper rolls and turning two into a pair of make-believe binoculars that kept him entertained and exploring through the spring and summer.

As the seasons changed and fall set in, Endelman and Blake created collages of Thanksgiving turkeys made with feathers and stray buttons. It was at this point that she and Blake had amassed quite the crafting portfolio. Her husband and sister suggested she photograph the creations and upload them to a dedicated Instagram account to share ideas with other families.

Arielle Endelman Craft
Arielle Endelman

“My husband and sister have called me ‘Martha Jewart’ as a joke, and the name stuck,” said Endelman. “So, when I saw that name was available, I used it for a new Instagram account.”

Now, @itsmarthajewart has about 250 followers. The posts are photos of mainly collage-like projects pasted to construction paper: an airplane with paper clips for wings flying through a blue sky dotted with cotton puff clouds; dinosaur silhouettes painted and cut out and glued on shimmery paper, and a “snow globe” with a snowman made of white paper circle cutouts with pipe cleaners for arms and a thin piece of yarn for a scarf.

In addition to secular craft ideas, @itsmarthajewart also includes projects for Jewish holidays.

For Chanukah, Endelman and Blake created a latke frying pan by covering a paper plate with aluminum foil and formed “latkes” with torn bits of brown construction paper. Endelman also posted about simple science experiments that involved mixing water with oil.

“Craft projects can also lead the way into simple science experiments with things most everyone has in their pantry, including food coloring and vegetable oil.”

For a more kinetic craft to create a firework display to celebrate New Year’s, Endelman cut the end of some toilet paper rolls into fringes. Blake dunked the fringed ends into colored paint and then slammed them onto construction paper.

Arielle Endelman Craft
Arielle Endelman

Endelman said all these crafts are simple and can be done quickly, which makes them ideal for parents trying to juggle childcare while working from home.

“Kids having lots of screen time has become unavoidable,” Edelman admits. “But if you have a small space or box dedicated to crafts stocked with supplies like crayons, paper plates and pipe cleaners, you and your kids can take half-hour breaks away from the screen and create something that is fun and experiential.”

Endelman said that she is amazed at the “genuine feeling of community” the Instagram account is creating across parents from a wide range of backgrounds and geographic areas.

“I have moms from all over the country and also Switzerland, Sweden and Israel,” Endelman said.

“I may not have many followers yet, but what I have found is that we are building a community about coming up with how to engage small children in something creative during this pandemic.”

Tu b’Shevat ideas

As Tu b’Shevat (Jan. 27) approaches, Endelman suggested the following crafting or science experiment ideas to introduce preschoolers to the New Year of the Trees:

• Go on a nature walk, collect twigs and use them as paint brushes.

• Create a tree: Dip feet in brown paint and step on construction paper. Make branches with handprints and leaves and fruit with fingerprints.

• Dye a bag of rice green with vinegar and food coloring. Print or draw the outlines of a tree trunk and leaves. Cover the tree shape with glue and then with the green rice. Shake off excess rice to create tree with textured green leaves.

• Once again, put those toilet paper rolls to use. Print out or draw a tree trunk. Then, pinch the toilet paper roll end into a leaf shape and dip in various color paints to make leaves.

“It’s all about those toilet paper rolls,” Endelman reminded. “For preschool crafts, they are like gold.”

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