Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How Do They Come up with This Stuff?

I haven't posted any quotes for a few months. Don't worry, though, because I've been saving the most memorable ones for when I finally get around to typing them. That would be now. Looking back on these quotes make me laugh, and I really have to wonder how they come up with this stuff?

1/23/13 - A New Simile
Mia (while getting into the van to go to school): "I feel like a cold egg that's been in the refrigerator."

1/23/13 - The Blame Game
Me: "Ew! Somebody's been wiping boogers on the wall."
Logan: "It was Mama!"
Yes, obviously, I was trying to deflect my guilt here.

2/1/13 - A Matter of Taste
Logan (at dinner): "Those butterfly noodles are sooooo good!"

2/12/13 - On Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
Logan (while banging on door): "Open, door! Open, door!" Once I unlocked it, he cheered, "Key did it! Key did it!"

2/13/13 - Cause and Effect
Mia: "Mommy look at his purple lips."
Logan: "But me want red lips."
Me (looking, noting evidence -- lips actually appear blue, not purple): "Then don't eat blue crayons."
Logan: "Oh."

2/16/13 - Why Ask Why...
Logan (at dinner): "Ow! Me eye hurts!"
Brett: "Why does your eye hurt?"
Logan: "Because me put soup juice in it."
Brett: "Well, why'd you do that?"
Logan: "Because me do'ed."
(Especially when you always get the same answer)

2/21/13 - Got Milk?
Logan (while cuddling): "I want milk from your body."
Me: "Why do you want milk from my body?"
Logan: "Because I'm not feeling well."
Me: "Well, I don't have milk anymore. You haven't nursed in awhile and I stopped making it."
He thought about this for a bit. Then, he put his hands on my breasts and informed me, "You need to drink milk so you can make more milk."

3/2/13 - I Get Schooled by My Kindergartner
Me: "Your caterpillar is doing fine."
Mia: "It's not mine. It's a wild creature that lives outside and just needs a warm place for the winter.

3/2/13 - Nice Try, Mom!
Mia shows me her newly redecorated dollhouse.
Me: "Great! Maybe now you can clean your room since you're in a redecorating, rearranging, and cleaning mode."
Mia: "I'm not in a cleaning mode!"

3/4/13 - The Great Negotiator
Logan: "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Me: "What are you thinking?"
Logan: "That we should watch another show!"

3/24/13 - Things Can Always be Worse!
Mia (in bath tub): "Mom, guess what?!"
Me (looking up from my book): "What?"
Mia: "I scrubbed my teeth!"
Me: "After you scrubbed your tushie?"
Mia: "NO! After I scrubbed my feet."

4/8/13 - The Power of Observation
Logan: "Do pants have to change color?"
Me (confused): "No, pants don't have to change color."
Logan: "This one does." {points to faded knee of blue jeans}

4/13/13 - So True
Logan (at dinner): "My food is gonna have my germs on it."

4/13/13 - Rodent Meteorology is Unreliable at Best
We have a groundhog who lives under our shed. I call him "Chuck." The kids get excited when they see him. Okay, I get kind of excited, too. He seems harmless enough, and it's like having a "pet" minus the work. I'm sure Mia would be mad at me if I dared to call him our "pet."
Mia: "Why is the groundhog out in the sun?"
Me: "Why shouldn't he be?"
Mia: "Oh, I forgot! They can't really predict the weather."

4/25/13 - Family Dynamics
Brett (to Logan, who wants to wear Brett's ball cap): "Do you want me to adjust the hat down?"
Logan: "Yeah!"
Brett (to me): "How come my hats aren't that big on his head?"
Mia: "Because he has a big, fat head!"
Logan: "Well, you have a big, fat head, too!"
The amazing thing about this exchange is that no feelings, or bodies, were hurt!

Monday, April 29, 2013

DIY: Tempera Paint

Mia had the day off from school on Friday, and I already had the homemade watercolor paints ready to go. I also decided that was a good day to try out this tempera paint recipe that I had seen on Pinterest. To start off with, I should explain that the original recipe poster just said to use colored chalk, but I figured this was the perfect way to use up the little stubs of sidewalk chalk that are left over from last season. The larger size of the chalk would probably explain why it took me so much longer than it took her to make this paint. I will also say up front that this is messy as well as time-consuming to create, so you have been warned.

That said, it worked nicely, and the consistency was exactly what I had hoped for, very much like when I mix up powdered tempera paint. I am always up for trying a new paint recipe and since this is essentially how the old masters made their paint (just assume they that used whatever natural materials were available to add pigment in place of sidewalk chalk, okay?), I rationalized that making this type of egg tempera paint for the kids could also serve as a little art history lesson. (I probably have not mentioned this here before, but once upon a time I was an art major...) I actually only explained this to Mia, but she seemed to get the idea. So, here's the paint recipe. History lessons are optional.


