Clothespin Christmas Angel (an elf alternative)

posted in: Notes | 1

My kids are really excited for December.  And since Thanksgiving has come and gone, there’s definitely been an uptick in the Christmas spirit around our household.  Last year, I’d been considering making kindness elves for the Christmas countdown, but never got around to it.  I have never really liked the elf on the shelf idea, so this year I did a little more exploring of alternatives to elf on the shelf, and kindness elves.

Some people made kindness elves, kindness kids, etc — whose purpose was to help the kids learn to pay it forward.  I liked the idea.  But then I stumbled across this idea of a Christmas angel.

 

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

I decided to print out a few kindness elf printables for the Christmas angel to share with the boys each day.  After checking out a bunch of different options, I decided to use these cute circle tags by Passionate Penny Pincher.

And since we celebrate Christmas in both the secular and religious sense, the Christmas angel will also be delivering a daily advent prompt to help my boys understand things on a more spiritual level too.  That part was easy, as I found this printable that goes along with the Jesus Storybook Bible #afflink …so I printed out a set of free printable advent cards for December.

When the kids wake up, I’m going to have this cute little clothespin angel sitting out on the kitchen table with some of the printables I mentioned inside this envelope.  I also wrote a brief “introduction” letter to the boys, from the Christmas Angel, of course.  The text was inspired by a Christmas Angel note I found at The Riches of His Love.

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

How to Make the Clothespin Christmas Angel

Now, in case you’re wondering how I made the clothespin angel, here’s the quick cliff notes version.

(Sorry, I didn’t take step by step photos, as I honestly wasn’t sure how it would turn out!)

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

I took a square piece of fabric that was about five inches by five inches — and cut a small hole in the center. Then I pushed the clothespin through the opening.

Using the gold pipe cleaner, I made a halo at one end, then bent it around the neck of the clothespin angel to secure the fabric “dress.”

I used another gold pipe cleaner as a combo waistband and set of arms.

Then, I took two more pipe cleaners and bent them into angel wings.  Honestly, they looked more like flower petals than wings at first, but I still think it turned out cute!

I then attached the wings to the clothespin Christmas angel on the back side (at the “waistband”).

Using some permanent markers, I colored the main part of the clothespin gold (it turned out more brown, but oh well), and drew a face on the Christmas Angel too.

I kept it really simple… because, well, simple is better!

…and easier.

So, if you don’t have all the supplies, then by all means, improvise!  Make it work for you 🙂

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

I’ll see how many days we continue the Christmas Angel concept… it might be a huge hit, or it could be a bust.  I’m all for being practical.  So, I’ll try to report back and let you know how it turned out.  It may be that this Christmas Angel ends up as nothing more than a cute decoration for our Christmas tree!

What are your ideas for helping kids get in the Christmas spirit?  Do you try to focus on being kind, or…? Do you love/hate elf on the shelf?  Don’t care one way or the other?  That’s cool too.

Regardless, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Simple Holiday Ornament Card (with Photo Window)

posted in: Local | 8

Simple Holiday Ornament Card Free Printable... Cut out ornaments to showcase artwork or photos of your kids!

My boys were a little antsy for Christmas this weekend, so we skipped the usual “wait until one holiday is done to begin celebrating the next one” — a mandatory rule at our house.  After all, it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet!  But they wanted to make holiday cards, since I’d been talking with their Grandma about the family photos that we’ll be putting on their annual greeting card.

So, off I went to oblige my boys.  Sometimes it can be a struggle to find a craft or activity that both of them can do, since Toby is five and Zack is still two.  But after a bit of creative thinking on my part, we were able to come up with an easy Christmas card craft idea that can be adapted for any age!

So, here’s my take on the kid-made Christmas card idea.

(Don’t worry, I’ll share a free printable at the end with you, so you can easily make this simple holiday ornament card too).

Now, depending on your child’s age, you’ll be able to do less work — my five year old was able to cut out the circle windows for his own card.  But my two year old’s attempts with scissors did no more than make strips of paper (which you’ll notice we glued onto a solid sheet of colored paper to create striped ornaments. Too cute!

Supplies to have on hand

You’ll probably want to get supplies out ahead of time.  So, here are the things we used.  I included affiliate links to some items on Amazon, in case you want to get your own.

  • Zots Glue Dots or a gluestick
  • Paper Edger Scissors (the ones that make a fancy/crazy cut rather than a straight line)
  • Normal Scissors
  • Crayons, markers, or coloring pencils
  • paper in assorted colors
  • printable PDF, printed on standard paper

You might have noticed I didn’t bother to use cardstock for this project.  That’s because the two layers of paper make the card sturdy enough.  And, if you decide to include a piece of artwork inside the card, then the recipient can take it out and hang it on their fridge!

Making the Holiday Ornament Cards

I set the kids loose with all the craft supplies on the table, so we ended up with a few outtake cards too.

No big deal.  Those are adorable too.

But since you want to know how to make the ones I’ve shown you… I’ll focus on those.

First, we cut out the gray ornament shapes on my printable, shown below.  There are download links for a PDF and a JPG file right below the image.

Simple Holiday Ornament Card Free Printable... Cut out ornaments to showcase artwork or photos of your kids!

Holiday Ornament Card Printable (PDF format)  |  Holiday Ornament Cart Printable (JPG format)

After we had the picture window openings created, my boys decorated a second sheet of paper.  This ultimately sits behind the printable, and you’ll see some pops of color (or some cute pictures) in the ornament openings.

I did help the kids position the photos to make sure they were in the openings, but if you didn’t trim the photos close to size, as we did, there would be a lot more wiggle room.

If you’re having trouble visualizing this whole concept, don’t worry!

I took some photos to show you exactly what the two pieces of paper look like before (and after) they are sandwiched together.

Holiday Card Components (Before)

 

The holiday ornament card, just before being assembled. For this artwork page, created by my two year old, we didn't really need to worry about placement so much!
The holiday ornament card, just before being assembled. For this artwork page, created by my two year old, we didn’t really need to worry about placement so much!

 

The holiday ornament card, just before being assembled. Note how we positioned the photos so they will show through the ornament openings!
The holiday ornament card, just before being assembled. Note how we positioned the photos so they will show through the ornament openings!

 

Holiday Card (after, unfolded)

And once you put them together the holiday ornaments look very festive, regardless of whether you choose to showcase a crayon artwork or show off photos of your kids!

Once sandwiched together, the two parts of the card look great, even if you choose not to include any photos. I think this is a great simple holiday ornament card!
Once sandwiched together, the two parts of the card look great, even if you choose not to include any photos. I think this is a great simple holiday ornament card!

 

Once sandwiched together, the two parts of the card look great. I love how the paper strips cut with the edging scissors look on the ornaments!
Once sandwiched together, the two parts of the card look great. I love how the paper strips cut with the edging scissors look on the ornaments!

 

Now all that’s left to do is the folding. Depending on your child’s accuracy, they may ask you to help with this step.

Fine by me!

Simple Holiday Ornament Cards

Okay, now that you’ve seen the process, here are the finished cards!

The finished holiday ornament cards, after being assembled and folded.
The finished holiday ornament cards, after being assembled and folded.

 

If you want to see the fronts, insides, and backs of each card, feel free to click on an image below to enlarge.

Holiday Card Outtakes

Now, I have to admit, Zack (the two year old) helped me make both of these cards. Toby (the five year old), while perfectly capable, decided to do his own thing and create a very lovely holiday card of his own (he insisted I draw him something to color too).

Toby decided to draw this lovely holiday greeting card with the sun shining down on the pine trees and the water. Not exactly a printable holiday ornament card, but still adorable!
Toby decided to draw this lovely holiday greeting card with the sun shining down on the pine trees and the water. Not exactly a printable holiday ornament card, but still adorable!

 

Here are a few other outtakes of cards that my boys created… along the same thought process, but without the holiday ornament card printable.

 

 

I meant to share some pictures of the kids creating these holiday ornament cards, but things were a little crazy so I set the camera aside to help make sure everyone was using scissors safely (ahem…. toddler alert!).

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this cute and simple holiday card craft enough that you’ll forgive my being so early with the activity!  Now, go have some fun, download the printable, and cut out those ornaments to showcase your favorite kid-made artwork or photos of your kids!

 

 


kid-made-christmas-card-series-badge-largebphotoart-holiday-ornament-card-photo-window-sqYou’ll enjoy checking out the other Christmas cards created in this series! Thirty bloggers will be sharing their kid-made Christmas cards with you, so make sure to check out the entire Kid-Made Christmas Card Series (hosted by Mum in the Mad House).

