Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Felt Wreath Ornaments

Each year, Nora and I (and now Soren too) try to work on a craft to give as gifts to friends & family.  Last year, Nora threw her little heart & soul into papier mache ornaments.  This year, we're making felt wreaths (sorry if this is a spoiler to any family members!  Consider it...a sneak peek!).

This is an easy and pleasantly absorbing craft that I found on the terrific blog maya*made

You need:

-- various colors of felt
-- buttons in different colors & sizes
-- 3 1/2 " embroidery hoops
-- glue
-- ribbon or embroidery thread for hanging
-- pinking shears
Using your pinking shears, cut diamonds from the felt long enough to fold over your embroidery hoop, points-out. Glue the tips together. Keep gluing diamonds along your hoop until you have it as covered as you like.

When the glue has dried, let your child decorate the hoop with buttons. Nora liked putting all her buttons along the tips. In the maya*made design, she placed the buttons along the inside of the hoop. It's interesting how people have different artistic instincts! I let Nora arrange them however she pleased, because this is "her" gift.
Soren arranged a few buttons too, but then lost interest...so he did have *some* input into the family craft. We call him the Director of Morale.

Salt Dough Ornaments

The other night, we made salt dough ornaments.  It's a rustic little craft that kids can do much of themselves, and since we had water, salt, flour, and food coloring around the house already, we didn't have to venture out into the cold (and Nora, as you can see, could happily remain in her pajamas as she had most of the day!).  I've posted the simple recipe below.  It can easily be halved if you are running out of salt (like we were).  A half-batch made plenty of ornaments to decorate Nora's little Christmas tree. 

The coarser the salt you use, the more it will show up in the dough.  Add the food coloring to the water before mixing it into the dry ingredients.  Also, add your water just a little at a time, because I found that our mixture got too wet very quickly, and I had to add more flour.

Roll 'em out, give your kids some cookie cutters, and maybe a few doo-dads (buttons, craft pasta, etc.) to stick into the dough.  Even my 21-month-old was able to enjoy this!  He became very quiet and focused on squishing the buttons into the dough, but I cannot guarantee such an outcome for all 21-month-olds (or even my own on a different day!).  :)

Please scroll down for the recipe......


Is it just me, or are chubby little hands, concentrating on a craft project, incredibly cute?
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Salt Dough Recipe

As promised.....pictures & more winter crafts coming tonight.

1 cup flour
1 cup salt
about 2 cups water  (add a little at a time)

Combine your flour & salt well in a bowl. Gradually add water until you have a not-too-wet doughlike substance. Roll out as you would cookies, cut into shapes, and let air dry or bake at 200 degrees for a couple hours til dry (keeping an eye on them -- thin edges may begin to brown before other shapes).

You can add food coloring or glitter to the water to jazz 'em up....

Push in sequins or buttons or colored craft pasta...

Remember to make a hole in the top of the ornament with a toothpick, so you can string up your ornaments!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Specialty Shaped Crayons

A friend of ours recently made a batch of these fun crayons for Nora when we were homebound with the flu. I thought they were adorable. They're also a handy way to re-use bits and pieces of old crayons. You can make these crayons in any shape that you have a mold for, and in any colors you choose. Wouldn't red and green crayons, in a baggie with some ribbon, make pretty holiday gifts for small children?

I'll let my friend Deya tell you exactly how she made them:

You'll Need:

-- Molds in desired shapes, in this case stars ( I used a silicone mold)

-- Approximately 6 crayons per star

1. Preheat oven to 250F

2. Cut crayons to about pea size

3. Arrange crayon pieces in molds. I made them all unicolor, but you can combine colors if you like in different designs

4. Put in oven and leave until almost completely melted (residual heat will finish melting last few pieces), +/- 20 min.

5. Let sit until completely cool and pop out.  With a silicone mold this was REALLY easy. But if you use metal kind you can pop in freezer and that will make the crayon shrink enough to make it pop out easier.
Draw to your heart's content!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Big Kids and Little Kids

Lately, I've been looking for crafts my kids (ages 1 1/2 and just-turned-four) can do together, and also crafts my older child can make for the younger one.  I'll start with crafts older kids can make for younger kids -- maybe even for upcoming holiday gifts.

