Gift Wrapping Kit

I was doing a little summer cleaning when I found a box of once-used gift wrapping scraps.  I’m not quite sure what I intended to do with them when I saved them years ago. The random sized papers were ripped and scrunched.  Now, though, I knew exactly what to do.  I’d create a gift wrapping kit for my 4.5 year old daughter.  Recently, she’s taken to wrapping gifts.  Every time we’re headed to a birthday party, she’s right by me to help wrap presents – folding, taping, tying.

So, off to making the kit.  Here’s a sample of the paper I had – everything from kid to holiday to floral.

I threw those, plus scraps of ribbon, tape, and scissors into a box.

The first “gift” she wanted to wrap was a set of dog stickers.  I noticed that gift wrapping is actually great at encouraging fine motor skills.  Also, it’s a nice opportunity to learn how to tie bows.

When a friend came over to play, the kit was one of the first things to come out.

With the colorful paper, my daughter was inspired to cut out wings and tape them to her mouse to create “fairy mouse.”  What was intended to be a gift wrapping kit then became that much more – thanks to her creativity.

The next time we have a birthday or holiday with wrapped presents, we’ll be saving the used scrap paper and adding it to the gift wrapping kit!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Banana Ice Cream

Truth be told, this is really ONE INGREDIENT ice cream, so I’m cheating a bit to sneak it on a Two Ingredient Tuesday. But it is so yummy and delicious, that I couldn’t wait to post.  Feel free to throw in some chocolate syrup and make it an official Two Ingredient activity.

I discovered this awesome snack / dessert on Kitchen Curiously awhile back, along with much of the rest of the blogosphere, and have been wanting to try it for ages.  We were recently visiting my parents in Alabama (in August! who goes to Alabama in August for vacation?!) and it was plenty hot to make up any excuse to freeze some bananas, whizz them up and call it a snack!

So start with a few bananas. I made it with a banana and a half (it was what we had left after my 18-month old banana monster hit this bunch), and that was barely enough for two small kids. You might want to start with at least 2 or 3 bananas.  I’ve read that more ripe bananas are better… but I didn’t stress about that.

Peel your bananas and cut them into smallish pieces.  This is a perfect job for small hands and a butter knife.

Put the pieces on a pie tin (or even in a ziplock back) and place them in the freezer for at least an hour, until frozen solid.  I left mine in for 2 days, and it was still fine.  When they’re good and frozen and your kiddos are itching for a treat, take out the frozen banana and put them into a blender or food processor.

Blend away!  Scrape down the side of the bowl if the bananas stick.  You may reach a point where you think it’s not going to work….but perservere – it will get smooth!

Your reward: yummy, HEALTHY, banana ice cream!

Note: the consistency is more that of soft serve ice cream, so getting it onto a cone would be a challenge.  We got a little enthusiastic with the whizzing (so exciting to push that button!), so I think ours turned out especially soft.  But my helper was still pretty pleased with both the process AND the results!

What’s your favorite easy / healthy / special treat?

Fishy Snack

It’s ok to play with your food with this fun snack. You’ll need goldfish in a clear cup, pretzel rods, and a sticky food such as peanut butter or cream cheese.

Dip your pretzel fishing rod into the peanut butter bait…

…and go fishing in your cup!

You’re guaranteed a good catch. No cleaning or cooking required for these fish – just eat them right off the rod.

When you’re done, you can even eat your fishing rod!

What fun snacks do you like to make?

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Shaving Cream and Food Coloring

I’ve seen shaving cream sensory tables at my daughter’s preschool and on almost all of my favorite kids’ craft blogs, but we’ve never actually tried it ourselves. When we were visiting my in-laws last week my daughter spotted a can of shaving cream in the shower and it seemed like the right time to set up our own sensory shaving cream tray. She had so much fun with this that it made me wonder why I had waited so long! It ridiculously simple to set up, my daughter was fully invested for close to an hour, and the clean-up was easy (it’s just soap, after all!).

I squirted some Foamy Shaving Cream on a cookie tray. Make sure you use the foamy kind for good results.

After playing with the shaving cream for a little while, I introduced the food coloring. My daughter likes to take things into her own hands and happily drip-dropped the food coloring into the foamy sea before mixing and swirling it up. We talked about color mixing and I took the opportunity to teach her about warm and cool colors. We talked about how red and yellow are warm like the sun, while blue and green are cool like the ocean. She picked right up on this concept and happily talked about it the rest of the day.

Eventually the shaving cream turned a lovely shade of grey, but we kept adding more cream and food coloring until we were done.

Clean up was fairly easy: I placed a piece of paper next to the pan to absorb some of the mess, and we also did this outside just in case anything needed to be hosed down.