Make sure to peek at this really cute Christmas tree card by Sew Kidding!

 

 

Make a Jack-O-Lantern Stamp from an Apple {Plus Two Halloween Crafts}

posted in: Parenting | 0

Make a Jack-O-Lantern Stamp from an Apple ...plus Two Halloween Crafts!

It’s always fun to get ready for Halloween. Whether you’re pumpkin-carving, or maybe making a costume to wear when trick-or-treating, Halloween gives us the chance to be creative (like we did with this Jack-O-Lantern stamp craft!).

Did you know that carving pumpkins didn’t become popular until the celebration of Halloween was brought to North America? Originally in Ireland, people carved lanterns out of turnips. Well, in America, of course, pumpkins were very easy to come by (not to mention easier to carve!), so the tradition evolved to include pumpkin carving.

You might want to check out my post, 6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins; or learn how to Create Your Own Pumpkin Stencil from Better Homes and Gardens.

6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins - Betsy's Photography - BPhotoArt.com

Anyways, my boys were pretty excited for fall this year.  Our neighbors had a pumpkin patch, and gave us pumpkins… so we have a very well decorated front porch.  The leaves are coming down in droves, and there have been multiple requests for a leaf pile.  And, of course, reminders that we need to carve pumpkins.  Well, I wasn’t quite ready to carve pumpkins (we went overboard last year), but wanted to give the boys a chance to do something fun for Halloween.

So, we made Halloween cards! Well, they did.  And I made a garland.

You probably have most of the supplies on hand for this craft, but here are some links in case (#afflinks)

Supplies:

How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern Stamp From an Apple

While most of this craft is kid-friendly, the first step is going to depend on how old your child is, and how much you trust them to use a knife safely.  So, most likely, you, the adult, will be doing this first step… after that, let the kids loose!

The kids were excited to make jack-o-lantern stamps...
The kids were excited to make jack-o-lantern stamps…

 

Cut the apple in half.  Then carve out a chunk for the smile, and cut out two triangles for the eyes.  If you want to get fancy and cut out teeth too, go for it.  In my book, simpler is easier!

I cut the apple in half, and carved out a face in each side -- one for each of my boys.
I cut the apple in half, and carved out a face in each side — one for each of my boys.
Toby wanted to show off his jack-o-lantern apple stamp.
Toby wanted to show off his jack-o-lantern apple stamp.

Use the Jack-O-Lantern Stamp to Make a Halloween Card

Next, put some paint out for the kids. I took a kitchen plate, covered it in a plastic grocery bag, and then put the pumpkin orange paint on top.  This made for easy clean up, and allowed the kids to smear their apple stamps around to get full coverage.

Then, let them stamp to their heart’s content on the black construction paper with their thoroughly inked stamps.  My kindergardener was able to do this all by himself, while my toddler needed help placing the stamp down so the paint didn’t smear.  I didn’t think of this until after we were done with the project, but you could take a corn holder (for corn on the cob) and stick it in the skin side of the apple, creating a handle.

Oh well… hindsight is 20/20.

After the boys gleefully covered their paper cards with pumpkin stamps, I got out the white crayons.  My toddler was uninterested in crayons, and moved onto another activity, but my kindergardener sounded out and wrote an entire greeting on his Halloween card.  It’s so cute when kids start to learn to write… I love the phonetic spelling stage 🙂 🙂 …it’s so adorable!  But, I admit, it’s sometimes hard to read.  So, I did write a transcription of the message and tape it onto the card before we delivered it.

This craft took about 5 minutes for me to think up and prepare for the boys… and it occupied them for maybe a half hour.  Your mileage may vary, depending on your child’s interest and age.

Once you coat it with paint, the jack-o-lantern stamp looks a lot less like an apple, and more like a pumpkin.
Once you coat it with paint, the jack-o-lantern stamp looks a lot less like an apple, and more like a pumpkin.
Both boys diligently stamped away on their black construction paper to create lovely Halloween cards.
Both boys diligently stamped away on their black construction paper to create lovely Halloween cards.
Toby was definitely old enough to handle this craft on his own.
Toby was definitely old enough to handle this craft on his own.
The paint transferred better when we pushed really hard and went slower rather than faster.
The paint transferred better when we pushed really hard and went slower rather than faster.

 

Toby decided to personalize his Halloween card further by writing "Happy Halloween" ...among other things.
Toby decided to personalize his Halloween card further by writing “Happy Halloween” …among other things.
The apple stamps worked pretty well, I'd say. This crafting session was a success!
The apple stamps worked pretty well, I’d say. This crafting session was a success!

Use the Jack-O-Lantern Stamp Make a Halloween Garland

After the boys were done, I cut up some black construction paper into triangles and stamped them with the jack-o-lantern stamp.

Once the paint was dry, I punched holes in the corners and then had my older boy thread yarn through the holes so we could hang it up.

Voila!  Fun and easy decorations for my front door!

Mom's project while the boys made cards? cutting triangles from the construction paper so I could make a fun jack-o-lantern garland.
Mom’s project while the boys made cards? cutting triangles from the construction paper so I could make a fun jack-o-lantern garland.
I punched holes in the triangles and threaded floss through to string them together.
I punched holes in the triangles and threaded floss through to string them together.
We hung it over the sliding glass door, upon my boys' request.
We hung it over the sliding glass door, upon my boys’ request.
The boys decided it looked very spooky!
The boys decided it looked very spooky!

Use Your Imagination!

I am sure there are a million other ways you could use this cute jack-o-lantern stamp…

Do you have any other ideas for an extension activity based on this project?  Think of something else you could stamp with an apple Jack-o-lantern stamp?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

The Easy Way to Draw a Heart + A Photo Valentine Craft

posted in: Parenting | 0

Last year in preschool, Toby’s teacher taught him (and me) a neat way to draw a heart.  It’s so ingenius that I had to share.  And since this trick about how to make a hear is so short and sweet, I thought I would also share an idea for making a photo Valentine’s Day card too.

But first, this trick for drawing a heart.

If your child is learning their letters, this method will be something they can do — Toby learned how to draw hearts this way at the age of three.

You need two letters to make the heart.  First you draw a big “V” — and then you put a little “m” on top of it. I’ve included a diagram below, that shows the heart with the “V” and the “m” not-quite-put-together, as well as the final heart.

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft

Pretty simple, huh?

It’s amazing what kids gravitate towards.

So, now onto part two of this post.  The photo Valentine craft.

We usually have some holiday cards left over every year, so I let the kids turn them into photo crafts until we run out.  Last year we made photo valentines with pictures, and my toddler had fun, so I decided to make a photo Valentine’s Day card a little early so I could share the idea with you!

Toby was taking a rare nap when we created this card, so I had an 18 month old’s help putting on glue and decorating.  But hopefully this rendition will inspire you, in the very least!

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-5

As you can see, I cut out some heart shapes, and cut out the photo of our family in a heart shape as well.  With an older child, I would have drawn the heart outlines and handed over a pair of scissors.  Toby would’ve loved that.  But, Zack just enjoyed helping my hands open and close the scissors as I cut.  And he wanted to use the marker too, so I let him have free reign of the inside of the Valentine’s card.  We kept it pretty simple. “Happy Valentine’s Day” on the front of the card, with “love Zack” on the inside.

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-4 bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-3

Then we digressed to other activities.  Zack found the paper I had gotten out, and a pen.  He had fun drawing on the paper, and wanted more hearts. So I drew him a few.

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-2

After tearing up some paper, grabbing the scissors, and exhausting his young attention span, we were done with our photo Valentine craft activity.  Zack is a little young to do more than help push the cut out objects onto the card, but he did really enjoy the portions of this activity where I let him help.

Do you make homemade Valentine’s Day cards?  Have you ever included photos in your Valentines?  What do you think about the “trick” for drawing a heart? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Managing Toy Clutter in the Family Room

posted in: Parenting | 0

bphotoart-managing-toy-clutter-family-roomDespite the fact that we have an entire playroom on the main floor of our home, there is inevitably an exodus of toys from the playroom to the other areas of our house.  Most frequently, these toys congregate in the family room.

And while I love seeing the boys play with their toys and read books, it’s not so fun to navigate a toy minefield when making my way through the family room.

