Snow Globes

I have always had a nostalgic fascination with snow globes, and my kids have recently become similarly enamored (I think it happened when my husband brought back a miniature one from a business trip to NYC with the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building in it.  Stay tuned for our own crazy combos in a minute…)  So when I saw an image on Pinterest of some beautiful globes, I knew we had to add it to our holiday activity list.

Now, I will be honest – snow globes rank rather low on the No Mess scale (there is glitter AND water involved, after all.)  And ours did not turn out quite as lovely as those you see at the mall or Martha Stewart.  But the kids and I had a grand time designing them, and they really were a great activity for a dreary December Sunday.  I think we’ve got a new tradition on our hands.

The Pinterest image didn’t have a source, so our approach is based on a hodge-podge of sources I found online / YouTube, plus a little trial & error.  Learn from my mistakes!

DIY Snow Globe Materials

  • Glass jars – *important*: before you start, test and make sure the lids screw on securely & don’t leak (I didn’t do this, and discovered after all was said & done that my lids were a little leaky. Ugh.)  You’ll see a Mason jar in the picture below, but we decided that wasn’t the best because of the pattern on the side; smoother seemed better to us.
  • Small plastic figurines – I picked up a couple of the Toob containers at Michael’s (one of buildings and one of trees), and found some festive figurines on sale at Rite Aid.  You can totally go with stuff you have around the house, if like us, you have little fairies, pirates, animals, etc from various sets / birthday parties, etc.
  • Glitter – yep, you do need glitter.  I saw online you could use crushed white eggshells instead, but that seemed like more trouble than it’s worth.  We used white & silver glitter; you could use whatever you like.
  • Glycerin or baby oil – (available at any drug store); this adds some viscosity to the water so the glitter floats longer.  But we tested one jar without it, and it honestly didn’t seem to make a huge amount of difference.
  • Hot glue or super glue – to glue the figurines to the jar lid (this is obviously a grown-up step.)  Also, if you want to make sure the lids stay ON those jars of water & glitter despite any attempts by a curious kiddo to open them, you can glue them on at the end.

Getting Started

Next, have your kids select the figures they want to use and arrange them on the lids.  We thought this part was super fun… it’s like creating your own tiny mini-city.

Two things to keep in mind before you glue the figures down: 1) make sure they’re not taller than your jar (we had to be sure to match the Empire State to the tall jar) and 2) be sure to leave enough space at the edges of the lid so you can screw them back onto the jar.

Once you all feel good about the arrangement of your scene, you can super glue the figurines to the lid.  (I just love the assemblages: Empire State Building+Eiffel Tower+Leaning Tower of Pisa, Santa+Taj Majal+Arc de Triomphe and Big Ben+Statue of Liberty!)

You’ll want to let them dry for long enough to be sure the glue will hold.  In the meantime, you can add water to the jars — fill them not quite to the threads to start (the figurines will take up space when you put them in.)

Then add the glycerin — about a half-teaspoon, and the glitter — about a teaspoon. You’ll see we added quite a bit more than that — some of us MAY have gotten carried away when given free rein on the glitter.

Finishing Touches

Then carefully screw the lid back onto the jar.  You might want to do this over the sink in case there’s too much water in the jar when you put the figurine in.  You can also check to see if you need to add a bit more water.

Shake them up and watch it snow!

Note: I discovered my jar with Santa in it had a leaky fit after it was all complete.  To salvage it a bit, I rimmed the lid with hot glue.  It didn’t completely solve the problem, but made us able to shake the jar a bit and enjoy it.  But these are creations that stay on the kitchen windowsill, just to be on the safe side!  And I think they look lovely next to our Mod-podge Magazine Christmas Trees!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Strawberries + Whipped Cream = Santa Claus!