{Crushed sidewalk chalk produces a vibrant palette!}
Materials:
  • sidewalk chalk bits
  • water
  • egg yolk
  • zippered baggie/s
  • mallet/hammer
  • kitchen towel
  • spoons for mixing
  • muffin tin
  • paper or cardboard
  • paintbrushes
  • containers for soaking chalk

Directions:
  1. Place each color of chalk into its own container and add enough water to soak the chalk. I used plastic bowls. (Note: Our sidewalk chalk is Crayola brand, but any colored chalk should work.)
  2. Let set awhile. The original blogger said to do this for 15 minutes, but I found our chalk much tougher (maybe since it was larger?) and I ended up soaking it for 5 hours, significantly longer than 15 minutes!
  3. Break up the chalk, one color at a time. At first I tried to do this by chinking away at it with spoons, but I quickly became frustrated. Then, I decided to try the original blogger's method of putting it in a zippered baggie, wrapping it in a towel, and then pounding it with a mallet. (She said to use a hammer, but once I opened the tool box, I saw the mallet and decided that was even better!) Tip: I found that I could wash out the baggie and then re-use it several times. I ended up tearing the first one after 3 tries, but the second one lasted me until I had a dozen paint colors in our muffin tin "palette."
  4. Empty the crushed chalk into a muffin tin cup and stir in some egg yolk. I used about 1 teaspoon per color, which ended up being 3 egg yolks for 12 colors. Tip: If I had realized both kids would want to paint, I would have divided the colors into two paint palettes!
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for all other colors of paint. 
  6. Use paint immediately. We experimented with construction paper, drawing paper, and cereal boxboard panels, and all worked fine with this paint. Tip: Protect clothes with smocks or paint shirts or have kids wear old clothing before getting started. Tip: Cereal box liners work well for protecting your table. You can even wipe them down and re-use them, or you can toss them if you prefer. Tip: Since raw eggs are used in this paint, you will want to make sure that everyone washes hands after handling it, just in case, to prevent the spread of Salmonella.
  7. I believe that the paintings themselves should hold up well, unlike those made with other food-based paints that we have tried. It worked for Michelangelo, after all! Currently our left over paints are in the refrigerator, and I see no reason why we can't continue to use them for a couple of weeks.
{Egg tempera paint on cereal boxboard}

{Egg tempera paint on construction paper}

Sunday, April 28, 2013

DIY: Watercolor Paints

This recipe was one I first saw on Pinterest. Found here originally, this will make enough watercolor paint to fill 6 egg carton cups. If you want more colors, you can double the quantities, or just put less into each egg cup. I would probably just put less in each cup, since the yield for each color was quite a lot, considering that these are watercolor paints. This recipe is an easy and inexpensive way to make paint at home, and it's the first recipe I have seen for a true dried cake watercolor recipe. More importantly, it works!

{Trying out our watercolor paints}

Materials:
{Paint AFTER Setting Overnight}

  • 4 Tbs baking soda
  • 2 Tbs vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp corn syrup
  • 2 Tbs corn starch
  • liquid food coloring
  • empty egg carton
  • mixing bowl
  • spoons/skewers/popsicle sticks for stirring
  • something to protect work surface
  • paper 
  • paintbrushes
  • small container of water
Directions:
  1. In a bowl, combine baking soda with vinegar and wait until fizzing stops. 
  2. Add corn syrup and cornstarch and mix. (Note: The original directions I found said until a "uniform consistency" but I found it glue-like on the top, and paste-like on the bottom, which is not what I would call "consistent" but it worked for me.)
  3. Pour into egg cartons. You can pour it in without measuring, but I wanted to know quantities, and I found that one egg cup would hold 1 tablespoon of the paint mixture. Tip: For some reason our egg carton was leaking, so I quickly moved it on top of a cereal box liner (like free "wax paper"). I suggest covering your work surface before pouring the paint mixture into your egg cups to avoid leaks.
  4. Add food coloring to each cup and carefully stir to mix. Tip: I tried using a spoon for this, but I found that it was sloshing the colors from one egg cup to the next. Then, I switched to a skewer, and had much more control. I used 5 drops each for red, yellow, blue, and green. To make orange, I combined 2 red + 3 yellow (this came out redder than I was hoping for, so maybe it needs more yellow) and purple was just plain odd. At first I combined 2 red + 3 blue and wound up with black! Then, I added 3 drops of neon purple and that combination made the nice deep violet that I was after.
  5. Allow paint to set overnight. A couple of the colors had a little moisture on top when we used them, but this is okay.
  6. Use wet paintbrushes to apply to paper. Tip: We used card stock, which worked fine, but watercolor paper is recommended. Thick paper is ideal. Tip: Paint shirts/smocks/old clothes are always my suggestion for painting with kids.
  7. This paint dries quickly, which is nice because you can hang the paintings up much sooner than with other paints we have tried. Also, Mia liked that she could apply it thickly and get 3-D effects, not something that is normally achieved with watercolor paints. The colors do fade once they dry, but that is typical of watercolors, so I was not surprised by this.
  8. This paint should keep for awhile, but with food type paints, it is hard to tell. (Note: Since I have the problem with the egg carton that is leaking, I am keeping mine on top of the cereal box liner for now. I may have to apply tape to the bottom in the future so that I can move this from my counter into our regular art supplies storage.)
{Finished Paintings}






Friday, April 26, 2013

DIY: Air-Dry Clay

Since we have enjoyed making oven bake clay, it made sense that we would like this recipe, too. When I saw it on Pinterest labeled as a "Model Magic" type clay I was intrigued. I have always wanted us to try out the Model Magic, but I had never wanted to pay for it. So, as you can imagine, I was pretty happy to find out how easily it can be made at home. Plus, I am always looking for more fun things to do with food coloring. You can also paint this clay after it hardens, I am told, but I have not tried that since I wanted to experiment with the food coloring.

We made this batch of air-dry clay back at the end of March, so it easily will last you 2 weeks if kept in an airtight container. I made some final beads with the last of this clay 3 weeks after mixing it up, and decided to bake it, which had mixed results. The pink came out very well after I sprinkled a small amount of corn starch onto a cereal box liner and started rolling it out. The purple, however, was very moist, and several additions of corn starch did not seem to remedy this. Undeterred, I made beads with both colors because I truly wanted to know how long this stuff would keep.

