Sandpaper Garden

It’s Spring!  And it’s Garden Month here at Kiwi Crate, and we’ve been discovering and playing with tons of fun gardening activities – check out some of the fun projects, videos and books we found here.

This Sandpaper Garden was one of our favorites… Gardening with kids is such fun – it’s a great excuse to get outside and get dirty, wet & muddy.  But sometimes, getting wet & muddy is not part of the agenda.  For those times, this is the best no mess gardening project. 

Of course, it’s no mess because you’re planting an imaginary garden – but that’s part of the fun!  Plus, your kids get to use unexpected materials, which is always a treat.  All you need is:

Sandpaper Garden Materials

  • Sandpaper (we used 100-grit, which is a little coarser than the finest grit; you can buy by the sheet at your local hardware store)
  • Glue or Glue Dots
  • Seeds (bigger is better for this; you buy a packet for about $0.99 at the hardware store, too.  We used watermelon and bean seeds.)
  • Oil pastels, if you have them – these turn out so well on the sandpaper!  We used the CrayPas pastels left over from our Wind Crate.  You can also use crayons or markers.

This was my kids’ introduction to sandpaper, so we took a minute to appreciate the cool new texture here.  “What do you think it’s made of?  Can you guess what the paper is called?  What do you think it’s used for?”  They had good questions like “How do they get the sand to stick??”  Hmm… probably with some icky chemical – but moving on..  Then we read Jack & the Beanstalk and discussed all the real and imaginary things they might want to grow.

Planting the Garden

My two kids took two different approaches to “planting” their gardens.  Approach #1: plant your seeds first. 

Then draw your garden around the seeds…

Approach #2: Draw your garden first. (This was adopted after planting the first seed, and H decided that it was easier to draw the plants without working around the seeds / glue.)

Then add the seeds.

Learning About Gardens

We talked about all the things your garden might need to grow (dirt, rain, sunlight), so you’ll see some of that represented here.  For some reason, my kids were a little obsessed with ants, ant trails and sugar that day, so we’ve got those in our garden too!

What are YOUR favorite garden projects?  Please share!

10 Kid-Friendly Earth Day Crafts and Projects

A direct hands-on approach is a wonderful way to help your little ones become environmental activists, which is why we’ve compiled this list of the Top 10 Kid-Friendly Earth Day Crafts and Activities.

In addition to turning “reduce,” “reuse,” and “recycle” into household buzzwords, these homegrown projects will help inspire creativity and supply a lot of fun for your kiddos on April 22 and beyond!

10. Milk Jug Yo Yo

Who knew a plain old milk jug could be repurposed into an innovative ball catcher? Your children can make this crafty milk jug yo yo using materials readily found around the house. Not only will they have a great time playing with this eco-friendly creation, but they’ll also get a little lesson in upcycling. (via A Mom with a Lesson Plan)

9. Recycled Ornament

We love this unique way to reuse those old container lids that are usually tossed in the trash bin. Turn them into homemade ornaments! Just drill holes in the middle of each lid, then let the kiddos stack them together and secure with string. Hang on a holiday tree or from the ceiling for a one-of-a-kind earth-friendly decoration. (via My Plum Pudding)

8. Styrofoam Embroidery Tray

Did you know that it takes virtually forever for Styrofoam to biodegrade? Instead of letting those foam meat packages sit in a landfill for the next millennia, transform them into these cute embroidered trays. And they’re so simple to make: all you need are some yarn and a (plastic) yarn needle. The result? A piece of art that lasts virtually forever. (via Creative Jewish Mom)

7. DIY Seed Tape 

Seed tape makes planting tiny seeds (e.g., radishes) that need to be planted inches apart a lot easier. However, we think this child-friendly project makes a lovely gift as well. Plus, using everyday household ingredients and recycling newspaper strips make this effortless craft one of our top picks! (via Giverslog)

6. Recycled Crayons

Most kids are familiar with reusing and recycling, but what about reducing? Making crayons from their existing crayon supply is a simple, but effective way to reduce consumption of new resources. As a bonus, they’ll get to create awesome colors that they’ve never seen before! (via Inner Child Fun)