“Magical” Hands-Free Inflating Balloons

My kids have had always minor obsessions with balloons, and they’ve always been frustrated by my inability to blow up balloons on command.  So when I saw this project on a list of “Amazing Science Projects” on, I knew it would be perfect for us to try.

First, I had to reinforce the idea that balloons (at least the small ones we have) are really, really hard to blow up for normal mortals.  And even for five-year-olds.


Then we gathered the materials needed to create the Magical Balloon Inflater.

Magical Balloon Ingredients

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Balloons (don’t want them to be too small, or you won’t be able to fit enough baking soda inside)
  • Bottle (with a small enough neck to fit your balloon over it)
  • Small funnel (you need this to get the baking soda into the balloon)

Getting Started

First add 4 TBSP of vinegar to the bottle.  To make it more kid-doable, we measured the vinegar into the measuring cup, then H poured the vinegar through the funnel into the bottle himself. You don’t absolutely need the funnel for this part, but it does make it easier for a kid to get the vinegar in without spilling.

Forming the Magical Balloon

Then you add the baking soda to the balloon.  To do this, slip the end of the balloon over the end of your funnel and measure 1 TBSP of baking soda into the funnel.  Our balloons were a little small, so we ended up using a chopstick to get most of the baking soda into the balloon.

Then carefully slip the balloon off the funnel and slide it over the end of the bottle with the vinegar.  At this point, you want to make sure the baking soda stays in the balloon hanging over the side of the bottle.

Inflating the Balloon

Now comes the fun part!  Holding the mouth end of the balloon pretty tightly onto the bottle, lift up the other end and dump the baking soda into the vinegar.  Keep holding onto the balloon – there’s some pressure as it inflates, and you don’t want it to blow off before it’s really inflated.

We had to do it over and over again, of course!  We found it worked best to dump out the vinegar & baking soda from the bottle and rinse it a bit between each go-round.

It’s also fun to let go of the balloon and see it whiz around the kitchen.  Just be sure nobody’s face is right in front of the balloon, of course.  I wasn’t fast enough to capture the balloon in flight, but this is the split second after it was released (you can see the specks of baking soda coming out of the bottle.)

Why It Works


When baking soda and vinegar come into contact, they form carbon dioxide. This gas fills the bottle and can’t escape, so it rushes into the balloon, causing it to inflate.

Summer Activities Round-Up, Part 2

We posted Part 1 of our Round-Up of favorite summertime activities last week.  Here’s the rest of our compilation of ways to fill the last few days of summer!

1) Sun Prints

Celebrate the sun by creating these gorgeous prints from paint cut paste.  Glue the prints to folded cardstock afterward to make pretty note cards to use for thank you notes.

2) Cork boats

We’ve tested the seaworthiness and do-ability of MANY, MANY boats for projects here at Kiwi Crate (more on that for another post), and were so impressed with these awesome boats shared by Jonah Lisa Land on The Crafty Crow. It’s a good way to use up any leftover wine corks you just may have laying around – or get donated from willing friends…

3) Hot colored rocks

This project is such a neat idea (coloring hot rocks with crayons) and is a great excuse to head out to a local beach, river or park to collect rocks.  It’s also courtesy of Jen at paint cut paste as a guest post on Moms by Heart (Jen has tons of more summer ideas here.)

4) Pool noodle printing

With summer coming to a close, you can find pool noodles for sale at the drug store or the dollar store for a song.  Use them for  this cool printing project from The Chocolate Muffin Tree. And after you’re done painting, you can repurpose the noodles to make Floating Sculptures – another great project from The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

5) Water Sponge Toys

From Marie at Make and Takes – just in case your kids need another way to get wet outside!  Marie also has a great how-to video on her site for this, which we’ve included here as well.

Photo credit: Make and Takes

That’s it for this year’s Summer Round-Up – hope your summer has been as fun as ours!

What were your favorite activities?

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Popsicle Sticks & Masking Tape

I find that if I give my nephews tape and almost any other material, they can come up with some pretty cool stuff all on their own.  My nephew happened across a bag of popsicle sticks and a roll of masking tape and soon whipped up this delightful – and entirely seaworthy (or at least sink- and bathtub-worthy) little raft.

Here he’s using it with his battery-powered toy hamsters, but it also works really well to float plastic or foam toys in the bathtub.  This is a fairly conventional raft design, but there are, of course, innumerable variations of other vehicles and structures as well.

Popsicle sticks are the perfect size for small hands to manipulate, and great for fine motor skills (lining up the sticks side-by-side) and counting practice (“how many sticks should we use for our raft?”)  Who knew you could find such a remarkable toy for just a penny apiece!

