Fall Crafts

28 11 2010

With the leaves gone from the trees and the snow starting to fall, we are officially moving into winter, and I’m putting away our fall decorations.  I have never been one to decorate for seasons, but I have to admit that it was fun to come up with these projects and the house looks nice with them up, so we’ll probably do similar activities in the future.  Our first project we started in October and finally finished about a month later.  It was a three-part activity:


First, we colored coffee filters with fall-colored watercolors.  Then, later (much, much later, weeks, maybe?), we cut up the coffee filters to to make our “dry leaves”.  I thought it would be good cutting practice for BB, but he was really struggling with it and got bored quickly, so I did a lot of the cutting myself.  Then our dry leaves got to hang out for a while until we finally got to the last part, making a tree on contact paper:


That part was easy and BB really got into it.  I cut out a tree trunk, placed it on the sticky side of contact paper, and we added our leaves.  The end result was a very cheerful window hanging!

I saw various leaf garlands floating around the internet and decided to give it a try.  We picked up leaves on a walk around the neighborhood and I ironed them in between wax paper (more ironing than I’ve done in months), which flattened them and theoretically gave them a bit of a protective coating.  Then I braided some yarn and BB and I stuck the leaves into the braid and secured them with a dab of glue.  All in all, it was a TON of work.  Braiding yards of yarn is not as easy as it sounds, and hot glue would have been much better, but not with a 3 year old around.  Also, the leaves were really brittle, so it was hard for him to do without breaking them.  So, not a really fun kid project, but I really liked how it looks. 


Last but not least, we made these goofy little turkeys for thanksgiving. 


BB named his “Gus the firefly” and his eyes repeatedly fell off (he has one eye missing here). 

I am hoping to be more intentional (and organized) about the projects we do from now on so in true Type A form, I am making a list.  Haha!  We’ll see how that goes.  It can’t be much worse than our random approach these last few months!

Travel Crafts — Part 3, the final chapter

30 05 2010

Our trip is almost upon us, and I am happy to say I finished up one last little travel goodie!   Although I don’t watch reality TV much, I love the blog So You Think You’re Crafty, which is kind of like, well, any of the reality shows it sounds like.  People compete every week, readers vote on a favorite, and someone is booted.  Last round there was this super cool travel book that I thought would be great entertainment for a car ride, or in a restaurant.  It has a page for a dress-up doll, tic-tac-toe, and coloring.  I felt the need to modify it (no pun intended), since BB doesn’t know how to play tic-tac-toe, and besides, there’s nobody for him to play with even if he did.  And, maybe it’s gender-biased of me, but I didn’t think he’d be that into dressing a doll either.  The page with crayons is fabulous, so that stayed, modified only to fit the size paper I had.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for all the nice details shown in the original project.  This was hastily done!  Maybe, if BB likes it, I can go back and modify it later.  Without further ado:

Mix-n match faces

The right-hand page is a blank face with velcro, where hair, eyes, and a mouth can stick.  Then I made three of each, for, oh gosh, I don’t remember how to figure it, but a lot of possible combinations.


The pad was just a little too big, but by the time I realized it, it was too late.  The crayons were all floating around in my diaper bag; they are from the cracker barrel, red robin, and denny’s, and luckily I had a whole rainbow’s worth!  The book has a velcro closure, and it’s about 6″x8″, so it’s nice and compact.  I just hope it’s fun too!  We have many, many hours in the car tomorrow…

As a bonus, I kept up the Science Friday theme, and we built boats out of aluminum foil.  This was an activity I did in physical science classes, back when I taught high school, and it was always a lot of fun, but I learned a few things this time:

  • The boats make good water scoops
  • Those beads I got to load up the boats and see how much they could hold are so light they almost float — not good for this purpose!
  • A tub of water is more fun as a car wash than as a science experiment.  Oh, well.

Building boats? Not so much.

After LB’s nap, we went over to Wild Wings to see the birds… that’s more on BB’s level.  It’s been a long time since we last went (ie. since the weather was nice, probably last fall), and he’s a lot more interested in them now. They have birds of prey–owls, eagles, hawks, and more–that are unable to return to the wild, along with some educational materials like these posters.  The thing on the left is a bald eagle nest… did you know they can weigh more than a ton?  I didn’t.  It’s probably more educational for me than for BB!

How big is a BB bird?

Travel Crafts — Part 2!

25 05 2010

Well, I did it!  I finished at least one more crafty project for our trip.  This is a travel high chair for LB.  I had seen this tutorial a while back on This Mama Makes Stuff, and finally had an opportunity to give it a try!

How it looks in the chair...

Insert baby, lift middle, velcro wings, and it's dinnertime!

