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Have fun with mask-making this autumn and winter

Weather watching is a national pastime in Britain and never is this more so than when winter's approaching. All of a sudden, everyone's an expert and people are proffering opinions about the berries on holly bushes indicating we might or might not have snow.

This week, the Met Office stepped in - and brought what could be gloomy news for anyone with young children. Apparently, the outlook for the rest of November right through to January 2015 is for "spells of wet and windy weather [that] may be more frequent than is typical".

Of course, forecasts are famously changeable, but this could indicate that we might be getting a lot of rainy play days in the near future. When kids can't get out and about as much and garden play equipment is being deluged by storms, what can mums and dads do to keep youngsters occupied.

Well, there are plenty of ideas, but one of our all-time favourites is mask-making. It's crafty, it uses their imaginative powers and it can be as easy or as detailed as you like. Here's our guide featuring all the best advice we've rounded up over the years.

Basic masks

You don't need much equipment at all to get cracking with basic masks. Just buy a pack of paper plates (or gather waste cardboard and draw around plates to make circles), some string or elastic and craft materials such as coloured paper, sequins, pipe cleaners and crayons.

Children of all ages can enjoy getting their designs down, adding embellishments and then looking at themselves in the mirror while wearing their creations.

Just make sure that an adult is on hand to cut the eye holes and gaps for the string to go through in the card, as you don't want little ones messing around with scissors.

You can even make the activity simpler still by buying cheap eye masks from the pound shop and cutting holes in them. These can also be decorated and will create a 'masked ball' look, plus they should last longer than paper varieties.

How to make papier mache masks

For older children or if you've got more time to supervise little ones, you could go more adventurous and opt for papier mache masks.

You'll need some blown-up balloons, torn-up newspaper, brushes, flour and water. Mix one cup of water with the same amount of flour and blend it until you get a smooth paste, then dip the first piece of newspaper in it.

Lay the strip over the front of the balloon and keep doing this until you've got about four layers that completely cover it. Ignore the back of the balloon. Once this has dried, the newspaper layers should be rock hard.

Next, pop the balloon and get children to decorate the remaining mask - adults can again step in to punch holes for eyes and elastic. You might need the fastenings a little tighter this time, as the result will be somewhat heavier.

Create exciting designs and even educational masks

Encourage children's imagination to run riot when mask-making, as they can paint and draw almost anything from happy clowns and brave lions to cute kittens and angry robots.

If you like, though, you can also make the crafty session more educational for older kids by using them as educational tools. For instance, you could ask the youngsters to look up an animal in a nature book and then copy it for their mask.

Once they've done, they can pretend to be the creature using what they have learnt during the task. Similarly, masks might be made of historical figures such as Native American or Aztec deities in order to teach children about particular periods in history.

We don't yet know if we'll get rotten weather for the rest of this autumn and the oncoming winter - but you're sure to have so much fun mask-making that you really won't care what's happening outside your windows!