Valentine Garland with Kids

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays because it celebrates love, which is something that all of us can get behind. And visually, it’s a burst of cheery color that pulls me from mid-winter gloom (not that there’s too much of that right now in sunny California, but we do have our days).

There are lots of ideas out there for Valentine garland’s but what’s especially nice about this one is that it’s kid-friendly. Not only can you make it with the help of little people, but they’ll work on fine motor skills and contribute toward beautifying your home along the way. Win-win!

Getting Started

To get started, we measured and cut a length of baker’s twine to fit the space above the kids’ art table, adding an extra 10″ on each side for tying it off. This part can be trimmed later if you’d like. I then cut a handful of red and white hearts (choose at least two different colors). The hearts eventually overlap, so cut a few of each color in two different sizes.

Gluing the Hearts

My 3.5 year old watched me glue the first heart to the twine, and then we worked together to attach the rest. She asked me to glue, I helped place the twine, and then she attached the top heart.

They were a little goopy at first, but dried well and add a festive holiday touch to our space.

For more Valentine ideas, check out our All-in-one-Valentine-Envelope and Deconstructed Valentines.

What do your kids like about Valentine’s Day? Are you decorating for the holiday?

Rachelle blogs at Tinkerlab.

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Balloons + Bouncy Balls

We recently hosted a birthday party for our six-year old son.  It was a lower key theme than some years past (which featured Pirates, Superheroes) – he just wanted the biggest bouncy castle we could find.  So we decided to just go with the theme of BOUNCE, and for the favors we collected a bunch of balls from the party store.
For something a little different than the standard bouncy balls and Nerf footballs, we decided to add in these fun balls made from a small bouncy ball & balloon.  They bounce around in a crazy, unexpected way, and were a big hit with the kids.
All you need are some balloons (I used 9” ones) and bouncy balls.

It was slightly tricky to figure out how to get the balls inside.  We got a good tip from a friend to stretch out the mouth and neck of the balloon and then basically turn the balloon inside out over the ball. You end up the with balloon inside out, but it doesn’t really matter.

Then just inflate!  They bounce a little better if you keep them smaller.  It didn’t take long to inflate a couple dozen, and it was great fun to have a basket of them to greet the kids as they arrived at the party.  They were intrigued by the basket of funny balloons and got a huge kick out of watching them bounce around!

What are your favorite crafty party favors?

Watercolor Resist Paintings: Under the Sea

Jami blogs at
Inevitably, the afternoon lull arrives. It usually comes around the time my son would nap when he was younger. But since “big boys” clearly can’t take naps (even if they’re rubbing their eyes and getting grumpy), it’s a good time to do something peaceful together. I also like to have a few tricks up my sleeves to keep things interesting.

This time, I’ve prepared a watercolor surprise for H. The night before, I drew sea creatures directly onto contact paper, cut them out, and stuck them each onto a piece of thick watercolor paper.

As the lull approaches, I’m ready to head it off with our sea creature resist art project. My son sits down and studies the faint outline of a seahorse on paper. Immediately curious, he’s forgotten all about the TV he was asking to watch only moments ago.

We slip on his art shirt, and he quickly paints directly on the contact paper seahorse. I can see him puzzling over why the paint isn’t really sticking. He picks different colors, trying again to stain the seahorse. Eventually, he focuses on saturating the paper all around and out to the edges, though still comes back to the seahorse, just to check.

Now he’s done and ready to see what’s next. Once the paint has mostly dried, we slowly peel off the contact paper. We take care not to pull up the paper underneath.

Surprise! The seahorse pops out of the watery colored background exactly as I’d hoped!

H is wowed by my magic trick and wants to paint more. Luckily I got a little carried away the night before drawing sea creatures. We paint a fish, and H surprises me by correctly pegging it as an angelfish.

We create an octopus surrounded by the colors of the rainbow.

Fish swim and jellies float in a dark and scary ocean. H is drawn to black, saying the fish are entering a cave.

A hammerhead shark cuts through the sea water like a torpedo.

I can’t wait to frame and hang them in my son’s room. This was such a cool way to explore the shapes of sea creatures.

I’m thinking watercolor resist paintings could make great homemade birthday gifts too. Or, this could be a magical way to learn the alphabet or numbers by having your child reveal the letters of their name when they paint, or the numbers 1-10. Oh, the possibilities!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Crayons & Watercolor

Who can resist wax resist? With just crayons and watercolors, you can explore color mixing, find hidden surprises, and learn about wax resisting water.

My son drew grudgingly with that frustrating white crayon that never produces results, but I promised him this time they would.

To his delight, as we started painting over it with watercolors, the white drawing he’d made began to show through. He declared this ocean scene “Hawaii!” You can also use this method to create and reveal secret messages.

We tried various colors to see how they looked with different watercolors. It was an armchair trip to MOMA!

Which materials do you enjoy mixing to produce unexpected results?

Creating Gnome Toys

Guest post from Jen at

My almost-5-year-old daughter is very excited about the idea of making her own toys. Most recently she has enjoyed creating and playing with wooden and felt gnome characters.

This is a manageable and esteem-building project for a child who is learning to sew. While it requires adult involvement or supervision, depending on the age of the child, many kids 5 years or older will be able to execute most of this project on their own.

