Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Doily Heart Stencil T-Shirts

I saw this Valentine's Day kids craft idea last year in Family Fun magazine, but we didn't get around to it in time.  That turned out for the best though because this year the girls had an opportunity to do it with their grandmother, and now they all have coordinating shirts they can wear together on Valentine's Day.
Here are some tips we found for making this project go smoothly with kids:

1.  Place a large piece of cardboard in between the two layers of t-shirt to keep the paint from bleeding to the other side. Also, if the cardboard is large enough, it will help to keep the fabric from being wrinkly and difficult to deal with.

2.  If you don't have fabric paint, acrylic works just fine.  The only real difference is that fabric paint dries softer and more flexible, but they both work.

3.  Position the doily closer to the top of the t shirt than the middle.  It looks better on the person when it is worn that way.

4.  Roll a small piece of tape and place it under the doily to help keep it from moving around while you are dabbing on the paint.

5.  We used two layers of paint for the inside lacey part of the stencil and a single layer on the outside.  The outside feathery look gives the image a little depth.

6.  Add iron on appliques for extra fun!

Have you tried this project with your kids?  Any fun creative twists or helpful tips?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Heart Shaped Granola Bars {Healthy Valentines Treats}

You know what I recommend?  Trial runs for homemade Valentines Day treats!  Ha ha...why not- right?  We did that the other day with these heart-shaped granola bars as I wasn't sure how granola dough would work with cookie cutters.  I'm happy to report that it works just fine (said through tasty granola crumbs).

I vote for making these above actual heart-shaped sugar cookies for the following reasons:

1.  Much less sugar (and what mom won't thank you for that?!), plus-- since they're decorated with a few little candies, kids still think they're a treat.
2.  Actual nutrition.  I'm printing my recipe below, but you can include whatever extra healthy things you want (flaxseed meal, pumpkin seeds, etc)
3. These puppies are EASY.  No dough to roll out, and moving them to the cookie sheet is not tricky (unlike delicate sugar cookie dough)
4.  Less mess.  Kids decorate the granola bars before they go into the oven; so you don't have to clean frosting off the chairs and ceiling.


Here's the recipe I use (adapted from this one).

Cookie Cutter Granola Bars

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ
3/4 t. cinnamon
1 cup flour
3/4 t. salt
1/3 c. honey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c. canola oil
2 t. vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands.
  3.  Scoop the dough by spoonfuls into a cookie cutter.  Pat down with a spatula to make even.  Decorate with little treats (mini m & ms, almond slices, 
  4. Remove from cookie cutter, and place on parchment paper.  Cooking time will vary, depending on how big your cookie cutters are.  Begin checking at 9 minutes.  Granola bars are done when they begin to turn golden at the edges.  Do not overcook- they will be hard! Cool on pan for 5 minutes, and remove to cooling rack.
I think we may try this for other holidays as well.  I'm imagining little pumpkins or gingerbread men...any other ideas?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Silhouettes on a Hill {Photo Tutorial}

I was able to make this grandparent gift last year  by accident, but I've since realized that the process is completely reproduce-able.  And who doesn't like silhouettes of children?  Especially children playing?

Here's what you do:

1.  Find a hill with the sun behind it and no nearby hills/trees in the background.  Position yourself at the bottom of the hill.  (This was a little tricky for me because the bottom of this hill= a swamp, but somehow I managed to not fall in).  Have your kids climb to the top and wait until you count to three before they start skipping down.  If they are anything like my kids, they won't resist this command at all- over and over again. Take a million photos.

2.  Use a a photo editing program to alter the pictures.  I used Picasa because it's free and easy, but anything where you can change the light/dark contrast.  For this picture I just kept increasing the shadows until the detail and color on my daughters completely disappeared.
3.  Print and frame.  The nice thing about silhouettes is that they aren't too busy; so you can add a little decoration to the border if you would like.  We got a wooden frame from Michaels and let the girls paint it so the gift could also be from them.

Does anybody with photography knowledge want to weigh in with any tips for making this process easier/ better results?  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Stained Glass: Kids Medieval Project

When I visited Europe as a child, I remember being struck by the Gothic stained glass windows, and particularly the rose windows found in so many cathedrals- for their symmetry and massive scale.  So this year as we've been homeschooling through the Middle Ages, I found myself wanting to help my children interact a little with the beauty of Gothic stained glass somehow.  