Before my most recent find, a combination bookshelf and toy bin, we’d been through several variations of toy organization for the family room.

We tried — and gave up — on insisting that all toys and books be put away in the play room.  It just wasn’t realistic.

We used two bins to hold a selection of toys, and another for books.  This worked for a little while, but the organization was lacking and Zack, being a baby, enjoyed dumping the bins.

We gave up for a while and piled toys into any mobile cart/basket toys that the boys could push around.  This was more of a “throwing in the towel” approach… it only got the clutter off the floor and didn’t make life easier for anyone.

What I like about our current solution?  It’s practical. It has multiple levels, and there is a top shelf that Zack (the baby) can’t reach, so Toby can have a little safe haven in the family room for his lego creations or other things that might get damaged by little fingers.  Plus, since there’s an enticing bin of toys within easy reach, Zack doesn’t tend to try for the other (previously enticing) items.

Refinishing this toy unit didn’t take long — I sanded and painted the entire thing while Toby was at preschool one day.  In fact, I had it in the house and the boys were putting toys away in it before my husband even realized I had refinished it!

Going forward, here are my rules for managing toy clutter in the family room:

  1. This bin is not a catch-all for toys that have been played with — we’ll still be putting dress up clothes in their bin, magnatiles in their container, etc.  But it’s nice to have a spot to store things that don’t have a set home.
  2. Books need to be put away when not being read.  Either on this bookshelf, or the playroom bookshelf. My one exception is library books.  Those live in our library book bag (which you see in the bottom left corner — it’s white canvas with red straps).
  3. When you’re done playing with something, put it away. Enough said.
  4. After dinner every night, it is time to clean up any toys that are still out. In the playroom, in the family room.  While I expect the kids to participate, I intend to help with this because sometimes it’s a big job!
  5. No toys on the couch.  Yes, this is a rule — because my boys decided it was fun to clean up the floor by piling all the toys on the couch on more than one occasion.
  6. Keep the toys on the rug.  Even if toys are being played with, we still need to have a way to get from one part of the house to another — there has to be a pathway.  This is important because we walk through our family room to get from the garage and kitchen to the bedrooms.
  7. No books on the floor.  This one is hard to follow for the boys, but I stick to it because I want to avoid any more ER visits.  (Toby got a hairline fracture in his leg by slipping on a book on our family room when he was three

Here are a few photos of the before, during, and after.

This brightly colored kids' toy unit was a great find, but I wasn't thrilled about the colors...
This brightly colored kids’ toy unit was a great find, but I wasn’t thrilled about the colors…
I had some cans of brown spray paint left over from another furniture makeover, so I lightly sanded the surface and gave it a single coating.
I had some cans of brown spray paint left over from another furniture makeover, so I lightly sanded the surface and gave it a single coating.
The finished product, at home in our family room. It blends in MUCH better and the kids have enjoyed using it.
The finished product, at home in our family room. It blends in MUCH better and the kids have enjoyed using it.

Quick & Easy: DIY Creative Gift Wrapping for Kids

posted in: Parenting | 4

quick and easy DIY creative wrapping paper for kidsEven though we save gift bags and keep a (small) stash of wrapping paper, it seems like my go-to preference is for homemade gift wrapping.  It involves the kids in the gift giving process more, and depending on what paper I am able to reuse, is eco-friendly too.

When we put together gifts for the grandparents a while back, I tried something different than my normal artwork-repurposed-into-wrapping-paper method.

We took some paper bags, traced handprints, and made a variety of quick and easy (yet creatively wrapped) gift bags.  An “I Love You” hand (sign language) graced one bag, complete with explanation.  On another, an octopus was created when two hands were traced on top of one another (christened “Avocado the Octopus”).  It was fun to give Toby, my toddler, free reign on this project.

I helped, since we used a permanent marker.  After doing the lettering and tracing the hands, I handed Toby some pencils so that he could further decorate the bags.

If you have a child who isn’t big on coloring in the lines, or who is liable to scribble over the handprints and words you’ve just created, then I have a simple solution for you.

Use a permanent marker, or dark/thick ink for the handprints and lettering.  Then, provide a variety of lighter/thinner coloring pencils, markers, or crayons for your child to use.  It won’t matter if they color over the “important” words, and you won’t have to constantly nag your child to be careful about where they decorate.

After putting the gifts in the bags, we rolled the top down a few times and stapled or taped each shut.

Pretty easy.

Pretty quick.

The recipients of these gifts loved hearing from Toby about how he decorated the bags for them.

This project could be done in five minutes or less, so if you’re short on time but want to add a personal touch to a gift, definitely consider this quick and easy DIY gift wrapping option.

bphotoart-artwork-wrapping-paper-1483So, to recap.  You’ll need:

  • paper bags
  • permanent marker
  • pencils/crayons
  • staples/tape

Oh, and a gift to put inside, I suppose.

What ways have you discovered that are fun for your kids to wrap presents?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Dwarf Lake Iris – Michigan’s Official Wildflower (A Craft!)

posted in: Learning | 6

Iris Lacustris - Michigan's State Wildflower - Dwarf Lake Iris - CraftLately I’ve become interested in adding native plants to our gardens and wooded area.  Sure, non-native flowers can be gorgeous, but there are so many native options to choose from that are better suited for the environment (and therefore easier to grow).

So today we’re going to learn about Michigan’s official wildflower.  And a brief summary of how it came to be the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Long story short, the popular vote was for Trillium (another native wildflower) to be named Michigan’s state wildflower.  Politicians decided to proceed with the second place wildflower, the Dwarf Lake Iris, due to its threatened status.  Maybe they thought the additional awareness about the unique and threatened habitat of the Dwarf Lake Iris could help preserve the species.

I’ve never seen one of these beauties in person.  But thanks to the internet, I was able to find a number of blog posts and photos featuring the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Here’s one that was taken by Joshua Mayer in Wisconsin (see below).  The Dwarf Lake Iris may look familiar, but that’s because it’s part of the Iris family.  This particular flower is miniature — about 1.5″ flowers, with 2″ stems and 6″ leaves.

The Dwarf Lake Iris is unique to the Great Lakes; its scientific name, Iris Lacustris, means “rainbow of the lakes.”

Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris)
Photo by Joshua Mayer

Online Learning

Here are some resources I found if you want to learn more about the Dwarf Lake Iris:

  • Iris Lacustris – Center For Plant Conservation – I learned that 95% of the existing Dwarf Lake Iris plants exist in Michigan, and that its primary threats include loss of habitat, increasing human disturbance, and Iris Lacustris is very similar to the related (and more common) Iris Cristata.
  • Iris Lacustris – Michigan DNR – this has a nice map depicting where the Dwarf Lake Iris is distributed in Michigan.  There are some interesting tidbits, including that “of the lakes” meaning I mentioned earlier.
  • Iris Lacustris – Flora of Wisconsin – here’s a brief summary of the plant and how to identify it (including pictures).
  • Iris Lacustris – Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris and pictures of the flowers, including a rare white blossom.
  • Michigan State Wildflower – Netstate – If you’re interested in how the Michigan Wildflower Association sponsored an informal public poll for the state wildflower, and how the runner up was nominated in 1997 by House Representative Liz Brater (supported by the Michigan Botanical Club, the Michigan Nature Association, the Michigan Natural Areas Council, the Michigan Environmental Council, and the University of Michigan Herbarium)…. this site has the political aspect covered.
  • Dwarf Lake Iris – Michigan Sea Grant – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris’ habitat, characteristics, the fact that its scientific name means “rainbow of the lakes” …plus more pictures
  • Dwarf Lake Iris – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Endangered Species – facts about the Dwarf Lake Iris (including printable fact sheet), why it is listed as a threatened species, what is being done to protect it, and how to hopefully prevent its extinction.

Books + Activities

I found some additional craft and activity resources for learning about state flowers and native plants, which you might enjoy (Amazon #afflinks used below):

Dwarf Lake Iris Craft

orchidNow for a fun craft to help facilitate discussion about Michigan’s official wildflower.  I kept this pretty simple, as I wanted to go with an artistic abstraction that would encourage my son, Toby, to think and visualize pictures of the Dwarf Lake Iris in terms of simplified shapes.

For this activity, we used some origami paper that I received for review purposes (Orchid Origami Paper – 500 sheet pack #afflink).  I have to say, the paper totally lives up to my standards so far as origami paper goes.  The surface of the paper is smooth, they are easy to fold and get sharply creased, and the colors are really bright.