If you’re looking for a holiday-themed dessert that will give your kids a chuckle, this is about as easy as it gets.  Pick yourself up a can of whipped cream and a pint of strawberries, and you’re good to go.  I know we are among the lucky ones in California because we can still get strawberries through the dead of winter (yes, they still call it winter here – though as my 4-year old likes to remind me, “it doesn’t snow in our land”.)  But it doesn’t really matter if your strawberries are not the tastiest ones — you’re topping them with whipped cream, after all.

All you do is cut off the stem end (toss that) and slice a little hat off the top (save that.)  Put a dollop of whipped cream on for a beard and another, smaller dollop on for the hat.

Adorable?  I think so.  I’m sharing my kinda sloppy Santas above (apologies for the poor lighting!  It’s winter after all, and practically dark at 4:30…argh.)  If you’re very gourmet and happen to have black sesame seeds in your pantry, you can add them for eyes (it does make him look a lot more like Santa) — and you’ll have something along the lines of my inspiration here:

In either case, I bet your kids will scarf them up, as mine did, and clamor for more.  Good news is that a can of whipped cream lasts for at least 2 pints of strawberries, plus a few mugs of hot cocoa, as a bonus.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

What are your (or your kids’) favorite holiday treats?

Clay Ornaments

OK, I’ve finally accepted that my calendar isn’t broken. It really is almost the middle of December(!!). Though my Christmas spirit is still simmering, my 4-year-old son’s holiday radar is burning red hot. He’s ready for Santa action, so when I asked him if he’d like to make his own tree ornaments, he could hardly contain his excitement!

DIY Clay Ornament Materials

  • Air dry white clay
  • Wax paper
  • Cookie cutters
  • Glitter glue
  • Rolling pin
  • Straws or chop sticks (to make the holes)
  • Hooks or twine for hanging
  • Paint brush

Getting Started

The first step, and the one that required a bit of elbow grease, was conditioning and rolling out the clay. My son loved working the clay with his hands, and he got to do some of the flattening with a rolling pin. The clay can be sticky so the wax paper was key, and since the clay is thick too, I stepped in to get it smooth and flat.

My son pressed down his cookie cutters on the flattened clay, and my first instinct for isolating the part of interest was to peel away the clay outside the cutters. Wrong! It worked much better to simply lift the cookie cutters since the clay inside neatly pulled up with the cutter.

Decorating

With a clear image in his mind of how he wanted to decorate his gingerbread man, tree and snowflake, my son carefully applied the glitter glue. But the glitter glue wasn’t always cooperative. It has a tendency to blob out if you squeeze too hard. He also tried painting the glue on with a paintbrush, which is nice for coating the clay. Despite the blobs, I still think the glitter glue is a great choice. My son practiced fine motor control, the glitter bonded well to the clay, and of course it shimmers!

Finishing Touches

Finally, I made my own ornaments (I couldn’t resist!) and used a straw or chopstick to poke the hole for hanging on the tree. We let our ornaments dry overnight, and the next day we flipped them over so the back side could dry, giving you a chance to decorate it the next day too.

Another option, if you’re not into glitter glue, is find objects to press into the clay — sort of along these lines You could try pine needles, pine cones, shells — or even Matchbox-type cars or little figures or animals.

In any case, we would love to see your DIY Christmas tree ornaments!  Please  add them to our Kiwi Crate Facebook page.  It’s always fun to see your creations too!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Pine Cone & Pompom Christmas Trees

Guest post from Jen at paintcutpaste.com

This is an oldie but a goodie – making Christmas trees out of pine cones and pompoms.

My daughter was so excited when I presented her with a bag of sparkly red and white holiday pompoms that I picked up for $1 and a pine cone from the yard. (Hooray for the little things in life!)

Perhaps it was the way I placed the pine cone on her art table or she’d seen this before, but without any prompting, she said, “I’m going to decorate this as a Christmas tree!”

She got right to work, using dots of school glue on some of the pine cone’s scales to adhere the pompoms to the pine cone.

After creating the little red and white one, she dug into our craft supplies to (successfully) find more pom poms, and decided that the little tree needed a “rainbowy mommy tree”  — naturally!