Gnome Toy Materials

  • Felt (wool or synthetic)
  • Embroidery thread
  • Embroidery needle or darning needle
  • Unfinished wooden peg dolls (You can find these at art supply stores and even on
  • Non-toxic watercolor paint
  • Beeswax

Getting Started

My daughter began by painting the wooden peg bodies with watercolor paints.

Once the paint was dry, she sealed so that the paint would not easily rub off, and to give the colored wood a nice glow. We used a homemade wood crème created by melting beeswax, olive oil, and tea tree or lavender oil (for naturally antibacterial properties and yummy scent) in a double boiler. You could also seal the paint with plain beeswax (or beeswax-based lip balm in a pinch) by rubbing it over the painted wood surface and wiping it off with a soft cotton rag.

Coloring the Gnome

Next my daughter carefully selected colors of felt and embroidery thread she wanted to use for gnome hats.

I folded the felt in half and cut a right triangle with a slightly convex, arched, hypotenuse side. (Yes, I had to look that up! Trig refresh: the hypotenuse is the diagonal across from the right angle.) This curved part becomes the edge of the hat the child stitches up. It gives the gnome hat color and interest in the front, with a cute arched back hat shape. My daughter concentrated intensely while sewing up the hat with embroidery thread and a darning needle using a very basic running stitch.

Once she completed the sewing, I tied a knot in the end of the thread for her, using this as a teaching opportunity for knots. (It’ll be a little while before she masters this part.) Then I hot glued the hat onto the wooden gnome’s head exactly where she wanted it to be.

More and More Gnomes!

She created a few gnomes at once and was so very proud to have created the toys with which she spent the rest of the afternoon playing. She even went on to make more gnomes as gifts for friends. What a confidence-building experience it is for a child to be able to play with something where they can say “I made this!”

Whole Wheat Goldfish Crackers

I know what you’re thinking.  What busy parent has the time or inclination to remake something that has clearly been PERFECTED (in our children’s eyes / mouths) by Pepperidge Farms?  Have I gone mad??  Well, I stumbled across this recipe recently on my favorite food blog, and it looked so easy I had to give it a try.

Plus, the idea of mini goldfish cookie cutters was so darn cute.  I went to the website that Smitten Kitchen recommended (here), and was overwhelmed by the awesome assortment.  Who knew there were so many adorable cookie cutters in the world?  So knowing that Under the Sea month was coming up here at Kiwi Crate, I went a little “overboard” (ha, ha).  How could one resist a seahorse cookie cutter?

And the recipe was – SO EASY.  (See the full, food-blogger-beautiful version of the recipe here.)  Honestly – this is all you need:

Whole Wheat Goldfish Ingredients

  • 6 oz (1-3/4 cups) grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 TBSP cold butter
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder (I didn’t use this – didn’t have any and didn’t want to buy just for this recipe)
  • 1/4 to 1/8 tsp salt

The recipe Smitten Kitchen adapted hers from used all white flour, so you can certainly do that if you don’t have / don’t like whole wheat.  I thought they turned out great — kind of like a nutty-tasting cheese straw, and most importantly, my kids liked them — so I will stick with the slightly healthier version.

Getting Started

Dump everything into a food processor (bonus: you can use it to grate your cheese first, if you don’t buy it already shredded.)

Let it run for about 2 minutes – until your ingredients magically turn into a ball of dough.

Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll your dough to about 1/8 inch thick.

Then you & your pint-sized helper can go to town with your cookie cutters.  This was the fun part.

If you like, you can poke holes with a toothpick-type tool for eyes.  Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in a 350F oven for 12-15 minutes, until the edges just start to brown.

The Result

These were a total hit in my house.  The lone sea horse was devoured almost as soon as it came out of the oven and all the sea animals soon after.  My 4-year old gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up and declared “Mom, you’ve gotta taste these!”

I’m certainly not swearing off the Pepperidge Farms originals (what busy mom could??), but I’ll happily make these again and feel good about putting a handful in my kids’ lunch boxes (alongside a sea-horse shaped turkey sandwich, of course!)

Hair Gel Aquarium

I recently heard a presentation by Bev Bos (a renowned play-based preschool founder and expert on preschool learning).  One thing that particularly struck a chord was her comment that, “children have to use too much!”

If he pours his own cereal, squirts his paint, pumps his soap, dumps his ketchup, etc, my son wants what in my eyes is “too much!” Building a hair gel aquarium was a reminder that sometimes “too much!” is just what my 3 year old has in mind.

To build this fun tactile aquarium, you need a sturdy Ziploc bag, hair gel, sea creatures and some food coloring (optional). I picked up the sea creatures at our local party store. The hair gel had been sitting in my medicine cabinet for years and I was happy to repurpose.

B was drawn to the sea creatures. He unwrapped each one and lined them up on the table. Jabbering away about, “Grandma has a seahorse on her shirt. The crab going to pinch you. Owee, ow. This fish is pink. The fish are at the a-care-ium. . . .” These particular creatures were stretchy, which was also a hit.

Next, we put food coloring into the plastic bag. Given free reign over the dropper bottle, B happily squirts in “too much.”

He also enjoyed squeezing the hair gel bottle. While emptying the bottle, I try not to say “too much!”
Now I tell him to pick some animals to put in the aquarium. B selects all the animals. I think “ahh, too much!”

We seal the bag and the squishy fun begins.

I tape the Deep Sea Aquarium to the window for some extra fun for the next couple of days. What creative materials do your kids love to use “too much” of?