5. Biodegradable Seed Starting Planter Pots

We’re cheating here a little by giving you more than one ideas, but these five eco-friendly seed starters are all pretty brilliant in their own way. This planting lesson also teaches the kiddos what kinds of materials are biodegradable. From reusing newspapers and toilet paper rolls to eggshells and orange peels, you’ll likely never need to purchase mini pots again! (via Unconsumption)

4. DIY Upcycled Plastic Bottle Cap Mosaic

From the moment we spotted this bottle cap mosaic, we knew we had to go rummage through our recycle bins and recreate this work of art. Let the kids help arrange the caps any way they like, and they’ll learn just how easy it is to repurpose everyday “trash” items into something extraordinary. (via Blu Kat Kraft)

3. DIY Terrarium

One of the most wonderful ways to give back to the Earth is by growing and nurturing new plant life – we think this DIY Terrarium does exactly that. To make these extremely low-maintenance ecosystems, you’ll need an old mason jar, some backyard moss, dirt, and maybe, a trinket or two. And did we tell you the best part? You only need to water these plant sanctuaries once or twice a year. (via Hello Bee)

2. Egg Carton Fairy Lights

These fabulous egg carton fairy lights made our eyes twinkle the moment we saw them. Originally a submission for Tinkerlab’s Egg Carton craft challenge, these lights are upcycled from old egg cartons and Christmas lights. And you’ll be amazed at how simple they are to make too! (via Red Ted Art)

1. DIY Plantable Paper

We’ve heard of homemade paper, but this eco-loving project takes it one step further with DIY Plantable Paper! We think this recycled seed paper is one of the coolest crafts we’ve seen – it’s not too often you can create something from your own two hands, then watch it grow! (via Alpha Mom)

A big tree hug and thank you to all our bloggers and crafters who inspired us with these projects! And please leave a comment if you’ve found a fun earth day project or activity that you’d like to share or recommend.

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Grass Seed + Sponge

This simple way of growing a garden with your kids is perfect homes with limited outdoor space. All you need is a handful of grass seed and a sponge. No Dirt!

For a little extra inquiry, I decided to use two sponges, one with antibacterial chemicals and one from Trader Joe’s. Both work! Grass seed can be found at local nursery, but was only sold in detergent sized containers at the one warehouse store I checked. B’s scoopful only cost $0.33 and there were wagons at the nursery!


First wet the sponge. The Trader Joe’s sponge came compressed and watching the expansion was a hit. I gave B a spoon and dropper to extend the play, but this is not necessary.


Then spread some grass seed on top of the sponge.

Leave the sponges in a sunny spot and wait. In about four days we saw some tiny sprouts. Then we went on vacation for a week and returned to full grown grass!


For some more fun B continues to water and “mow” his indoor lawn with scissors.


Please share:

  • What tips do you have for low mess gardening with kids?
  • What types of plants do you recommend for amateur adult and kid gardeners?



Egg Carton Challenge: Transport Ship

Space Ship Egg Carton

Space Ship Egg Carton

Our friend Rachelle at Tinkerlab is running her latest Creative Challenge: Egg Carton, so of course we were so excited to participate! The rules are simple: all projects should be child-directed (although grown-ups are welcome to join in as well) and must use an empty egg carton. The objective of these challenges is to help children learn to trust their own ideas, build creative confidence, and envision new purposes for common objects.  You can check out all the fantastic project ideas at the Creative Challenge post, and if you have an egg carton project to share, you can join the fun, too! See details at the bottom of this post.

This was a timely challenge for me, as I’d collected a pile of egg cartons left over from Easter. Plus egg cartons are one of my favorite recycled building materials – easy to cut, easy to decorate, and the perfect size for keeping little treasures. My son immediately jumped on the idea of making a spaceship, which evolved into this rocket-powered car transport ship.