I liked the way this project allowed my children to do their own work but create pieces that were unique and presentable.  I had envisioned helping them a great deal, but found that the the art mediums at both stages of the project were very forgiving.  My six-year-old and four-year-old made their windows almost entirely on their own. I think an older child could include finer detail and could maybe be more creative with the project.


Glass rectangle from a small picture frame 
Black fabric puffy paint with a fine tip
Acrylic paints
Clear liquid glue


1. Find a simple outline of a rose window online (a google image search produces lots of options), resize it to fit your glass rectangle, and print onto paper.

2.  Place the paper with the outline underneath the glass rectangle.  Trace the outline of the rose window onto the glass using the black puffy paint.  There will probably be more detail on the outline than is possible to include in the tracing.  I let my six year old decide which lines to trace and which to ignore.  

If you do a little research you can easily find the technical terms to describe the different kinds of shapes in your particular rose window.  For example, my six year old's window included a central roundel, and trefoils around the outside of the wheel.  

It's ok if your child doesn't have a perfectly steady hand with the tracing or if the lines run together at some places.  The black puffy paint looks like lead between the panes of glass, and wobbly-ness is actually a pleasing effect here.  Also, you can touch up major mistakes with a paper towel.  

3.  Allow the puffy paint outline to dry.  (At least three hours). Mix acrylic paints with clear gel glue on a palette.  There is no exact ratio to follow.  The finished color on the glass will be more or less opaque depending on the amount of glue.  Different amounts of transparency in the same window can be pleasing.  Just make sure the glue is thoroughly mixed with the glue before painting with it.  If you paint with a little bit of paint that has no glue mixed in, the finished product will have brush marks instead of the smooth look of stained glass.   Make sure all the panes in the window are thoroughly filled with paint for best results.  Allow to dry overnight.

I love these!  

They cheer me in my kitchen as the light shines through them on the window sill there.  The fact that stained glass is beautiful only when light shines through it reminds me of this fact:

 "God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."*

They are a gentle reminder to me to stay in fellowship with Christ during the day!

I John 1:5-7

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Friday, March 15, 2013

My Kids Love it When I do Laundry!

Yes, my girls get pretty happy when they see me with a basket of clean laundry.  Do they care that much about clean socks and underwear?  They couldn't care less!  What they love is the prospect of being showered with piles and piles of clean clothes.  (It's especially great if I am on the ball about getting it out of the dryer in time, and the clothes are nice and warm)

And why not?  It all needs to be folded and sorted anyway.  They sit close together and wait for me to dump it all on their heads.  Lots of giggles.  No creativity, time or clean-up required on my part.  Perfect.

This post is inspired by my friend Rebekah at The Golden Gleam who writes a fun series called Joy in Minutes with lots of easy, simple ways to bring joy to your family.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blue Glue Batik

I tried this activity from Pink and Green Mama with preschoolers, and it was fun, but I think it would be a fabulous technique to try with older elementary-aged children.  It is important to use blue gel glue.  I tried it with both the typical white opaque and the clear gel with less than satisfactory results.  They both run while they are wet and shrink so much in the drying process that the lines turn into dots.
I had the preschool kids do three squares each.  On the first square I had penciled their first initials and they traced with glue.  On the second square they were instructed to draw a shape with glue and to fill it in with patterns (dots, squiggles, etc).

To see the full tutorial visit here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Potato Stamp Valentines

A while back, my mother-in-law suggested I try potato stamping with the girls.  It took me a while to get around to doing it, but now that we've done it, I wish we'd tried it sooner.  There's just something FUN about using food to do art.  (e.g. we liked stamping with okra and making magnets with colored pasta)

Getting the right shape in the potato can be a bit tricky.  I found that it worked best to:

1.  cut the potato in half, wipe it with a paper towel and allow it to dry further for a few minutes.

2.  use a marker to draw the heart on the potato (much easier than trying to cut freehand)

3.  use a paring knife to cut roughly around the shape.

