Sanity Saver: Scavenger Hunt Make & Find

Most of our posts here are about ways to engage WITH your child in a creative challenge.  But sometimes, you just need an activity that keeps your kid(s) entertained for a bit and doesn’t require any adult supervision.

That’s the need our new blog series Sanity Savers will seek to fill.  We’ll try to post an idea each week (though can’t promise – sometimes we can’t help losing our sanity over here too!) that will help keep your kiddos happy while you get dinner ready.

Today’s activity was inspired by a simple image I saw on Pinterest, which linked to a wonderful post on the Artful Parent blog.  One of the things we’re generally looking for in a Sanity Saver is something that doesn’t require too much time to set up (or clean up!)  This idea totally fit the bill.

All you need to do is create a “scavenger hunt” list.  Make it cute or scribble it on a piece of paper — your kids won’t really care.  Heck, you could even make it a verbal scavenger hunt and TELL them what to do.  Just think of things that your child can do independently (but that MIGHT take a little loooonger to do / make / find).  For us today, I confined it to inside the house (it was a rainy day.)  We had a second page of activities (in case we needed to stretch this longer), which included things like: write your whole name out; write out the whole alphabet; find your pajamas and put them on (bonus!).

There is something for kids about making a game out of a time-killing activity, and my kiddos TOTALLY got into it.  It just warmed my heart to see my two oldest working together to find the orange and red objects… and then to see them working so diligently on their Lego creations — heaven!

I doubt we’ll be able to use this every night in the pre-dinner chaos hour (I don’t want it to lose the magic!), but I guarantee this is going to be a regular activity I pull out of my tool kit.

Do you have any sanity savers for those times when you need a few moments to yourself? What are your secrets? Please share!


Two Ingredient Tuesday: Marshmallows + Toothpicks = Sculpture

It’s early on a Sunday, and I’m up with my 5 year-old son and infant while my hard-working husband sleeps in. The morning sun streams through the window, illuminating our marshmallow sculptures we made (an oldie but goodie inspired by a recent post from The Artful Parent).

Marshmallows and toothpicks, both things we always have around the Tahoe cabin, are perfect ingredients for sculpture. We’ve done this project with gum drops too. (and if you get the spicy gum drops, the kids usually don’t want to eat them.) My guy already had a good breakfast, so I’m happy to let him have his fill of marshmallows as a prelude to our project.

H’s first sculpting efforts are mainly staying in two dimensions. He keeps trying to build his sculpture higher, but it keeps falling over. I let him puzzle over why this was happening, and then eventually talk to him about adding a third dimension.

 We talk about the difference between two and three dimensions, and I show him examples, but I still let him figure out for himself what shapes make the sturdiest structures.

He makes his first 3-D triangle, and I can see the wheels turning on how triangles are stronger than squares and rectangles.

He proudly shows me how his sculpture can now stand up on its own. Then he starts adding in more triangles to make it even sturdier. We talk about geodesic domes, and how they’re made up of lots of triangles.

My favorite part of this project is how well it lends to learning math concepts, especially geometry!

Happy Sculpting!


Rainbow Inspirations for St. Patrick’s Day

One of my goals this year is to break my habit of too much pinning, not enough crafting.  My resolution: pick one fun project every week and do it!  This week I went looking for St. Patrick’s Day rainbows, and chose this festive fruit rainbow with a banana pot of gold from Homemade Serenity.

Fruit Rainbow
Festive fruit rainbow with banana pot of gold

I decided to swap out the mini marshmallows for a whipped cream cloud, since I thought that would be fun for dipping.  (Turns out it was, but it was even more fun to eat the whipped cream with a spoon.)   It was a good thing I picked a forgiving project — my little leprechauns were so impatient to eat I barely had time to photograph, let alone arrange the rainbow nicely.

Result: Success!  I’ll definitely try this again, and with vanilla yogurt instead of whipped cream this could become part of our regular snack rotation.

Of course I couldn’t pick just one project to admire… here are a few more I have on my list.

Pussy Willow Rainbow from Betz White
Photo credit: Betz White

Pussy Willow Rainbow

This sweet & subtle pussy willow rainbow from green crafter Betz White is incredibly simple to make and looks like a million bucks! The only materials required are branches, colorful felt balls, and glue.

