Saturday, December 24, 2011

Salt Baking Dough

While I'm at it, here's a reliable recipe for salt dough. It's fun to play with and you can color it with food coloring. You can also bake what you make. We often use it to make Christmas ornaments and have used it for handprint ornaments for the Grandmas for Mother's day. To make ornaments just use a straw to punch out holes in your ornaments before baking and make sure to flip them half-way through baking. Or you can just air dry.


Salt Baking Dough
  • 3/4 c. salt
  • 3/4 c. warm water
  • 2 c. flour
  1. Mix salt into the warm water and cool. Add dye now if you wish. Add flour slowly, stirring. Knead.
  2. Roll dough to 1/4-1/2" thickness and cut out ornaments.
  3. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-60 minutes, until moisture is out. Cover with foil if necessary to avoid browning.
  4. When cool, paint and seal with water-based polyurethane.

Gingerbread Play Dough

This is a recipe Griffin came home from school with and is a variation on good old salt dough. It smells delicious but probably doesn't taste so good! (Though it is edible, just in case your Octopus does eat it.)

Gingerbread Play Dough

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • additional vegetable oil as needed to improve consistency.

Mix the ingredients together. Knead until the dough is smooth. Play.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Stained Glass" Votive Holder

These votive candle holders are really easy and fun to make and really cheap, too. I like cheap. Plus, they can be as simple or as intense as you want to design them. With a 4 year old and a 2 year old we went simple. Just torn up scraps of tissue paper mod podged on. We even made our own mod podge. That too is cheap and easy. Nice.

What You Need:
  • one Recipe Mod Podge (recipe at the end)
  • one small, cleanjar (We used artichoke heart jars that are 6.5 oz)
  • small (like 1-2"sq) torn pieces of tissue papers in various colors

Here's What You Do:
  • Brush a bit of the mod podge onto the outside of the jar then put a piece of tissue on it. Smooth out the tissue with more mod podge. Thin layers is best.
  • Do this all around.
  • Let dry.
  • Voila!
  • Now put a votive candle or tea light in it and put it on display or gift.


Mod Podge Recipe:

  • 1/4 cup Elmer's Glue
  • 1/4 water

Stir together in jar until well mixed. For what it's worth, we also used an artichoke heart jar to mix and keep our mod podge in.

Magazine Cut-Out Ornaments

This is a really simple ornament that's great for preschoolers (and something I made myself when I was in preschool- and my mom still has it!). It is simply two pieces of paper glued together with a string for hanging sandwiched between. We found a couple wintery images in some of our old children's magazines and traced around them with a tupperware container and pencil to make a nice circle. Then we cut out the circles. We brushed glue on the back side of one paper then positioned a length of looped yarn on it so that the ends would be sandwiched between the two discs or paper with a loop to hang hanging out. Then we slapped on the other paper so the winter image faced out. Just make sure your the string is coming out the top and your pictures aren't upside down. That's it. Easy peasy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gingerbread Man Paper Chain

Remember making paper doll chains? Well, for the holiday season I made some "Gingerbread Man" chains out of brown paper to decorate our front door. Here's how you do it.

What You Need:
  • brown paper, about a 5" wide strip cut off from a roll of brown packaging paper.
  • scissors
  • red and silver glitter glue
  • black marker

What You Do:
  • Accordion fold the strip of brown paper all the way from one end to the other making a fold every 2.75 inches or so.*
  • On the front of your "book" draw your ginerbread man, making sure the arms reach all the way to the left and right edges.

  • Cut him out, through all the layers. making sure NOT to cut out around the hands. Every other body part should be cut around.
  • Open up your book. You should have a continuous chain of a dozen (or so) of gingerbread men.
  • Decorate with glitter glue buttons and "icing" and black marker faces.
  • Hang 'em up!

*Hint: If you cut your paper from a roll, you might want to weight and flatten your folded paper strip in a heavy book overnight before you cut your men so that they lie flat. Otherwise you can always tape them to your wall.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

These are a celebrated Christmas craft and you'll find recipes for these everywhere on the web. They'll vary a little bit but they're all basically the same thing: Applesauce and Cinnamon. Some recipes have white glue added for strength. We nitpicked through them and came up with this recipe which served us well and we got a dozen good-sized ornaments out of one batch.