I also decided to try baking the beads since I realized the recipe was very similar to this one for Bright White Clay Dough (same ingredients, different proportions), which I had also seen on Pinterest. So, I baked my last few beads on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 175 degrees for 2 hours, flipping half-way through the baking time. Then, I let them cool in the oven. The pink beads turned out great, and as expected, the purple beads did not. Although they firmed up and were functional, the color had turned a putrid shade of brown, so in the end, I tossed them out.

So, my final conclusions are that a) This recipe definitely works for making an air-dry clay cheaply and easily at home! b) You can also bake this clay, if you prefer not to give up counter space for a couple of days while it hardens. c) Food coloring will work for this clay. Colors fade after they dry/are baked, but that is to be expected. d) Clay will keep for 2-3 weeks in an air-tight container.

{Mia's sculptures + some purple beads, BEFORE drying}
Materials:
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • food coloring (optional)
  • large pot
  • spoon
  • bowls (1 per color, if making more than one color)
  • damp dish towel (1 per bowl) 
  • optional clay tools: rolling pin, cookie cutters, straws, knife, rubber stamps
  • container to keep clay (if not planning to use it all right away)
Directions for Making Air-Dry Clay:
  1. Combine baking soda, corn starch, and water in a large pot. If desired, add food coloring. (Note: I actually divided this into 2 half batches in 2 different pots and added neon pink food coloring to one and neon purple food coloring to the other, 5 drops per batch.)
  2. Cook on medium heat, stirring almost constantly until the mixture forms a mashed potatoes-like consistency.
  3. Place clay into a bowl (I used 2 since I had 2 colors) and cover with a damp dish towel. Allow clay to cool.
  4. Knead the clay until it is smooth. If damp, add a little corn starch. Tip: We did this on top of a cereal box liner (free "wax paper") and it worked very well to keep the counter clean. Plus, the clay didn't stick to the surface.
  5. Make things with the clay. You can make free-form sculptures like Mia did. (Note: Parts of her sculptures did start to fall off and I don't know if that is because of the material or because of how she made things.) I chose to make beads. Another option that we didn't try this time around is making ornaments/tags by cutting with cookie cutters, using rubber stamps for designs, and punching a hole for hanging using a straw. How To Make Beads: 1) Roll clay into coils. 2) Slice segments with a knife. 3) Use a straw to punch a hole all the way through the clay.
  6. Set aside to dry in a safe location. I found that this takes about 48 hours
  7. Store extra clay in an air-tight container. I used old Cool Whip tubs, not at all fancy, but perfectly functional. As I mentioned, this clay still worked fine after 2 weeks, but only some of it turned out after 3 weeks, so that gives you an idea of how long it will last.
{Here are the oven-baked beads: 1 purple and 3 pink}

Thursday, April 25, 2013

No More Tangles, No More Tears!

{My new favorite thing - not the girl - although, she's pretty special, too!}

While flipping through a parenting magazine (what else?) at the dentist's office last month, I came across a little blurb about something called the Knot Genie. It's a hair brush for kids that claimed to magically get rid of tangles without the crying, tugging, and power-struggles that often happen while trying to brush kids' hair. Naturally, I was interested in this, since Mia is very independent about her hair styling, but her practices are not quite living up to my personal expectations. When I told Mia about "the magic hairbrush," she became very excited. Yes, order it, order it, she told me!

So, I went to their website and saw that they offered the regular size Knot Genie, which fits in an adult's palm nicely, and a Teeny Genie, the kids-sized version. I decided that we needed both, but I didn't want to pay $20 each plus shipping and handling. Then, I turned to Amazon and was able to get both the Knot Genie and the Teeny Genie for less and with free shipping (because I had something else in my cart: this magnet set). Yay!

Once our Knot Genies arrived, Mia immediately began brushing her hair (on her own, without being asked/begged/bargained with... You get the idea.). That alone was wonderful. The fact that these hair brushes really do what they say is the icing on the cake. My child now brushes her hair independently. More importantly, she does a proper job of it, unlike before, which was really just saying she would do it herself to avoid having me do it since it would likely hurt! Oh, and she does this at minimum, once a day. Most days she brushes her hair in the morning and at night. Not only is it easier pain-free to use, it's quicker too! Mia's hair looks now looks smooth and shiny and it's free of snarls. She actually brushes her hair because it's fun and she wants to! We are both so relieved to be done with the hair-brush power struggles and the accompanying tears!

What's more, Mia even brushes volunteers to brush Logan's hair for him, which is something I typically avoid because of his curls. I can now say from experience that Knot Genie works just as well on his curly hair as it does on Mia's stick-straight hair. Knot Genie doesn't remove the curls, thankfully, but it does make him look more presentable. This is nice considering he is currently going through a "Flock of Seagulls" phase with his hair standing up in all directions rather than curling as I would like it to.

It's hard for me not to share when I discover great products that really do make parents lives easier! As silly as it may sound, our mornings are truly going more smoothly thanks to this product, a hair brush, of all things! Personally, I think it is getting more and more difficult to find truth in advertising, but Knot Genie really delivers. There is so much junk out there that it's easy to get sucked into the hype and waste money on stuff you don't really need. (This is particularly true of the parenting market, I think.) However, buying Knot Genie hair brushes was money well-spent. So, that's one parenting battle down, and soooo many to go...