Here are a few ideas I've turned up over the past few months.  If you have any good ideas....please share!

"Color Boxes" Big Kids Can make for Babies

Many older siblings love to "teach" their little brothers and sisters things.   Nora was excited about the opportunity to help Soren learn his colors by making "color boxes."  It was even better that my own "little" brother (whom I "taught" many a thing back in the day -- I used to corner the poor child in his walker thing when he was a baby and read to him from an Encyclopedia of Insects -- he still has tremors at the sight of a bug) was in town to help out!  (See hairy arm and sideburns above.)

To make :

--Gather small cardboard boxes and whatever colors of paint you'd like to use (we started with red and green boxes). 

--Paint each box the color you're hoping to teach.  We painted them inside and out, even on the bottom, 'cause we just get a little crazy when we paint.

--When your box is dry, Mod Podge or spray-shellac it so that the finish is shiny and it will open and close easily.  (Note: Conventional Mod Podge dries tacky.  You can use "Hard Drying" Mod Podge or a coat of spray shellac on top of a Mod Podged box, so that the finish is shiny and smooth.)

--When the varnish coat is dry, wander around the house with your older child and have him or her help you gather appropriately colored objects to fill the box!

Nora loves going through the items in the box with Soren and teaching him his colors. 

"Touch-and-Feel Picture" for Younger Siblings

Older kids can design a "touch-and-feel" picture for their younger brothers and sisters, or even make a whole book.  Nora worked on this picture for her little brother when he was about 16 months old.  He loved it, although it's the kind of thing you'd want to supervise a younger child with (I don't think 3-year-olds really understand, you know, safety codes when making a toy for a younger sibling, so we glued things like craft pasta onto Soren's picture -- obviously, this item would be recalled from Toys R Us!...).  But, Nora enjoyed presenting Soren with her picture, and his little fingers were busy exploring all the fun textures.


--Gather materials: 2 large pieces of heavyweight paper; crayons and paints; "feely" materials (felt, pom-poms, fine grit sandpaper, pipe cleaners, anything you think a younger child might like to feel); glue.

-- Let your child design a picture they think their younger sibling would like.  Nora chose "an ocean scene," but then asked me "to draw a car in it because Soren loves cars."  See?  So thoughtful.  ;)

--When the picture is dry, cut holes in it wherever a "feely" material should go.

-- Line up your two pieces of paper.  Wherever you have made a circle in the top sheet, glue your "feely material" to the bottom sheet so that it shows through.

-- When all of your feely items are glued into place and the two pieces of paper are lined up, glue the two pieces together.

--  There!  A fun picture for the baby to admire and feel.  It's so sweet to watch your older child present the little one with a gift!

~~ A few more ideas for Big Kids and Little Kids: ~~

-- Mama's Doodles has a clever and adorable Onesie designed by an older sibling craft.  The big brother or sister colors a picture on fine grit sandpaper with crayons, and then mama irons the image right onto a onesie -- a great gift for a new baby to wear home from the hospital, or maybe a fun present from big kid to little kid for the baby's first birthday!

Play Tips for Different-Aged Siblings

Games "Big Kids" Can Play with Their Younger Siblings

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fairy Houses

We found the book "Fairy Houses" by Tracy Kane at our local library and decided to build one of our own.

This book tells the story of a young girl who vacations on an island off the coast of Maine for a week with her parents. They show her a little spot in the forest where people have been building houses for fairies. Kristen builds her own house and waits for the fairies to arrive...

The back of the book gives lots of great ideas for building your own fairy house in any season of the year. It also gives ideas for allowing creatures other than fairies to benefit from the "fairy houses" -- gathering berries and acorns for birds and squirrels, etc. Nora was instantly inspired and wanted to get right to it, even before breakfast.

Chck out The Crafty Crow's "Fairy Crafts Roundup" for more ideas...

