Sep 7

Make Edible Sugar Skulls -written instructions at Dollar Store Crafts.

My son and I made these molded sugar skulls yesterday with a silicone ice cube mold that I got at the dollar store. It was very simple, and my 4 year-old had fun molding and unmolding sugar. After we were done, we just baked them for 10 minutes at 200° F, and they hardened.

I think they’d be a lot of fun to take to work and set next to the coffee maker on Halloween/Day of the Dead. But, I don’t go to work, so I’ll just settle for serving them to my sons next time they have a tea party.

Jun 15

During any given week, I do at least two or three craft projects. I am posting them here, there, and everywhere, and sometimes it takes a month or more between when I make the project to when I can post about it. There are a few things I value in a craft tutorial: it uses fairly common household items, it isn’t complicated to do (anyone can do it), and is compelling enough that it excites people to actually make the project. Here are some of my recent projects.

Make a Mod Mobile: This paper mobile is based on one of the talented artist Jenn Ski‘s giclee prints, and it has to be my favorite thing in my house right now. Instructions at Dollar Store Crafts.

Make a Peg Family: I wrote a tutorial for making peg dolls of your family members. This is a super-cute gift for kids (ages 3 and up. My 2 year-old put his own peg in his mouth and destroyed the paint job!). Find it at Skip to My Lou.

Make Paper Lanterns: I updated the traditional paper lantern craft project with a double layer of pretty scrapbook paper. I love this because it helped me bust into my stash of scrapbooking paper. Check out my guest post at Salty Pineapple.

I am a regular contributor at AmazingMoms, too, so here are some of my recent projects for them:

Make Bike Streamers
(This pic is my 2 year-old son posed on his brother’s bike. He totally can’t ride it! Ha!)

Patriotic Tablecloth Weights
Painting rocks is fun! They make super cute table cloth weight clips.

Recycled Clothing Crinkly Baby Toy
I used some stained clothing and a baby wipes container to make this crinkly baby toy. It was my infant son’s favorite toy for a long time.

Victorian Flower Cones
I love how these cones turned out! So pretty. I made them from party hats and used leftover broken jewelry and ribbon scraps from my stash.

And, sometimes crafts don’t work out, which is why I founded CraftFail as a place crafters could share their not-so-awesome projects. Check out my first draft of reusable cloth pads. Not pretty. I’m not posting a pic because I want you to be surprised when you check it out.

Jun 19

Here’s a really early Halloween costume idea (for you last-minute parents who like to plan ahead!) or just a fun toddler diversion: use a bulk cereal box as a quick costume.

How to:

  1. Remove or staple flaps inside box. (I removed the bottom flaps and stapled the top ones to add reinforcement for the straps. I stapled smooth-side in so the nubs of the staples couldn’t catch on the kiddo)
  2. Staple straps on. I used a skinny scarf from the dollar store (left over from my son’s birthday party), but you can use fabric, ribbon, etc.
  3. Put it on the kid and go!

If it was really a halloween costume, I would dress the kid in a black shirt and pants (or yellow, or white, etc. to coordinate with cereal box).

You can’t tell by the photo but this is super-adorable and funny in real life.

Alternate Idea:

  1. Use same construction concept, but paint box and add assorted recycled materials to make it into a robot (or any other creature desired). Hmm, that sounds like fun, I might have to do that today.

Jun 17

Here’s a fun idea for a summer activity: Bring your art supplies outside and paint rocks!

This project is versatile. Art can be temporary or permanent,
depending on your desire. If you use washable paint to decorate rocks
(or sticks, planters, bricks, etc.), the art can be washed off of
things that you might not want permanently decorated (for me, most
notably, my children!). You can just allow painted rocks to sit out in
the elements and take their chances, or if you want to preserve the
art, you can seal it with an acrylic clearcoat spray.

For my children, who are under 3, the fun was all in just applying
paintbrush to rocks, but older kids will enjoy painting specific
pictures on rocks, or entirely covering rocks with colorful designs. If
you get a good collection of rocks going, painted rocks are great for
stacking and playing with.
This is even an activity you can join in on. I know it’s simple, but
rock painting is something I can imagine whiling a whole afternoon away

Paint Palettes: I used to-go coffee lids for our palettes (if
you go this route, put a small piece of tape over the hole BEFORE you
pour paint!). Yogurt lids, plastic or paper plates, or even cardboard
squares will also make great palettes.

