Moon Sand

Many people have probably heard of this and have made it…I hadn’t done it with my kids before and want to share it, along with some tips on making it, storing it and playing with it.  My 2 year old had a “moon” party for her birthday.  (Side note: We are quite random with our birthday themes around here and I am a firm believer in letting the kids pick the theme because anything can be turned into a party!)  I made moon sand to send home with the cousins we had here…I haven’t heard if the parents are loving or hating that yet!  But, we love this stuff and think it’s a great activity for sensory play AND mixes things up on these long winter days.

Supplies:

  • Flour – the amounts depend on how much you want to make (See notes below in the Directions).  I think you need at least 4 cups.
  • Oil – baby oil is the best because it smells nice.  But I am sure you can use any kind.  You need at least 1/2 cup.
  • Large tupperware with a lid (The Dollar Store has big ones that are great for this!)  We like to play with it, put the lid back on, then play with it later – EASY.
  • Cookie sheets for playing
  • Tools and toys that can be submerged and then washed off

Wacky Sponge Ball

Here’s another water-play idea, similar to “The Fun Hose” – the kids have enjoyed playing with these fun things – and they only take you minutes to make!  

Supplies:
Several sponges
Rubber bands, thick and strong ones, or zip ties
Scissors (adult should do the cutting)

Instructions:
Purchase a bunch of cheap sponges, multi-colored are fun but not necessary.  Cut them apart (the long way) so you have strips that are about 1/2-3/4 inch thick.  Gather about 10 of them together and wind a rubber band around the middle.  Thick rubber bands are best (like the ones that the newspaper comes in).  Dunk them in water and have fun while staying cool!  They also are great for helping wash the car 😉

Homemade Craft Smock

I decided to make my nephew a little craft smock for his birthday this year and it was so easy that I wanted to share it. I am NOT a sewer – I can only do basic things. So, do not be intimidated by this project – you can make it probably way better than I did – it’s just a starting point.

 
Supplies:
Apron: Fabric – roughly 20 inches long by 12 inches wide, extra for pocket if desired
Apron Ties around waist: Fabric OR ribbon – roughly 20 inches long
Apron Ties around neck: Fabric OR ribbon – roughly 20 inches long
Thread to match
Puffy Paint for writing, if desired
 
Directions:
Measure approximately 13 inches up from the bottom edge of the apron. This is where you can cut a curve to create the arm area on both sides. Mine curved in about 2 inches in from the edge, at most. Stitch all edges of the fabric to look nice (sorry for not using sewing lingo here!) Cut out a pocket if desired and stitch those edges to look finished. Stitch that onto the apron, wherever you want. Stitch the ties to the sides of the apron, right at the bottom of the arm area. Attach the neck ties to the top of the apron. Write their name or whatever with puffy paint…decorate as desired!

Easy Tissue Paper Flowers

My 2- and 3-year-olds’ Sunday School teacher, Miss Cary introduced us to this craft.  Of course, my older kids wanted to make them too.  So we’ve been having a blast…
What you need:
5-8 sheets of tissue paper (any color or combination of colors)
pipe cleaners (preferrably green for stems)
Ages: 2 and up
What to do:
1. Cut a 6-inch square from a stack of 5-8 pieces of tissue paper.
2.  Fold pieces back and forth together along one edge to make an accordion fan.
3. Wrap one end of pipecleaner securely around middle of the fan.  The pull individual pieces of tissue paper toward the center from each side until each piece has been pulled.
4. Help children to display their work anywhere proudly or give them to friends!  My 6-year-old shared his with friends on his bus!

 

And the most exciting part is they don’t look so far from the originals…
peonies!

Pinecone Bird Feeder

Another classic craft from long ago…this one is great for kids of all ages.  My daughter has fond memories of doing this with her Grandma Cathy years ago.  Enjoy and hopefully you can catch a glimpse of the birds enjoying the treat! (By the way, if you are rising a pet, you might also want o check my outdoor cat house and shelter reviews and cheap rabbit hutch for indoor & outdoor reviews!)