And before you say anything, yes, I know… cutting is kind of a no-no when forming origami creations.  But, I couldn’t help but be drawn to all the bright colors when I was trying to decide on a craft to go along with our discussion of Michigan’s official wildflower.

I gathered up some origami paper and some art paper, plus a pair of scissors.
I gathered up some origami paper and some art paper, plus a pair of scissors.
I cut the different colors of paper into different simplified shapes - petals (blue and yellow) and leaves (green).
I cut the different colors of paper into different simplified shapes – petals (blue and yellow) and leaves (green).
Here's my take on the Dwarf Lake Iris - some leaves, the stem, and the base color of the leaves have been laid out on the white paper.
Here’s my take on the Dwarf Lake Iris – some leaves, the stem, and the base color of the leaves have been laid out on the white paper.

 

Next I added the color contrast on the leaves -- yellow and white (the white was the backside of the yellow paper).
Next I added the color contrast on the leaves — yellow and white (the white was the backside of the yellow paper).

 

And here's the final craft.
And here’s the final craft.

 

Be forewarned, the paper bits can make a big mess.  We had to put baby brother in the exersaucer during this craft.
Be forewarned, the paper bits can make a big mess. We had to put baby brother in the exersaucer during this craft.

So that’s all there is to it!  This could be more of a sensory experience, if you let the paper pieces be loose and transient like we did, or you could use a glue stick to permanently adhere the abstracted pieces to the paper.  Your call. I went with simpler and more experimental.  Because that’s what works for us!


tour-the-world-by-flowerTour the World By Flower

This post is part of the Tour the World By Flower blog hop.   Every state and country (and as we’ve discovered, province, county or territory) has an official flower. A number of bloggers have collaborated to Tour the World by Flower with crafts to learn about various official flowers!  Make sure to check out Suzy Homeschooler’s Michigan Apple Blossom craft, which is the official state flower for Michigan.

Disclaimer: I received one or more products gratis in exchange for an honest evaluation — the opinions expressed are 100% my own.

101 Things Your Kid Can Do With a Cast On

posted in: Parenting | 35

101 Things your kid can do with a cast on!Honestly, I could have also titled this list “101 Laid Back Activities for Kids Who Like to be Active.”  But since I made this list when my toddler, Toby, was wearing a cast, we’ll stick with that.  Toby managed to get a hairline fracture in his leg while being silly last fall. It took three days, two trips to the ER, and several sets of x-rays to revise his injury from a sprained ankle to a fractured tibia. Let’s just say, while I was sad he broke his leg, I’m glad I listened to that mom instinct and returned to the ER for more x-rays.

We had two stressful days in a temporary splint before we were able to get in for the permanent cast. Which wasn’t a walking cast, persay. But in all honesty, who can keep a toddler from walking or standing on their cast for three weeks? Not this mom.

The loss of independence was really rough for Toby. To go from doing pretty much everything himself to having to ask for help with the simplest things is tough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult! I helped my husband through a similar situation when he tore his patellar tendon. It doesn’t matter if you have a caregiver who is more than happy to take care of you — it’s the loss of independence that wears you down. Not being able to walk or get around is rough. And more so for kids because they can’t verbalize their feelings.

I wracked my brain to come up with things that we could do — things that Toby would enjoy and be kept busy with while the cast remained on. Let’s just say I was really grateful that we had weekly activities on the schedule to help pass the time. Preschool, moms and tots, and the like. But the one that didn’t work? Swim lessons. Although I did find some waterproof cast covers for swimming on Amazon (#afflink) that looked really neat — this discovery came midway through our cast time and it wouldn’t have been used more than once by the time I could get it in hand.  A fellow mom shared one of her blog posts with me about her child’s cast activities: Having a Blast When Your Kid Has a Cast.

All in all, we made it through.  What did we do?  Well, a lot of things.  While I didn’t document our every adventure, I did compile a list of 101 things your kid can do with a cast.  Keep in mind some of these activities may need to be modified depending on whether you child has their leg or arm in a cast.  But hopefully these things will get you thinking of even more ways to have fun when your kid is somewhat immobilized!

101 Activities You Can Do While Wearing a Cast

  1. Read books
  2. Visit the zoo
  3. Make a sand volcano
  4. Bake bread. We like to make Irish Soda Bread (recipe)
  5. Play beanbag games (indoors)
  6. Get them thinking about helping others by making an acts of service jar
  7. Visit the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum (a local children’s museum with tons of activities to do and things to see).
  8. Make a portable tinkering kit
  9. Go to story time at the library.
  10. Learn to code (get a kano computer kit on Amazon #afflink)
  11. Visit the park and go on the swings (this could work for casted legs, arms not so much)
  12. Go see a play or musical
  13. Take a bike ride (if you have one of those pull-behind bike trailers that’s on my wishlist #afflink)
  14. Play a musical instrument (or just make noise on one)
  15. Make a toy boat from a greeting card
  16. Go to an aquarium
  17. Host a playdate (or meet up at a park).
  18. Come up with creative ways to play with Magna Tiles (we LOVE ours! Get your own Magna Tiles on Amazon #afflink)
  19. Plant some seeds and start a garden
  20. Make a foldable take along train track set
  21. Go “digging” for bugs with an excavation kit
  22. Have a movie night, with popcorn and kid-selected “toppings”
  23. Make your own mini microscope
  24. Make a camera obscura (shadow box from my ABCs of Photography for kids activity series)
  25. Make sculptures from nuts and bolts
  26. Combine learning and play with racecar math
  27. Make heat sensitive color changing slime
  28. Play with glowsticks
  29. Practice lacing with these free printable lacing cards
  30. Learn how to work (or play) with yarn
  31. Make Lego Inspired electric playdough
  32. Have a camp out, complete with tent if you have one (either outdoors, or in your living room)
  33. Color rocks with permanent magamerkers
  34. Sew a nature pouch
  35. Go to the grocery store and let your kid ride in the “fancy” car shopping cart
  36. Put together an arts + crafts busy box
  37. Make milk carton crayon ice candles
  38. Have a bonfire and make smores
  39. Play numerous indoor games with balloons
  40. Make bouncy balls from loom bands
  41. Have a sing-along party
  42. Make a play fort kit from old sheets
  43. Make raisins dance (science experiment)
  44. Play “I Spy” (with flashlights!)
  45. Make a bug house (or be lazy like us and buy a bug house on Amazon #afflink)
  46. Make a time capsule
  47. Create a new recipe (we made peanut butter jelly dip)
  48. Make trail mix (and let your kid pick what goes in it)
  49. Make popsicles and learn about diversity in the process
  50. Do a science experiment to make flowers change colors
  51. Make a buckle toy from an old carseat
  52. Make a cardboard pirate ship
  53. Play doctor and take care of a stuffed animal’s broken arm/leg
  54. Make a money bank
  55. Make ice cream in a bag
  56. Zoom (gently) around the house on a wheeled toy (we love our bumblebee wheely bug #afflink)
  57. Get a birdfeeder and go birdwatching up close
  58. Get out pipe cleaners and thread them through a strainer/colander
  59. Get a subscription to the Animal Trackers Club
  60. Make a lava lamp
  61. Make DIY seed paper (for growing seeds)
  62. Play Move and Groove, a movement-based dice game (get Move and Groove on Amazon #afflink)
  63. Make your own homemade marble runs
  64. Make Stone Soup (and read the book, of course)
  65. Play with straws (7 ways!)
  66. Sew something together
  67. Get busy coloring (90 free coloring pages for kids)
  68. Pretend to be super heroes (we got our cape at the Super Run!)
  69. Go out to eat for a lunch “date”
  70. Make your own geo board
  71. Melt frozen hands (a salt and ice activity)
  72. Play board games
  73. Make glowing bounce balls
  74. Make your own board game (check out my In A People House board game with printable)
  75. Paint with flowers
  76. Try animal yoga for kids
  77. Grow romaine lettuce from kitchen scraps
  78. Sneak around the house in “stealth mode”
  79. Make a DIY Air Fort
  80. Make a quick and easy photo memory game
  81. Learn about chemical reactions using baking soda and vinegar
  82. Order a waterproof cast cover for swimming on Amazon (#afflink) and get in the pool
  83. Turn an old toddler bed into a sandbox
  84. Play with a ball (catch, rolling the ball back and forth, bouncing it, etc)
  85. Make a peace corner
  86. Check out these 20 No-Prep Fine Motor Activites
  87. Play with kinetic sand
  88. Make a lip balm rocket
  89. Have a wheelbarrow race (hold your child’s legs, let them walk on their arms)
  90. Make a button snake (for practicing button skills)
  91. Learn math with 100 creative, hands-on math activities for kids
  92. Work in the garden together
  93. Try some stretching exercises
  94. Go for a car ride and let your kid choose which way to turn (e.g. “left or straight?”)
  95. Learn about bubble science, make your own bubble solution and bubble blower
  96. Make fizzing sidewalk paint
  97. Make a rubber band powered car
  98. Go on a photo scavenger hunt
  99. Give your child a piggyback ride
  100. Make a shape stretchie for creative movement
  101. Have tickle time (or if you need something more calming… try snuggle time)

Phew!  We made it.