Cinnamon Applesauce Dough:
  • 1 1/4 cups ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup Elmer's glue

Mix it all up until it resembles a sticky cookie dough. It'll be too sticky to roll right now, so let it sit for a half hour to an hour until you can work with it. Then roll it out to a 1/2 inch thickness (or a little thinner) and use cookie cutters to cut shapes. Set the shapes on a cookie sheet.

To make the holes, take a straw and stick one end through the "cookie" where you want the hole. Lift it out and the little hole should come with it. Blow the hole out.

Now you can dry these in a corner. They take a couple days to dry. I'm impatient. You know that. I baked mine. Set the oven to 200 degrees and bake for 2-2.5 hours until dry, flipping the ornaments half-way through. Even so I let them dry out more overnight before the kids decorated them with glitter glue.

Decorate, hang with a ribbon. Fun and done!

Easy enough for little hands and they make great home-made gifts. They just make your whole house smell of Christmas cheer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Print and Cut: Paper Trees

These are super easy and fun to make and decorate. If we had time and space, we would make a whole forest of paper trees. They're also nicely collapsible so stick some in some Christmas cards! Or glue one onto a card to make one into a Christmas card:

You can make all sorts of sizes for your forest, but here are some templates for a starting place. For a larger 10" tree print up these two pages onto card stock.

page 1:

page 2:

Cut out, decorate and put together. It's easier to stand them up if you fold each half of the tree down the middle length-wise before fitting the slits together. And taping them on the resulting seams is not a bad idea either.

For a smaller 7" tree, print this up on card stock:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Handprint Turkey

A couple years ago my sister sent these Thanksgiving cards out with my niece's handprint. I thought it was brilliant then, I think it's brilliant now. And totally worth sharing this Thanksgiving.

What You Need:
  • brown craft paint. (the nontoxic kid-friendly variety.)
  • orange or yellow card stock (or whatever festive colors you choose.)
  • orange and red markers
  • glue
  • small googly eyes

What You Do:
  • Put a healthy amount of brown paint onto a paper plate, spread it around.
  • Get your octopus to spread their fingers and smash their hand in that mess as nicely and flatly as you can. (Yeah, right!) Smack that nice and flat painted hand quickly, firmly and without moving it around onto the card stock. Let it dry.
  • Draw that gobbler on (what is that really called?) in red marker, the feet and beak in orange.
  • Stick a googly eye on it.

You didn't really need me to write all this out, did you?

Also, while I am at and it IS Thanksgiving, I want to say I am grateful for:
  1. The internet.
  2. Creativity, in me, in my kids, in everyone I know.
  3. Family and friends.

Trace a Turkey

Spiff's Turkeys are pecking at the grass on a rainy day.

This is the age-old school craft that is so easy and fun to do. Plus, it documents your child's growth through the years. The Hand-Traced Turkey. We went simple with just markers on plain white paper, but you can go fancier with craft feathers glued on or trace your hands onto brown paper. You can make gift bags tracing turkeys onto brown paper lunch bags. Really, with the simple crafts the sky is the limit.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cut and Paste: Cornucopia

Since Thanksgiving is upon us (How did THAT happen!?), I was on a mission to find what I thought would be a simple cut and paste cornucopia. I wanted my kids to be able to cut out the fruits and vegetables and paste them onto the horn of plenty. After looking, and looking, I gave up and made my own. Ever my test-subject, my 4 year old colored, cut and glued this all by himself. I was pretty impressed. You don't have to be, but I was. ;-)

Spiff's Cornucopia:

The Printable:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lollipop Ghosts

I think we've all made these at some point in our childhood, but I just remembered to bring them back this Halloween. They're a quick and easy festive treat to make! And cheap, we like cheap.