Rainbow Pots from Make and Takes
Photo credit: Maire LeBaron of Make and Takes

Rainbow Pots

Fill this cute rainbow pot with some gold-wrapped candy for an easy and attractive St. Patrick’s Day centerpiece. After the holiday, plant a flower and voila! You have a gardening project and a welcome touch of spring. (From Marie LeBaron of Make and Takes.)

Rainbow Cake by Whisk Kid
Photo credit: Whisk Kid

Rainbow Cake

And of course no round-up of rainbow inspiration would be complete without Whisk Kid’s famous rainbow cake!  And don’t miss Kaitlin’s appearance on the Martha Stewart Show where she and Martha demo her technique.

For more fun rainbow & shamrock crafts, visit Kiwi Crate’s St. Patrick’s Day board!  (And follow Kiwi Crate on Pinterest for even more fun & inspiration!)

Tissue Paper Bouquet

Spring has pretty much sprung here in Northern California – the cherry blossoms are bursting and the daffodils are blooming.  But this is what the flower pitcher in my kitchen looks like.

So sad.  So when I was visiting a good friend this weekend and saw a gorgeous bowlful of flowers on her kitchen table made of nothing but the old stand-by of tissue paper and pipe cleaners, I was determined that my super-helpful four-year-old sidekick and I should give it a try.

We assembled our materials. Not hard.

You need scissors too. Also, a secret ingredient you’ll see I added on a whim later and didn’t photograph. (chopsticks. Huh??)

First select the color(s) you want your flowers to be; we used 2 or 3 colors for ours.  Think they’d be beautiful with just a single color, too.  These were large rectangular sheets of tissue paper, so we cut each one in half lengthwise to make each sheet narrower. (Note: in the photo below, I folded the sheet in half before cutting to make the cut shorter / easier —so even though it looks like I’m cutting it cross-ways, I’m really not.)

For our flowers, S & I used 3-6 sheets (half-sheets, that is.)  It’s easier to separate the petals & fluff them (especially for small people) with fewer sheets; the more sheets you use, the fuller your flowers will be.  I think a mix of different sizes actually looks quite pretty.

To get started, stack all your sheets on top of each other. Then begin folding your sheets up from the short end, accordion-style (ie., fold-flip over-fold-flip over-repeat…)  I clipped the end of our papers together so they would stay together easier for S as she flipped the stack over and back.

Once you have folded the whole thing up, attach a pipe cleaner at the middle, like so:

Then cut a design in the ends of the tissue paper to create the tips of your petals.  You can just round the edges, cut a tip, or even a wavy shape.  Note: this part was tough to do with a thick stack of tissue paper and kid scissors… you might need to assist with grown-up scissors here.

Here’s what ours looked like.  Clearly, it does not have to be perfect.

Here are some other examples we did:

Then, open up your flower, start to separate the tissue paper layers and fluff away!  We found that with a stack of 3 sheets, S could handle it pretty well on her own.

When we got a bit carried away and stacked 6 sheets, Mom needed to help out more… which I was happy to do — it was a such a satisfying project for both of us!

Oh – and about that secret ingredient… We wanted to be able to put our flowers in a vase, but the pipe cleaners were too short and too bendy.  I racked my brain for a bit and lit upon the perfect solution – chopsticks!  We have plenty of cheap-o ones from take-out dinners, so we wrapped the pipecleaners around them and they worked perfectly to stand our flowers up.



Doesn’t that look so much better!  And S and I are happy to have a bouquet of flowers that won’t make us get sad and droopy!

What are your favorite activities to herald (or hurry) the arrival of spring?


Two Ingredient Tuesday: Snow and Hot Water Equal Melting Experiments

Old man winter finally woke up and puffed a nice blanket of powder up in the Sierra mountains last week. Luckily, we were able to make the trek over the weekend to play in the snow with friends. Skiing, sledding, snow ball fights – we did it all!

We often make a requisite snow man too, though this time we tried making sculptures by dripping water onto snow. We filled water bottles with water. I was thinking the kids would at least get a kick out of squirting water on the snow (if not on each other).

We built up mounds of snow outside and tried melting them with the water, but the results weren’t really camera ready. Our melted snow mounds didn’t look much different than any other pile of snow around. The kids soon lost interest and shifted back to romping and snow ball fights.

The next day my mom buddy, whose idea this was in the first place, suggested we bring the snow inside on a baking pan and use hotter water. I was hoping too the isolation from the rest of the snow would help my guy focus.