Did you start skimming the list? Or give up, deciding to bookmark this (or pin it) for later?  I don’t blame you.  I needed a break after getting this list put together for you!

If you have any other ideas you’d like to add to the list, I’d love to hear from you.  Have you ever been in a cast?  What was the worst part?  Did this list get you excited?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

Make a Toy Boat from a Greeting Card

posted in: Parenting | 43

Make a toy boat from a greeting cardWe have found a lot of ways to repurpose our extra greeting cards!  We’ve made boxes, used the front of a folded card as a postcard, and now turned cards into boats.  Here’s how we did it.

For the bottom of the boat, we made a box (see this post on making greeting card boxes).

Then I used the front of the card to design a mast and sail piece.  Take a peek at the pictures below, it shows you the shape I cut out.  I cut out the shape, and then folded along the lines to create the mast (the sails automatically “fell into place”).

That’s about it.  Pretty easy, in my book.  You could also cut individual pieces and tape or glue them to a pipe cleaner if you wanted to do so.  But the method I’ve explained here worked well for us.

Toby had lots of fun playing with his boat after we attached the mast and sails to the bottom (using scotch tape).

He did move the mast around several times, and I wouldn’t count on this craft being too durable… depending on how rough your child plays with the toy it might not last long.

But that’s the beauty of repurposed crafts like this toy boat. It doesn’t matter if it falls apart, or if it doesn’t last very long.  It was made from something that would’ve otherwise been thrown away.  It gave new life to an unneeded greeting card.  It was eco-friendly, and promotes creativity rather than consumerism.

Here are a few more pictures of the toy boat… yes, Toby used Little People from the Little People Christmas set #afflink.  We’ve gotten more use out of that Christmas nativity set; I love how it ends up being used throughout the year and doesn’t have to be put away once Christmas has come and gone.


Creative-Activities-for-Kids-Monthly-Blog-Hop-300x300Creative Eco-Friendly Activities for Kids

This post is part of the Creative Activities for Kids monthly blog hop.

Make Your Own Fabric Play Fort Kit!

posted in: Notes | 21

Make Your Own Fabric Play Fort Kit for Hours of Imaginative Play!As a child, I loved making forts with my brother — we would remove the cushions from our sofa and reconfigure things to make a fort with a roof, windows, and even a door (another cushion).  This play fort kit is inspired by those memories, as I wanted to give my boys something that would inspire them to play creatively and use their imaginations.

What better way to do that than by playing fort?  Sadly, we don’t have couches that are conducive to making cushion forts (yes, I’ve tried, amusingly).  So this fort kit seemed like the next best option.

My toddler has enjoyed making blanket forts with me — but the downside of blankets is that they’re so heavy.  It’s almost impractical to use a heavy blanket for spanning wider spaces — sheets would work much better.

So, when we had to retire our master bedroom sheet set, I decided to salvage some of the fabric and turn it into pieces of fabric for a fort kit.

There was no formula, no measuring.  I cut the sheets up into random sized squares (well, rectangles, mostly).  The fitted sheet too — I trimmed off the elastic so the fabric could lie flat.

Since woven fabrics tend to fray, I did finish the edges.  You could use your sewing machine to sew a hem around each piece, or if you have a serger, just serge the edges.  Pinking shears (the scissors that cut a zig zag pattern) would have also worked.

Anyways, once the pieces were finished, I looked at the pile of fort fabric and decided we needed a bag to keep everything together.  So, I folded a long rectangle of fabric in half, and sewed it closed on three sides to make a bag.  Then, I added a drawstring to the open end.

Being the overachiever that I am, I also decided to decorate the bag so no one would be confused as to what it was for.  So I used permanent marker to write: “Fabric Play Fort” on the bag.  If you decide to decorate with permanent marker (or paint…anything that will go through multiple layers of fabric), make sure to put a piece of cardboard behind the fabric so that your decoration doesn’t bleed through.

Finally, we had some PVC pipe frames that were at one point used as laundry hampers.  They’ve been commandeered for use with the fort kit.  Or for use as a bear cave, or boats, you name it.  I love how easy it is to repurpose stuff when you’re focusing on imaginative play!

Here are some more pictures of the fort kit.  Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode, or hover over an image to read the captions.

We’ve already gotten a lot of mileage out of this fabric play fort.  And Toby has used it for more than just fort building too!  One day, the fabric pieces became a cape and wings, another day they were strewn on the floor to make a nest inside a cave… the imagination knows no limits.

I love that this fort kit was so simple to create.  You really don’t need the stow bag, and if you didn’t care about frayed ends, you could really skip the step of finishing the edges too.  Hey, while we’re at it, you could just get a cheap sheet set and leave it fully intact for use as a fabric play fort kit, right?  Stuff the sheets in the pillowcase for storage, and you’re done!

And, as a bonus?  My non-napping toddler was more than enthusiastic about taking a nap in the fort tent we made.  Naptime was easy, and as I was snuggled up under the fort, basking in the afternoon sun that streamed through the window, I was grateful for the new memories I get to make with my kids every day.

The pieces of fabric were tied together around the chair and clothes tree; the other end was shut into the dresser drawer.
The pieces of fabric were tied together around the chair and clothes tree; the other end was shut into the dresser drawer.

 

Do you have a favorite childhood memory that involved imaginative play?  Did you ever make forts as a kid?  Do you think your kids would like this fabric play fort idea?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

How to Make Boxes from Greeting Cards

posted in: Notes | 20

I don’t remember exactly when I learned to make boxes from greeting cards, but I do remember where I was taught and who was there.  It was a family gathering, around Christmastime.

For whatever reason, one of my extended relatives was teaching us how to make these neat boxes.  I think it was because she had given a gift in a greeting card box and everyone was really impressed.

Once you learn how to make these, you’ll agree with me — making boxes from cards is fun and easy!bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-

Step 1: find an old greeting card, or an extra one you won’t need for its original purpose anymore.

Step 2: Cut the card in half, at the fold line.  If you’ve got skills, like me, you could even gently tear it in half.  Your call.

bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1487

Step 3: Find a ruler and line it up along the edge of the card.  Use a pen to draw a fold/cut line on the card.  I just used the width of the ruler, but you could measure in 1″ if you want.  This measurement will determine how tall your box is.

bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1489

bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1490

Step 4: Next, you’ll want to make four cuts along the lines you just made.  DO NOT cut the whole length — just cut in to where the two lines intersect.  You will be folding all the other lines, as shown below.

bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1492

Step 5: Now it’s time to put the box together. Fold the sides of the box in, and then flip up the remaining part of the box side.  Take a peek at the visual below to see what I mean.

bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1493

Step 6: Secure the flaps you just folded with tape, or glue them if you prefer.  I’m lazy and use clear tape, as shown below.  You can tape the inside and outside, or just the outside, depending on how sturdy you want the box to be.

bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1495

Step 7: Repeat Steps 2-6 for the other half of the card so that you can have a box lid!

bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1498

Note that your box top and bottom will be the exact same size, so there may be a little warping/bending of the bottom as you fit them together.  You can solve this if you want, by trimming a slim piece (1/16″ or so) of the width and length of the “bottom” card piece before getting started. Again, it’s all about priorities, and whether you want to spend the extra energy doing this.

bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1500

Toby had lots of fun putting the boxes together and taking them apart again.  he also started playing with them as boats, which prompted another greeting card-based activity, which i’ll be blogging about a bit later… bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1503

We made many boxes, and Toby had fun stacking them.  Wouldn’t these be cute for delivering little gifts?

bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1504

There you have it.  I told you this was pretty easy.  And it’s addicting too.  Here are a few snapshots from that first year we learned how to make the greeting card boxes.  My mom and I got a little carried away with it.  Or maybe not.  Your guess is as good as mine!

bphotoart-christmas-card-boxes-2546

bphotoart-christmas-card-boxes-2547

You don’t have to limit yourself to using a particular season of greeting card.  These ones were made from Christmas cards, but you could make greeting card boxes from wedding cards, baby shower cards, birthday cards,…. well, you get the idea.

