DIY Wooden Block Puzzle 1n7r

My son loves both blocks and puzzles, so I was excited to combine the two with one of my favorite activities, painting.  We live in a town that is fortunate enough to have a Woodcraft store (https://www.woodcraft.com/stores/default.aspx).  These are not like the gigantic warehouse home improvement stores.  Our local store has a wood working classroom, a children’s toy area and the nicest employees.  We were able to get 27 blocks cut for under $10, plus the enjoyment of going into the workshop and watching the “carpenter” use the circular saw!


If you don’t have a handy store nearby, you can also purchase blocks online: https://www.amazon.com/Laras-Value-Pack-Square-Block/dp/B0018N7EUM/ref=pd_sim_sbs_ac_3

To make our puzzle, I prepped by gathering supplies and covering the table since we used acrylic paint.  You will need:

  • paint brushes
  • paint
  • cups for the paint
  • blocks

I also included blue tape and scissors, but B did not care that his paint oozed on the sides so we did not use them.  He also didn’t seem to mind splotches of paint all over the place so I would add baby wipes to the list of supplies!

B first chose blue.  I squeezed the paint into an applesauce container for easy clean up.  When he was done we rotated the blocks.


Then B declared holding the red paint, “I can do it all by myself.”  He squeezed the red out and painted the next side.  Although he added too much paint, we used it later to make orange.


Once yellow was on the third side, we waited for the paint to dry.  We then mixed the primary colors to make orange, purple and green.
B was content with his new “rainbow blocks.”  He likes to stack them and match up all the colors. You could paint on shapes, animals or other inspirations.  He was so excited he wanted paint again. I tried to convince him of a 3×3 puzzle, but he wanted 2×2 again!


Is your kid a “puzzler”? What type of puzzles do have in your home?

 

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Craft Tape and Plastic Eggs

While cleaning out a closet recently, we unearthed a bag of Easter supplies leftover from last year.  We discovered a bunch of plastic eggs and a few paper mache eggs.  My son, H, asked if we could decorate the eggs.  Well, sure, I said — but at the moment I was occupied on another (rather messy) project with his younger sister and wasn’t up to supervising more paint or dye or even glue.  Scanning the craft area, I spotted this and knew it was the answer to my prayers:

For months, I lusted over the colorful craft tape in my kids’ preschool and kindergarten classrooms.  Like all kids, I presume, mine LOVE tape, and use prolific amounts of Scotch tape at home on all sorts of wrapping-related projects.  But this tape at school — oh, it’s on another plane.  First, it’s masking tape (easier for small hands to tear).  And then, it comes in these beautiful vibrant colors, arranged in a rainbow spectrum.  But I gotta tell you, it ain’t cheap.  I finally broke down and bought some on Amazon here; it’s a LOT of tape, and I figure it will last us for a year, at least…

And it’s been so fun to have around – we use it for decorating birthday packages for friends, all sorts of wrapping and building projects… and it was PERFECT for decorating eggs!

H was able to tear off the tape himself (with a little instruction on the proper technique for RIPPING from one side to the other), so he could totally control the design and color scheme of his eggs.

We used the papier mache eggs for this project, but you could absolutely use plastic eggs, if you have to have a bunch of those on hand (or, if you’re buying them, they are considerably less expensive than the papier mache version — use the $$ you save to buy the tape!)

This was a perfect NO MESS project to ease into the egg decorating season.  And while my six-year-old had a great time with it, it’s also a project that extends well for a younger child — you can tear a bunch of tape pieces ahead of time, and let him or her stick them on the egg on their own (you could even just draw or cut out an egg-shape, if holding the egg while sticking tape on is too difficult).

Oh, and if you liked that little nest up top – stay tuned!  That was only two ingredients too, so we’ll be sharing it with you next Tuesday.

What are your favorite egg decorating activities?

Sanity Saver: Alphabet Train

Part two of the new blog series Sanity Savers designed to help keep your kiddos happy while you get dinner ready…

After a particularly rousing episode of Blue’s Clues, O wanted to make his very own alphabet train. To make your own, simply have your kids lay out letters on the floor.

Then let them run around finding things that start with each letter. We started with “airplane” for “a”.

Then worked our way to horse, ice cream truck, jet, and “kangaroo” for “k”.

I did mention we got things from all over the house right? Here’s “yam” for “y”.

We did it! We filled out the entire alphabet train! “V” was trickiest for us, we ended up using a ball and calling it “Venus”. I was really surprised by O’s creativity in findings things I wouldn’t have thought of for some letters, like finding an ice cream truck.

The best part was at the end, O insisted that he sit on “o” and I sit on “m” for mommy!


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Exploring Oil Pastels

Exploring Oil Pastels
Exploring Oil Pastels
Scratching a design into the layered colors

We were so excited to include these awesome Cray-pas Junior Artist Oil Pastels in our March “Wind Power” Box! We picked them because they’re perfect for decorating our Wind Sock project, but there’s lots more you can do with them. They create bright, vibrant colors, and unlike regular markers, you can blend the colors right on the paper.