Inside was where it was at! He was immediately curious about what would happen, and intently squirted hot water on the snow for a few minutes. The first thing he noticed was that even though he was adding lots of water, the bottom of the pan still contained only frozen snow. He hadn’t expected the snow to seemingly absorb the water. So his first mission was to see how much water he could squirt into the snow before pools of water finally formed in the pan. The amount of water it took surprised me too!

When I asked him what the water was doing to the snow, he said, “The hot water is making the cold snow vibrate! When it vibrates, it gets hotter and melts!” Wow. That was quite more of a specific answer than I expected to get!

His final product was a shell of snow with a completely hollow, melted out middle. Of course, he called it a volcano.

Our next experiment with snow melting produced something that looked a bit more like an ice sculpture. It reminded us of a pirate ship, and along those lines I was seeing hints of the Sydney Opera House. What do you see?

Well, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed, the best part of this project wasn’t the end product. This was the first time my guy had really focused on what happens when snow melts. He was able to experience it in a new way. He ended up intentionally melting snow for a good while, and I really hadn’t expected just how much he would get into it.

For some of us, this winter has felt a lot more like spring. But should you find yourself surrounded by snow, let us know novel ways you and your kids have played with it!






Popsicle Stick Pirate Ship

We’re excited to have Sara, a guest blogger from Tea Collection’s Studio T blog blogging with us today.  Tea Collection designs distinctive children’s clothes collections inspired by the beauty they discover in their travels around the world.

No pirate is complete without his or her boat. In the spirit of Kiwi Crate’s pirate month, we decided to have some fun building popsicle stick boats so your little adventurer can discover the high seas in your neighborhood.

What you’ll need:

Popsicle sticks (aka craft sticks), hot glue gun*, piece of cloth for a flag, a pirate figurine (optional)

*We used a glue gun, but little explorers might want to use a safer adhesive gel glue or just craft / Elmer’s glue. We actually purchased multi-color craft sticks because what’s more fun than a rainbow boat?  You could also of course use plain brown craft sticks, if that’s what you have handy.

Start by creating your boat base with 10 popsicle sticks and lay them out vertically, no glue required yet.

Then you’ll need eight more popsicle sticks to form part of your boat floor. Put glue on the flat side of one of the sticks and lay it horizontally across the base. Do this with the seven remaining sticks, placing them all directly next to each other, but leaving room for two more sticks at one end.  Once you’ve glued your eight sticks to the base, you will have room for two more sticks.  You’ll want to cut one of the two sticks in half. This will allow you a space to put your mast.  You’ll then want to grab another popsicle stick and cut off the round part so it has a flat end bottom. This stick will be your mast. Glue your mast to the boat base and glue the two floor halves around the mast to keep it in place.

After the mast is secured, glue the last full stick next to the mast and two stick halves.

Once your boat is constructed, you’ll need a sail.  The sail can be made out of cloth, construction paper, or even a large leaf!  We used excess fabric from our Painted Vines Knot girls dress.

If you use fabric, fold it in half so both sides will show the pattern.  Then cut out two triangle shaped pieces measuring 3 inches on all sides. You’ll need to fasten your two pieces of fabric together, pattern side out, at each triangle tip. We used our glue to do this, but you could also use a small safety pin.

Lastly slip your sail over your mast and cut a small hole ¾ inch from the top of the mast triangle to slip over the top tip of the mast.  Now your boat is ready to set sail!

Add a pirate figurine, lego man, or GI joe to the base of the boat.  After all, every boat needs a fearless captain! You can set your boat assail with a secret message attached for another explorer to find.  Or, you can tie fishing string to the boat mast so you can real your boat back in for another day of play.

Happy Sailing!


Two Ingredient Tuesday: Tape & Floor

I love this activity because it’s the easiest thing to pull out after dinner or on a rainy day and keeps O entertained and imagining for a surprisingly long time. Just use painter’s tape, which peels off easily without leaving a mark. You can also create your city on a yoga mat.

Our creation of a tape city always begins with a parking lot.

Next O decided we need a REALLY long highway.

Then he created an aquarium and lake.

I thought the 3-D waterfall (an accidental discovery) was a nice touch.

Our complete city! We could have kept going all night but were thwarted by bathtime.

Crackled Marbles

Lately, my five-year-old daughter has been obsessed with stones and all things sparkly and jewel-like. When organizing our art cabinet the other day, I found a bag of marbles. I remembered an experiment I did as a kid that I knew my little treasure-lover would enjoy: crackling marbles!


