Sew Together, Grow Together – Sewing Activity

posted in: Parenting | 21

Sewing Activity for Kids - a creation from the book: Sew Together, Grow TogetherI don’t remember when I learned how to sew.  I know it must have been pretty young; my mother probably had me on her lap when she was working on projects, much as I’ve done with Toby.  As you might guess, my love of sewing has been passed on to our son.  He was thrilled to receive dinosaur sewing boards and colored sewing beads for gifts.  He often pretends to sew or knit when I am doing so, and he absolutely loves to help use the sewing machine.  I think Toby’s favorite part is putting in and removing pins.  It’s a tie between that and using his scissors to cut things.

Sew Together, Grow Together (Book Review)

At any rate, I recently had the pleasure to review a lovely parent-child sewing activity book by Trixi Symonds of Coloured Buttons: Sew Together, Grow Together.  Trixi’s book has an assortment of 20 whimsical creations that will capture any child’s fancy.  The projects are designed for children as young as five, with the help of an adult (even one who doesn’t know a thing about sewing!).

Okay, so I know you’re thinking, “wait, you don’t have a 5 year old!”  And you’re right.  My son is just a toddler.  But, he is interested in sewing and I figured this could be a work-together sewing activity for him.  The projects are definitely age appropriate for the aforementioned age range, but if you’re comfortable sewing and helping a younger (interested) child through the creation process, I’d say, go for it!

A Child-Directed Sewing Activity

Toby and I perused the book, and while the white koala bear on the cover initially caught his eye, ultimately he settled on Floyd, the center green monster.   A second project was selected for baby brother (still in utero) — but that’s a story for another day.

While I did guide him towards specific selections, ultimately all the decisions were Toby’s (yes, I gave options to make life easier for him).  He chose the project, he decided what size to enlarge the pattern by (250% rather than 150%), he selected the fabric and embellishments too.  A purple denim was chosen for the main body (probably because his cousin’s show riding outfit was made from the same color), and white muslin for the eyes and our first attempt at a mouth.  Ultimately, we switched to embroidered features as it worked better that way.

Toby picked the colors:

  • black and white eyes
  • red for the mouth and outlining the eyes
  • yellow eyebrows
  • green hair

While this project is simple enough to be completed completely by hand, I have a sewing machine — and know that toddler attention spans can be limited.  So, after cutting out the pattern pieces (I adapted it for placement on the fold), we sewed it together with our serger.  Toby helped to turn it right side out, then helped  me hand stitch some of the embellishments before bedtime.  I completed the stitching for Floyd’s face that night, and got our supplies out for completion of the project the following morning.

Ready to finish the sewing project
Ready to finish the sewing project

In the morning, Toby was thrilled with the progress on Floyd.  He was a big help adding rice for the arms and legs as well as stuffing for the main body.  I let him decide how “huggable” Floyd should be (i.e. how much stuffing to add), then we sewed the final opening shut.

It was very gratifying to see how excited my son was to complete this sewing activity with me.  While his age necessitated a little more “participation” on my part, Toby was so proud to show off Floyd — that HE made — to daddy that night.  I have not heard such excited squeals of delight coming from him in a while.

Sewing Teaches Life Skills

The process of sewing is really vital, I think.  It teaches skills that are useful for everyone, regardless of age or gender.  And you end up with a tangible representation of your efforts.  However imperfect — a hand-sewn creation is a labor of love.  Sewing is a learning process, an activity that will be useful later on in life.

And, sewing is a creative outlet.  You have a pattern, yes.  But it’s there as a starting point.  Once you get comfortable, you can depart from any pattern, making adaptations that please you.  It’s part of the joy of sewing — making alterations as you see fit.  I always joke that I work best when I’m not working from a pattern ;).  But the truth is, when you get to more advanced sewing projects, alterations are often necessary on the fly.  So, learning to depart from the pattern at a young age isn’t a bad thing at all.

Let your child think outside the box.  Let creativity blossom.  Allow for an alternate interpretation, and see where it takes you!

Making sure Floyd smiles for the camera
Making sure Floyd smiles for the camera

My Thoughts on Our Sewing Activity

Sew Together Grow Together - Trixi SymondsOverall, I really enjoyed this sewing activity.  I know my toddler did too.  While we only completed this one project for the purposes of the book review, I did skim through the others and found them to be of a similar skill level.  These creations truly are feasible for someone with minimal or no sewing experience to tackle.

The book layout is designed cleanly, with a visual table of contents and large photos for each sewing activity. Perfect for helping young children decide what creation to tackle! I found the directions to be very easy to follow, and appreciated the simplicity of the numbered list step-by-step breakdown of the project.

Overall, the sewing activity was a big success, and I think we’ll be creating more from this book in coming months (as time allows, of course!).

