Introduction: Children's Wedding Entertainment for Under a Tenner

About: I'm a student mental health nurse and I live with my remarkable fiancee in a house overflowing with our books, craft material and tools. It's great.

Hi everyone! This is entered in the DIY wedding challenge, so if you like it, please vote for it!

Weddings are a wonderful occasion, but sometimes for the smallest guests they can drag on a little bit. The long speeches, all the grown-ups talking about grown up things, and so many extra rules about how to behave...before you know it there's tears before bedtime for everybody.

Unfortunately the cost of hiring a separate room and childrens' entertainer can be just as eye-watering, and the chances are you will have at least a couple of children coming to your big day. So what to do? Fortunately, this DIY wedding challenge will show you not just how to keep your young friends entertained, but impress their parents (and other guests) with your consideration. Even better, it's fully customisable to each child and will only cost you as much as you want it to. When they walk to their place and see the big present waiting at just their place on the table, their eyes will positively light up and you'll be glad you avoided paying ten times the amount for a man with balloons.

Step 1: The Box

The whole point of this instructable is to create something beautiful that kids will want to tear into. To do this, you will need the following basic supplies:
- a box with a lid (a shoebox is ideal)
- scissors
- glue (anything that sticks paper to paper / card)
- paint / spray can
- sponge or brush to apply the paint
- decorative ribbons

Use whatever is lying aroiund the house from Christmas, birthdays and old craft projects, and this step can cost you nothing.

Step 2: Preparing the Box

Ensure all corners are sealed, and paint the box. I've chosen silver paint, but you can use whatever co-ordinates with your theme. Note, painting is much more preferable to covering the box in paper at this stage, because even a milimetre of paper can get in the way of the lid sliding on smoothly.

In the picture the box has only had it's first coat of paint. Remember:
- Always make sure you have covered the box completely
- Leave each layer to dry
- If necessary, take a small brush to get the paint in the corners of your box and lid for the best possible effect.

Step 3: Box Essentials

The contents of your boxes should primarily focus on quiet, at table entertainment that children can engage with with minimal input from their parents and don't rely on other children to play with. Of course, you should always be mindful of the differing ages of younger guests, and as a guideline I have put together box suggestions for 3-5 year olds, 5-7 year olds and 7-9 year olds. I've also tried to opt for gender neutral toys wherever possible, but of course you can use your own discretion based on what you know about each child's preferences.

However, there are a couple of free things which you can put in each box. These are:

(nearly) free goodies
- a couple of printed animal colouring masks (online resource)
- a colouring scene stuck into the lid (online resource)
- sheets of scrap paper (children of all ages love to scribble or write, and aren't fussy about what's on the back)
- string or elastic, enough for each mask (not shown). Alternatively, if you don't have string or elastic already in the house, you could consider ribbon - just use whatever is on hand!

To get from the dollar store or pound shop
- crayons or coloured pencils (non toxic wax crayons or chubby pencils for preference...and if you must have pens ensure they're fully washable out of best clothes!)
- multipack of stickers (can be used to decorate in or outside of the box, or used in activities. Don't be afraid to cut up bigger sheets to offer a broad selection in each box)

For me the stationery elements of the box to averaged out at just under a couple of quid thanks to the pound shop. Again, I'm just as sure these same items can be found in dollar stores in the US, or other equivalents worldwide,

The dragon and lion masks I chose are from , and the rainforest scene I chose for the lid is from . Both sites have lots of different options, and of course if you search online, particularly through teacher resources, you will find lots more ideas. You could look for images of space, underwater themes, or fantasy pictures with pirates, dragons and mermaids etc. However, I like the pictures at animal-dino because they also have a small paragraph of information about the animals in the picture, which is an extra element to interest the older children. Whatever you use though, remember that you will need to ensure it fits in the lid, either by resizing it on your computer or by trimming it with scissors.

REMEMBER: your guests won't have access to scissors, so make sure you cut out the shapes and eyeholes before the masks go in the box!