What You Need:
  • round lollipops like Charms Blow-Pops or Tootsie Pops
  • tissues
  • yarn cut into 6" pieces
  • black pen/marker

What You Do:
  1. On flat surface lay two unfolded tissues flat on top of each other at an angle so that all 8 corners show.
  2. In the center of your tissues, hold the top of the head of the lollipop down so the stick stands straight up. Pull up the corners of the tissues and twist them around the base of the head so they drape around the stick when turned over.
  3. Tie a yarn tight around the neck at the base and tie a bow.
  4. With the black pen, draw a face. Done!
To show off the ghosts, I made a stand. I took a couple lengths 2x4" pieces of pine from my husband's stash and drilled holes the diameter of the lollipop sticks every inch or so the length of the wood. Then I stuck the pops in the holes and stood the whole thing on the table. Yummy and a great decoration. What's more to love?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pressed Leaf Collage

It's fun to go out hunting for colorful leaves but what to do with them? Spiff had collected so many leaves last year that I was on a mission to do something crafty rather than just toss them.

This is a great, easy fall craft I found online last year. And it's a good way to use old broken crayons bits, to boot. Spiff made several for friends and family to ring in the fall season. He wanted to make so many, we had to go out and collect MORE leaves. This year when I pulled it out to hang, last year's craft looks as nice as when it was first made. (Actually that picture is of the one we kept last year taken today.)

What You Need:
  • wax paper
  • colorful fall leaves (you might want to press them in between heavy books for a couple of days before doing this.)
  • old crayon bits in bright fall colors- greens, reds, yellows., etc.
  • crayon sharpener
  • scissors
  • iron

What You Do:
  • Heat your iron to medium dry heat.
  • Shave your crayon bits in your sharpener until you have a nice pile for sprinkling over your artwork. Set aside.
  • Tear off two pieces of wax paper big enough for your leaves to fit comfortably. Lay one down flat on your protected work surface. (Cut-open brown paper bags are a good way to cover your table.)
  • Let your Octopus arrange the fall leaves on the wax paper.
  • Octopus, sprinkle the crayon bits around your leaves on the wax paper.
  • Gently lay the other piece of wax paper on top.
  • Lay another piece of brown paper or paper towels on top to protect your iron (the crayon wax will squish out the sides a little) and then press and slowly iron your artwork.
  • Let cool. When it's cool, trim the edges and hang in a window.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Printable: Five Little Pumpkins

So, we all know that poem. It's my favorite Halloween poem. Okay, I don't know a lot of Halloween poems, but even if I did, I feel confident saying that the one with five little pumpkins would still be a favorite. First of all, "pumpkin" is just a fun word. You know what else is fun that you can do with pumpkins? You can make jack o'lanterns. Whoever invented them is right up there with Thomas Edison in my book. That's right, I said it. So, pumpkins are great. That poem is great. And because I said so, I made this printable. Your octopus can cut and paste those pumpkins right on the gate (or fence, fine, I made a fence) and then, because just pumpkins is never good enough, they can put little faces on them too and make some Jack O'Lanterns. And maybe even some Jill O'Lanterns.

The Printable:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Super Masks!

When my older son turned four, we had a superhero birthday party. I made a bunch of masks for the kids (and adults!) out of foam sheets and some elastic string. Easy peasy. Perfect for parties, Halloween, heck, every day! Get your webslinging action on!

Printable Templates:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Recipe: Fake Blood

When Spiff was 14 months old he was a Vampire. Because he was in a biting stage. But what kind of a vampire can you be without blood? So I set out to find a recipe for an edible blood suitable for a toddler. And this is what I found out- Corn Syrup! (Yeah, it's my crafting friend, what about it!?)

What You Need:
light corn syrup
red food coloring
blue food coloring

And this is where you'll hate me, but it's true, nothing is precise. You just feel it! Start with a quarter cup (or more depending on how much of this stuff you want to make) of corn syrup, and add red food coloring, lots of it, and a drop or two of blue until you get the color you want. Then you just dribble in some water until you get the consistency you want. I added just enough so it slowly dribbled down Spiff's chin and dried there. So, it's not a science! Happy Haunting!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Stained Glass" Leaves

It's fall! The season for beautiful colors and leaf piles for jumping, apples and pumpkins and that fresh cool air that is just perfect for sleep. This week, the kids and I made pretty nifty (if I do say so myself) "stained glass" leaves for the windows out of some construction paper and tissue paper. Tissue paper is really pretty awesome when you shine some light through it and it's cheap and easy to work with. Plus, I don't know about you, but I always seems to have some kicking around.

