The Best of Making Things by Ann Wiseman

A classic bible of hands-on craft activities for kids of all ages. 162 pages, illustrated, indexed.

$8.00 — $10.00

When a child asks, “what can I do,” share this book and say: “Let’s make things! Paper from laundry lint! Chocolate pudding finger paintings! A cardboard box loom [that teaches weaving and math]! Stocking masks, a braided wig, and a grass hat!” Perennially popular, it’s a good bet for any parent, teacher, and makers who want to explore new realms of creativity.

Even non-readers can easily see how to weave, carve soap, turn a stick of willow into a whistle, or fashion their own stilts; scraps of cardboard become “cardboard racing turtles” — an activity the whole family can enjoy; a box becomes a play horse. Paper turns into sculpture and aeroplanes, as well as hand-made books. Mobiles and pendulum-driven sand-drawing explore the science of gravity; zoetropes and flip cards illustrate stop-motion animation; simple looms and other techniques turn rope and cloth into hats and shoes, macrame, twined baskets, and clothes. When you’re hungry, bake tasty bread dough and fashion it into edible sculpture; for dessert, try “stained glass cookies” made from melted lollypops. Then celebrate by making “sweet sounds from found objects.” Creativity for everyone!

Author Ann Sayre Wiseman developed the projects while running the Boston Children’s Museum visitor’s center, and said, “I still meet people who say ‘Making Things was (or is) my bible.”

She selected the projects to “develop natural curiosity and self-esteem” and to teach a range of “simple and important concepts that have shaped the cultures of the world.” Her philosophy of “learning by doing” is older than Aristotle, and the ethic of using odds and ends to “make something out of nothing” helps teach basic concepts of sustainability.

There is no expiration on the invitation to the creative artist in each of us. As Ann says in her note to “beginners and late starters”:

Remember, you know more than you think you know…

When you have tried most of the activities in this book, you will have taught your hands lots of useful skills for fun, for necessity, for leisure, and for survival.

  • These skills and concepts can set your imagination free and inspire you to try your own variations.
  • As you train your eyes to see and your hands to know, you will strengthen your belief in yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and go beyond the rules.

Originally published by Little, Brown, in the 70s, it quickly won a Scientific American Young Reader’s Award, a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award, and selection by the Book-of-the-Month Club. This revised edition combines the best selections from the original two volumes.

Ms. Wiseman was an accomplished artist with work in the Rockefeller and Hirschorn collections; she also pioneered the field of Art Therapy (see Nightmare Help, and Satisfy the Image), and authored a dozen other craft, music, and travel books.

Reviews for The Best of Making Things: A Handbook of Creative Discovery:

“…consistently the most useful book I’ve used with kids…[it] has been and still is my bible.” Cathy Wilson, author, mother of 9 home schooled kids, and a teacher of youth in custody.

“Just as magical as it was in the 70s…so many amazing ideas…wonderful starting points for me and my five-year-old to do lots of fun low-tech projects and hand-made toys…”
“I absolutely love this book! and the kids do, too.”
“…she makes it all do-able with her hand-drawn instructions and zest for life…. Very environmentally responsible…friendly and properly fun. Great parenting and nanny resource. Brilliant!”
Amazon 5-star reviews.

“Fresh and inspiring…Parents and teachers will delight in this creative book. The majority of the ingenious projects are not found in other craft books.” – Library Journal, starred review.

“…classic…a popular manual [with] simple but thorough directions for everything from…paper-bag puppets to decorating your own window shades.” – Boston Globe

“Excellent and innovative…helps it audience become real artisans.” – Horn Book.

“…one of the most exciting play and workbooks to come along…. Particularly invaluable for the teacher of children’s craft or the parent on a rainy afternoon…brimming with the wonder of discovery and creation…” – SF Examiner & Chronicle.

“Now that I’ve seen [it], I know why these customers thought so highly of it…using words like “special” and “sense of wonder.”…an extraordinary book.” – Chinaberrry Book Service.

“Fun, painlessly educational, handy to leave lying around for a bored child and you’ll enjoy watching him spring to creative life!” – South Shore Mirror.

“The best book of its kind I have ever come across.” – Jane Yolen, Northampton Gazette.

“An excellent resource book…[for] elementary [and] high school…. Highly recommended…. Ms. Wiseman’s approach encourages individual freedom for creative expression and pride in acccomplishments.” – Curriculum Advisory Service, in Fine Arts.

“Truly, a document of ‘revelations and adventures,’ Making Things …is an answer to the child’s perpetual question, ‘what can I do?’…encourages the reader to become adept in many skills and to gain a measure of self-understanding as he develops latent talents for creativity.” – Tallahassee Democrat.

“I love your Making Things …there’s warmth and care…and how to and excitement and mood and all the way till morning. ‘Doing is contagious’ … and so are you and what you do.” – P. Cardozo, Director, Bantam Books

“I haven’t even finished reading your book…but I must hurriedly write and thank you for such a creative and simple book on art and all it includes…What else is there to say? I only want you to know I am one of (hopefully many) peoples using your book and its damn honest attitude.” – A. Bandenieks, Thunder Bay Ontario

“Making Things is absolutely great!” – F.M. Trace, Director of Elementary Education, City of Rochester, NH.

“That lovely, fascinating book! …It should help…teachers; and day care centers; and those who work with mentally or physically handicapped children; and families both prosperous and poverty-stricken.” – K. Taylor, educator, former head of Shady Hill School (MA)

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