Paint: Use washable acrylic paint (or if you don’t have
washable, mix a bit of dish soap in with each color of paint to make it
washable!) or if you have older kids, regular acrylic paint is fine,

Choosing Rocks: Really, anything you can find will work. If
you want to keep these rocks around as works of art, it’s a good idea
to wash them with dish soap and water first to remove dirt. Washing
rocks can be its own activity for little kids! Do it the day before, or
in the morning. Be sure to let your kids know if any rocks are off
limits (flagstones, big rock features in your yard, etc.).

If desired, when the paint is dry, seal it with a clear acrylic spray.

If kids want more instruction than “Hey, go paint rocks!” you can give them a jumping off point like:

  • Paint your favorite animal
  • Paint the first letter of your name
  • Paint Daddy’s face on this rock
  • Paint this whole rock pink, and don’t leave any spots uncovered!
  • Paint three rocks blue and two rocks yellow*
  • Any other silly/fun/serious/learning cue you can think of

*You can use this activity as an opportunity for learning (in the
starred example, numbers and colors), but I think there is also value
in just letting your child paint the rocks for fun with no other
agenda. You decide for yourself!

Other Ideas:

  • Use sidewalk chalk to completely cover rocks (instead of paint) – this is really pretty!
  • Paint pieces of wood or terra cotta pots, other assorted stuff from your yard
  • At the beach? Paint driftwood or shells
  • Go on a nature walk first and pick fun stuff up, then come home and paint it
May 26

Here’s a way to mix art time with playtime: use a (washable) toy to apply paint to paper. We used some old toy cars to roll in paint and then make a fun painting. My sons enjoyed using this unusual paint brush to make unique paintings.

Project Materials:

  • A car, or other washable toy
  • Washable paint
  • Paper
  • Paint brush (optional)
  • Palette of some sort (we used a plate)

To do:

Apply paint (or let child do it! My 2 year old loves this part) to palette. Roll, dip, or otherwise put toy in paint. Let kid use toy on paper!

May 21

It rains a lot in Oregon (until July 5th!), and I have to come up with rainy-day activities that expend little people’s energy without making me completely crazy. Here’s another quick and easy activity that will keep them entertained for quite awhile: a recycled grocery bag punching bag. It works more like tether ball than a punching bag, and if you have more than one child, they can play with it together.

Project Materials:

  • Plastic grocery bags, about 10
  • Piece of yarn, twine, etc.
  • A nail or hook for the wall

To Make:

Stuff one grocery bag with all the other bags (alternately, stuff a bag with recycled paper, newspaper, etc.). Knot top of bag, and tie a piece of yarn around it. Hang string on nail or hook on the wall (or in a doorway).

I would love to try this with a fabric cover (an old t-shirt? an old ruined piece of kiddo’s clothing?).

**REMEMBER: because this activity deals with potentially hazardous items, do not leave your child unattended with this toy. Do not leave it hanging after s/he is finished playing with it.**

Alternate Option:

Tie a stuffed animal or another soft toy to a string. Kids will enjoy batting this around as well!

May 19

If you need to occupy your toddler for 15 minutes, give her something to work on! In this simple activity, you have two cups and something to pour. I used rice (although, don’t be alarmed if it makes a mess!) If you’re concerned about the mess, try something bigger like cotton balls or larger dried beans.

My 16 month old had fun with this. Once your kid gets used to the concept of pouring, you can move on to pouring water! If you dare…

Mar 12

My two year-old is very into the alphabet, and pointing the letters he knows out whenever he finds them out in the world. He can also make a couple of “important letters” – the first letter of his name, L, and the first letter of his brother’s name, E.

He had a lot of fun doing this activity: making letters with toothpicks. He naturally created a few letters and pointed them out. After he exhausted his repertoire of letters he could create himself, I made letters for him to see if he could identify them. He did a pretty good job!

To do:

Provide child with several sticks. I used 8. If you aren’t comfortable with toothpicks as the stick, there are lots of good alternatives! You can use pretzel sticks, crayons, or even green beans.

Allow child to play with sticks on a clean surface (we used the high chair).

You might want to start the play out by making some familiar letters (if you want the activity to revolve around letters — it certainly doesn’t have to! Playing with little sticks can be fun on its own!)

Mar 2


Have you painted with your kid lately? Maybe he or she doesn’t enjoy painting with a brush (or even with fingers), but there are lots of other ways to apply strokes to paper! You don’t even have to use paint.

My 14 month-old made this awesome painting while eating blueberries! I just put some cardstock on his high chair tray while he was eating, and the juice of the berries combined with his little fingers made this beautiful painting. It reminds me of ink on parchment.

