Decoupage pumpkins

It was Sunday afternoon and I really needed a little peace and quiet.  This was the perfect little project to keep my three girls quietly engaged as they created these colorful pumpkin decorations.  This project can easily be done with real pumpkins of any size (which I had done a few years ago).  The only problem with real pumpkins is that you have to eventually throw them out.  Who wants to do that?  I found these fabulous foam pumpkins at the dollar store - they were a perfect pie-sized pumpkin and will keep indefinitely!

The prep for this is so easy.  All you need is:

  • a pumpkin (real or fake)
  • mod podge (I made my own by using 1 part Elmer's glue to nearly 1 part water because I didn't want it to be too runny)
  • brightly colored tissue paper cut into small squares (mine are 1 to 2 inches in size)
  • a sponge brush to apply the glue

I briefly showed the girls how to brush a section of their pumpkin with the glue, then start applying the tissue paper squares.  I let them go for it until this point:

It's OK for the pumpkins to look this shabby because once the girls were all done gluing, I was able to brush over their work with another coat of the mod podge.  That top layer of glue soaks right through the thin tissue paper and also gives the pumpkin a nice durable coating on top.

I love these brightly colored pumpkins!  The great thing about them is that they're a great decoration to last clear through Thanksgiving.

Spelling tree

A few weeks ago I saw this fabulous idea over at No Time for Flashcards and wanted to use it for the play group I was hosting.  Unfortunately, my group of 3 and 4 year olds didn't want to spend much time on this activity...but when my 3rd grader came home from school she had other plans for the tree.

Lou had plans to use the tree to practice her spelling words.  I quickly made up some paper leaves with her words on them and put them face down in a little pile.

She picked a word at random, read it out loud to me, then had to spell the word without looking at it.  If she was able to spell it correctly, she could attach the leaf to the tree.  If it was incorrect, the word went back into the pile with the other words for her to review again.  I don't think spelling practice has ever been so much fun.

We've still got the tree up on our wall just waiting for more fun learning activities.

Apple trees: using rice and pasta

 Since my two older girls have started school again, Mina's old playschool group is back together.  This week I hosted and the kids made these apple trees to go along with our theme.  In preparation for this project, I made sure I had enough colored rice and pasta by dying it this way.  This time I used rubbing alcohol instead of vinegar and had similar results.

To do this project you will need:

  • colored rice (green for leaves)
  • colored pasta (I used shells and wagon wheel pasta dyed red)
  • glue
  • toilet paper or paper towel tubes, cut into thirds lengthwise
  • sturdy paper or cardboard 

 We started by first attaching the cut paper tube with glue.  Then, added the "apples" first since they would stick better to the board itself instead of trying to glue them on top of the rice.

 I planned on having the children lightly pencil in an outline for the tree top, but forgot to grab pencils before hand, so they just put glue where they pleased and attached their rice (shaking off the excess into a pan I had in the center of the table).  One child commented that this was the best craft ever.  So I think they were pleased with the whole process.  

A sampling of the childrens' art (ages 3-4):  

Each tree was so unique.  Some kids wanted apples falling from the tree, while another wanted leaves to be growing down the trunk.  
While the art/craft project was drying, they did a little apple tasting.  I made up a chart so they could observe the color of each apple, along with whether or not they liked the flavor.  The chart really wasn't necessary with this age group, but it was fun to try.     

They all loved trying all the different flavors of apples.  And I have to say, I was impressed that most of the kids (minus my own) even ate the skin.

Homemade puff paint - an experiment

Way back in May, I posted about my girls' experience with our homemade egg yolk paints.  Another type of homemade paint we were able to test out over the summer was this recipe for homemade puff paint.  

I used a muffin tin to separate the colors, putting in each cup:
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
Then I added water to the desired consistency, and also mixed in some food coloring.

My hubby came across these nice large (and extra thick) pieces of paper in a package he had received at work.  How thoughtful he was to bring them home for the girls to use for their art!  The girls started their paintings by using their brushes.

Then the technique changed to using handprints and splatter painting.

Since we did these on such large pieces of paper, they wouldn't fit into the microwave to puff up the paint like you would normally do.  It was such a hot day that we experimented - maybe, just maybe, it would be hot enought to make the paint puff up without the microwave?

After the paint started to dry, I could see that it wasn't going to puff up like it would have if we had used the microwave, but it did leave a cool 3-D texture.  An added bonus to this drying method was the extra shimmer from the salt as it reflected the light from the sun.

We were satisfied with the final art pieces, but next time I think we'll have to try drying our artwork in the microwave and watch it puff up.

Egg yolk painting: Jungle prints

I finally got my hands on a fantastic art book for kids - I found Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga from the library and brought it home.  The pages are full of art ideas for kids inspired by famous artists. I plan on doing quite a few of these projects this summer and was able to complete one with Maisy and Mina (ages 5 and 3) this afternoon.  