Do you have any nifty ways to repurpose old greeting cards?  If so, I’d love to hear about your ideas in the comments below.

Learn About Jaggies (Graph Paper Coloring Activity)

posted in: Notes | 35

bphotoart-learn-about-jaggiesFor Today’s ABCs of Photography, we’re learning about a slang term for pixelization: “jaggies.”  The term refers to how a computer uses square pixels to create diagonal and curved lines.

The more pixels there are in a line, the smoother the line will appear.

And the opposite is true too.

The fewer pixels there are, the more the jagged the line will appear.

Jagged.

Jaggies.

See where the term comes from?

Now, for practical applications.  Color by numbers are a good way to understand this concept!

So we’re going to get out a piece of graph paper, and a plain piece of paper.

First, have your child draw a design with curved lines on the plain piece of paper.

Next, put the graph paper over top. If you can’t see the design through the graph paper, tape both sheets up on the window.

Now it’s time for the fun part.  Have your child trace the design onto the graph paper, but with one rule —

They have to follow the straight lines of the graph paper.

Easier said than done, I know.  But just give it a shot.  You may find the end result to be more recognizable than you’d think.

Here’s an example of how this shows up in a digital image that has been resaved at a very low resolution:

Learn About Jaggies With this Graph Paper  Coloring Activity!
Image by Liselotte Brunner from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

 

 

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter K. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about hue.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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10 Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs

posted in: Notes | 10

10 Ways to Decorate Easter EggsOne of my favorite parts about spring is celebrating Easter.  And with Easter, comes the necessity of making Easter eggs.  Over the years, I’ve enjoyed decorating eggs a number of different ways — but the traditionally dyed hard boiled eggs, along with hand-blown eggs, are my favorites.

I’ll get into the details of how we do things in a little bit, but first I wanted to help inspire you for the Easter egg decorating season.  So I’ll be sharing some images of Easter Eggs decorated in ten different ways!

But first, a little teaser about what we’re doing this year with our Easter eggs.  This one is my own concoction — and I’ll be sharing in more detail (with pictures) sometime in the next few weeks.  But, it’s actually not too complicated to adhere a photo to an Easter egg.  And if you combined this with the hand-blown egg process, it could be an adorable Easter gift for grandparents to receive!

Each of these ten different ideas for decorating was actually based on a different stock photo that I came across while looking for some images to use — and once inspiration struck, I couldn’t help myself.

So, rather than recreate each of the photos myself, I decided to share these “found photographs” (which are, of course, used with permission from Pixabay.com).

Now, without further ado, let’s get onto the 10 ways you can decorate Easter eggs!

1. Decorate Easter eggs with seed beads.

I haven’t done this myself, but I loved the look of these Easter eggs that had been decorated with seed beads.  What a unique and creative way to decorate Easter eggs!  Now, this activity might be suited for older kids or adults, but I could see adapting the activity to be suitable for younger kids by using pony beads or sequins.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with beads.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

2. Use pearls and silver cording to decorate Easter eggs.

This option also caught my eye as an alternate Easter egg method.  I imagine you’d use hot glue or something to easily adhere the pearls and the silver cord (or ribbon).  This activity would be doable for younger kids, although you might want to leave off the cording (or maybe put that on prior to having your kids get started.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with cording and pearls.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

3. Tried and true – just dye your Easter eggs.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dying Easter eggs solid colors.  When put together, they look fantastic and add cheer to any Easter basket.  I’ve always used either an Easter egg kit or normal food coloring to dye Easter eggs, but I hear there are some fun natural food dyes you can use as well.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Simple dyed Easter eggs.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

4. Crochet Easter egg decorations.

If you or your kids likes to work with yarn, you could always try your hand at making crochet Easter eggs.  This intricate lace egg ornament caught my eye, and I imagine it took quite a lot of time and skill to create.  But, there are simpler patterns for eggs made from yarn too.  Here is a pattern I found on Amazon for Elegant Easter Eggs (#afflink).

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Crocheted Easter egg ornaments.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

5. Make hand-blown Easter egg ornaments

This is one of my favorite ways to do Easter eggs.  You poke two holes in a raw egg (one at each end), and gently blow into one hole…and the raw egg will come out the other hole… giving you a hollow eggshell you can decorate in any way you like.  You could dye the shells, paint them, the sky’s the limit.  If you want, you can also thread a slim ribbon through the holes in the eggshell to make an Easter ornament that can be hung anywhere!

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Hand-blown Easter egg ornaments.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

6. Draw wax patterns on Easter eggs.

You can paint intricate patterns on an Easter egg, of course.  The wax application will keep the dye from taking in certain areas, allowing subsequent dips in dye to add to the different color patterns.  The ones in this photo are on the simpler side, but still reminiscent of pysanky (extremely intricate Hungarian eggs that can take 80 hours to complete).  Last year, we used white crayon to draw on the eggs before dying them — Toby’s pattern at that point was an abstract squiggle. It still turned out to be cute (at least for anyone related to Toby!).

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs with intricate wax designs.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

7. Write words on plain eggs.

I found this photo with words written on eggs — they’re in German, and in case you’re wondering, the words are the names of different colors (green, red, blue, etc).  I thought a neat extension of this would be to write each child’s name on a set of eggs before hiding them for the Easter egg hunt.  You know, to make things more fair.  But you could also write Bible verses or other things of significance too.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs with words on them.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

8. Make smiley face Easter eggs.

I thought this one was really cute!  Especially with the googly eyes, don’t you think?  The facial features could be painted on or drawn with crayon/marker.  I think this take on Easter eggs could be a great activity for kids of any age.  Use glue for the eyes, or maybe frosting if you wanted it to be more food safe.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs that have been dyed then decorated with smiley faces.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

9. Paint intricate designs on Easter eggs.

These eggs are somewhat similar in intricacy to the wax resist eggs, but only require one session in the dye bath.  Then you would use paint to add in all the other traditional detailing and patterns.  Younger kids could make simpler patterns, or even just stripes of paint.

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with traditional painted designs.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

10. Make ribbon-wrapped Easter eggs.

I love this concept.  It’s easy to do, and looks really classy.  Plus, there’s no need to work with messy dyes or paint.  You just need some lengths of ribbon and maybe some glue or frosting to stick things together.  Don’t these look neat?

Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with ribbons.
Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

What are your ideas?

If you have more ideas on how to decorate Easter eggs, I’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments section below!


Creative-Activities-for-Kids-Monthly-Blog-Hop-300x300Creative Easter Activities for Kids

This post is part of the Creative Activities for Kids monthly blog hop.

Learn About Double Exposure

posted in: Learning | 2

Learn About Double Exposure in 5 minutes or less with this easy activity!Well, I was going to spend today’s post talking about digital, or depth of field, but then I thought of something more exciting – double exposure! So, let’s get the ball rolling and learn about double exposure for the letter “D” in my ABCs of Photography series.

Now, what’s a double exposure?  According to Dictionary.com, double exposure is:

1. the act of exposing the same film, frame, plate, etc., twice.

2. the picture resulting from such exposure.

So, in the film photography world, it’s the creation of a negative with two pictures overlaid on top of each other — the film was exposed to light more than once.  In your box of family snapshots from the film days, you might find a couple of pictures like this — usually due to failure to fully wind the manual film advance.

Another way to create a double exposure was to take two completely separate negatives and expose the film paper twice.  You’d achieve a similar look, but the effect was created in the darkroom instead of in the camera.

So, to sum things up, a double exposure is where you have two separate pictures, which are overlaid on top of each other.  And that’s what our craft is going to do today… overlay two separate images to create one new one!  But first, let me share a few double exposures so you can have a few visuals.

I can still remember the first double exposure I did with my in high school with my SLR camera (aww, I remember my Nikkormat fondly <3 ). It was probably also my first self-portrait created as a student of photography.   It was created by exposing the photo paper to light twice (once for each different image).

Double exposures are a fun way to experiment with abstract imagery, and many photography students create double exposures when they’re learning about exposure.