Edible “paint” is a great item for really small kids because then you don’t have to stress out about whether or not they get it into their mouths (in fact, it might just be better that way!). You can even combine craft time with snack time! Painting yogurt on grapes is a fun snack, for example.

Paint Alternatives:

I’m sure you can come up with a lot more good ideas for paint alternatives.


Instead of brushes, try other kinds of applicators. My 2 year old son rolled cotton balls in some paint and made this pretty painting. The width of the cotton balls made it possible to get a lot more color on the paper much quicker than a paint brush, which seemed to keep my son interested. Try to vary the tactile experience from using a brush. For example, get away from something that is attached to the end of a stick like a paint brush! Try something that you pinch with your fingers.

Paintbrush alternatives:

  • Cotton balls
  • Toothbrush
  • Sponge (kitchen, cosmetic, etc.)
  • Tissue
  • Flowers or leaves
  • Veggies (try lettuce, broccoli, or even carrots)
  • Popsicle sticks

This painting was made with popcorn kernels. It reminds me of a Pollock!

Barrel Painting


This painting was made with a potato.

We also tried this fun activity found on A Bit of This and A Bit of That: Barrel Painting. You take a cylinder of some sort (oatmeal container, as in the instructions, or we used a big plastic ice cream bucket), add paper, paint, and some sort of tumbling material. We tried cotton balls, goldfish crackers, unpopped popcorn kernels, and a potato (all separately, of course). Each item made a different type of pattern on the paper. My son enjoyed adding the tumbling material and the paint to the cylinder.


This painting was made with goldfish crackers.

This is a fun activity for kids who are more interested in moving around than in sitting still and painting. You can shake, dance, and jiggle the barrel, or make it into a game. My son and I tossed it, rolled it, and kicked it to each other. He couldn’t get enough of it, and I lost interest in the activity before he did!

This painting was made with cotton balls.

This painting was made with cotton balls.

Jan 21

Kids love to play Memory, the matching card game. My toddler plays
the official version at Grandma’s house, but we don’t have that game at
home. No problem! We decided to make our own with readymade stickers
and cardstock. Nothing could be simpler!

The stickers that come with many stickers to a sheet, with repeating
images are ideal, like the ones sold in the education/teacher aisle at
your local dollar store. Or, buy two packages of identical stickers.
Any kind of unmarked cardstock will work. The heavier, the better!

Project Materials:

  • Stickers (you must have 2 of each image), $1
  • 1-2 sheets of cardstock or heavy paper, $.50 or less
  • Paper cutter or scissors, on hand

Total cost: $1.50

To Make:

You will need one card per sticker. Determine how many cards you will need.

Cut cards from cardstock. To cut 16 cards from one
sheet of paper, cut paper in half from both directions. Cut resulting
rectangles in half again in both directions. This is easiest if you
have a paper cutter, but you can also do it with scissors.

Stick stickers to cards. Your child can help with
this (my two year-old did a pretty good job! The images weren’t
perfectly lined up on the card, but he didn’t care, and he had a ball
sticking the stickers on the cards).

Note: it is best if stickers are different-looking
enough to not be confusing to little ones. In other words, two
different shots of the same doggie might be a little too similar! We
used these stickers that all have a different baby animal on them!

Play the game!

To Play (ages 3 and up):

  1. Mix cards up.
  2. Lay all cards face-down on table (in a grid pattern).
  3. Youngest player goes first and turns two cards of her choosing
    over. If cards match, she takes the cards and has another turn. If
    cards don’t match, move to the next player.
  4. When all cards are matched, the player with the most sets of matching cards wins.

To Play Simplified Version (ages 2 and under):

  1. Limit total number of cards to 8, or four sets (you adjust for your child’s skill and interest level).
  2. Youngest player goes first and turns two cards of his choosing
    over. If cards match, she takes them, but does not have another turn.
  3. Next player takes a turn.
  4. When a match is made, everyone cheers.
  5. When all cards are matched, start over again.

The Not-Ready-For-Organized-Games version (younger 2s and under):

  1. Turn 4 sets of cards face up.
  2. Take turns looking at each card and trying to find its partner.
  3. Cheer when child finds a match.

Other tips:

  • You can also use these cards to play other games like Go Fish!
  • If you don’t have stickers that match, how about making your own?
    Print photos of your family (faces are good) on labels and stick onto
    cards. Avery has free label-making software that makes it super easy to print straight to labels! This would also be a fun handmade gift for a birthday boy or girl.

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