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Caterpillar on a Leaf Craft

Here is another cute and simple idea that I got from our Story Time lady, Mrs. D. Yesterday, Logan made this caterpillar out of pom poms that he stuck onto the leaf, which had already been made for him. If you like thematic craft projects, this could easily go along with a study of butterflies and caterpillars, which was the theme for this week. Or it could be used in conjunction with the study the letter "C."

One nice thing about this craft is that it requires few materials. If you don't have pom poms on hand, you will, of course, need to purchase them. However, pom poms are an affordable craft staple. You can pick them up at Dollar Tree, Wal-mart, or any craft store. I would suggest Dollar Tree if it's not out of your way because we got a package of 80 pom poms there recently, and this is enough to last us quite awhile, even with frequent crafting.

{Caterpillar by Logan, Age 3 1/2}
Materials:
  • green construction paper
  • scissors
  • decorative scissors (optional)
  • colored paper (or pipe cleaner)
  • pom poms (any color)
  • glue (Glue Dots are optional)
  • markers
  • hole punch (optional)
  • googly eyes (optional)
Directions:
  1. Cut a leaf shape from green construction paper. If you do not want to draw it free-hand, there are lots of templates available online. I like this one, for example. Mrs. D. had already drawn veins on the leaf using a green marker, which made the craft look more complete. Tip: You can also cut the leaves with decorative scissors like zigzag or scalloped edges if you wish. Tip: If desired, you can use a hole punch to make it look like the caterpillar has chewed the leaf. This may be hard to see in the photo, but the edge is "chewed." You could also punch holes in the interior of the leaf since caterpillars love to eat!
  2. Have your child glue some pom poms to the leaf to make the caterpillar's body. We used Glue Dots for this. Tip: If using Glue Dots, it is easier to stick the pom pom to the Glue Dot rather than trying to peel off the Glue Dot and then stick it to the pom pom.
  3. Give your child a narrow strip of colored paper that has been folded in half. Have him or her glue this to one end of the caterpillar to make the antenna. Tip: You could also use a section of pipe cleaner for this.
  4. Add a face if desired. Logan used a marker to draw eyes, which didn't show up very well. Tip: I suggested that we could glue on googly eyes, but he wasn't too interested, so we left it as is.
  5. Make sure the glue is dry before you move the caterpillar to its display spot.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

3-D Paper Plate Flower Craft

Here is a simple flower craft that Logan made at Story Time a couple of weeks ago. Since he chose only the tiger-striped paper for his petals, I called this flower his "tiger lily." It would be pretty to fill a wall with these paper petals, which are so very spring-like!

{"Tiger Lily" by Logan, Age 3 1/2}

Materials:
  • small paper plate
  • cupcake liner
  • paper (decorative or solid colors)
  • scissors
  • decorative scissors (optional)
  • green crepe paper
  • glue stick/glue
  • circle punch (optional)
Directions:
  1. Pre-cut paper into flower petal shapes. Tip: If desired, use scalloped or zigzag scissors. Tip: You can also cut or use a circle punch to create colorful paper circles for the center of the flower.
  2. Have your child glue the petals onto the top (eating side) of a paper plate. Tip: I think it would look nice if the child first colored the paper plate, but we didn't have that option due to time constraints.
  3. Have your child apply glue to the bottom of a cupcake liner (ours was decorative foil, but paper would work, too) and the adhere to the center of the paper plate. If desired, add glue to a colorful paper circle and then insert it into the middle of the cupcake liner.
  4. Help your child cut some crepe paper for the flower's stem and then glue it to the back. Tip: For a little something extra, Mrs. D., the Story Time lady, suggested making the stem the same height as the child. Cute, right? It made me think that this could be adapted to make a more permanent growth chart for the wall with a measuring stick, perhaps? I guess that's an idea for another time... Tip: You can find 2-packs of crepe paper at Dollar Tree, which is the cheapest that I have seen it. Both are the same color, which is the only downside, but it's still a good deal.
  5. Allow glue to dry completely before displaying your child's flower craft.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Recyled Crafts Round-Up

In celebration of Earth Day, I thought I would create a round-up of some recycled craft projects that we have done over the years. This list is by no means comprehensive, but here are more than 60 projects that we have made using recycled materials. Pulling craft projects together is easier (and cheaper!) than you might realize when you just start to think inside the recycling box. The best things in life really are free. Many craft materials are readily available in your home so now's the perfect time to get creative.

Bubble Wrap:
Cardboard Tubes:
{Homemade Sidewalk Chalk}

Cardboard Boxes:
{Rainbow Pull-String Pinata}

Egg Cartons:
  • Bat
  • Caterpillar (I never wrote a post about when we made these, but they were just like what you probably did as a child. We dressed ours up with torn pieces of colorful tissue paper that were glued onto the caterpillar's bodies.)
  • Paint Trays/Organizers (Even if you don't make the egg cartons into something, you can use them for holding paint. You can cut them apart if you are just using a couple of colors or keep them whole if you are using lots of colors or if you need space for mixing. They also are handy for sorting out beads, dyed pasta, buttons, beans, sequins or any other collage material you are working with like we did with the spices for making turkey cards.)
Glass Jars:
{"Sand" Art Jars}

Milk Jugs:
Paper Bags:
Plastic Bottles:
{Seek 'n' Find Bottle}

Styrofoam:
Tin Cans:
Tissue Paper (saved from gift bags):
Various Other Materials:
{Paperback Pumpkin}


Friday, April 19, 2013

Sandpaper Letter Rubbings

Here is another activity that was inexpensive to put together with materials from Dollar Tree including sandpaper from the hardware aisle. This one took about an hour and a half to put together, but now that I have it done, it can be used over and over again. I did all of the tracing while watching TV, so it's not like it was difficult. As I was cutting out all of the letters, I wondered if I could have saved time by making them with my Cricut, but I wasn't sure if that would be too rough on the blade and I didn't want to experiment to find out. I suppose you could do it with letter punches if you happen to have those, which I do not. However, this way only required the $1 investment of the punch-out bulletin board letter set from the teacher supply section of Dollar Tree, and it was guaranteed not to ruin any expensive equipment.