I hope it will come in handy!  If nothing else, it is super cute.  🙂  Still more projects in mind, we’ll see if there’s time for them before we go…

Travel crafts–part 1 (?)

19 05 2010

In just over a week we are heading out on our first family vacation (or at least our first trip that isn’t to visit family).  We’re going to Montreal and Quebec City and we’re excited for the chance to experience a different culture so close to home.  BB has been telling all his teachers about our trip to Canada, so I think we’ll have a good time there, but the car ride has me a little more worried.  It’s only about 5 hours, so hopefully it won’t be too bad, but I have started working on some entertainment for the ride.  It’s been a long, long while since I worked on anything crafty, so I really enjoyed working on this.

A box of chocolates? No...

A little car village!

A farm, house, lake, playground, and of course, a parking lot!

A farm, house, lake, playground, and of course, a parking lot!

BB (like all little boys perhaps?) loves to play with cars, but in the car, it’s a little tricky.  I had read suggestions to use a cookie sheet and fridge magnets as something to play with in the car, but I’m not willing to sacrifice any cookie sheets for that job, so when I saw this tin, I thought it would be perfect.  I had already bought some mod podge that I was just itching to try out.  As you can see, I’m terrible at it.  No matter how I try, I am incapable of getting the paper to lie flat without ripples.  Oh well.  And I have the artistic skills of a 5 year old.  But I am hoping that’s enough to impress a 2 year old!  I found this On the Road Toob at Joann, and decided it would be perfect… I hot-glued little magnets on the undersides of all the little cars so they will stay in place in the car.  They’re a great size for this purpose; about half the size of most toy cars.  I saw a Farm Toob and so I added a barn to the scene, thinking I might go back to get it, to add some animals and people to the little village.  And, if time allows, I will add little fabric “bridges” so the cars can drive from one side to the other more easily.  Time has been in short supply lately, because LB has decided he is not into sleeping anymore.  So, I have some other projects in the works for our trip, and I am hoping to get them done (which is why this is tentatively part 1–I am hoping to follow with some more travel crafts).  More to come…?

5 minute card

28 04 2010

Happy Birthday, honey!

Today was my wonderful husband’s birthday, and being a procrastinator, I did not have a card for the occasion.  Making a simple card is about the easiest craft there is, so that’s what we did.  To say that either child helped in making this is a bit of a lie.  It’s a grownup craft, but a nice way to incorporate that precious artwork that is colorful and pretty but, you know, doesn’t actually look like anything.

While LB was napping, BB and I did some painting.  I painted flowers, while he just painted paper.  With colors.  If it was supposed to be something, neither one of us could tell.  To him, more colors = better, and I have to stop him before his page is uniformly brown.  Then during afternoon nap time, when both children are (theoretically) sleeping, I took a blank card, wrote Happy Birthday on it, cut out the letters with an exacto knife, then glued a piece of BB’s artwork (now dry) behind the open letters.  It’s a pretty effect, I think, and a nice way to make a card that’s “from” a child who is still too young to make a card on their own.  Watch out; if you are related to me, you will probably be receiving something like this for an occasion in the near future!

Happy Easter!

4 04 2010

More Easter crafts to share!  Having just discovered Google reader, I am inundated with Easter craft ideas daily, and BB is always up for a good craft.  The Crafty Crow was the inspiration behind all of these;  seriously, reading over that site will make you dizzy with ideas of things to try.

First up, growing grass in eggs… sounds a little strange but was so cute, and mixes dirt and growing things, so I thought this was one to try.  At Rosy~Posy, they used wheatgrass, which I would have known if I had read carefully, but unfortunately I am a little ADD and I just skimmed the pictures and went out and bought grass seed (I had wheat at home!  Note to self: read directions.)  I saved up some carefully cracked eggshells, BB filled them with dirt (that was the fun part), and I added the grass seed after reading that it was coated with fungicide (Note to self: read packages).  Here they are:

They need a haircut already!

Next up: yarn eggs.  Wow, this sounded easy but I don’t know why.  Click this link to Make Monthly to see their beautiful eggs, and the instructions to make them.  I had visions of decorating our house with these lovely eggs.  But, it turns out that string dipped in liquid starch is slippery, and BB just could not wrap it around the balloon.  I made one, and had to cut him off, because he was just making a mess of liquid starch everywhere.  Here’s mine:

Oh look, you can see the grass eggs growing!

