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
on!

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,
too.

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
Jan 8

I love hoodies with ears. Adding ears to this baby hoodie took about two minutes, including cutting the ears out of felt. (Note: if you want these hoodies to really hold up, use wool felt instead.) Now that I know how easy it is, all the hoodies in the house might suddenly sprout ears!

To make:

Cut 2 ears out of felt. Make them wider than you want them to be when they are finished. Fold over in the center, as shown.

Pin to hood. I pinned them so that the seam on the hoodie would act as a guide for where I would sew on the hoodie.

Sew across the ears, as shown. Use the same color of thread as the ears if you have it. (I actually couldn’t find white thread, so I used the oh-so-cheery red).

Flip the ears up. Put the hoodie on your kiddie. Take pictures because they’re 10% cuter now. Bribe them with candy when they won’t pose for you.

Post about it on your blog even though the candy bribe didn’t work.

Dec 1

I used a tree doily (a pack of 20 for $1 at the dollar store), and some holiday foam stickers (also from the dollar store) to make a quick advent calendar for my 2 year-old son. I am actually going to use this for his reward chart (stickers for good behavior) instead of an advent calendar, but I can see this as a great quick project for classrooms, scout packs, holiday faires, or just for fun at home. It could also end squabbles between siblings over who gets to put the advent ornament up each day. Just make one tree for each kid!

To make: glue a doily on a complementary colored background paper.

  • Gluing tip: I used a glue stick. Apply with a light hand, especially if it’s one of those stiff/sticky glue sticks, or you’ll tear the doily. I used the edge of the glue stick and applied it in long strokes along each edge and in the middle. To affix to paper, smooth doily lightly out from center onto paper.

For an advent calendar: stick one sticker on tree per day (number the stickers, if desired).

These would also be cute classroom decorations, or just decorations for your little one’s bedroom. You could also adapt this project to make simple Christmas cards with your kids.

Jun 28

Toddlers are pretty handy when it comes to simple recipes! Lewis loves to use the blender to mix up liquid ingredients. This particular recipe doesn’t have much in the way of liquid, but I let him mix the dry ingredients to make sure the lumps are all broken up.

I modified this Better Homes & Garden pancake recipe to make a dry “buttermilk” pancake mix. I was toying with the idea of making up a bunch of the mix so I could quickly make pancakes, but honestly, regular pancakes are pretty quick to make anyway. I didn’t have any eggs, so I used soy flour instead of eggs, which is really what makes it feasible for a dry pancake mix, as well as the dry milk powder.

If you are a camper, this mix would be great to take along with you for an easy outdoor breakfast. You can omit the baking soda & vinegar for an even easier mixing experience (if you do omit them, add an additional 1 teaspoon baking powder to the mix). You could probably even add the oil to the dry mix if you were going to use it within a couple days, and then all you’d have to do is add water (1-1/2 cups is equal to a soda can full of water, so you wouldn’t even have to bring a measuring cup!). Just put it in a zip-top bag and pour the water in when it comes time to mix it. Dispense the batter from the zip-top bag. Easy!

Dry “Buttermilk” Pancake Mix:

1-1/4 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping Tbsp soy flour

1/3 cup dry milk powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

When you’re ready to use, add to dry mix:
1-1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon oil

Mix until lumps are mostly gone. You don’t want a soy flour chunk in your pancake. Trust me.

Cook in a skillet over medium heat. You will know it is time to turn the pancakes over when they get a little bit dry-looking on the edges (just a little bit!), and you can see a few bubbles rising in the middle of the pancakes.

Makes about eight 4-inch pancakes.

The vinegar is what helps make the “buttermilk” and the vinegar and baking soda reaction helps the pancakes rise more. The soy flour has a little bit of a “green” flavor, so these are better served with a stronger syrup (maple is good).

I like to make “brown sugar” syrup with 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup water. I just put them in a pourable mixing cup and microwave for a minute, stir, then another 30 seconds in the microwave.

I would make at least a double batch of these because the pancakes are great for kid snacks later in the day. Just give ‘em a pancake and let ‘em munch. They also make awesome “bread” for breakfast sandwiches the next day. The secret is to give them a swipe of syrup and butter. The syrup makes the sandwich, really! I know it sounds weird but it’s good! Remember to warm the pancakes, too and then top with a sausage patty (we use Morningstar meatless), and a cooked egg

Mar 3

I wanted to do something fun with Lewis today, so I asked him if he wanted to cook. He said yes (of course), so we worked on this recipe that was GREAT for him because he could do almost the whole thing himself.