What creations have your little ones made with popsicle sticks?

Summer Activities Round-Up, Part 1

It’s hard to believe that we’re nearly mid-way through August, coming into summer’s home stretch.  Some of you are probably starting school again in the coming days, but chances are, wherever you live, you’ll still be enjoying at least a few more weeks of sunny days.

We recently posted about Painting with Ice Cubes and Jello, and fun with spray bottles, both of which are fitting activities for summer scorcher days.  We thought we would do a round-up of other great activities to get you and your kids through the final Dog Days of summer:

1) These beautiful Bubble Wands made by Kleas featured on The Crafty Crow.  (If you need bubble solution, try this homemade recipe: mix 1C liquid dish soap, like Dawn, with 9C water.)

2) Ice Sculptures with Salt and Liquid Watercolors from by Jean at The Artful Parent.  You just freeze a block of ice in a milk carton and then let the kids go to town with salt and liquid watercolors.  Aren’t they cool?

3) Water Balloon Color Mixing from No Time for Flashcards.  I bet you could use squirt guns for this if you’re out of water balloons, or (like me) find filling them to be a challenge.

4) The Mudpie Kitchen – While you’re outside getting wet, you may as well get muddy too!  (Just an excuse to hose off afterward.)  Check out this incredibly creative project by Rachelle at TinkerLab.

5) Finally, more Painting With Ice Cubes over at The Chocolate Muffin Tree

Stay tuned for 5 more activities next week!

What were some of your favorite summer activities?

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Rolling Pin & Rolling Pin

My son loves playing with kitchen utensils and cookware.  The other day, he grabbed a large rolling pin.  Then, he proceeded to roll it on the ground while crawling on his knees.  Of course, this looked like great fun.  So, his sister grabbed the other rolling pin.  Together, the two of them created a new game…Rolling Pin Races!

It’s super simple.  All you need is 2 rolling pins.

Make sure your race area is clear.  Then, set up for the race.  On your mark, get set…


Here’s a little video of the race in action.

I’ve found these games that kids make up to be so creative.  Along with friends and family, we’ve had great fun with this one.  Race participants have ranged from ages 2 through 65!

Why Art is Important for Kids

Interview with Lisa Medoff, PhD, Child Psychologist.  Lisa works with students of all ages, consulting with families and schools to help them provide the optimal home and school environments for their children. She has taught child & adolescent development and psychology courses at Stanford University and other schools in the Bay area, and is the author of a weekly child psychology column for the website

We here at Kiwi Crate are big believers in getting kids involved in hands-on activities, like art and crafts.  Aside from just the fun of it and creating great gifts for grandparents, is there any science to show it’s helpful to kids down the line?

There are many reasons that giving children a space to create artwork is extremely important.  Supporting their explorations in art fosters creativity, which is not merely helpful in an extracurricular sense.  With the fast pace of change in the technological and business worlds, creative people who can engage in abstract, flexible thinking will be more in demand than those who can merely memorize information and regurgitate it on an exam.

So if my son keeps working on his pictures of Luke Skywalker battling purple dragon bats, he may actually get a job someday – whew!  My daughter is younger, so her forays in artwork are more about exploring materials – practicing with markers, paintbrushes, scissors (oh, the adventures with scissors!)  Are there benefits to that?

Definitely – in addition to the impact on creativity, there are huge physiological benefits from engaging in art.  Art engages both gross (large parts of the body, such as torso and arms) and fine (smaller parts of the body, such as fingers) motor skills, which means that children will get practice controlling the parts of the body that will be necessary to use when they are learning a wide variety of skills in school, from kicking a ball on the field to mastering writing. Working on artwork helps children learn how to coordinate different physical movements to create a desire result.

How about MY desired result of getting the caps back on the markers?

Well, I can’t guarantee that, but there are other benefits too.  Art can help children express feelings that they do not yet have the language to communicate.  Talking about feelings in the context of art can validate what the child is experiencing, as well as helping your child to remember new words to express himself by directly connecting a word to an experience.  Art can capture a feeling that a child does not yet know how to share verbally, but give her a sense that sharing emotions feels good.

I knew that it “felt right” to encourage my kids’ interest in art, but it’s great to hear that there are so many real benefits to them.  Anything else you’d like to share?

Last, but certainly not least, art is fun!  In a world where children are increasingly pressured to achieve in many areas from younger and younger ages, it is important that they learn how to relieve stress and enjoy themselves.  Children who discover when they need to lose themselves in a joyful escape from a stressful situation may be better at coping with difficult situations when they do arise.