Egg Carton Ingredients

You’ll need:
empty egg carton
duct tape
markers and other decorative embellishments (optional)

Egg Carton - cutting the hatches
Step 1: Cut the hatchways
This is the only step I helped with. I cut two hatchways, positioned so there was enough material left on the ends for our spaceship’s rockets. I created really big hatches because I knew I needed to leave room for cars get on board.

Egg Carton - tape it closed
Step 2: Tape the carton shut
Take the duct tape and seal the carton, so the only openings are the hatchways. We taped all the way around the edge, and then added more on top of the hatchways so they’d match.

Egg Carton - decorating your spaceship
Step 3: Decorate and fly!
We just used different colors of tape and markers to decorate our spaceship, but at this point you could glue on any embellishments you like. We used red duct tape for the rockets, outlined with the marker. (We used a permanent marker since washable markers don’t work well on duct tape, but you could certainly use washable markers to decorate the carton). At that point, my son declared his spaceship “awesome”, loaded it up with cars and zoomed away!

Tinkerlab Creative Challenge

If you want to submit your own egg carton project for this challenge, or just get inspiration from all amazingly creative submissions, go check out Tinkerlab’s Egg Carton Creative Challenge post. To participate, you can submit to the Linky at the end of the post. Or if you don’t have a blog, just add a photo in a comment. Plus, all comments submitted before Sunday, April 15, 2012 will be entered to win a free crate from Kiwi Crate. Happy creating!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Tin Foil Monster Truck Rally

Monster Truck Rally

My 6-year-old has been obsessed with trucks since before he could talk, which has led to a truly impressive collection of small-scale vehicles. In fact, just about every game in our house involves a truck or a racecar. So I was really excited to find this brilliant idea from Time for Play for creating a monster truck rally out of nothing more than aluminum foil and toy cars.

Tin foil cars set up and ready to be crushed

All you do is press a sheet of foil around a car to create an impression. It helps to cut the foil into roughly car-sized squares, so you don’t wind up with a big lump of foil at the bottom.

I formed a bunch of cars for my 3-year-old since getting the shape right was a little too difficult for him. My 6-year-old, on the other hand, happily shaped an entire herd of junkers to be crushed by the monster trucks.

For my little monster truck fans, this was a great activity to provide some happy distraction while I got food on the table.

Painted Garden Markers

Painted Garden Stones

Painted Garden Stones

Time to welcome spring! This is a fun project to spruce up a newly planted garden. Plus it’s a perfect activity for getting artistic – and maybe a little messy – outside.

You’ll need:
Rocks – ideally, larger ones w/ a flattish surface – or bricks
Acrylic paint safe for outdoor use or washable paint, which just means you can have fun painting again with the rain
Sharpie permanent marker, optional
A bowl or pail of water

Outdoor Paint for Garden Stones

When you’re picking out the acrylic paint, you just need to look for two things on the label. First, check the front and make sure it’s good for exterior/outdoor use. Second, turn it over and check that the instructions say something like “clean up with soap and water”. That means the paint is water-based and therefore easy to clean up. I found these little touch-up sized jars at a hardware store, but a hobby shop would be a good bet, too.

Child Painting Garden Rock

We like setting up outdoors to minimize clean-up. Kids should be dressed in “paint clothes” or covered with a really big smock – an adult’s button-down shirt turned around backwards works really well. To clean up, just rinse out the brushes in the pail of water (no need to get an indoor sink dirty). Tip: set brushes to dry with the bristles pointing up – this prevents the tips from getting stiff.

If you’re creating garden markers, it really helps to give the child a photo of what the grown plant or vegetable will look like. (The pictures on seed packets are perfect for this.) This is a great way to talk to kids about how plants grow from seeds!

When the painting is done, set the rock aside to dry overnight. Then, if you’d like, take a permanent marker and write the name of the plant.

Decorative Garden Stones

After creating a few garden marker stones, my kids moved on to more free-form decorative projects (see the colorful bricks above!)  Less useful, but still festive and bright in our garden.

Happy spring!