What You Need:
  • Tissue Paper in fall colors- red, yellow, orange, etc.
  • a piece of black construction paper (though it really could be whatever color, the black just looks nice!)
  • scissors
  • glue, in paste or stick form, whatever.

What You Do:
Print up the leaf template below and cut out the leaf shape you want. Cut strips of tissue paper in varying widths (half an inch to an inch) and in varying lengths that will span the leaf templates. (Really they don't have to be perfect and this is a great time for little hands to practice cutting). You just need enough tissue to span the leaf.

Fold the black piece of paper in half and trace the leaf template onto the paper with pencil. Then cut out the shape through BOTH layers of black . (OK, here you need precision. So you do this while your octopus cuts tissue). Now if the pencil marks bug you (as they do me!) unfold the paper and refold it so the pencil lines are on the inside. :-)

Open the paper back up. Now you have two cut out mirror-image leaves. glue around the right leaf on the black paper. Now spanning the leaf, stick on the tissue strips any which way you feel like it, layer it up, don't, whatever, it all looks great!

Glue around the other, tissue-less, left leaf, getting the edges too.

Now sandwich that piece of black paper back together so the leaves match up, and Voila! Trim any tissue that might have come out the sides and hang it up in a sunny window.


The Printable:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Q-Tips Make Great Brushes

Skip giving your Octopus a Paintbrush. I take it back. Our newest paint trick is using q-tips. I rip off the cup portion of an egg carton and fill each cup with a different color paint and now, instead of using paintbrushes and rinsing it after every color in a cup of water (which just gets messy and wet!) I've been putting a q tip in each color. Then the kids can go to town- Spiff won't freak because his yellow is suddenly brown and Fumble isn't able to make a lake in the middle of his painting after dumping out the rinse water. It makes for easier clean-up too- paint and toss! Me likey.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Printable: Fold and Cut Butterfly

Folding and cutting activities are a great way to hone those preschool skills. My 4 year old loves seeing what comes out when he unfolds the final product after cutting. He loved this butterfly.

*Tip: When learning to cut, it's easier to cut through thicker papers that stay stiff. Start with card stock then work your way up to construction paper and then plain paper.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Printable: Flying Geese.

This cold, wet weather we've been having here in New England puts me in mind of geese flying. Depressing as it is, that's not too far away!

Here's a printable for a pair of flying geese. Make a pair (Did you know Geese generally mate for life?) or an entire flock! Hang them on your light fixture or on your curtain rods. Or make a mobile.

The Printable:

What You need:
card stock
hole punch
tape for hanging (or just hang them on a curtain rod.)

What You Do:

Grown-Ups- Print up on card stock. Cut out the goose bits, punch the holes and cut the slits. Cut lengths of string and tie one to each goose.

Kids: Color the geese. Fold the wings in half on the dotted line and slip the wings through the slot your grown-up cut on the bodies. Tell your grown-up where to hang them up! Also, before hanging, if you pinch the top of the body with your finger and thumb you can make your goose flap his wings by moving your hand up and down!

Friday, July 15, 2011


I don't like finding corn syrup as the number 2 or 3 item in product ingredient lists, but I've got to say corn syrup has some pretty great craft usage. Like fake blood (yes, I'll do that around Halloween- remind me.) and bubbles!

I was pretty excited to learn I don't have to buy glycerin just so I can make bubbles. Who wants glycerin hanging around? Besides, I'd have to go out and get it and I'm an immediate gratification girl. I like finding out I can use things I have hidden in my very cabinets already. Especially when it's corn syrup I've had kicking around since my first son was a vampire for Halloween 2.5 hears ago.

And if I'm bad about waiting, my kids are worse. Making bubbles was awesome. No oven, no drying. Three ingredients, mix and voila, blow!