Sometimes these classic crafts from our own childhoods have staying power with our little ones!

Mod-Podge Magazine Christmas Trees

I had been planning on doing a Button Christmas tree with my kids this season, inspired by this image on Pinterest.  We had tons of beautiful buttons left over from the Button Pumpkin project, and I was eager to put those to use.  However, as we learned from that (sorta failure of a) project, covering an entire form in buttons is HARD WORK, and takes way more stamina than the average person has (in my house anyway.)

So, when I heard about the Creative Challenge our friend Rachelle from TinkerLab was planning to host — how to use your recycled magazines / catalogs for a child-directed creative project — a light bulb went off.  We’d cover those foam cones with magazines first, and then use the buttons as decorations!  Forget trying to cover the whole darn thing! Yay!!

Christmas Tree Materials

  • Foam cones from the craft store – these are the kind to use for floral arrangements
  • Catalogs – there’s no shortage of those arriving in the mail these days…
  • Buttons & other miscellaneous embellishments (sequins, jewels, etc)
  • Pins – we used some w/ large green heads, which made them more decorative
  • MOD-PODGE – I’m sure all of you are all over this stuff, but I’ve had a jar of it in our craft drawer for a year and never used it. Oh My Lord – what have I been missing??

First, S & I went to town cutting up the catalogs.  I ended up creating most of the volume of scraps, but she had a grand time with her scissor work.

So we ended up with a nice tray of assorted-size scraps.

Getting Started

And then the real fun began.  I have to admit that S and I both had SO MUCH FUN covering our cones (yes, I had to get in on the action too.

She needed a little help getting all the holes covered, but she did a remarkable job managing a tricky (sticky) material.

She was disappointed when I told her we’d have to wait for the glue to dry before we could add the buttons.  But then I realized – why stop here, since we already have a nice, sticky surface?  When I asked S if she thought we should add some glitter, her eyes lit right up.  We took her cone outside (yep, even somewhat crafty moms hate glitter on the kitchen floor), and S sprinkled away.

It didn’t take long for the Mod-Podge to dry, and S began sticking on the buttons and other sparkly things she found for ornaments.

I have to say, this project was a huge hit in our house, and will be a holiday repeat for us for years to come.  It was also such a treat for my daughter and me to explore materials that we don’t normally use and find a new favorite – Mod-Podge!  Thanks so much to Rachelle for inspiring us with her creative challenge!

Thank you to all who participated in our giveaway. The winner is Pamela Cain – congratulations, Pamela!

Please check out the other amazingly creative moms who are also participating in the Creative Challenge!

Child Central Station , kids in the studioTeach MamaThe Imagination Tree,Childhood101Teach Preschoolhands on as we growArtful ParentPaint Cut PasteA Mom With A Lesson PlanToddler ApprovedKiwi CrateArt 4 Little Hands,  Red Ted ArtThe Chocolate Muffin Tree,  Imagination Soup,Michelles Charm WorldMessy PreschoolersTinker LabMommy LabsPutti Prapancha

Pine Cone Fairy Family

My son H has been planning for weeks for his playdate today with two girls (!!) from his kindergarten class.  He informed me that they were “really into art, Mom”, so we should have some projects for them all to do (what? a playdate without Star Wars Legos?? what to do???).

I have to admit to you (since they’re in the picture below) that I had just BOUGHT pine cones at Michael’s (embarrassing b/c we are surrounded by pine trees, but we just spent a morning collecting pine cones, and they were all kind of falling apart. And HUGE. Not great for crafting. And the pine cones were only $1.50 at Michael’s for 15. But yes, I still feel somewhat sheepish for buying pine cones.)  And I had some supplies leftover from daughter S’s 4th birthday party where we did fairy crafts (more on that another day.)  So, we had the makings of something…

Supplies:

  • Pine cones
  • Felt — yes, those are little hats sewn from felt – leftover from the birthday party.  More on that in a minute.
  • Wooden doll heads (from craft-store; I used 25mm and the smaller size)
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Metallic wire ribbon (just something fun we had on hand)
  • Markers

Getting Started

And it so happens I recently pinned this super cute image on Pinterest of what I imagined to be a beautiful woodland fairy family, which be great to decorate a holiday table (I ignored the fact that they were dressed for Valentine’s Day in the picture.)  So we set out to make our own Pine Cone Fairy Family.