We did break one rule of the fairy house, which was not picking or disturbing any living materials. Nora wanted to pick some flowers to decorate the house. I figured that, since we were in our own backyard, this was okay.
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Nora spent a good hour that morning working on her house (yes, she looks a little eccentric here, since she was still in her pajamas and insisted on wearing her gigantic star-spangled sunglasses). Soren just tried to do everything she did. Bless his little heart.

She built a stick wall, "to protect the fairies from predators." She used a magnolia branch for the roof, and dry grass and clover to line the back of the house. She made a "driveway" out of rocks (do fairies drive?). :) Later that afternoon, I remembered our milkweed plant and brought her some milkweed pods. I showed her how to slice them open lengthwise with her thumbnail, and she thought they would make perfect fairy beds. She tucked them inside the fairy house.
The finished, decorated house:

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Making a Worm House

This was a very popular activity with my daughter and her friends. How can you beat worms for easy-care, quiet pets?! :)

You'll need:

-- a clean, dry 2-liter plastic bottle (just rinse well; don't use soap)
-- an Xacto knife or razor blade to cut the top off the bottle
-- sand, dirt, newspaper for inside worm house
-- trowel for digging up wormy friends
-- plastic wrap to put across top of house
-- veggie scraps or rice cereal powder to feed your worms

Step One: Using your razor blade or Xacto Knife, cut the top rounded part off of your 2-liter bottle:

Step Two: Have your child help you shred up some newspaper. (Don't use any glossy inserts or magazine stuff; just the regular ol' newspaper). Put a couple of inches of newspaper in the bottom of the worm house.

Step Three: Layer sand and dirt, alternately, up to a few inches from the top of your worm house. A couple of inches of dirt, a couple of sand; and so on. I think we had space to do this cycle just 2 times. Somewhere in the middle of this, you can sprinkle a little baby oatmeal or rice cereal powder for the worms to eat; or toss in a few pieces of diced veggie like tomato scraps, a couple potato peels (diced very small) -- something the worms can eat.

Step Four: Find your worms! This may be easiest after a rain. We found one big nightcrawler, which we gave to our friend, and then a bunch of teeny tiny worms. (I read later that nightcrawlers feel the vibrations when you are digging, and they hurry down deeper, which was probably why we only caught that one and no others. You have to be a little fast to catch them! The regular garden worms are easy, though.) My daughter got so into her worms that we actually bought a few more nightcrawlers from a pet shop the next day, so she could see them better.

Step Five: Place a layer of plastic wrap across the top of your worm house and poke a few small holes in it. Keep it in a cool, dark place for up to 10 days. Check on your worms a few times a day, and you will see them dig tunnels, gradually mixng the sand and dirt together. Sometimes they will even slide right alongside the plastic, and you can see their insides. Be sure to put the worm house back in its dark place when you are done (more than a few minutes of light at a time is bad for them). After a week or so, release them into your garden or compost pile, where they will live on happily, keeping your garden healthy.



We learned a lot about worms during our "worm week."

We read the books Diary of a Worm and Bob and Otto. Both very good!

We enjoyed the narrative and videos at The Adventures of Herman the Worm, a great web site for kids from the University of Illinois extension. (We especially were interested in learning about the worms' anatomy -- did you know they have a gizzard, like a chicken does? It's a little organ right behind their mouths and it's filled with teensy rock particles. When a worm ingests food, it can't chew, so the gizzard grinds up the food into smaller particles that the worm is able to digest. One of our worms slithered right along the plastic container and we were able to see its gizzard in action!)

Worms also have five hearts! We learned this on the great web site Wendell the Worm. You can see a little video of a worm's five hearts pumping blood. You can also see a video of a baby worm hatching from a cocoon smaller than a grain of rice. (I had trouble linking to these directl, so you can click on the "All About Earthworms" links to get there.)

Herman's "Worm Facts" are fascinating -- we learned that there are worms in Australia that regularly grow to 12 feet long! The longest worm ever found was in South America, and was 22 feet long! Aaaa! We pulled out the tape measure and tried to imagine worms as long as our whole house!

You can visit Wendell the Worm's cousins, including Larry Leech and Paulette Planaria.

