Two Ingredient Tuesday: Packing Peanuts + Glue = Sculpture

Being a busy parent with an infant, I love the convenience of online shopping, but don’t always enjoy the packing material collateral. My favorite packing materials are long sheets of paper, since they’re perfect table cover for messy projects. My least favorite are foam packing peanuts since their recycling potential is more limited.   So today, I want to see if I can put them to use and hand my son a batch of packing peanuts plus glue. I invite him to get busy making whatever he wants. I set him up outside and let him run with it.

It was only after watching him for a few minutes that I see the full advantage in this simple-minded idea. Reflecting on many of our gluing projects before, he loves to use TOO MUCH glue. But with this project, there’s no such thing as too much!

He squeezes the glue again and again, as much as he wants. The actual building up of foam peanuts is a clear second in priority to more and more squeezing and drizzling of glue. The foam peanuts are coated, and his fingers are sticky.

They’ve become so sticky, that he’s not able to make much progress on the actual sculpting part. So I ask him if he’d like to wash his hands, and get some help with the sculpting. He wants both.

Together, we make our “Dr. Seuss Castle”.  OK, fine, this isn’t high-level art. But it’s an easy way to upcycle, and at least temporarily our castle gets the honor of being our dining table center piece.

Let us know if you’ve found clever ways to reuse packing materials! 







Ribbon Jellyfish in Kiwi Crate Labs!

Two long kid-sized tables are covered in ribbon, but not just one kind of ribbon. There’s at least 10 different colors and textures of ribbon to choose from, plus markers, crayons, and googly eyes. Little hands are grabbing, coloring, gluing, cutting, and taping. Concentration fills the room (at least for the first 15 minutes!). Welcome to a kid-testing session at Kiwi Crate labs!

The pint-sized test crew comes in every week to experiment with materials and try out ideas for crate projects. They descend upon a table of supplies and get busy, with the minimum amount of instruction necessary to get them started.

This time they’re making jelly fish by attaching ribbon to paper bowls (or coffee filters) they’ve decorated with crayons, markers and googly eyes. We, the adults, let the kids lead. We don’t show examples of what the crafts are supposed to look like, and we step in only when our assistance is requested.

The kids’ final creations are as varied as their personalities, and that’s just perfect. And some always find new ways to engage the materials, and their friends.

The January Kiwi Crates are shipping soon! We can’t wait to hear how your kids enjoy experimenting with the materials and ideas in your new crates!

Aluminum Foil Art

Looking for a way to mix things up a bit for your kids and introduce new creative explorations?  One fun way to go about it is to just change one of the materials – swap it out for something unexpected.  Instead of paint, use colored ice cubes.  Instead of paintbrushes, use fingers.  Instead of paper, use aluminum foil!

And so – my daughter and I decided to try out using aluminum foil as a medium for our art project this afternoon.  I covered a few pieces of cardboard with foil and brought out Sharpies and paint to see which one she liked best.  We were both so enamored with the shiny surface of the foil!  At first, S took the Sharpies to the surface.  She doodled for a few minutes and was quite impressed with the result.

But as always in our house, the paints beckoned, so we set the Sharpie board aside (for now) and moved on to the paints.  Based on some suggestions I’d seen on Pinterest, I added a bit of dishwashing soap to the paints (apparently meant to help the paint stick to the foil and not flake after.  Seemed to work well.)

S had a great time just swirling the paints around, mixing them in her palette and on the foil.  The shiny surface was really fun for her to interact with, and it was neat to observe how the paint looked different on foil than it usually does on paper.

She really got into character, alternating between Claude Monet and Fancy Nancy (what a combo, that one!), singing and dancing as she painted.  Perhaps it was also because we were taking advantage of an unseasonably warm day to paint outside — and the combination of the environment and the cool new medium was a real delight – for her to experience and for me to watch!

What are your favorite non-traditional media?