Supplies:
 
  • Pinecone
  • Peanut Butter
  • Kid knife or spoons
  • Plates
  • Bird Seed 
  • String

Instructions:
 
I recommend attaching the string to the pinecone before anything else.  Then give each child a plate, kid knife or spoon, and dollop of peanut butter.  Spread the sticky stuff all over the pinecone.  Once it looks covered well, pour some bird seed onto the plate and have them roll the pinecone in the seed.  Find a place to hang them – nearby a window so they can watch as birds fly up to enjoy it!  

The Classic Volcano Experiment

I don’t think seeing this experiment will ever get old for me! Why is it so fun to watch? “Lava” slowly bubbling up and over a volcano 🙂 The kids and I were feeling a little stir crazy on a chilly morning, so we made the day more exciting by claiming it “Volcano Day!” What is that? Well, we made the classic volcano experiment and even made a little lunch with the same theme. Nerdy…maybe. But fun!

 
Supplies:
  • Container of some kind (we used our empty syrup bottle one time, and then an empty honey bottle another time)
  • Tin foil (makes for a great mountain around the bottle)
  • Rubber band
  • Approximately 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap (not necessary but supposedly makes the bubbling go slower)
  • Red food coloring (for the dramatic effect of “LAVA”) but any color is fun
  • Approximately 1/3 cup vinegar
  • Dinosaur figurines! (to add to the scene, of course)
Instructions:

  • Poke a small hole in the middle of the tinfoil to fit over the opening of your container. Wrap a rubber band around that to just hold it in place (image at right).
  • Place the “volcano” on a baking sheet for easy clean-up
  • Set the scene with figurines (dinosaurs or trees or whatever!)
  • Drop the baking soda into the container first.
  • Add the dish soap (if using)
  • Add the food coloring
  • Pour in the vinegar…wait and watch.
After it bubbles for a few minutes, you can stir the bottle a little bit and it will most likely have a second wave of bubbling. We had a lunch that was dinosaur sandwiches (cookie cutters I had on-hand), grapes made the shape of a volcano and red peppers were the lava. The kids decided the apples were dinosaur bones (image below). Weird, random, but fun!
 

Easy Paper Airplanes That Really Fly

My 5- and 6-year-olds have become obsessed with making paper airplanes.  After my husband showed them this youtube video on the World Record Paper Airplane Distance: 226 feet, they were hooked.  They don’t make the same one as it is a bit more complicated, but here are their two favorites that they easily make themselves, carefully demonstrated by my 6-year-old.

The “Eagle”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(taught to my boys by their friend, Tim…thanks Tim!)

And the “World Record”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy flying!

Easy Homemade Curtains

Do not be intimidated by this project. I am not a “sewer” (Sarah on the other hand is amazing!) I have a very basic, “beginner” machine that shakes the whole table when I am stitching. Everything I make has lots of mistakes and markings of an amateur sewer. So, I will be the first to encourage you to go for it with this project because it is simple and can help you save bundles on curtains for your kid’s room or anywhere in your home. Once I had all of the supplies ready, the entire project took 20 minutes from start to finish.

 
Supplies:
  • Curtain Grommets
  • Fabric
  • Curtain Rod
  • Scissors
  • Pen
  • Tape measure or measuring tape
Instructions:
  • Decide on your desired curtain length and choose your fabric.

(I purchased one pair of the basic Merete curtains from IKEA…($24.99) which are very large pieces of fabric. I fit them for the boys

largest window (Image to the LEFT) and then cut off the bottom. I used the left over fabric for this project (Image to the RIGHT).)
  • Do a simple fold-over-and-sew on the edge(s) of the fabric where you cut. Haha, sorry – that is not correct “sewing language,” but I told you that I am a beginner!

  • Purchase Curtain Grommets

(I found mine at JoAnn Fabrics and they came in a package of 8…there were some metal ones for $12.99 but I bought the plastic color ones on clearance for $1.97 (!) and spray painted them with my silver-looking-metal spray paint!