Sew Together, Grow Together can be purchased through Trixi’s Etsy shop, either in physical book form or PDF format.  While I typically am a fan of physical books, I enjoyed how easy it was to print out the pattern and instructions from the PDF,  a departure from the norm of having to photocopy a pattern from the book.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Sewing Activity – Gallery of Snapshots

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity For Kids

posted in: Notes | 16

In honor of Memorial Day, I put together an impromptu art activity for our son …so we could have some patriotic artwork to hang on the front door today!
Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity - Planning a free-form activity to encourage self expression and creativity in kids! - BPhotoArt.com

While I love seeing elaborate crafts and projects others have done (via Pinterest), my style is a little more informal and aimed at culturing creativity. For us, replicating a craft or following steps to end up with the “correct” project just doesn’t always work out. Toddlers, when they have their mind set up on doing things their way…. are an immovable force to be reckoned with.

So, this free-form activity had no rules, aside from keeping ink and glue on the paper canvas (i.e. off the table).

I laid out a large white envelope as the paper canvas for this patriotic craft, pulled out some red, white/silver, and blue items that we had on hand (paper, sparkly pipe cleaners), etc. Of course, no patriotic artwork craft would be complete without stars, so I set out a star rubber stamp and ink pad. Supplementary supplies included scissors, a glue stick, tape, and a blue highlighter.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity Supplies - BPhotoArt.com

While Toby went after the scissors and started cutting paper enthusiastically, I showed him how he could tear up the paper into strips and even squares. He allowed me to help make some squares while he cut abstract shapes.

Then he discovered the stamp and ink pad. First his thumb went onto the ink pad, and since this was our first time using an ink pad, I told him about how he could make thumbprints — which he tried. But the stamp was more fun.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity for Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Toby immediately stamped his hand (just like at the library), then asked for permission to stamp his arms and face. I have to admit, I declined on the face, but did permit the arms do gain some stars.

Stars were stamped everywhere, on the paper, on the little torn squares, you name it. He then started spreading glue on the white canvas and sticking things to it.

It was great to watch the creative gears turning as Toby switched from one tool to another. The scissors were a frequently used tool, although the blue highlighter was briefly more popular.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity for Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Finally, he got to the tape. Long streams were pulled from the dispenser and stuck to the canvas, the table, everywhere. I helped Toby get the tape back onto his canvas, and once we decided to “save” the rest of the roll for Grandma, impromptu craft time was complete.

Toby was proud to show off his patriotic artwork craft to Grandma (whose house we were at), and to Daddy when he got home.

I love that this project came together so easily, that there were no rules or restrictions, and how our son really got his creative thought process going.

[Click on any image in the gallery below to view full size]

Resources + Supplies

Here are supplies similar to what we used for this artwork craft project. I’m all for buying in bulk when it comes to kid craft supplies… it never hurts to have extras on hand.

You may also want to check out my Art for Kids Pinterest board, where I’ve been pinning lots of fun art projects for kids (not specific to any holiday in particular)

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Art For Kids on Pinterest.

Do You Have Any Patriotic Artwork Craft Ideas?

Are you a fan of the pre-planned activities, or is free-form crafting more your style? What works best for your kids?

I’d love to hear about any craft or art activities you’ve tried, whether they’re patriotic in nature or not. It’s always fun to see what others are doing!

Memories of Painting With Grandpa

posted in: Notes | 10

I may be a bit biased since it’s my line of work, but for me, photographs are an integral part of preserving family memories. There’s a time and a place to document family portraits professionally, but there’s also a soft spot in my heart for snapshots — they capture candid moments from life that are totally unplanned and spontaneous. Both types of photos are different. But both kinds are important for creating a lasting family legacy.

While I’ve written about being inspired by my paternal grandparents (My Photographic Inspiration + The Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman), I have to confess there are many relatives who have encouraged and supported me along my life’s journey. So today, I wanted to share this picture from my personal archives — it’s of me and my maternal grandpa when I was a toddler.

Betsy Painting with Grandpa - Family Snapshot - Memories

I love this photograph! It was taken when I was a toddler, in my childhood home.  We were painting Christmas candles (well, one of us was!).  I loved helping turn white tapered candles into advent calendars.  We would paint red and green elves around the base of the taper (bottom 3″ or so), and then the rest would be evenly divided into 24 sections — numbered 1-24 for each day of December.  Then came the fun part!  Remembering to light the candle at dinner every day so that we could melt the elves by Christmas day.

Over the years, my grandpa has explored many different media in addition to painting (watercolor, oil, acrylic).  He used to have a woodworking “shop” in his basement (later it moved to the garage). In addition to making utilitarian items, he was quite skilled at wood marquetry, wood carving, and pretty much anything that required tinkering (that comes from being an engineer, I think).  My favorite wedding gift was from my grandfather — a marquetry panel of a ship. It’s framed and hangs at the top of our stairs, so I get to enjoy it every time I climb the steps.

I have many fond memories of painting and creating with my grandfather. He had drawers and bins of interesting do-dads and whatchamacallits that my brother and I would use to make things. We helped make a castle (think dollhouse, but bigger) with a plexiglass moat able to hold real fish. There was an oscilloscope in his workshop that we loved to play with too.  My favorite cookies are Springerles — his specialty.  These German cookies may be an aquired taste, but I loved helping select which hand carved mold to press into the dough.  My grandfather even made some molds especially for us grandkids!  The best part, though, was eating a freshly cooked Springerle (first dipped in milk).