Embroidery Thread Easter Eggs

This is an oldie, but a goodie — a super fun project to create beautiful decorations for a festive Spring or Easter table.  Do note: it’s pretty messy (ie., our fingers got pretty much covered in glue), so you might want to plan accordingly and cover your counter or table before you begin, and have some wet paper towels ready.  And I have to say, the mess is worth it — we were really amazed at how great these turned out.

You’ll Need:

  • Balloons – ideally, small ones (9” or less)
  • Embroidery thread (sold at any craft or fabric store)
  • White glue (like Elmer’s)
  • Small cup (like a cupcake liner), bowl or plate, to pour the glue into
  • Aluminum pan, foil or wax paper (to place your balloon eggs on to dry)


1) Blow up your balloons.  Remember, the size of your balloon will be the size of your egg – so unless you’re thinking of ostrich eggs, you don’t need them to be too big.  (Do you have one of these balloon-pumper things?  They’re awesome, in case you ever find yourself needing a ton of balloons for a birthday or a project like this or this.)

2) Measure and cut strands of your embroidery thread.  We used strands about 2 feet long.  Depending on how thickly you want to cover your balloon, you will need 10-15 strands of thread.

3) Pour a few tablespoons of glue into the cup.

4) Dip the first strand of thread into the glue.  Holding the thread over the cup of glue, pull the thread through your finger and thumb to spread the glue along the whole length of the thread. (This is where it will get messy!  But my daughter LOVED it, and I got to show her how fun it is to rub glue on your hands, let it dry and peel it off!  Weird, I know.  Did anyone else ever do that??)

5) Wrap the thread over the balloon, covering as much space as you can.

6) Repeat steps #4 & 5 with more thread, until you have covered as much of the balloon as you would like.  Note: the more you have covered the balloon, the sturdier your egg will be.  S also decided to paint more glue on the balloon after the thread was on; not sure this is a required step, but I thought it might help reinforce the structure.

7) Let dry overnight.

8) After the glue on the thread has dried COMPLETELY, pop the balloon (using scissors or a knife).  Carefully pull the balloon out through a gap in the thread (you can use your fingers or tweezers).  You’ll be left with a beautiful egg!

Kiwi Crate Picks: The Top 10 Kid-Friendly Easter Egg Decorating Ideas

We know dyeing and decorating Easter eggs is an important tradition for many families. So, over the last few weeks, we’ve been perusing Pinterest and our favorite blogs, searching for creative, delightful, and kid-friendly projects that are simple and promise incredible results.

After much careful and hard-boiled consideration, we would like to present to you our top 10 picks!

Credit: Tattly

10. Tatted Eggs
You’re thinking: “What is the secret to these incredibly detailed egg designs?” Temporary tattoos! Just boil your eggs, then rub tattoos onto the surface — just like you would on your skin. (Via Tattly)


Credit: Artful Parent

9. Holey Eggs
And you thought hole reinforcement stickers were just for paper. Not anymore! Children of all ages can arrange the stickers to make unique designs and patterns. Then dip, dye, and peel away. (Via Artful Parent)


8. Cracked Dinosaur Eggs
We thought these eggs were remnants from the prehistoric era! These ingenious dinosaur/dragon eggs are a great surprise for any day really — each one is like unwrapping a present! (via Our Best Bites)


Credit: Parents

7. Glitter Spotted Eggs
Aren’t these sparkly eggs too lovely to crack? We were also dazzled by how easy they are to make. All you need are glue dots, some glitter, and, of course, glitter-loving kids. (via Parents)


Credit: Two Men and a Little Farm

6. Au Naturel Eggs
All of these natural dyes are safe for egg consumption and create unusual colors that you might not find in store-bought dyes. For example, red wine dye creates the most luscious violet-blue color. (Via Two Men and a Little Farm)


Credit: indiefixx

5. Electrical Tape Eggs
We were pretty shocked when we discovered that the funky prints on these eggs actually came from electrical tape! Just like snowflakes, no two designs will look alike — and so much fun for the kids. (via indiefixx)


Credit: Better Homes and Gardens

4. Washi Tape Eggs
We love washi tape, a Japanese fabric-like tape, which comes in a range of colors, sizes, and patterns. Instead of dyeing your eggs, just cover them up with pieces of washi tape to create a one-of-a-kind effect! (via Better Homes and Gardens)