  • Spray paint your grommets if needed – let dry for at least an hour.


  • Use the template (if the grommet kit came with one) or just make a circle thatmeasures exactly the size of the grommets…mine was 1 9/16″ – take the template and mark the position for each grommet on your fabric. I placed mine 3 inches from the edge, and every 8 inches. Yours might be different, depending on your fabric and window size. Cut along the circle to create the hole for the grommet.
 
  • Follow the directions on the grommet package – but all you should have to do is fit it around the fabric hole, and snap them together!


  • Purchase a curtain rod(s) to fit the window(s).

(I purchased two Vagen curtain rods from IKEA…$7.99 for the shorter one and $9.99 for the longer one.)

 
  • Hang them up and enjoy!

The Wilderking Trilogy and Homemade Chivalry Ideas

We just finished reading aloud the final book of The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers, The Way of the Wilderking.  These books seriously captivate our boys.  Of course it all depends on the child’s interest, but a 6-year-old can listen to and understand this series.



The stories are an allegory of the life of King David from when he when he was anointed by the prophet Samuel to when he fought the giant Goliath, to his friendship with Jonathan, to his struggle with King Saul, to finally his crowning as king…but all in an Old English and Southern hill-billy style that is fascinating to both kids and adults.  My husband and I traded off reading, and we would speed-read to catch up whichever chapters we didn’t read because neither of us wanted to miss any exciting details.  As in…these books are SO GOOD the mommy and the daddy were fighting over who got to read them to the kids!  

Last summer I made warrior tunics for my boys.  They were quite simple: take a rectangle of material and cut a head hole in the middle. Then you can use any rope or scarf for a belt. I explained to the boys they could either wait a few days (or months) for me to hem them or they could wear them unhemmed immediately!  It was a no-brainer!

So here are my unhemmed brave new warriors….  Of course we needed nerf swords too. They would sleep just like this if I let them.  Then my husband recently cut shields from cardboard with a cardboard handle on the back, made them double-thickness and glued the pieces together and finally wrapped them with shiny silver duct tape.  




Those are a big hit too…

I really like what Aidan’s father tells him in the first book:
You will fight one day for Corenwald–and sooner than you think.  You will fight because you love Corenwald, because you love the freedom to live and worship as you see fit, because you love your family and your fellow soldiers.  But you must never fight because you love the battle.  You must never love the battle.
I made sure my boys were listening for that part.  🙂
So far they are enjoying (mostly) friendly jousting and protecting their sisters from the bad guys.  Encourage the chivalry at your own risk.  However, once they are knighted there is no turning back…

Paper Caterpillars

This activity captured the attention of all four of my children for over an hour one morning last week.  My kindergartener made a whole family of them and proudly brought them to school to give to friends.  I’m still finding them in odd corners of our house.  

Ages: 2 and up
Materials: 
  • assorted construction paper
  • stapler or scotch tape
  • crayons or markers

 

Instructions:
  1. For one caterpillar, cut two long strips of construction paper.  They can be same or different colors.  Let the kids experiment.
  2. Fasten the ends of two strips together at a right angle with either tape or a stapler. 
  3. Show kids how to fold one strip over the other to make an accordion.
  4. Secure other end pieces with stapler or tape. (Staples allow for more decoration on the caterpillar’s face since crayons don’t color well over tape.)
  5. Let kids make a caterpillar face on the end with crayons or markers.
  6. Experiment with thicker and thinner strips to make smaller or larger caterpillars. Make a whole caterpillar community!

Beads, Beads, Beads!!!

We have beads bouncing and rolling all over our floors these days.  The stretchy silicon string has extended the beading world even to toddlers.  The jewelry can make great Valentine’s gifts to loved ones.  Here are some of our creations…

 



What you need:

  • silicon string (found at Target or any craft store)
  • beads, beads, beads! (Of course these can be all price ranges, but with kids so far I am sticking with plastic and wooden.  My favorites I have found at Walmart and Joann’s.)