Here’s a fun way to explore more with oil pastels. You’ll need:

  • Paper – preferably something heavier than printer paper, which tends to tear if you have an enthusiastic artist.
  • Paper clip or toothpick – for scratching designs in the pastels. This is especially fun if you layer multiple colors of pastels, so scratching off the top layer reveals the color beneath. Fingernails work, too!
  • Protected workspace – if you’re inside, work on a dropcloth or newspaper and save yourself some cleanup. Or just work outside and skip cleaning up entirely!
Exploring Oil Pastels
Creating a volcanic island erupting into the sea

To encourage kids to explore the materials, it can really help to suggest some ideas for them to try. Here’s what I did with my little artists.

  1. First I demonstrated how you can blend two colors together by drawing concentric circles and mixing the colors. As the kids started on their own drawings, I suggested that they try layering and mixing the colors on top of each other.
  2. When everyone had lots of color on their drawings, I used a stick to scratch circles and lines into my drawing. As the kids tried it, I pointed out where they could see the colors they’d layered peeking out.
  3. Finally, I suggested they try using the white pastel on top of their colors. This creates a nice blendy effect, and also looks really cool with scratches on top of it.

A bunny underneath the stars

I love that the artwork we created was as individual as the artists! Here’s a few more fun variations for kindergarten oil pastel art projects.

  • Try using textured paper – the pastels will pick up the texture for an interesting effect.
  • Try using black cardstock. The colors look really vibrant on the dark background, and using the white pastel creates really nice highlights. The end result can be very dramatic!
  • Try using the scratching technique to write a word or create a line drawing within your picture.
  • Try doing a multi-layer effect by coloring, then scratching a design, then blending another color over the scratches. What kind of texture can you create?

Rainbow and Stars

If you try this project, please leave a comment and let us know how it went!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Markers + Paper = A Very Long Story

I know what you’re thinking. I’m getting thin on ideas, right? Well, maybe. But consider this a twist on the usual. I wrote this one up because of how my son surprised me by what he did with such everyday ingredients.

What started as a normal day of H pulling out a stack of papers and markers turned into a lesson in book writing and narratives.

While I was catching up on email, I looked up and noticed he went into the kitchen and lined pieces of paper up end-to-end into a very long row almost all the way across our rubber Pirelli floors. Interesting. I was pretty sure I hadn’t seen him do that before.

He started drawing a road that connected all the pieces of paper. He added cars, buses, buildings, signs, a train crossing and scribble at the bottom of each page.

I asked him what the scribble represented, and he said the words that told the story. This impressed me! Though he can write all the letters for the most part, he stayed focused on the big picture of creating the scenes for his book. He didn’t let his lack of know-how on word writing side-track his process.

Once done, he told me his story. He said something like, cars and buses and trains all lived in the great country. The bullet trains went so fast, faster than cars and carried lots of people to the country. Cars drive on the roads and pass the factories with smoke puffing out on top. Cars and buses have to wait at the crossing guards for trains to pass.

Then he got kind of shy about his story, and asked me to tell it.

There’s so much that’s wonderful about this to me. I mean, how great that he took the initiative to create and tell his own story. It turned into the perfect opportunity to talk about what goes into creating a book. We described what’s happening on each page and I exemplified how to build a narrative and move a story forward. It was such a fun language lesson for me too!

How have you tried making books or telling stories with your kiddos?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leprechaun Hats

Saint Patrick’s Day is almost here! These yummy chocolate leprechaun hats caught my eye while I was looking for treats to make with some left over marshmallows.

First we gather supplies: Plates, waxed paper, chocolate, a microwave safe bowl, spoons, marshmallows and cookies.  You could use Oreo cookies, but to give it a minty kick we decide to use some thin mints from our local girl scouts.

After sampling the cookies and marshmallows for freshness, B is ready to work.  Since B turned three, everything now comes in threes.  B decides to make three hats.  First, placing three cookies on the plate and then three marshmallows on top.  I decide to make three of my own.  In all the excitement I initially forget the wax paper, but am able to slip it in later.

Next, we load up the bowl with chocolate.  B checks the marshmallows again.  Still fresh.  One could use a double broiler to melt the morsels, but we opt for the preschool friendly microwave.  I burn the first batch of chocolate (2 minutes is too long!).  In a pinch I grab a mug, which actually works out better for little hands!

After that, B samples some marshmallows.  Still fresh!  Then, we drizzle on the chocolate.  B enjoys watching the chocolate ooze down the side.  I also coat my hats, but I’m unable to make a perfectly round bottom.

Our final products before placing in the refrigerator are almost irresistible.  B refers to the treats as “Topham Hatts.”  I guess he has more of a context for the railway controller of the Island of Sodor than a mythical Irish fairy.

After a healthy dinner B eagerly enjoys his creation!

Are you celebrating St Patrick’s Day in any special way?

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.

 

Voila!

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?