The inspiration for this project came from the book, The Little Hands BIG FUN Craft Book by Judy Press. I recently checked it out from our library and found lots of good ideas.

I am excited because making these letters has sparked Logan's interest in letters, which he previously was not very familiar with, and didn't really seem to care to learn. He especially likes running his fingers over the bumpy texture of the letters. I decided to take advantage of that to help him learn his letters. So, I take his index finger and run it over the letters the way that we would write them saying, for A, "up, down, across" or for N, "up, down, up," and so on. He repeats the motions and the words, and I believe that this sensory element really helps it stick in his mind since he is an active little boy. Plus, it means more bang for our buck.

{Finished letters!}

Materials:
{Tracing in process...}

  • sandpaper
  • 2" punch-out letters 
  • Sharpie marker
  • scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • boxboard
  • paper trimmer (optional)
  • tacky glue
  • paper
  • crayons (I suggest scribble cookies)
  • clip board (optional)
Directions:
  1. Punch out the letters you will use. I chose to do each letter of the alphabet, but you could select letters to spell out a message or just a name if you prefer. Tip: Store these in a zippered bag.
  2. Trace the chosen letters onto the rough side of the sandpaper. You are going to cut these out so save space by placing them as closely together as possible. You can turn letters upside down for example or put them out of order. I ended up using 2 pieces of sandpaper from the package of 12 that I bought at Dollar Tree. Tip: I wasn't really thinking when I did this and I did the M/W twice, when once would have been fine. It was the exact same letter just oriented differently. I suppose this could be different depending upon the font used, but for me, I realized I had wasted time.
  3. Cut out the sandpaper letters. Tip: An X-acto knife is helpful for removing the smaller interior sections from letters like A, B, and O, for example.
  4. Using a paper trimmer, if you have one, scissors otherwise, cut 3" squares of boxboard. I needed 3 cereal boxes for this, which meant that I had some left over. (Or, if your letters are a different size, adjust the size of your boxboard squares accordingly.)
  5. Use tacky glue to adhere sandpaper letters to the boxboard squares. Make sure to apply glue to the smooth side so that the finished letters have texture. Allow glue to dry completely.
  6. Once glue is dry, place paper over the letters. Rub crayons over top to produce letter rubbings. We found that our scribble cookies were ideal for this. Tip: If using regular crayons, remove the papers and use the sides of the crayons for rubbing. Tip: If you are planning to take this busy bag activity in the car, I suggest taking along a clipboard to hold the paper over the sandpaper letters.
{Scribble cookies work well for making rubbings.}
  



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rainbow Pom Pom Chutes

Over spring break, we went to the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, which is wonderful! There were lots of great activities there, and many of them were different from other children's museums that we have been to before. This activity is somewhat inspired by this rainbow shaped ball drop at the museum, which I looked at and wondered, How can I take this idea and replicate it at home? I had seen this idea on Pinterest, and decided to take the tubes and try to make more of a rainbow shape with them.

{This was my inspiration...}
{and here is what I came up with.}

The idea is to do color matching and drop the pom poms down the corresponding colored tubes. This is not how it always turned out, in actuality, of course! This did get messy as the pom poms didn't always land in the bin. Plus, my kids got wild and pom poms ended up all over the living room. They also had to learn not to cram too many pom poms into the tubes at once or they would, of course, get stuck. However, this triggered some problem solving as well. Logan was excited when he was able to poke a marker into a tube and get the pom poms unjammed. Even though my chutes don't really look like a rainbow as I had hoped, they were simple to make with items from the recycling bin and a bag of Dollar Tree pom poms. More, importantly, it was fun for both kids. And it's held up so far...

Materials:
  • 6 cardboard tubes
  • paint (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple)
  • paint brushes
  • boxboard or cardboard
  • hot glue gun
  • something for tubes to dry on (I used the liner from a cereal box.)
  • clear tape
  • pom poms (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple; small enough to fit inside tubes)
  • container to drop pom poms into
  • Chopsticks for Kids (optional)
Directions: 
  1. Collect 6 empty cardboard tubes. I used paper towel rolls, but toilet paper rolls would work also. Your chutes will just be shorter. This might actually be better in that it may help prevent log-jams, but it's up to you what size to use.
  2. Protect your work surface before painting. I used the liner from a cereal box, which is basically free "wax" paper. You could use newspaper, but sometimes tubes stick to this while they are drying, so I prefer to save the cereal box liners for paint projects.
  3. Paint each tube one color of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. I used powdered tempera paints for this. You could also use acrylic paints, but be aware that they will stain fabric. I believe I just did one coat of paint, but you could apply more coats if you want it to look better. I just wanted it to be functional. Allow paint to dry completely. Tip: Foam paint brushes work very well for painting tubes.
  4. Use hot glue to affix the tubes to the boxboard or cardboard. I used the side of a cereal box. Allow glue to dry. I tried to arch mine to resemble the rainbow ball drop that we had seen at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum. I don't know how successful this was. You could glue them in a straight line if you prefer.
  5. Use clear tape to adhere the the boxboard to a wall.
  6. Place a container underneath the tubes and let kids drop colored pom poms into the corresponding colored tubes. They can use their hands, Chopsticks for Kids, or tongs for this. Note: This is not a mess-free activity, but it's not difficult to clean up.
{See the yellow pom pom dropping?}


{Look! The marker worked! Tube = unstuck!}

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pom Pom Color Sorting Activity

I am not sure where I originally came across this idea for a color sorting motor skills activity. Possibly this, which I pinned almost a year ago? I think there are probably several versions of it posted on Pinterest. Anyway, it's simple fun for little ones, especially on days when the weather just won't cooperate so you can make it outside to play.