Step 4: 3-5 Years Old Box

In my box for the 3-5 year olds I have also included:

- chunky plasticine sticks (with plastic animal heads and legs to stick in the modelling clay if required)
- a chubby lego-style construction kit that makes a great car to roll along the table
- a soft toy
- a wipe clean magnetic drawing board. NOTE: magnets are EXTREMELY dangerous if swallowed as they can attract to each other through the soft tissue of the intestine. If there are any small magnets in a toy you are considering, either take all the hazardous pieces out before giving them to your guests or just don't buy it!

All of these items cost me £1 from the pound shop, bringing this box total to £6 including the stationery on the previous page.

Step 5: 5-7 Years Old Box

In the 5-7 years old box, I have added the following items to the stationery. A couple of them do require play with another person, but they wouldn't take too much of an adult's concentration - they could easily listen to speeches or hold a conversation whilst playing. The items below and their costs are:

- a match the pairs card game (£2)
- a notebook (75p)
- tic tac toe game (85p)
- a yo-yo (£1)
- party bag filler wooden animal kit (50p! And as there are many animals to choose from at that price there is nothing to stop you buying whole flat-packed farms / forests)
- a small pack of modelling clay  (85p)

The items pictured only came to £5.85, bringing this box total to less than £7.95.

All toys shown here are from , which is a UK store that specialises in stocking filler presents and "pocket money toys". A quick search for eather phrase online will show you options in your country, including more in the UK.

Step 6: 7-9 Years Old Box

This box had all the usual stickers, masks and paper, in addition to:

- a wooden constructable dinosaur (£1 from my local pound shop)
- the notebook (85p)
- a book of "magic eye" tricks (£1 from the pound shop)
- a miniature wooden puzzle cube to assemble (£1.75, and I couldn't figure it out.)
- Magic plastic (£3)
- sequin craft (£1.25)

Toys tend to become quite decisively gendered and / or interest focused at this point, so this is where your personal knowledge of the children will really come in. And if you don't know them, ask their parents! They'll be delighted you're showing an interest, and it will also give you the chance to find out some other crucial information. For example, some parents don't like their children having access to "war" toys, and occasionally a child might have sensitive skin that is exacerbatred by certain plastic compounds. Also remember that anything crafty must be self contained: you can't provide glue and paints on the day and your other guests won't want their dinner to be interrupted by a junior art class.

The items above come to £8.85, which puts the total of this box - £10.85 - a little over a tenner. However, they're all just options to can spend what you want.

Step 7: Additional Options

You might be happy to give children toys they can run around with or that make a little bit of noise, maybe whilst the dancing is happening. If this is the case your options open up massively. You'll still need to be careful about the age guidelines, but gliders and parachute men can be had for about about 40p-60p, and racing wind up toys can be had for about £2. However, if you have a Christmas in between now and your big day, make a note to go and investigate your local supermarkets in the days immediately afterwards - I bought the stamp set, the racing cowboy and indian and the egg of silly putty in this way one year, and all cost me only a pound!

Step 8: Final Fitting of Box

Do any last minute touch ups of paint, and stick your colouring picture in the lid with the pritstick.

Step 9: Placement in the Box

Arrange the items nicely in the box. If you want to add to the excitement of digging through the box or if the chosen toys are on the small side, you could add coloured shreds or similar.

Step 10: Decoration

Cut a length of ribbon five times the length of the longest side of your box. I used florist ribbon because we had some in the house, but you could also use fabric, crepe, tissue paper or whatever else is to hand or cheaply available. Remember: too much is better than too little!

- place the box upside down on the ribbon, leaving an equal amount of ribbon on each side.
- bring them to the middle and twist round each other tightly to 90 degrees.
- flatten the twist slightly with one finger, then flipping it over bring the ribbons up the other sides of the box

Picture 1
- Keeping the ribbons tight, slip each ribbon from the side under the central one

Picture 2
- tie the side ribbons together under the main one,
-  tie the side ribbons together over the main one (not shown)

Picture 3
Cut or tear the left over ribbon into strips, and curl with scissors but leave one uncurled.

Step 11: Finishing Touches

Attach a gift card. You can use any leftover wedding stationery, or make one yourself. Make it as fancy as you like, then:

- punch a hole in the corner
- thread the last uncurled ribbon through the hole,
- secure the ribbon by tying it in the base of the curls.

And there you have it! A stylish, personalised and cost effective way to keep kids entertained at your wedding!

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