4.  gradually, whittle it down until it is just right.  If you are making a heart, make the dip at the top a little deeper than you would normally.  The paint tends to clog the corners a little.

When you are stamping, it's helpful to keep a paper towel nearby for blotting.

We made enough potato heart stamps so there could be one in each color of paint.  (cleaning the stamp between colors is a lot of work)

Our potato stamping project evolved from making simple hearts to silly Valentine face puppets, inspired by ArtsyCraftsy Mom.  My husband suggested that pipe cleaners would work great for the mouths, and they really DO- you can express so much personality with them!

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Rainbow of Carrots

Every time we grow carrots I get impatient.  It's so tempting to dig them up early to see what's going on under there.  The mystery is extra strong when you plant a packet of multi-colored carrots and you know that there is a whole bouquet under there just waiting to be uncovered.

 (This is our second year to plant the Organic Carnival Blend by Botanical Interest.)

So, again this year we jumped the gun and dug them all up a little early before they had the chance to reach their full, slender long potential.
We decided to make a game out of it: "Who could find the biggest carrot?"  Each girl had a pile.  The dirt flew and we all exclaimed over each new record-holder.  M found the largest carrot (a white one that really wasn't all that big), but her favorite carrot was actually the shapely "walking carrot"
Each girl washed her pile, and then we lined them up according to color.
  I chopped them and steamed them for dinner that night.  One big colorful bowl of them! (the purple carrots are actually dark orange inside)
Those of you who follow this blog may remember other colorful gardening projects of ours: rainbow chard and the magic purple beans.

I always wonder if the extra colors mean extra vitamins   Anybody know?

*Disclaimer: This post contains my affiliate link.

Friday, January 18, 2013

10 Favorite Posts of 2012

I am way, WAY late for this, but I had so much fun blogging this year that I didn't want to miss the opportunity to do a year- in- review post.  One reason this year was unusual was because my husband blessed my socks off during the summer by watching the kids while I blogged at coffee shops.  It was such a treat!

Here are some favorite posts that I've written on this blog and others this past year.  A big thank-you to all who read here and give me encouragement and to those who have let me post on their sites.  I have appreciated it so much!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Celebrating Our Free Play of 2012

My kids are always up to something- which of course, is wonderful and horrible ( for housekeeping) all at the same time.  :)  Here is a glimpse into M and G's creative play this past year.  I really enjoyed looking back through my pictures to find all of these.  It's so true that children really know how to have fun.
Lettuce Hats!
"Dyeing" string.  For days, the girls' favorite thing to do was to fill the kiddie pool with water, dissolve sidewalk chalk in it, and dip string in the colored water to "dye" it.  They had great plans for the colorful clothes they would make with their finished products.
Mattress Trampolines.  One afternoon after naps I heard a tremendous bouncing upstairs.  When I arrived in the girls' room I saw this scene.  They had stripped all of the covers off the top mattress and piled them below the bed.  Then they leaned the top mattress against the boxspring to make a kind of trampoline slide.  This arrangement allowed for jumping all the way down, rolling, and everything in between!
Shoe Buses.  Apparently, my enormous Crocs make perfect transport vehicles for little people.
Fishing in the Spinkler.  The drought the past couple of years has left lots of dead bamboo in our yard.  The girls grabbed this pole to use for a fishing rod.  

Smush Face.  This clear plastic sheet is actually a frame for children's artwork for display on the refrigerator.  (Very clever idea, by the way).  The girls though find it equally fun as a window for smushing their faces.  They love for me to take pictures of their poses and come running afterward to giggle at the results in the camera display.  
Pioneer Wagon.  I don't remember now what arrived in this large Amazon box.  But I do remember the fun the girls had using it and the packaging inside for a wagon.
Nativity Role Play.  The girls were very aware of the Nativity story for the month leading up to Christmas this year.  They were forever drawing manger scenes, cutting them out and dressing each other as characters in the story.  Here is a shepherd escaping to the bathroom.  
Free style Creations with leftover craft materials.  Such a fun, whimsical fellow he is.  I just love him!

What fun kinds of playing have your kids invented this year?  Please describe or give a link in the comments.  I know I would enjoy reading about them/ seeing pictures.