 

What to do:

  1. Ask child if they are making a necklace or bracelet and cut their thread accordingly, leaving extra length for tying the ends.
  2. Tie one bead to the end of the string to get child started.
  3. Encourage patterns, spelling out words with the letter beads, or any variation in between!
  4. Help tie the ends together in a firm knot.  Give it a practice tug to make sure it will hold.
  5. Proudly wear all jewelry your children make for you, and encourage them to wear their own creations!

Potato Stamps

A creative friend helped us all make beautiful artwork from potato stamps.  If you’re as crafty as Heidi, you can whittle intricate shapes like hearts and stars into the potatoes.  But even the simple lines and squares are fun too.  Holding a potato bottom is easy for even the littlest kids, so this craft is fun for everyone! If you look closely underneath the fingerprints, you will see some stars and squares on the green paper!

 





What you need:
3-4 small potatoes
pairing knife (only for the grown-up)
crafting smocks
plastic table covering
tempera paints
construction or computer paper

What to do:

  1. Prepare the craft by slicing each potato in half and then whittling a stamp shape into the sliced end with the pairing knife by cutting away at the edges of the shape.
  2. Spread our your plastic table covering and help put crafting smocks on each child! 🙂
  3. Place paper plates with a little of each paint color by each child at your table.
  4. Show them some examples if necessary, and then let the kids stamp away!
  5. Proudly display their work!

Discovering Pastels

In the past few days my children have discovered the excitement of using chalk pastels. I found them for a few dollars at Michaels.  Suddenly my 3-year-old daughter can quickly and easily fill a whole page with color.  You just don’t make full sunset pictures like this with crayons or markers.  It takes too long and you have to press down too hard.  We may have just found our favorite medium.



What you need:
chalk pastels (oil-based also work beautifully, but are not as easily cleaned out of clothes and furniture)
card stock paper (or a sketch pad, or even just computer paper)


What to do: 

  • Distribute materials.  
  • Let the children use their imaginations.  (I have no idea why my son felt inspired to combine the letters p-o-o-p into a word under his rainbow…boys, I tell ya!) 
  • Make sure to ask what they have drawn and write the title of their artwork either on the front or the back.  Grandparents will thank you when you send these!  
  • Be sure to envelope the pastel art with sheets of plain paper in-between for mailing to prevent smudging.

Finger Print Bug Art

My kids are into bugs this summer.  We have enough of them inside and out.  This was a fun activity for everyone.  

Ages: 2 and up…less messy with 4 and up!


What you need:
tempera paints
paper plates
any paper
fingers 🙂
markers for the details
elmers glue
google eyes (optional)


What to do:

  1. Squirt a small amount of each paint color on each child’s plate.  
  2. Explain to children that their fingers are going to be stamps for this project.  Show and example of how to gentle press your finger into a paint color and then make a fingerprint stamp on your paper. 
  3. Tell children to make as many different kinds of bugs as they want.  Younger children might have a hard time just stamping with their fingers as opposed to their whole hand.  This is fine! 🙂
  4. Once artwork is dry, have children add details like legs, antenae and spots with a fine tip marker.  
  5. Also allow them to glue on google eyes if they want.  
  6. Proudly display their work!

Fun with Stencils

My kids have been playing around with stencils lately.  I found a bunch of them on clearance at Joann’s about a month ago.  I think it’s a great fine motor skill to work on: staying in the lines, how to completely fill each hole, and techniques with different mediums.  Plus even my 2-year-old is proud of her final product.  We have used markers, pencils and even baby wipes with a little marker smudged on them in our stenciling.



Ages: 2 and up

What you need:
stencils: anything you can find!
paper
tape
markers
colored pencils
crayons
paint brushes, if you feel like cleaning up extra mess
tempera paint
baby wipes
plastic covering

What to do:
Pass out the paper and stencils.  Pass out the crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint brushes, paint, baby wipes in any order or capacity.  Spread out a plastic covering.  Help tape the stencils to the paper for the younger ones.  Let the kids experiment and share the different stencil designs.  Encourage them to add their own backgrounds and details. Be sure to display their beautiful work!