1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup dish detergent *
2 cups water

Combine and stir.

That's it. You can't beat that for instant.

We stored half in a jar for later and the rest we brought outside immediately to blow bubbles. We used all sorts of things with holes that we had lying around to make bubbles, but the best bubble-makers were the plastic cookie cutters. We have a circle and a heart one that came with the Little Tikes Mud Pie set my Mom got for the boys last year, and it made bubbles as big as their heads! Just watch out you don't pop the bubbles ON your heads or you might get soap in the eye, an incident that occurred at our house which briefly put a damper of tears on our fun. But if it happens to you, a bathroom cup with cold water held up to the eye makes a nice emergency eye rinse. (I had flash backs to high school chemistry.)

*On dish soap. We used Palmolive the first time around because that's what I had (instant, remember.) and it made great bubbles that day and even better bubbles the next, but in a few days it was not so hot. I picked up Joy a couple weeks later because I've read that's the best. I feel like it wasn't as good as Palmolive the first two days but definitely held up better. We just finished it up today, over a week later. So... use what you've got I say. If you find a soap that works awesomely, let me know.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Super Tissue

Apparently, you can do some pretty super things with a mere piece of tissue paper:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's a Party Hat!

In the summer, it seems like there are a lot of birthdays to celebrate. Mine is one of them. It was today. My older son informed me (when he woke me up early to tell me it was my birthday and to get up!) that it was not a birthday unless we made hats and a cake. So I got to make my own hats on my birthday. But at least my kids colored them.

Party hats as it turns out are very easy to make. Even easier if somebody makes up the template for you! And here's one now! A good old printable party hat. Print it up on some cardstock, cut it out, decorate it, put it together and add string. Easy as cake, which incidentally we did have. So I guess I achieved birthday success!

The printable:

Hats + Cake= Birthday Success!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dozens of Cupcakes

Today is my baby niece's first birthday. One WHOLE year old! I made these cupcake stickers in her honor, but you can use them too. Decorate birthday cards, wrapping paper, gift bags, goody bags- all things birthday. Just print up the printable on label paper (I know Avery makes sticker paper) or plain paper and stick them using a glue stick.

The Printable:

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Printable Game: Match and Spell Booster

Just got around to making another page of words for the Match and Spell game from the previous post. Print, cut and play! And let me know how it goes, I'm curious and if something needs fixing the perfectionist in me wants to know!

The printable:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Printable Game: Match and Spell

This is a Spiff-Approved game I came up. It's kind of like Memory meets Polar Bear ABC (by the Cranium folk- if you don't have it, it's a good spelling game for the little ones!) and it's good for the age range that plays those. Just print up the printables on card stock and cut on the dotted lines.

To Play: Have your kid pick out a word card, then you pick out one that doesn't have any letters repeating from his. Lay the letter cards face-down on the table in a 4x4 grid. Then take turns picking up letters. If your letter is in your word, keep it, and go again. If it's not, put it back and the next player goes. First to spell their word, wins.

You can also use the word cards as flash cards.

I realize there's an E and no words with E in them. That's because I'm working on another set of words to go with these. :-)

The Letter Cards:

The Words:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Collapsible Theatre or Diorama Playboard

Dinosaur Diorama Playboard:

A while back, in the midst of our winter doldrums, we built a collapsible diorama of sorts to pretend play with our plethora of toy dinosaurs. Along the same idea, we soon built a theatre/tv . It's the same design except there's a hole in the middle and you turn it around to use and decorate the outside. When you use it for a dinosaur playboard, you don't cut out a hole and you decorate the inside with colorful Jurassic scenery.

Puppet Theatre:

Each were different dimensions suited to the cardboard I happened to find in my basement. The printable here is a plan with the dimensions we used for the theatre. You can really take a lot of liberties with the dimensions, based on what supply you have, but this is a good place to start. I thought given the cruddiness of this week, it was a good time to finally post the plan for some indoor fun. So here it is.

What You Need:

Big Honking Piece of Cardboard 30" x 28" ( but it can vary a lot based on what you've got.)
Yard Stick
Craft Knife
Markers, Paints, what-have-you
Fabric if you feel like putting up a curtain in your theatre. We were in a rush, we didn't.