Ahh, the good old days of high school, with the darkroom and its red glow, the enlarger, the chemicals — the whole process took time.  And you got to experience the thrill of seeing a photograph materialize on the exposed paper right before your eyes.  Today’s high schools have gone digital, sadly, so there is a whole generation of photographers being raised up who have never known film.  Modern day double exposures can still be created in camera (you’ll even find some apps that create double exposures for you), or in the digital darkroom… also known as the computer.  Here are several I created a number of years ago, when I was taking undergraduate classes.

This double exposure was created digitally, using an image from an aquarium and a studio still life.
This double exposure was created digitally, using an image from an aquarium and a studio still life.
The digital darkroom makes it easier to merge multiple images in the style of a double exposure.  Here's a college assignment I created with numerous images layered on top of one another.
The digital darkroom makes it easier to merge multiple images in the style of a double exposure. Here’s a college assignment I created with numerous images layered on top of one another.
A double exposure featuring Arch Rock on Mackinac Island, Michigan, and a field of sunflowers in Northern Michigan.
A double exposure featuring Arch Rock on Mackinac Island, Michigan, and a field of sunflowers in Northern Michigan.

I’m sure you’ve gathered from my earlier posts in this ABCs of Photography series that I’m not going to examine these photography terms or techniques in minute detail.  There are plenty of resources on the web for that.  I’m more interested in sharing ideas to help kids (young or old!) understand and appreciate the art of photography.  …I always loved those books in our library that detailed exactly how things work.

Double Exposure Activity

This activity is really simple, and you probably have everything you need in your kitchen!  You’ll need:

  • parchment paper
  • scissors
  • markers (yes, we keep markers in the desk drawer of our kitchen)

Using your scissors, cut out two pieces of parchment paper and set them both out on the table.  I invited Toby to color on two pieces, and kept two pieces for myself.  Toby had fun coloring on the parchment paper with his markers (caveat, they may smudge and smear!).

Once my designs were done, Toby commandeered one of them (the car, big surprise), and then put his second piece of paper over top.  He enjoyed drawing “over” the car (an interesting take on double exposure, no?).

Anyways, the intended flow of this activity is as follows:

  1. make two separate drawings, one on each sheet of parchment…
  2. stack the parchment pieces together and admire your “double exposure” …
  3. (optional) tape both overlaid images to window for to show off what you learned!

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Learn About Cameras: Make a Camera Obscura

posted in: Learning | 2

Learn About Cameras: Make a Camera ObscuraI’m really excited about our activity for the letter C in my ABCs of Photography series: camera obscura.  Yes, we’re going to make another cardboard camera today!  I promise it’s pretty simple.

Now, in case you’re thinking: “camera whatzit?”  Bear with me a minute.  The term camera obscura is from Latin, and means “dark room.”  Camera obscura is defined by Dictionary.com as follows:

a darkened boxlike device in which images of external objects, received through an aperture, as with a convex lens, are exhibited in their natural colors on a surface arranged to receive them: used for sketching, exhibition purposes, etc.

It’s basically a pinhole camera but without film… a pre-film camera or projector.  A giant eyeball, if you will.  The camera obscura demonstrates perfectly how a camera captures images and flips them upside down.  And you can make one without too much trouble!

Now, I thought about showing you how make a fancy camera obscura… but the fact is, many such tutorials already live on the web.

  • How To Convert Your Room Into a Giant Camera Obscura – this link is really neat, it talks about how you can make a room-sized camera obscura!  You’ll need a room, and a bunch of cardboard (enough to cover the windows).  Probably some tape too.  And this would work best in a room that faces north.
  • Creating effective camera obscuras – I have to tell you, this page has a lot of neat ideas for creating a variety of camera obscura models.
  • Create a Camera Obscura – This PDF by Getty walks you through how to make a camera obscura from a cardboard box.It’s a little more advanced than the method I’ll explain shortly, as it uses a lens to focus the image.

So I decided, once again, to keep things simple. Because simple is easier, and therefore better.  And, chances are better you’ll actually work up the energy to try this activity yourself if it’s not too complicated!

Making a Cardboard Camera Obscura

When a delivery arrived one morning in the “perfect” camera obscura box, I knew what we’d be doing for the letter C of my Photography ABCs series.  This activity is perfect for older kids to do on their own, but for younger ones, you’ll need to do most of the creating (or at least cutting).

I took the cardboard box, which conveniently came with a cardboard insert, and poked a small hole (about the size of a pea) in one end.  In the opposite end, I cut a viewing window (the size of a business card).  In case you’ve caught on, the measurements are all relative here — go with the flow and just approximate!  If you’re ambitious, you could even convert the simplified aperture camera we made into a camera obscura, that would have been crafty of me to demonstrate, huh?

Inside the box, using the cardboard insert, I created a window panel cut out.  To this piece, I taped a piece of parchment paper.  Now, to get a crisply focused image, you’ll have to experiment with the placement of this panel and how far away it is from the pinhole (er,… pea-size hole).

Here’s a diagram I made showing how to make the camera obscura:

Make a simple camera obscura, using materials you have around the house!

I have to admit, I did initially make a real pinhole opening, but found that it didn’t let enough light in for this to be practical.  So that’s why I revised my “pinhole” opening and made it more the size of a pea.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of how everything is put together:

Bird's eye view of the camera obscura

Then you’re all done. Close up the box, and peek in through the viewing window you made earlier.

After checking to make sure it worked, I handed the cardboard camera obscura over to Toby.  He was so excited to, once again, see a “picture” of the deck — this time inside the camera obscura.

Here are some photos of our cardboard camera obscura. Note that the box is open so you can see inside — you’ll have to close it and make sure it’s somewhat lightproof in order to see anything projected inside. Click on any image to enter gallery view mode.

How Does It Work?

So, onto the over-simplified explanation of how this all works.  The light enters through the small hole, which focuses the light in a way similar to how a magnifying glass (or a camera lens) focuses light.  We’ll cover how lenses work later on in this series, don’t worry!

The image is then projected onto the surface for viewing.

Bird's eye view of the camera obscura

If your kids are anything like mine, it will be worth mentioning that eyeballs work like this too.  Toby got a kick out of knowing that his eyes turn everything he sees upside down.

Well, that’s that!  I don’t want to drag this post on much longer, because you’re probably dying to go get started, right?  I have to say, for my toddler, being able to hold the camera obscura in his hands and “aim” it at different things was fantastic.  Toby loved “taking pictures” with the camera obscura and seeing life upside down.

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter D – will it be Digital? or Depth of Field? Learn About Double Exposure 🙂 If you can’t wait to find out, feel free to distract yourself by revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about Bokeh.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Coloring Rocks With Permanent Markers

posted in: Learning | 10

Coloring Rocks With Permanent MarkersThis is probably the easiest activity ever.  All you need are some rocks, permanent markers, and a “safe” spot for letting your kid get creative.  And of course, by that, I mean some place that permanent markers can be used without getting on anything of significance.

And that’s all!

Toby spent a good amount of time coloring the rocks; he also asked for help putting his name on one.

We actually did this craft while on a road trip, which goes to show you how simple of an activity this can be.

Some activity extension ideas?

  • Tracing rock outlines –  set the rocks on a piece of paper and trace around them
  • Make alphabet rocks – write one letter on each rock, and then practice spelling different words.
  • Rock pets – I remember painting rocks with my aunt as a child and into my teens.  Sometimes we would put faces on the rocks and then leave them to be found by a random passerby.  This could be done with markers too!
  • Washable markers – while we used permanent markers, I could totally see this craft happening with any sort of marker.  In fact, that just gave me another idea (see the next bullet point!)
  • Washing rocks – Toby loves to help wash things, so if we had decorated the rocks with something non-permanent, like chalk or washable markers, I think he would’ve had a ball giving the rocks a “bath” and scrubbing them clean.
  • Put googly eyes on rocks – along the lines of those pet rocks I mentioned earlier, what kid doesn’t love googly eyes?  Give those pet rocks some character by adding some googly eyes to their faces.  I’d actually suggest gluing them on, as the self-stick variety might not work for the uneven surface of some rocks.
  • Gluing rocks together – you could make rock snowmen, rock animals, or even a rock monster.  Depending on how big your rocks are, you could have the creatures inhabit your garden, or a flowerpot.

Here are a couple snapshots of our activity setup.  See how simple it was?  Nothing more than rocks, markers, and a sheet of thick paper to protect the table.  Toby briefly drew on the paper, but then got involved with decorating the rocks.  Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.