Since we were running low on pom poms, I found a bag of 80 assorted colored pom poms in the craft aisle of Dollar Tree during our spring break shopping trip. This provided plenty of pom poms for doing this activity. Our muffin tin, which I have had for awhile, came from Salvation Army, and I believe it was 99 cents. I have used it when we have made bathtub paint and it would also be perfect for holding sidewalk paint. If I haven't mentioned it before, Salvation Army is a good source of craft materials, especially if you think to look in the kitchen section.

{Here is what you need}


Materials:
  • 6 cup muffin tin (I have seen this done with ice cube trays also.)
  • paper (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple)
  • clear Con-tact paper (optional)
  • scissors
  • clear tape
  • pom poms (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple)
  • Chopsticks for Kids (you could also have child use tweezers, tongs, or his hands for this)
  • colored pasta (optional)
Directions:

  1. Cut out 6 circles of colored paper. I used my card stock scraps for this, but construction paper would work, too. Want to know my super fancy simple method for making circles? Place paper into a muffin cup. Use your finger nail to trace the inside edge. Then, use scissors to cut around indentation made by your finger nail. Do this for each color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. Tip: I then, cut my circles a little smaller (free-hand since they don't need to be perfect) since I was planning to "laminate" them.
  2. This next step is optional. For extra sturdiness, I "laminated" the colored circles with clear Con-tact paper. I used my scraps that I have saved from making sun catchers. I cut squares a bit larger than the circles, sandwiched the colored paper circles between two pieces of the Con-tact paper (sticky sides facing in), and then trimmed the excess so that they were back to circles. Tip: Leave a little outside edge of clear Con-tact paper, at least 1/8" to 1/4" inch to prevent it from coming undone.
  3. Next, I rolled pieces of clear tape, stuck them to the "laminated" circles, and placed a circle into each muffin cup. Tip: For the sake of looking sort of rainbow oriented, I did it in this order: red, orange, yellow on top and green, blue, purple on bottom. That's it.
  4. Let your child play, explore, and have fun sorting pom poms into the muffin cups. Logan and Mia have both enjoyed doing this using our Chopsticks for Kids. (I thought this would be something more for him since he is still working on color recognition, but she surprised me with her interest in this. So, don't discount this as a good rainy day activity for kindergarten kids, too!) Tip: As an alternative to pom poms, we also have done color sorting with dyed pasta in bow tie and corkscrew shapes. 
{Cool Whip tub = fine container for pom poms or pasta}

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Play Dough Ring Stacker/Counting Activity


{This is a look of intense concentration.}

Before spring break started, I picked up a couple of kids' craft books from the library, just in case. Although we did not do this over break, it still was a good one to try out. This simple activity was inspired by The Little Hands BIG FUN Craft Book by Judy Press.


Materials:
  • play dough (see recipe)
  • wooden skewer (you could also use a stir stick/thin straw)
  • Cheerios (or other "O" cereal)
Directions:
  1. Make a small mound of play dough on a table. Tip: If you want, you can do this on a place mat.
  2. Insert the skewer, pointed side down. Tip: If you are out at a restaurant, grab a stir stick or thin straw if they have them. This would also work if you are concerned about the sharp end of the skewer.
  3. Let your child stack the Cheerios onto the skewer. Older kids can use this as counting activity. Toddlers can just use it for motor skills practice. Be prepared for a few Cheerios to get broken while children are sliding them onto the skewer. Don't worry, though, you child knows what to do with these! Note: The play dough does end up with some crumbs in it. I just brushed them away before we put the play dough back in its designated peanut butter jar. If it really bothers you, be prepared to toss some play dough. This is yet another reason to have homemade play dough. It saves you money, so it's harder to feel bad about it out as needed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Most Recent Craft FAIL

Remember when I said we took a trip to Dollar Tree, and I picked up all sorts of odds and ends for crafts and activities, most of them things that might not typically be thought of as craft materials? Well, one of the items I got at that time was a two-pack of plastic star-shaped ice cube trays. My original plan was to make some star-shaped sidewalk chalk using this recipe. Then, after having such a great success with my bunny-shaped scribble cookies, I was excited and wanted to try making some star-shaped scribble cookies. This was not exactly my best plan ever. I did end up with some usable scribble cookies, but the way I went about it should be classified under "DON'T try this at home!" In retrospect, it would have made much, much more sense to make the chalk first.

A couple of years ago, when we first started making scribble cookies, I tried the microwave method. I wasn't really a fan of this method at that time, and now, I am convinced that this is the entirely wrong way to make scribble cookies. I just needed to confirm this once and for all. Melting crayons in the microwave just plain stinks, literally and figuratively! It doesn't save you much time, and the temperature of the melted wax gets painfully hot if you happen to spill it on yourself or try to remove the container without a hot pad.