This art project is inspired by Henri Rousseau, a French artist famous for painting jungle scenes.  Our first task to get started was to go outside and collect leaves.  We also grabbed a few flowers and branches that were growing in the yard.

Since I was out of green paint, I decided we would make some.  Around Christmas time, we painted cookies with egg yolk paint for the first time.  The colors were so vibrant - it was perfect for our bright jungle scene.  I took and separated 5 egg yolks from the whites and put them into separate dishes.  I wanted to be able to make several shades of green.

I let the girls add food coloring to the egg yolks and mix them together.

Our five shades of green are all ready to go.

The girls used a small sponge brush to coat one side of the leaf with the paint, then they stamped it onto their paper (I had some left over posterboard that I cut to size).  Both of them got the hang of the process quickly and went to work covering their papers.  They had fun using different types of foliage and flower petals to do their printing.

We let the paint dry while we ate our lunch, then I gave the girls some markers to complete their jungle scenes.  I tried to take somewhat of a close up shot to show the dimension and sheen the egg yolk paint gives to the picture.  It may have worked a little better if their animals were drawn before we added paint since the paint is translucent and would have made a cool effect.

Maisy's artwork is on the top, Mina's is on the bottom.

This is my first time making my own paint - I know there are several ways this can be done. 

What is your favorite way to make paint?

Fun with a cardboard box

What can a child do with an empty box?  The possibilities are endless.  Back in the fall my girls used shoeboxes to make homes for their collection of pocket sized dolls, but their larger dolls were left homeless.

My girls had been eyeing the growing collection of larger boxes in the basement (due to my love of online shopping).  So they set out on another Sunday afternoon to make not only a home for their dolls, but a little village.  Here's a complimentary tour of their neighborhood:

This home comes with a spacious yard where the kids can run and play.

Don't underestimate the value of convenient parking.  (Bonus that these dolls fit into the Barbie car so nicely)

And who doesn't love a full bath to relax in after a busy day?

And when the dolls' day is done, it's time to curl up with their favorite stuffed animal and hit the hay.

I love to give the girls something so plain and ordinary and see what clever things they will come up with on their own - with zero influence from me.  

Do you have empty boxes just begging to be transformed into some unexpected cool toy?  Go ahead and let your child's imagination run free - just hand them a box and see how their play time unfolds and transforms.  

Need a little more inspiration?  Check out these clever kids at play:

"Handy" handmade coasters

It's that time of year to show our teachers how much we appreciate them. Last year, my two oldest daughters and I found this handmade gift idea in Family Fun magazine and worked on these hand-shaped coasters to give to their teachers.

To make them I traced my daughter's handprint onto a sheet of cardstock and cut it out for a template.  We traced four handprints from each girl onto a piece of scrap fabric using chalk.  I trimmed the fabric so that it would fit nicely onto my sheet of Stiff Fusible Interfacing.  Then I placed another piece of coordinating fabric on the underside of the interfacing.  I ran a hot iron (of course this is an adult's job) over the fabric and interfacing "sandwich" for roughly 30 seconds or so.  You can tell if you're done ironing because the fusing will be adhered to the fabric.  After the fabric was cool enough to pick up, I cut along the traced handprint and had 4 handprints shaped coasters to give to each teacher.

I felt like these needed something extra so I attached this little poem to the package:

"I know my hands are little
And sometimes make a mess,
So I’ve made for you some coasters
 to give your drinks a rest.

Thanks for being my teacher,
It’s kind of funny, can’t you see?
Now I’ll be helping you
By putting mess on me."

These were fun for my girls to give to their teachers last year, but would also make a meaningful Mother's Day gift for grandma.

I haven't decided what to do this year for our teachers, but have found some great inspiration around the web.  Check out some fantastic ideas on my Teacher Gifts board on Pinterest.

Making a treasure box

My girls love their accessories and Maisy (age 5) has been begging to make a jewelry box.  To make these jewelry (or treasure) boxes we used:

  • an old kid-sized shoe box
  • several toilet paper tubes (we used 6)
  • paint
  • glue

Maisy and Mina (age 3) started by painting their boxes to their liking.

I love the portrait Maisy painted on the top of her box of me and the 3 girls.

While the paint dried, I took the paper tubes and cut them in half so they would fit into the box.  Before glue was added to the tubes, I figured how many would fit into each box and arranged them the way we wanted them.  We dipped one end of the tube into glue and attached it to the bottom of the box, then repeated for the rest of the paper tubes.

Once the glue dried, the boxes were ready to fill.  The girls spent the rest of the afternoon rounding up jewelry and other small treasures to put into their boxes.  The little compartments make the box extra fun to sort and organize their jewelry and other small treasures.


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