This post is part of an Indoor Activity Blog Hop — Indoor Activities.

Make sure to visit the other blogs below for some fun indoor activities that you can do when the weather’s not conducive to playing outside!  This week’s quick and easy activities include:

Learn About Aperture Using a Simplified DIY Model Camera

posted in: Learning | 2

Learn About Aperture Using a Simplified DIY Model Camera

I’m excited to be working through the alphabet with some fun activities to help kids learn about photography!  Today we’re talking about Aperture.  Make sure to check out my introduction to the series (The ABCs of Photography).

So, let’s get started!

What is Aperture?

The definition of aperture, from Dictionary.com:

Also called aperture stop. Optics. an opening, usually circular, that limits the quantity of light that can enter an optical instrument. 

To restate that, the aperture is how wide open the camera lens is — and affects how much light gets in.

Smaller apertures have tinier openings, and let in less light.  They allow pictures to have greater depth of field (e.g. when you look at the picture, everything, from the foreground to the background, is in focus).

Larger apertures have bigger openings, and let in more light.  They allow pictures to have blurry backgrounds (e.g. only subject is in focus).

On a real camera, there are f-stop numbers that tell you what aperture you’re using.  Like f2.8 or f22.  Those numbers mean that the opening is either 1/2.8 or 1/22 of the length of the lens.  The higher the number, the smaller the aperture (since that’s how fractions work, right?)

Now, on a real camera lens, the aperture is very complex.  There are moving parts, and everything is elegantly designed to be self contained.  I’m not going to teach you how to make one of those.  I’m going to help you make a simplified conceptual aperture.  One that is perfect for younger children to manipulate and use to understand the concept of aperture.

For some more resources on aperture, you might check out the links below:

These may be helpful for your older child if you want to go more in depth than I’ve done here.  But I just wanted to get you started.  To help you understand the concept of aperture — simplified as much as possible.  Hopefully I’ve done that!

Making a Model Aperture

If you have older kids, teens, or want to try your hand at making one of the more complex apertures, don’t worry.  While brainstorming how to create my simplified model camera, I did find some resources for making your own model aperture.  You can google “how to make an aperture” or something along those lines for more tutorials, but these ones seemed pretty straight foward (despite the complexity of the build):

Yes, those ones are more complicated. depending on the number of moving parts, they will take a long time to build.  That’s why I designed a simpler conceptual model to demonstrate the theory of aperture.

My Simplified Aperture Camera

It took me under an hour to make this model, including my mistakes and breaks for taking care of the baby.  So this might be doable in half an hour or less if you’re industrious.

Basically, my model camera lets you observe how much light can get in through different sized holes in a piece of cardboard.  Because that’s what an aperture does – it controls the amount of light let in through the lens.

Now, onto the construction process.  I’m not going to give you a printable template or anything, because we just made this camera from some shipping boxes we had on hand.  You could use whatever size you want.  Click on the photos below to enter gallery view mode, and make sure to read all the captions for more information about each of the steps.

Toby had lots of fun playing with his cardboard camera. He liked the moving parts, and being able to slide the different aperture cards in and out.  Without my prompting, he did notice that it was harder to see with aperture card that had the smallest opening.

An idea for even further simplification…

If you wanted to simplify this further, just get a cardboard box and start poking holes of different sizes in it.  Shine a flashlight through the different holes and have your child observe the amount of light that enters the box.

A is For Aperture
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Well, that’s it!  I’m already looking forward to our next activity, which will be learning about Bokeh.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Balloons! 10 Easy Indoor Activity Ideas

posted in: Parenting | 16

Balloons! 10 Easy Indoor Activity IdeasWith the chill of winter in full swing, we’ve been getting a little antsy.  The single digit weather requires indoor entertainment.  And on that front, balloons have delivered.  I’m going to share 10 easy indoor activity ideas with balloons.

I’ll add the obligatory notice about not letting balloons get into the hands of babies or younger children who could suffocate on the plastic, and then let’s get on with business!

So, here are our 10 ways to play with balloons inside… toddler approved, but fun for any age, of course (If you don’t have balloons on hand, you can buy balloons online #afflink).

Balloon Paddle Ball

This balloon activity was a favorite, and Toby invented it all by himself.  He found a long cardboard tube (leftover from our Christmas wrapping paper) and asked me to tie his balloon to the tube.  I used a piece of string about three feet long — and attached it to the tube by poking a hole and then tying one end of the yarn to the tube.  The other end of the yarn I then tied to the balloon.

Toby had a blast hitting the balloon with the cardboard tube, and watching it bounce up and away from him.  He tried gently bouncing it up in the air, then swung speedily at it (like a ball player).

At the end of this post, I’ve shared a few more pictures of our balloon paddle ball, both in action, and a detail shot to let you see how it’s constructed.

Keep it Up!

A classic balloon game, probably with many names.  You can play this with one or more individuals, and it’s a cooperative activity.  The goal?  Keep the balloon up in the air, and don’t let it touch the ground!

Sticky Static

One day Toby was bouncing the balloon around on his own… when all of a sudden he got upset.  Apparently the balloon was stuck to the ceiling …giving us an opportunity to learn about static electricity.  After his balloon was rescued, Toby had fun seeing what his balloon would stick to around the house.

Balloon on a String

Toby has, on multiple occasions, asked me to tie a string on his balloon so that he can kick or hit it — without having it run away from him.  Sometimes he will secure the other end of the string to his desk, a chair, or his shopping cart.  This lets him focus on playing with the balloon, while restricting where it can go.  Smart kid!  In this form, the balloon was also “walked” around the house on its string leash.  Wonder what kind of pet it was…

Indoor Kick

I don’t know about all kids, but my son has a strong kick — we’ve had to relegate ball kicking to outside at this point.  But, kicking a balloon?  That’s a different matter.  No matter how hard Toby kicks the balloon, it will only float delightfully through the air.  This activity will keep him entertained for a good half hour.

Hide the Balloon

Hide and seek is fun, but so too is hiding the balloon!  Toby enjoys finding places for his balloon to be hidden, and then asking for my “help” to find it.

Balloon Sounds

My toddler is into music, so we will often talk about the different sounds that objects make.  Balloons are no exception.  Toby has enjoyed tapping and flicking balloons to see the different sounds they make.  If you have a balloon that hasn’t been tied shut, you can also experiment with those fun squealing sounds made by escaping air.

Balloon Rockets + Cars

I’m sure most of us have made balloon rockets in some form or another.  Erica at What Do We Do All Day made a balloon rocket race — attached to a string race track.  But if you don’t mind chasing the deflating balloon all over, you could just blow one up and then let it fly.  Along the same lines, you can make a balloon-powered race car.  Almost Unschoolers shows you how to build balloon powered cars from toilet paper tubes.  Toby would love this activity, I’m sure.

Passage of Time

As time passes, your balloon will start to shrivel and shrink.  This is normal balloon behavior, but kids aren’t always familiar with balloon “life cycles.”  It has been fun for Toby to watch his balloons age… and compare the new ones to the old ones (we acquire a new balloon every week at swim lessons).  You could even make balloon “prints” with paint and balloons of different ages to see the textures transferred to paper.  Also, eventually, your balloon will pop.  Maybe it collides with a sharp object, or maybe it meets an untimely end at the claws of an interested feline.  However it happens, this gives opportunity to talk about the impact balloons and other plastic can have on the environment.  Birds think the plastic is food, and can’t digest it… and the like.

Balloon Basketball

My toddler commandeered our cat play tunnel #afflink… it’s about 1′ x 3′ in size. When turned on end, it makes a great basketball net.  I suppose you could use a trash can or laundry basket if those are easier to procure around your house than mine.  Anyway, Toby used this tunnel as a goal, or basket to shoot his balloon into.  He had a friend over and they spent quite some time playing balloon basketball inthe playroom.  I love that this idea doesn’t require much space (balloons can’t be thrown as far as a real ball).

It’s always interesting to see what games and activities kids will come up with when left to their own devices, huh?  Hopefully these ballon activities will be well received by your housebound kids too!

And now for the photos of our balloon paddle ball, as promised.  Click on any image to open in gallery view mode.

Have more ideas?

If you have more ideas about indoor activities that use balloons, I’d love to hear them. Share in the comments below!


This post is part of an Indoor Activity Blog Hop — Indoor Activities.

Make sure to visit the other blogs below for some fun indoor activities that you can do when the weather’s not conducive to playing outside!

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