What we did:

First we washed our hands because it’s never too late to start teaching real elements of cooking. Lewis is old enough to learn about washing your hands before cooking!

Then, I got out various dry ingredients appropriate for a trail mix, such as pretzels, cereal, raisins and craisins, sunflower seeds and candied sunflower seeds (like M&Ms, but sunflower seeds!). Lewis put his hand in each bag to measure out whatever amounts he wanted of each item (his hands are small, and so was the bowl, so it didn’t get out of hand like pouring would have!). When we were happy with the formula, I had Lewis mix it up with his hands. While he worked on that, I microwaved a small bowl of white chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup, probably), watching it carefully because they scorch easily. Then I poured the melted white chocolate over the mixture, mixed it up, and let him “mix it up” with the spoon when everything was evenly coated.

We just left it in the bowl (I’ll put it in a ziploc bag to store it), but you could make it into clumps if you want. Maybe that would be a good twist if your kid was older – they could put the clumps out on the wax paper.

Okay, it’s basically candy, but it was a great recipe for us because Lewis could get so involved in making it!

Feb 7

Toddler Edible Yogurt Finger Paint

I am so excited that Lewis is getting old enough to start doing crafty stuff with me! Today I decided to start him on his journey of finger painting, edible-style!

What you need:
Plain yogurt
Food coloring (I used gel food coloring)

Choose your painting location–preferably in a contained space. We used the high chair. Easy to clean up, and the finger paint can’t run away and paint the wall.

Just mix up some colored yogurt (a small amount of food coloring in the yogurt), give the kid some paper, and let them go! You don’t need that much food coloring because when the yogurt dries, the color is actually darker on the paper than it is when it’s wet. Also, you don’t want the paint to be so dark that it stains the kid and whatever he touches.

Alternatively, give them the yogurt and stick them in the bathtub with no water and let them paint the walls. When they’re done, just let them have a bath. They’ll probably love washing the walls afterward, too, so this is double the activity.

This was Lewis’s first time finger painting, but he got the idea really quickly. Of course, plenty of the paint got into his mouth, but the beauty of this paint is that it’s okay to eat it! We used plain, unsweetened, unflavored yogurt, so it’s not so tasty on its own that the kid wants to eat it all and not paint with it.

Of course, you can adapt this activity to use what you have on hand. If you have pudding, use that. If you don’t have food coloring, use some cocoa powder to make brownish paint.

Cleanup is easy. Just use a washcloth/sponge, and soapy water. For the kid, depending on how messy he or she is, you might be able to wipe them down, or you might prefer to toss the kid into the bathtub. Because yogurt is a dairy product (and already sour-smelling to begin with), I advocate the bath afterward.

Lewis had fun painting (yes, he even said “painting”). It gave us about twenty minutes of fun, but this was our first foray into painting, and he’s only 18 months old. For his age, he paid attention for quite a long time. Older kids might last longer.

I was thinking of buying finger paints before I tried this, but I like this more because it’s free (as long as we already have the supplies on hand), and because it’s edible and washable. The paintings look nice when they’re dry, too!

Oct 22

My mom bought several costume patterns a few months ago when patterns were on sale at our local fabric store. We dug the patterns out last week, and I looked at all the options. I decided that while the cowboy costume was cute (it has a full-length duster!), it wouldn’t really work for a 15 month-old, so I opted for a second choice: the Knight.

We surveyed our available materials, and everything we used in this costume was found in my mom’s stash! Amazing (does ANYTHING feel better than finding a use for gold lame from your stash??)! We went with moss green stretch velvet for the hood, muslin for the tunic, purple “dagging” (that’s our vocab word for the week – it’s the squarish-trim stuff on the sleeves and bottom hem of the tunic), a purple lion applique, and gold lame belt and leg-coverings (faux armor). I was concerned that the purple with gold lame would be too Easter pageant, but it turns out my fears were unfounded, as everything came together and looked awesome! My mom even found the gold braid in her stash and it perfectly went with the purple accents of the outfit.

The costume was simple, but had a lot of little pieces that made it more detailed than I thought it would. Working together was a great idea, though, because one of us pinned and assembled while the other one sewed, so it only took us an afternoon.

Anyway, it looks even cuter in person. Of course. :)