We affixed the heads onto the pine cones first.  Some of us glued the head directly onto the pine cone; for others, the tip of the pine cone wasn’t a cooperative shape, so we needed to affix it better – so used a pipe cleaner poked through the top and wrapped around the pine cone.

The pipe cleaners created cute arms, so even if we didn’t need them to hold the head on, the kids wanted to wrap them around the pine cone for arms.

After getting the heads on, we moved on to decorating the rest of the fairies.  That included gluing on those cute little hats.  I know, you’re probably rolling yours eyes right now – “really??  You want me to SEW a fairy hat?!”  Yeah, I hear you.  That’s what my husband said when I stayed up til all hours sewing 30 of them for the birthday party (but those are the irrational things that mothers do for their children’s birthday parties).

Here’s the deal: they are super easy – you just cut a triangle out of felt and sew up one side with embroidery thread and a needle.  Here’s a basic tutorial.  But if you don’t have thread or a needle, I bet you could wing it with a stapler.  Or skip the hat and cover their noggins with just a piece of felt, or yarn, or a rolled up pipe cleaner, or just color / paint on some hair.  I’m sure your kids could come up with a million more creative ideas and would never miss the silly gnome hat.

I would, however, advise picking up some sparkly wire ribbon if you’re ever at a craft store.  It was very easy to manipulate for all of my 4-6 year old crew and quite a hit, especially when used as a crown… Meet our Fairy Queen below:

Then there was a clamor for “MARKERS!”  We brought out the special Sharpies, and the kids got to work on faces and hair.

Finishing Touches

I gave our gang free rein on all the finishing touches, so some decided to add wings (naturally – they’re fairies, after all) – so we cut out some wing shapes and tied them on with embroidery thread.  (Wire ribbon or pipe cleaner would also work instead.)

I just love the range of personalities in our little Pine Cone Fairy Family!  Two of them went home with their creators, and the other two are nestled in beside the gingerbread houses on our table.

Stay tuned for another pine cone activity to come next week!  What are your favorite pine cone projects?

Melted Crayon Art

Have you discovered Pinterest? It’s an online pinboard where individuals share ideas and projects, and it has became a near obsession these days.  While browsing through the website, I came across this neat little art project and had to try it.

Melting. It’s a natural process that we can see everyday: the ice in a glass of water, the butter on the bread right after it has been toasted, or the candles on a birthday cake once they have been lit. So then, why not try to liquefy crayons? I gathered my artists and the materials: glue gun, blow dryer, canvases, and lots and lots of crayons. I sat the kids down and explained to them what we would be doing. Though I could have shown them a series of pictures from Pinterest, I decided not to because I wanted them to form patterns for themselves and not compare their work to others. And that is exactly what happened. They quickly grew excited and immediately started picking out crayons and forming patterns of their own. (Apologies for the grainy photos – this was a rainy day project!)

Once the colors and arrangements were finalized, we started the gluing process. I had a low temperature glue gun but because of the heat, I was still hesitant to let big S use it. Instead, I put the glue onto the canvas and had the kids stick the crayons onto the glue with the tip facing down. After the crayons were glued on, we lined the floor with newspapers and placed the canvases against the wall. Now came the most exciting part – melting the crayons. The kids began to blow-dry the crayons.

After waiting patiently for 2-3 minutes, the crayons were not melting quite as quickly as they hoped. So, we turned the heat up for a bit and moved the blow-dryer closer to the crayons. Eventually, the crayons became soft and started dripping onto the canvas.