To do this fun, visual experiment, you will need:

  • Clear glass marbles (they can be all clear or have the rainbow swirl in them, but the opaque kind won’t show the effect.)
  • Heat: An oven-safe baking dish & your oven
  • Cold: A cup of ice water

I started by asking my daughter what she thought would happen to marbles if we baked them in our oven, and then put them into ice water. She thought they might melt in the oven and then freeze in the ice. Then, like a true scientist, my daughter decided to divide up the marbles into two sets – ones that would “stay uncooked” and ones that would “get cooked.” At the time, her rationale was that she didn’t want to “melt” all of our pretty marbles, but I couldn’t help but think that maybe she was innately creating a control group for the experiment, right? ☺



We preheated our oven to 500 degrees F, and we put the “get cooked” half of the marbles into an oven-safe small loaf pan. We baked the marbles for 20 minutes.

When it was time to carefully take them out of the oven, we had a large cup of ice water ready on the kitchen counter. I carefully lowered marbles into the cup of ice water using a small ladle. *Be cautious here: Glass can crack when its temperature changes quickly and drastically, so you might want to wear goggles and ask your child to do so. I’ve personally never seen this happen during this experiment, but be aware and have your kids stand back, just in case.

This experiment will demonstrate the effects of thermal shock on glass. Marbles expand all over, at relatively the same rate, when they are heated. However, when marbles are cooled off instantaneously, their outer layer cools first and shrinks. The inside is slower to cool, and therefore still expanded, forcing the insides to crack under pressure.

All of our marbles stayed intact this time, but I’ve seen some break in half during this process.

After observing the differences between the “cooked” marbles and the “uncooked” marbles, my daughter added these crackled marbles to her treasure chest and is using them as her pretend jewels and magic stones. Whether it’s science or magic (or perhaps a bit of both in a child’s eyes,) marbles that have undergone thermal shock really are lovely, sparkly orbs!


Guest post by Jen Berlingo, MA, an art psychotherapist and blogger over at



Two Ingredient Tuesday: Foil + Plastic Cup = Pirate Hook

Yo ho! It’s pirate month at Kiwi Crate! From the moment our green crate hit the doorstep, my wee pirate wasted no time plundering his monthly-delivered treasure.  He soon recruited fellow swashbucklers for a pirate play date.

“There’s treasure to be found!” barked the pirates. They growled over their map and waved their hooks as a warning to any varmints who dare to pilfer their treasure.

“Avast!! Listen up me buccaneers!”  With his one good evil eye, Big B peered at his mates and told them the story of how he lost his hand to a shark while roaming the seven seas!

Pirate play may be full of danger and intrigue, but making a pirate hook for your crew to complement their crate is a cinch with a plastic cup and foil. Simply punch a small hole at the base of a plastic cup, and let the pirates tightly roll up a sheet of foil. Insert the foil roll into the hole at the bottom of the cup, and curve the foil into a hook. Shiver me timbers that’s easy!

Aye Aye, me hearty! It’s time to play!


Pirate Telescope Spotting Game

For little explorers and pirates alike, the telescope is an essential play accessory. And kids certainly know how to convert a tube into a scope! For us it’s a weekly occurrence that I toss a spent paper tube to my 5 year-old son, who immediately puts it to his eye for spotting.

The no frills step up from the paper towel tube is to roll colored construction paper around the tube and tape on a cuff.

To make a cone-shaped telescope, we tried layering up different-sized tubes and paper cups.

We painted it brown to get that rustic look.

Now, with telescopes in hands and hats on heads, we’re ready to play our pirate spotting game. This is a fun one for a pirate play date. Here’s what we did:

1) Start out with a painted scene on a big thick piece of paper or cardboard. In this case my son painted pirate ships and an island, with no help or hints from me! The point is to keep the scene fairly simple, because you’ll be adding to it as you go along.

2) Next,  all the pirates scope the scene for a minute or two until they feel they’ve got it in their memory. Then a few chosen pirates get blindfolded.

3) One pirate (or a parent) makes  a small change to the scene. For example, the painter adds a new tree, a bird, or a bit of treasure.

4) Next, the blindfolded pirates remove their blindfolds and use their telescopes to see how quickly they can spot what’s different in the scene!

If you don’t want to bother with painting, you can play the game with objects or toys in your backyard or in a room on a rainy day.

And of course, you can always bury and find hidden treasure!

Jami blogs at