What You Do:

Print up the printable and then draw out the design on your cardboard. With the knife (and no children near-by) cut out the solid lines (the tabs, the wings, the big honking hole if you're making a theatre, don't cut it if you're not.). Recycle the bits, you don't need them anymore. With the craft knife, score the dotted lines without going through the cardboard and the bend the pieces in (if you're doing the theatre do the scoring on the right side of your theatre to make mountain folds, with the diorama the wrong side to make valley folds.). Now you have two sides, a back and a bottom. Slip the tabs on the bottom of the wings into the slits on the bottom and now you have a standing theatre. While you use it you might want to tape the tabs on the bottom so they don't slip it out, untape it and take out the tabs to fold it up and store. (Ours in conveniently stored where the couch arm meets our living room wall and forms a nook. ) Now decorate it and hang a curtain if you like using glue along the top inside of the window. Make some paper bag puppets and I'll make some tickets and then on with the show!

The Printable:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cut-and-Color Printable: Mr's Bunny's Basket

The Easter Bunny is on his way soon so here's a cut and paste printable to celebrate. Just color it in, decorate your eggs, cut them out or on the dotted lines, and slip them in Mr. Bunny's Basket.

the Printable:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Food: Frozen Chocolate Bananas

Frozen Chocolate Bananas were a treat we made when I was little. It was one of my favorites, fun and easy to do and yummy. I thought today as I was slicing up some banana for Squidgee that that would be a fun treat to make (without Squidgee because I can just picture THAT disaster. We waited for nap.). Then Griffin and I went to work.

What You Need:

3 firm, ripe bananas, cut into halves (OK, we only had 5 halves because I'd already given Squidgee half of one before I remembered to be brilliant.)
1 cup milk chocolate chips (we used Nestle.)
1/2 cup chopped nuts or sprinkles on a plate
1 tbs olive oil

6 Popsicle sticks (we wash and save ours from when we eat Popsicles)
a wax paper-lined baking sheet or tray
Pyrex measuring cup
a microwave
a freezer

What You Do:

Impale your bananas on their sticks. Lay them on the tray and put them in the freezer for 20 minutes of so, until their nice and hard and cold.

Mix your chocolate chips and oil in the measuring cup and pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds, stir it, pop it back in for another 15 seconds or so. Keep adding on 10 seconds until it's all melted and smooth.

Dip your bananas one at a time into the chocolate, tilting the measuring cup and turning the bananas until their coated, use a spoon if you have to. Let the excess chocolate drip off. Then roll them in your nuts or sprinkles.

Put the bananas back onto the tray and pop back into the freezer for at least another half an hour. The eat up! Or don't, you can store them in the freezer for a while.

A Bonus Treat:

If you have leftover melted chocolate and nuts, just drop it onto the wax paper in spoonfuls and sprinkle some nuts on top. Then cool them in the fridge and you have some yummy candies to eat. Wasting chocolate just about kills me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mud Art

Mud makes good pies. It is also fun to bake into "bricks" by leaving it in the sun. You can also make a sort of drawing canvas, which is what we did yesterday.

What You Need:

a bucket
a shovel

What You Do:

Mix the dirt and water, way more dirt than water. I'm not sure of the measurements because we always sort of add a little dirt, add a little water, but I'd guess 4 or 5 parts dirt to 1 part water, add more water if necessary. It should be sort of like ice cream with a sheen. Shape it onto your driveway or sidewalk into a patty, it will pat smooth nicely and be very easily mold-able, the water will shine on the surface. Then you can draw on the surface with a stick. And the really cool part is that when you are done, you just pat the surface with the back of your shovel- pat, pat, pat- and then it's blank and smooth again.

The Right Consistency, or in Spiff's words "Gucky."

Spiff's art:

Spiff's art erased:

And art again:

Then when you're done you can let it dry and shovel the whole patty into a bucket and start allover again adding water. Or you can play bakery and pretend to eat while your Octopus serves you. It will be delicious.