Speaking from experience, I would recommend pointing the blow-dryer downward and spreading out a ton of newspapers because once the crayons begin to melt, they splatter. Although the kids got a kick out of melting crayons and the colorful splatter on their clothes, my laundry pile grew somewhat larger. We experimented with different temperatures and angles and ended up with interesting pieces of art.  It was a ton of fun on a rainy weekend and it inspired me to try one of my own.

Follow Kiwi Crate on Pinterest!  What are some of the coolest projects you’ve found there lately?

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Chocolate Chip Cookie + Toothpick = Fossil Dig!

Did you know it’s Dinosaur Month at Kiwi Crate?  We’ve been testing out tons of fun dinosaur activities for all those aspiring paleontologists out there!  Here’s one that’s easy peasy, but so fun.

Start with a chocolate chip cookie. Homemade or store-bought is fine. You can experiment with soft-baked vs. crispy… we used these Dunkers from Trader Joe’s (because the leftovers are DELISH in a cup of coffee during naptime. Shhh…) and they were fun, though the fossils (aka chips) were a little on the small side.  Next time, we’ll go for cookies with bigger chips.

Imagine your cookie is the earth and the chocolate chips are dinosaur bones. Using your toothpick or craft pick, carefully dig out each chocolate chip, trying not to break the chip or your pick.

You might try scraping around the sides of the chip before digging or prying it out.

See how many “fossils” you can recover. Then feel free to gobble them up!

Looking for more cool dinosaur activities? Visit our Digging Into Dinosaurs page!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Colander and Pipe Cleaners = Turkey

Rainy days are here and this project kept O busy for a long time – colanders have lots of holes!

Just stick the pipe cleaners into the holes in the colander where ever you’d like – you can also bend them over to make feathers, wings, a tail, and a head.

During the course of making our turkey, O declared it a “fire boat”, added hoses to it, and removed its head.

During naptime mommy turned it back into a turkey for demo purposes 😉

Such easy set up and tons of fun – when you’re done, you can pull all the pipe cleaners out and start again!

Can’t wait to hear what your kids turn the colander into!

Dinosaur Soap

It’s Dinosaur month here at Kiwi Crate, so we’ve been trying out all kinds of dinosaur activities at my house.  I saw a few different versions of this idea online and it looked like fun — plus it’s a great incentive to convince my kids to get in the bath!

I combined the directions from this source and this one (but don’t follow the latter’s directions — the proportions of gelatin to water are wrong).  Note: this soap is more of a jelly consistency than a solid, so it’s probably better for playing in the bathtub than washing hands at the sink.

Dinosaur Soap Ingredients

  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin (I’m pretty sure flavored Jell-O won’t work)
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp iodized salt
  • 1/2 cup bubble bath or bath gel
  • Food coloring
  • Plastic dinosaurs
  • Mold (I used an aluminum bread pan; it would be more fun to use a clear glass bread pan if you have one)
  • Small bowl

**You’ll notice a cookie cutter in the picture above; I ended up not using it, but had already taken the picture.  Consider it just a perch for your dinosaurs. 🙂

Getting Started

First, empty the packet of gelatin into the bowl.  Then, (this is an adult step,) pour in the hot water and stir until the gelatin has dissolved.

Measure the bubble bath (or bath gel) and add to the bowl with the gelatin.

Next stir in the food coloring; we used 20-30 drops.  It was so fun for S not to have to stop after 2-3 drops! Then add the salt.

Pour the mixture into the mold.  As I said, we used this bread pan, but I wish that we had a glass dish — it would have been cooler to see the dinosaurs through the sides.

Then send your dinosaurs in for a swim!  In order to cut the soap bars out later, you’ll want to try to arrange the dinosaurs so they’re not too close.

Place your dinosaur-gelatin-soap in the fridge for about an hour (it will harden just like real Jell-O!)

You can cut it out your soap with a butter knife (or a cookie cutter if you want to get fancy.)

Of course if it’s not dinosaur month at your house, you can feel free to suspend any creatures you’d like in your soap!  I can imagine bugs, butterflies or fairies would be fun too.