True to my word, I did some more egg dyeing after the kids were asleep.  Let’s face it, eggs are fragile craft substrates.  BB broke a few in the process of dyeing, and those were hard-boiled!  And I wanted some I could set out on the table as decoration, so I blew out the remaining half-dozen and set about seeing if I could make not only red, yellow, and blue eggs, but also orange, green, and purple.  Just for fun, because, you know, I’m crazy like that and who really likes to sleep anyway?  I learned something that should have been self-evident.  Blown-out eggs float.  This makes them really hard to immerse in dye.  I was going to leave them overnight to get some darker colors, but I couldn’t get the darn things down in the dye, so I let them float, rotated them, and let them float some more.  The verdict?  I thought the plant-based dyes did a great job of producing the whole spectrum.  Interestingly, the float-and-turn method resulted in uneven colors, sort of overlapping stripes of darker and paler shades, that in the end I thought was even prettier than the solid color.  I took way too many pictures; I am way too excited about my rainbow of eggs. Here they are:

See the bands of color?

The orange and yellow didn't have that effect, but the red did.

Gratuitous egg shots!

I realized after the fact…what’s the point in dyeing blown-out eggs with natural dyes?  There’s nothing inside to worry about like with hard-boiled eggs!  D’oh!  Well, it was a really fun project and I’d just file it away as a proof-of-principle experiment (or should I say egg-speriment, mwahahaha!).  Plant based dyes are clearly all that and a bag of chips, but next year if I am doing blown out eggs I will save myself some time (and lots of beet salad and red cabbage coleslaw) and use food dyes like the rest of the world.  Happy Easter all!

Wardrobe refashion–Stain removal the easy way?

2 04 2010

Do you have kids?  If you answered yes to that, then you have clothing with stains that will never come out.  Give up now and save yourself the trouble!  I found this great idea ages ago for salvaging those hopelessly stained clothes: paint over the stain!  So simple, and yet so brilliant.  I haven’t had time to sew much lately, so this was a quick little project that gave all the satisfaction of creating a new shirt.

The shirt in question?  This nice, simple shirt that fits and matches most of the pants BB has in his wardrobe.  I was heartbroken to learn that the GRANOLA BAR he drooled all over it was apparently something that does not come out in the wash.  (Bangs head in frustration.)

Before: see the granola-drool track?

So, what should have been a super quick project became sort of involved when I couldn’t find my freezer paper.  It’s a giant box, which tells you how out of control my sewing area had become.  After 2 days of organizing, I located the sneaky box of freezer paper and set to work.  I asked BB what animal he would like on his shirt, and he said enthusiastically, “A lobster!”  He loves lobsters and I think it will be a sad day when he learns the fate of the lobsters at Wegmans, who he loves to visit.  Anyway, I was aiming for “giraffe” because a long thin stain needs a long, thin animal to cover it, so this is an example of why you shouldn’t ask questions you already know the answer to.  I printed out a picture of a giraffe, scaled to cover the stain, cut it out, and set to painting.  And voila!

After: Stain? What stain?

Bits of the stain still peek out a little, but it’s not nearly as noticable as it was before.  As the temperatures start to go up here at last, I’m happy to put this shirt back into rotation!  There you have it, stain removal the easy way not-so-easy-but-still-pretty-quick-and-more-fun-than-scrubbing-with-Shout way!

Easter Eggstravaganza

31 03 2010

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad pun!  In honor of Easter, we have been doing all kinds of egg-themed crafts.  First up, painted foil eggs, from Kids Craft Weekly.  This was great.  Just at BB’s level.  He loves to paint, and that’s really all this is.  I cut out the cardboard and covered it in foil, and he went to town painting the eggs.  Then, with a q-tip, we removed some of the paint so the foil would show through.  Easy and fun for a 2 1/2 year old, which proved not to be true of some other crafts we tried!

The artist at work!

Bonus: this is also a showcase of a quick sewing project… Remember the old flannel shirt I sadly sacrificed to be a smock?  Well, the sleeves were too long (duh) and it was dragging in the paint, so I did a little wardrobe refashion, made elastic-cuffed sleeves, removed a lot of fabric all around, and added snaps so it just snaps on.  So far it works a lot better than it did!

They were a collaborative effort.

Today we dyed eggs using natural dyes.  I found the instructions on Martha Stewart, so right away you know it’s going to be too much work.  But what the hey, we’re home all day!  So basically, you boil red cabbage to make blue dye (which looks purple, so confusing for a child), beets to make red dye, and turmeric to make yellow dye.  Now this was a LOT of fun.  Martha, I mock you, but you have the BEST crafts.  We did 6 eggs because that was all I could hard boil at once, but I can see myself making another batch tomorrow night after the kids go to sleep and just doing it myself.  I saved the dyes, so all the hard work and mess is done.  There is something insanely satisfying about extracting coloring from plants and then mixing it like an alchemist to get the perfect hue.  BB was just happy because he got to stir and things turned colors.  He’s easy to please!