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Play Dough + Dental Floss = an Earth Exploration

For a great time, you can pair play dough with just about anything. Check out NurtureStore to get a year’s worth of play dough play ideas. I’d personally like to thank play dough for being a perfect way for my son to stay happily busy while I make dinner.

This time, we’re starting with an array of (homemade) play dough colors because I have a special project planned. While learning about space, my son and I find ourselves gravitating toward planet Earth. In my son’s favorite Earth-related book, “The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth“, a class journeys through the planet’s rock and mantle layers, drilling all the way through the core and out the other side. That got me thinking about modeling the Earth’s layers, and then I found this Earth Day craft on “Meet the Dubiens”. A play dough Earth core!

Of course, we make our own play dough Earth. It’s pictured above with dental floss. Why dental floss? Well, there are many ways to slice a hunk of dough, and the ease with which floss cuts it like butter makes me a little giddy.

But my son prefers plastic knives to chop his dough. And so he makes “worms”, a play dough classic, while glancing over at my efforts to model the Earth’s layers.

Once he sees the finished product, he’s in awe and bursting with curiosity. Truth is, I am too. And so I hand him the floss…

Wow! The layers look cool!

I lightly mention what the different colors represent (red = the inner core, orange = the outer core, yellow = the mantle, brown = the crust, and blue and green = ocean and land), but I don’t make a big deal of it since I can tell my son is much more interested in observing and enjoying rather than getting a lesson.

Besides, he already has his own agenda – how quickly can he mash up all the colors and start dissecting it with his plastic knife!

What are some of your favorite play dough pairings?

A New Tradition: The Birthday Interview

As my kids get older, I’m trying to find ways to introduce more traditions into our family life — and birthdays are a great place to start.  For my daughter’s 4th birthday this year, we tested out a new tradition of covering her floor with balloons during the night (see inspiration here) and covered her door with streamers.  Cute idea, and kids loved playing with the balloons all day.  But it required some organization & planning (or at least a trip to the store for supplies.)  And for my son’s recent birthday, which fell right after Christmas, I was just tapped out on organization & planning and couldn’t pull it off.

Hence, the need for a new (low maintenance) birthday tradition.  We started the Big Day with a special breakfast for just him and me at his favorite local breakfast spot (Dad had to work, the other two kids were with a babysitter.)  As we sat enjoying our hot chocolate and reminiscing about his year, I remembered an idea I’d seen various places online for interviewing your kids once a year — and decided now was a great time.  I pulled out my notebook (I know, kind of dorky to keep a notebook in your purse, but you never know when you’re going to need to make a list!) and just started jotting down notes from our conversation, since I knew I’d never remember it all.

You, of course, can go with whatever questions are appropriate for your kiddo, but here are some of the ones we used:

Birthday Questions for Kids

  • What is your favorite food?
  • What do you hope you never have to eat again?
  • What’s your favorite thing about school?
  • What makes you happiest? (His answer: “You”  Melted my heart.  Made up for the later comment from his sister “You’re the meanest mommy in the whole world.”  Motherhood – always a balance.)
  • What is one new thing you’d like to try this year?
  • What would you like to be when you grow up? (Answer to this one was also priceless.  “That plane guy who has the orange sticks.  He stands on the ground at the airport and tells the planes where to go.”)

It was such a fun conversation, and I know we will all LOVE looking back on these treasured memories.  So I went the extra mile and typed up our interview in Powerpoint, added a picture, and plan to add a picture of his name, handwritten by H himself (also fun to see how handwriting evolves over time.)  (Bonus: you can do this anytime after the fact.)  This will be a neat thing to put in his keepsake folder and pull out year after year.

Bottom line, this tradition struck the perfect balance between effort and reward – so I think it’s a keeper.  But I’m still on the look-out for new ones.

Please share: what are your birthday traditions??

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Tapioca Pearls + Water (= Sensory Play!)