You can eat a "worm snack" if you dare -- a cup of chocolate pudding with a gummy worm stuck inside, and cookie crumbs sprinkled on top. ;)

"Worm Art" -- glue lots of lengths of different colored string on sandpaper.

This link was really fun....have your child click on their state to see worm pictures sent in from kids in that state.

Can your child figure out what's funny about this poem?:

It's such a shock,
I almost screech
When I find a worm
inside my peach!

But then, what really
makes me blue
Is to find a worm
who's bit in two!

-William Cole

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Newspaper Flowers


Below are simple instructions for lovely newspaper-and-button flowers, easy enough for a child to make with just a little help. I saw this craft on the blog Imagination Station.
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Step One: Spread out a couple of thicknesses of newspaper and paint the top layer in a variety of pretty, complementary colors. The more newspaper you paint, the more flowers you can make, so be generous with yourself! Let the paint dry.

Step Two: Unfold a cereal box to use for your templates. Find five round objects to trace (or draw circles freehand if you're good at it) -- you want five circles, each slightly larger than the other. Here are the five we traced:

Step Three: Cut out your cardboard circles and, on the dry, painted newspaper, trace one of each circle for every flower that you want. Cut out your newspaper circles and let your child crumple each one slightly (fun fun). Then, smooth them slightly and layer the five circles, from smallest to largest, one on top of the other.

Step Four: Poke a small hole through the middle of all of the circles. Place one button on your pipe cleaner, right side down, and push it about half an inch down on the pipe cleaner. Then push the pipe cleaner through the five newspaper rounds. Top it off with a final button, right side up. Twist the pipe cleaner so the button won't come off.

(Alternatively, you could punch two small holes in the newspaper so the pipe cleaner goes up through the paper and button, and back down, twisting closed behind the paper.

If you are short on buttons, you can use just the top button, but the "flowers" may slide down on the pipe cleaner stem somewhat.)

Fill a vase with rocks, rice, or marbles and arrange your flowers. Very pretty, and they last a long time!
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Printmaking, Preschooler-Style

I encountered the idea of printmaking with children on the blog Let's Explore. The prints looked complicated, but after testing the process out, I realized that it is so easy!

All you need is:
-- watercolor paper
-- a slick surface (like the back of a folder or placemat)
-- paintbrushes and washable paint
-- tape
-- Q-tips

The basic idea is that your child paints on the slick surface (we used the back of a vinyl placemat; the paint will wash off easily whenever you want to change colors). Then, she uses a Q-tip to draw a picure in the paint. When a page of watercolor paper is placed on top and then peeled away, her image will be there, in white on the painted paper! Very cool!

(A note on watercolor paper: You do need to use this rather than regular drawing paper, because otherwise the edges of your paper will curl up too much as the paper dries. However, your watercolor paper need not be expensive. A glance-over at Michael's revealed that watercolor paper ranged from $16 a pack to $2.99. Obviously, I went for the $2.99. It served our purposes just fine.)

Just follow our easy steps below....
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1) Tape around the edges of your watercolor paper. This is so that,

no matter how crazy your child may go while painting, you will still end up with a nice clean edge like this:

(I think peeling the tape off at the end may have been Nora's favorite part. Magic!)

2) Set your child up with the painting surface (in our case, the back of a placemat). Have your child fill in the entire area with a layer of paint.

3) Using a Q-tip, let your child draw whatever picture she wants. But, explain that if she wants to make a print, she'll have only a few minutes to draw because the print needs to be made before the paint dries. (We abandoned a few pictures to live out their lives as "mere" paintings, because I didn't want to nag at Nora about the time while she was enjoying her creativity. Paintings that she finished more quickly went into second lives as Prints.)

4) Genly place your watercolor paper atop the placemat. Again, gently, rub the back of the paper, being careful not to let it shift (or your image will blur). Nora wanted to help with this step, but she is three, and simply could not do it without rubbing her image into oblivion. Once this became clear, she was okay with me taking over.

5) Peel up the watercolor paper to reveal your image. COOL!

Then hang them up and enjoy:
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