Oooh, it's yellow!

After the first three, I decided to try wrapping one with a rubber band and over-dyeing it, but it didn’t turn out so well.  It’s interesting, I guess; it’s on the far left below:

So colorful! And not at all scary to eat!

You can change the depth of color by leaving the eggs in for different amounts of time, and like with all color mixing, you can get secondary shades by mixing the primary colors.  There are so many more egg-decorating techniques I would like to try (like all of these, especially the wax ones), but I think this year, just straight-up dyeing is as complicated as we will get.  The weather will be getting nicer for the rest of the week, so it’s time to start working in the garden, but we will have a few more Easter crafts to share!

Magical mystery paintings with watercolors

10 03 2010

Well, *I* think it looks like Elmo.

We did this activity a while back, and I don’t remember now where the inspiration came from.  It was a really simple and fun craft that met my most important criterion: easy to clean up.  I made the rookie mistake of letting big brother color with markers, so-called “washable” markers, I might add, and the marks are still on the kitchen table–nothing gets them out.  Same with food coloring… those food coloring based paints we did were a lot of fun to play with, but you have to wipe them up ASAP to prevent stains.  Well, not so with watercolors.  These are a little trickier than regular paint to use, but so worth it in the end.

What I did beforehand was draw a picture on a sheet of paper using a white crayon.  (Funny story–BB always tells me when he colors with his white crayon that it’s not working… maybe it needs batteries.  Haha!  The minds of children.  In his world, I think everything runs on batteries, so needing new batteries is the answer to everything.)  My drawing skills leave a lot to be desired, but I did my best.  The drawing is essentially invisible until he colors over it with the watercolors, then the drawing shows up as white lines.  I tried to draw Elmo, but he didn’t recognize it.  I did a Curious George drawing that I thought was darn good, and he thought it was “ummm, a bulldozer?”  To be fair, that was a full-page sized drawing, and he didn’t color the whole page, so it was hard to tell.  I think little drawings worked best.

Flowers... it doesn't get simpler than that.

Flowers... it doesn't get simpler than that.

I had to repeat a few times, “Water, then paint, then paper,” and sometimes he just painted the paper with water, but once he got the hang of it, he really went to town.  I think soon we’ll be able to wallpaper our house in his paintings, and I have to admit I feel a little bad about the sheer quantity of paper we go though, but I can’t think of another way to make paintings, so tree-killing it is.  It’s ironic because at the moment, his favorite story is “The Lorax”, and here we are, “more paper (15 seconds elapse)…more paper (15 more seconds)… more paper…”, you get the idea.  So, if you don’t mind burning though a lot of paper, this is a fun activity; we both enjoyed it.  I liked drawing pictures as much as he liked revealing them.  The pictures here aren’t the best, but if you look closely, you can see the white drawings that appear magically when the paper is painted.  The flowers he was able to recognize right away… maybe I have some artistic talent after all, haha!

Fingerpaints from the pantry

22 02 2010

I whiled away the evening yesterday browsing a new crafty site I found, The Crafty Crow.  Really, it’s a roundup of other craft blogs, but it’s great because things are indexed by age level and theme.  There are a ton of things I want to try!  I’m always looking for fun things to do with big brother… 2 1/2 is a tough age, because he’s not quite old enough for a lot of things, and coloring with crayons every day gets a little old.  So, today I made these gel paints that were described on In A Nutshell.  All it takes is cornstarch, water, and food coloring, which are things we always have around, and it was super quick, too!

Ooooh, purdy.

I think it’s safe to say that flannel shirts will not be coming back into vogue anytime soon, so I sacrificed an old shirt to be a smock, and we set to finger-painting. As advertised, these were a great way to teach color theory.  We mixed colors to see what would result, and it was a lot of fun!

Let the art begin!

This was definitely the high point of the day.  In fact, the rest of the day has been a disaster of Titanic-esque proportions (on a domestic scale, anyway).  And it’s not even dinnertime yet!  My thoughts on this project:

* Next time, I would make less.  We painted tons of sheets of paper (and paper plates) and had lots left over.

* I would just do primary colors; the green went largely unused, and it’s kind of unnecessary.

* I’d skip the scent.  I like the idea, but I used mint extract in these, and I don’t want to give the kiddo the idea that it’s food, even though I guess it would be safe to eat.

* I would be a “paint nazi” and dole out just a bit at a time.  We made a mess of the paints, which made color mixing hard after a while, since everything was all mixed up:

The Aftermath--our art, and what's left of the paints.

Good times, though!  We’ll do it again!