One of the more popular activities on my blog is Water Beads, and I’m sharing this project as an EDIBLE water bead alternative. Water Beads are polymer beads that absorb water…not edible!! Boba Balls, on the other hand, are tapioca pearls (“Boba” means “big pearls”) made from the starch of the cassava root. When they absorb enough liquid, they have the texture of a soft gummy bear and are entirely edible by children capable of eating gummy snacks.

Because I like to drag our projects out and milk them for all they’re worth, I started by pouring the dry boba balls (found in our local Asian market) into a cake tray and let my kids sort and pour them before adding any water.

When this step exhausted itself, I followed the directions on the package and cooked the boba balls right up. Essentially, you boil water, pour in the boba, and cook in boiling water until the balls float. Then you let it sit for a few minutes to absorb more water and get a bit softer. I noticed that the instructions vary by brand, so it’s best to follow the directions that come with your boba. Once the boba is ready, it can be added to tea or milk.

It’s so pretty to look at, and my 3-year old enjoyed mixing it up. But she rejected it as a food product in favor of recognizing it as an art material.

The texture is much gooey-er than the Water Beads, and the shelf life seemed almost non-existent. After playing with the Boba for the morning, they were a sticky mess and ready for the trash can. But on a sensory level, my 1-year old especially enjoyed playing with these little tapioca pearls and making them couldn’t have been any easier.

Have you ever had boba tea? What did you think? Do you think your kids would enjoy playing with boba balls?

Rachelle blogs at Tinkerlab.

Literature-Inspired Art: The Leaf Man

A few weeks ago, I had written an entry on literature-based art using the storybooks, Where the Wild Things Are and It Looked Like Split Milk We’ve found that reading a book together is a really fun way to give your kids some inspiration and to spark their creativity.  And so as we approach winter’s delayed beginning here in California and the leaves finally fall to the ground, we decided to try this again with another book: The Leaf Man by Lois Elhert.

In my son’s kindergarten class, the teacher read this book aloud during story time.  But unlike many books in its genre, the images of fish, bugs, butterflies, and turtles in this story were composed of leaves.

After story time, S said he spent a majority of recess outside envisioning what he wanted to make with all the leaves: walruses, fish, or superheroes.  So, when we got home, S asked if we could try this project.  Let’s see: construction paper, leaves, glues, and the option of crayons and markers – low maintenance, creative, and fun – how could I say no?  While a friend was over for a playdate, we re-read the story and then headed outside to gather the leaves.

They ran back into the house and immediately got started on their creations without any guidance from me.  Soon, their leafy butterflies were flying within the living room, flowers were blooming on my dining room table, and trucks were zooming across the kitchen floor.  Once their pictures were done, we spent time playing with the crispy, wintry leaves, enjoying the crunching and crackling sounds.  Though we find tidbits of leaves every now and then on the living room floor, our literature-based art collection continues to grow larger and larger!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Foil + Ribbon = Comet

Foil and ribbon comets are the perfect activity for reusing discarded ribbon after the holidays.  If your kids are nuts about space like mine is, they will love the idea of making a flying comet.  To start, round up some ribbon and two pieces of foil. I pulled out ribbon from the recycling. Each ribbon was cut to various lengths, textures and colors.

B eagerly comes to the table when I announce that we are going to make a foil ball.  He takes one piece of foil and immediately crumples it up.

B selects some ribbon from the pile.  White is his first choice.

The ribbon is looped around the foil and knotted at a base.  He ties on the white piece but asks Grandma for help with the gold ribbon.  The goal is to have all the ribbon streamers coming out at one end, but precision is not his thing.

Once all the ribbon is tied on, we place the ball on the second piece of foil.  B crumples the extra foil over the ribbon-covered ball.  This helps secure the ribbon in place.

B immediately knows his comet is a creation that needs to fly.  My intentions were to make a ball to sail through the sky like a comet.  B has his own idea, and swings the comet around by one of the ribbons.

What are your favorite crafts made from leftover wrapping paper and ribbons?