Rock Art


There are a lot of variations on this project – just do what fits you and your kids best.


Ages: 2 and up

 
Supplies:
  • Rocks (medium to large are best, flat is also good)
  • White paint (we used Crayola washable tempera paints)
  • Paintbrush
  • Thin, black marker
  • Colored markers (we used thin washable)
  • Images to draw on rocks
Instructions:
Collect various rocks of any shape and size. Paint them white and let them dry completely. Once they are dry, use a thin marker to draw images that the kids choose. Use magazines or books to look for fun images. Then color them with markers! (Just let the toddlers scribble!) When you are finished enjoying the final product, put back outside and the rain will wash them off.

Baked Clay Treasures

We’ve gone beyond playdough this past week.  We’ve been playing with Sculpey Clay!  It’s an engaging experience.  But the end results are great paper weights and small figurines to decorate your shelves and countertops!  Because we all need more of those…
 
Age: 4 and up, or possibly younger with mommy-assistance 🙂
 
What you need:
-Sculpey or Fimo clay, found at any craft store.  This stuff is more expensive, so be sure and save your Michael’s or Joann’s coupons.  The box looks like this after your kids start ripping into it:


-any playdough/sculpting toys (i.e. textured rolling pins, cookie cutters, etc.)

 
How it’s done:
The directions on the package will tell you everything.  Basically you have to squeeze and knead each piece of clay until it becomes soft and moldable.  Then let the kids create!  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 275 degrees for 15 minutes to every 1/4 inch of thickness. Take note, Scultures that are standing up with not a lot of volume at the bottom, or too much volume at the top, may fall flat while baking.  Our tree was standing upright when it went into the oven.  But it still looks cool.
 
It’s fun to see what kids come up with:
              
I helped some with the flowers and the tree, but they came up with two snakes, airplane, two sharks, and a turtle.  Won’t grandparents just love arranging these knickknacks around their house??

Door Hangs


I started taking care of my nephew this spring, so I have 5 kids on weekdays. Sometimes 2 or 3 kids are napping and the older kids can’t always remember to stay out of those rooms. So, we made cute door hangs to remind us when someone is alseep! Kids could also make these as nametags for their rooms.

 
Age: 3 and up
Supplies:
  • scissors
  • multicolored foam sheets (found at your local craft store)
  • glue
  • black permanent marker (kids markers will just rub off onto your hands)
 
Instructions:
  • Cut out a rectangle for the door hang (approximately 3 1/2″ by 8″)
  • Cut out a circle for the door handle (depending on your door knob size)
  • Write something on each side – my kids thought of a frog/tadpole theme
  • Decorate with more foam shapes; glue each piece in place

Fun with Shaving Cream

My kids went through a stage where we played with shaving cream at least once a week. It’s a great way to get “messy” in a clean way! I also think it’s never too early to teach really young kids how to clean up after themselves. Use this activity to teach those little ones how to stay in one place while they play and then clean it all up after they are done.
Age: 1 and up

Supplies:
  • Foam shaving cream (Some brands don’t foam up very well. Also, make sure it’s without menthol–we use the Aloe flavor of  Barbasol)
  • Plastic table covering (optional)
  • Sponges and rags for clean-up
  • plastic forks for making fun designs, or other shape-type toys (optional)
Directions:
  1. Place a plastic table covering in a large space so that you don’t worry about a mess
  2. Maybe have each child wear a craft smock, roll up those sleeves!
  3. Give instructions to stay in their “space” with the shaving cream
  4. Remind the little ones to not eat it!
  5. Spray a small amount in front of each child, and have fun!!

No Slip Socks

Make these socks as simple or as detailed as you’d like! It’s a great way to spice up those plain, old white socks. AND, they are wonderful for those babies who are learning how to walk 🙂

Supplies:
  • socks
  • puffy paint
  • large kitchen utensils
Instructions:
  1. Place one utensil inside each sock
  2. Decorate the bottom of each sock (it is nice if two socks match but don’t stress about it)
  3. Let dry for approximately 4 hours

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