Credit: Paint Cut Paste

3. Melted Crayons
Did you know you can create fabulous and colorful designs using crayons? Use the tips of crayons to draw onto the surface of hot hard-boiled eggs. The wax will melt and harden, revealing spectacular results. (via Paint Cut Paste)


2. Volcano Egg Dyeing
Not only beautiful, but these volcano eggs are also a science experiment in themselves. This is such a fun process for both parents and the kiddos — with amazing results to boot! (via Toddler Approved)


Credit: Our Best Bites

1. Silk Tie-Dyed Eggs
We were blown away when we found out that these amazing designs originated from silk ties! (We think you and your kids will be too) We’re also huge fans of the simple dyeing process as well — just wrap and boil. (via Our Best Bites)

A big thank you to all the bloggers and publications who inspired us with these fabulous creations! For more Easter celebration ideas, visit our Pinterest board.

Do you have a favorite egg dyeing or decorating technique we missed? Share in the comments below!

Easter Chickies

Oh Easter! A time for marshmallow bunnies, Cadbury eggs, chocolate eggs, and my newest favorite treat: Candy-coated chicks!

To make these easy, and not to mention, tasty little chicks, all you need are a few simple ingredients:

  • Pretzels (any size will do)
  • Candy Wafers, also called Candy Coating
  • Wax paper
  • Pan
  • Black frosting/icing/gel
  • Orange frosting/icing/gel

1. Line a tray with wax paper. Arrange the pretzels on the sheet. It’s easier to set them up beforehand, so you aren’t having to reach into the bag every two seconds.

2. Fill a microwave-safe container with candy wafers, about halfway.  Make sure to melt them according to the package directions. For mine, I put them in for 30 seconds at medium heat, then in 15-second increments at low heat. After each increment, I mixed the candy around with a spoon until it had a smooth frosting-like consistency.

2. Take spoonfuls of the candy and pour into the pretzels. You can smooth the candy out with the back of the spoon or with a toothpick.

3. Wait about 10-15 minutes for the candy coating to harden in the pretzels.

4. Now it’s time to decorate the chick face!  Use the black frosting to make little eyes, and the orange icing to make the little beaks. (Note: You can also use orange chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, but I couldn’t’ find them at the store. Just make sure to stick the seeds in before the candy coating sets)

4. Let harden for up to an hour. I found the orange gel took forever to dry, so may try frosting next time. Still, the orange makes it look so cute!

5. Enjoy and share! Trust me, everyone will find these little chicks irresistible!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Paper Bags + Scissors = Nest

The egg dying & decorating season is in full swing.  Regardless of whether you’re doing plastic, “real”, hard-boiled or blown-out, chances are you have — or will have soon — some eggs in your house.  What would be the perfect place to showcase some of those eggs?  A NEST, my kids shouted.

I saw this cute – and SUPER easy – project to create “nests” for our eggs.  You can find projects to create more sophisticated papier maché nests, but this version was just right for our small hands and attention spans.

All you need is two paper bags (the small lunch bag size is perfect for a small nest) and scissors.

To start, cut off the top 3-4″ of the bag.  You can recycle the top of the bag or turn it into something else (cuffs? a house? a tunnel?)

Cut lots of slits in the top of your now-smaller (bottom part of the) bag.  It works best if you cut all the way down to where the bottom folds up.  (S is about half-way through her cut here.)  This works out to about 2-3″ deep slits.

Here’s the finished version of Bag #1:

Repeat the same cutting with the other bag, and then open both bags up, like so:

Then insert one bag inside the other…

And then “scrunch” the sides down and together, all the way around the bag.  Doesn’t it look just like a nest?

Pop your egg in, and voila!  I think a few of these lined up on our dining room table will look so festive!

p.s. If you’re looking for another easy, no-mess two-ingredient project, check out last week’s egg decorating technique using just colored craft tape (with plastic or papier maché eggs.)

What are your favorite Easter / spring crafts? Please share!