Since it is so hard to pour the molten wax into shaped containers like the palm tree-shaped ice cube trays from a couple of years ago without getting hurt, I decided it was worth a try to make the scribble cookies in the star-shaped ice cube trays this time. Obviously, they are not meant to go in the microwave. I knew this, but I still felt I had to try. After 10 minutes of microwaving, initially 4 minutes, and then checking again at 2 minute increments, I finally had most of the crayons melted enough to make scribble cookies. Unfortunately, I also melted 2 of the star compartments! There were at least 2 more that also got small holes in them, and although they did not melt all the way through, they definitely started leaking melted wax. (Why only 4 out of 20? Rightfully, this was such a disastrous plan, I should have ended up with more carnage.) Thus, I had melted wax on the microwave's revolving glass tray. (This cleaned up easily with a utility knife once it hardened, so at least that wasn't a huge deal.) But that's not all that went wrong with my plan. I then cracked one of the trays while trying to remove the scribble cookies, after letting them cool for an hour, and I had to use a butter knife to chisel them out, resulting in more damaged scribble cookies.

In the end, I had 7 star-shaped scribble cookies, which looked very nice, but I lost 11 others in the process of making them. That's hardly worth it to me. The good news is that I salvaged all of the broken bits for more scribble cookies which I will, from now on, be making in the oven! So, if I decide that I want to make more star-shaped scribble cookies in the future, (Fourth of July maybe?) I will need to buy a silicone mold. And I probably will because my brain doesn't seem to accept failure as absolute, just a piece of the puzzle that needs to be tweaked, and twisted, and turned until it finally fits into place. I wonder sometimes if this is how people like Thomas Edison ever felt, that if he just keep trying, eventually it will actually work out the way they envision it in their minds?

{Melted Tray = Craft FAIL!}

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring Bunny Scribble Cookies

I was not even planning on doing a project yesterday, but this just came about. Logan was grumpy about something and he dumped out the entire crayon bin. While it was his responsibility to pick these up, I did end up helping him in a way. I noticed there were tons of broken bits of crayons again plus many, many cheap-o crayons, the kind from from restaurants, birthday party goody bags, and the like.

These crayons have a huge redeeming value, in my opinion. While being pretty awful for regular coloring, they make excellent scribble cookies. The cheap crayons tend to be smaller and easier to break into bits (one of the reasons they do not work the best for coloring), which is great for scribble cookie prep work. Also, their wrappers tend to come off easier than the good crayon wrappers (Crayola, for example, which does a double layer of wrapper), again, making them ideal for scribble cookies. I'm not suggesting that you buy cheap crayons, but if you happen to be given them, hang on to them and give them a new life as scribble cookies.

Anyway, I scooped up all of these crayons, took all the wrappers off, sorted them into bowls by colors, and then decided to try out my new bunny-shaped Wilton silicone mold that I found on clearance at Target after Easter for just $3. The silicone mold worked very well, and once they were cool, I was able to pull the scribble cookies out easily, with no wasted muffin cups like when I make them in muffin tins (which is still a great method, I am just happy to have had success using a mold!). The end result made me quite happy, lots of colorful bunny crayons, which I think will make good gifts. Also, I think black, white, gray, and brown bunnies are cute, whereas these colors of regular scribble cookies seem a bit on the blah side. I may keep these fun bunny cookies on hand since I am still hoping to do a busy bag swap, and I know they could be perfect for that.

{In the process of filling the mold...}
Materials:

  • broken crayon bits
  • sharp knife (optional)
  • silicone bunny mold (or other shape)
  • cookie sheet (optional)
  • oven set to 275 degrees Fahrenheit
  • bowls for sorting crayons (optional)

Directions:

  1. Gather up all your broken crayon bits or cheap-o crayons if it's time to get rid of those. (Tip: I usually save these in a bowl as they accumulate and then use them when we have enough for a project.) 
  2. Make sure all papers are removed. I usually just do this while I am saving them, but since this was a spur-of-the-moment decision to use up the cheap-o crayons, I had a bit of paper peeling to do. Kids can also help with this step.
  3. If the pieces are too big, break them into smaller pieces. Kids can help with this. Adults can also use a sharp knife for this. (Tip: As I am breaking them, I like to sort them into bowls by similar colors: blues together, greens together, reds together, etc. You do not need to do this, but I don't see the purpose of making a couple dozen or so of mixed-up crayons. Even if they are all a bit different, they're still essentially the same. This way, we end up with crayons with blends of assorted hues of the same color, which the OCD side of me appreciates.)
  4. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. (ADULT USE ONLY)
  5. Fill the silicone bunny mold with broken bits of crayons. Kids can definitely help with this step. You can fill them almost all the way to the top. (Tip: Before baking, I like to the mold onto a cookie sheet. This makes it much easier to take them in and out of the oven without spilling crayons or melted wax.)
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 275 degrees. Scribble cookies do not have to be completely liquefied, just melted enough so that there are no big chunks remaining. Set aside to cool completely. This took about an hour for this batch.
  7. Once scribble cookies are cool, you can peel them out of the molds, by inverting them, pushing them inside out if needed. These recycled crayons are fun to color with, and they also make nice homemade gifts. (Tip: Just make sure to supervise young children. Scribble Cookies do look like treats, and I still catch Logan, at 3 1/2 eating them at times.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

A-Mazing Rainy Day Fun!

One of our activities last week over spring break was to take a trip to Dollar Tree. I let the kids each spend a dollar, and of course, my personal budget was whatever I wanted! Logan chose a toy 4-wheeler, and Mia opted to get two boxes of Easter candy, which were on sale 2/$1. My only rule other than they each had just $1 to spend, was that they had to bear with me while I cruised up and down nearly every aisle of the store looking for inspiration for crafts and activities. I found several things that I am sure I will tell you about at some point, but one thing in particular is the subject of this post: a roll of blue painters tape that I acquired from the hardware. Truthfully, I was not previously aware that this store even has a hardware aisle, but I am glad I checked, because there are lots of possibilities there. Anyway, I grabbed this roll of painters tape, although at the time, I wasn't even sure what it would be used for. I just knew it would be handy, and I was right.

The night before last, I had the idea to take the roll of painters tape and make a maze on the floor. This was after the kids had gone to bed, so they were not in my way, waiting impatiently for me to finish! I figured that both kids could enjoy the maze, considering that Mia had a half day at school due to conferences, it was supposed to rain, and I was feeling cruddy with my sinus infection. I decided to use the whole roll of tape, but I don't remember how many yards of tape were on the roll. My maze does actually have openings at both ends, but I don't think it is necessary to design a maze that way for this purpose. I'm a tad bit perfectionistic, so it had to be functional, in my mind. Plus, I tried to make all of the lanes approximately the same width, which again is not really necessary, except in the mind of Meg.

The kids have had fun driving through the lanes or attempted to walk them, in Mia's case. Logan's favorite part of the maze seems to be the "E" shaped parking spots that I constructed. In the end, Logan has enjoyed this far more than his sister, but they point is that it is still being used. In fact, he has been chattering away and driving his vehicles through it for the past 45 minutes or so, which is why I am able to write this post.

{My Little Man is enjoying the painters tape maze!}

Mia was concerned that it will be a problem when it comes time to vacuum. I, however, did not worry over this. We never manage to vacuum more than once a week, excepting extreme disasters, which are out of my control, anyway. The tape is peeling up a bit in places, so it is definitely not permanent, just an amusement to last through the weekend. Maybe.

{Another view of the maze}

No painters tape on hand? I have used masking tape for different games in the past. It's not as colorful, and it takes a bit more effort to remove, but it does work. Also, a couple of weeks ago Logan came up with this awesome idea to make a maze using our wooden blocks. I believe that this is the inspiration for my painters tape maze. I was looking for a way to make it more extensive and harder to move when he is driving his cars and trucks through the maze. Painters tape definitely gets the job done. The downside is that it really is a one-time use material. Fortunately, it only cost $1, which I consider affordable rainy-day fun.

{This block maze was Little Man's brilliant idea! I was just the construction foreman.}

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Note to Self...


I found this little shamrock planting kit for $1 at Target back in March, and I thought it would be a an easy activity for Brett to do with Logan while I took Mia to a birthday party. As expected, the seeds started to sprout quickly, which is always good for planting with kids. The only problem is that there was only one leaf on each stem for the longest time, and I wish I had know that sooner. (The packaging was not particularly helpful with the timetable for germination or anything along that line, but again, it was very inexpensive, so I can hardly complain.) It turns out that it takes about four weeks for the sprouts to actually form three leaves and look like recognizable shamrocks! So, our shamrock seeds, which were planted just one week before St. Patrick's Day didn't really look like shamrocks until we got into April. For future reference, plan to plant shamrock seeds just after Valentine's Day to avoid this.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mommy Needs a Makeover?

While I have been busy being someone else's mom, I have started to let myself go, apparently. I didn't realize it had gotten so bad until last night when I was at Art Night with Mia. We were sitting at a table in the school cafeteria while she worked on her shell creature craft. That's when Random Teenage Boy on the opposite side of the table informed me, "My mom has that exact same sweatshirt." At this, I stopped and looked at myself. I wasn't even wearing a sweatshirt. Whew! Dodged that one, right? Then, he looked at me pointedly and repeated himself, this time somewhat louder, "My mom has that exact same sweatshirt." Although his words had no inflection whatsoever, making it impossible to tell how he felt about this, it was now clear that he was, in fact, speaking to me. Then, I understood that he was referring to my very boring, basic, blue fleece jacket that I was wearing for pure practicality of the in-between seasons weather we are having. Obviously, I knew it wasn't high fashion when I put it on, but I had not really cared at the time. Now, I am rethinking this...

Especially after this morning's trip to the Kroger pharmacy. I have another sinus infection, which makes five since school started. UGH! Frankly, though, my misery of having yet another sinus infection has been paled by the exchange between Pharmacy Boy and myself. I have seen this particular kid before and wondered how old someone has to be to work there. He needed the pharmacist to verify the prescriptions before he could hand them over to me. While ringing up my antibiotic and nasal spray, he said something that made me inwardly cringe. It was, "Thanks, MOM... I mean, ma'am!" Oh my! I could tell that he was pretty mortified, something akin to when you think, I wish the floor would open up and swallow me whole. So I said nothing, because truly, what could I say that would make that situation any less awkward? And just for the record, unless I had a very busy "extracurricular life" in say, eighth grade, I am not nearly old enough to be this boy's mother!

Ever since this experience, I have put in more of an effort with my appearance, or at least I think I have tried harder. It seems that I may be sliding a bit in this department, though, considering these two highly embarrassing moments that have taken place within the past 24 hours. Barring any recent scientific advancements that would allow me to get an injection of much-needed self-confidence (alas, I am aware of no such treatments), I think it may now be time to consider a mommy makeover. To be clear, I am not desiring to be more attractive to teenage boys. However, I would settle for looking like less of an obvious MOM-type figure to them. Is that too much to ask for?