Isn’t it amazing what stories can come from just reminiscing over one snapshot from your past?  That’s why I love photographs.  They open the floodgates, revive memories which have long faded into subconscious.  Pictures take us back to that moment, remind us of the things we truly value in life.

I am so grateful that my son has had the opportunity to know my grandpa, or as he is called: “Great Grandpa Rebeck with the broken cane.” Even though he lives many states away now, my son still remembers when my grandpa visited — and Toby was allowed to help “fix” great grandpa’s “broken” cane (one of those nifty collapsible ones).

It’s so hard to attribute any one thing to my grandpa, because he really did help expand my way of thinking.  I’m one of those people who always asks “why,” who loves to know how things work, and who enjoys taking apart or putting back together little do-dads.  My comfort with adapting new technology probably comes from my grandpa too — while an engineer he worked on the Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiment project (ALSEP).  After the moon landing, he eventually went into the computer technology field — I grew up familiar with that blue and red DOS screen, and even learned how to write simple DOS computer programs from him as well.

Important of Snapshots + Memories (Resources)

Here are a few links about the importance of snapshots and memories. You may also want to check out my Family History + Genealogy Pinterest board. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Family History + Genealogy on Pinterest.

What Memories Do Your Snapshots Bring To Mind?

Even if you don’t have an extensive collection of family photos, I’m sure you have a few snapshots that bring back many memories.  Maybe tearful ones rather than joyful, but important memories nevertheless. We are defined, in part, by our past experiences.  We don’t have to let ourselves be bound or limited by those memories, but we can learn and grow from them.

What about your favorite photo?  Does looking at it bring a slew of memories to the forefront of your mind?

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

posted in: Parenting | 14

Still deciding what to give mom or grandma for Mother’s Day? I’ve got some ideas to share (and a link to a Mother’s Day poem I wrote too)! But first, let me share some art from quite some time ago that I created — and as I was preparing for Mother’s Day, I remembered these two pieces in particular. Both are digital/drawing/photo collages that I created over ten years ago.

This first one is my favorite of the two. I honestly can’t even remember what I titled it at the time, aside from Sunset Girl. My mother loved this image, and ultimately it graced the cover of her book, Riding Past Grief – A Daughter’s Journey #afflink.

So while this piece isn’t about mothers specifically, it is about being a daughter, finding your own way, and holding firm through the storms life may bring. I vaguely recall titling Riding Past Midnight (but that may be the title of a short story I wrote around the same time). The sunset and rough terrain are based on a photograph I took in the mountains of Montana, and the girl began as a sketch. I blended the two, using digital painting and other applications that are probably long obsolete by now.

Mother's Day Gift Ideas - Sunset Girl Fresco

This second image inspired a poem for my mother. The piece and the poem share the same name – Mother Daughter Walk. Well, her poem may have assimilated whatever I had originally titled it (but I’m ok with that). This image was created in a similar fashion, digital painting with the mother and daughter originating as a sketch and paired with a photograph of mine. The rocky mountain path is from Scottsdale, Arizona, on Camelback mountain if I recall correctly.

Mother Daughter Walk

Given my mother’s love of poetry and all things art, I’ve actually planned ahead and written her a poem.

I submitted it to a Mother’s Day writing contest, and amazingly, my poem was selected as one of ten “finalists” — head over to Positive Parenting to read “A Reflection of My Mother.”

Mom, if you’re reading this (don’t moms always read their daughter’s posts?), you don’t get to read it until Mother’s Day. Sorry. you can read it early but no complaining!

But then the next question, for me, at least, was how to help my son with the concept of Mother’s Day. I will *not* be helping him make a gift for me, as that seems tacky. Dad can be in charge of any gifts that might materialize (and frankly, I’m ok without… toddler hugs are sufficient for me!).

But, grandmothers are still important — so we will be creating something for both grandmas between now and Mother’s Day. Again, since one or both of them may read this before Mother’s Day, I am not going to share what we are creating. But, I do want to give you some ideas in case you’re in the same boat I was a couple days ago.

What to make/do/give… that’s the tough question!

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Here are some ideas and resources for thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts! I’ve included the link to the aforementioned grief poetry in case you know someone who has lost a mother and may find it helpful. Links will open in a new window for your convenience. You might also want to check out my Gift Ideas Pinterest board, as I may find some more cute ideas between the time of posting and Mother’s Day.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Gift Ideas on Pinterest.

Do You Have Plans for Mother’s Day?

We typically go out for a nice Mother’s Day brunch, and this year we may spend time outdoors too if the weather is nice. Do you have any family traditions for Mother’s Day? I’d love to hear them. And, if you want to share any creative Mother’s Day gift ideas, I’m all ears 🙂

Shoveling + Snow Sensory Play

posted in: Parenting | 21

What’s snow sensory play? I’ll get to that in a minute (with activity links at the end of this post!), but first, let’s talk snow. There’s something about snow that just draws kids right in. My toddler is obsessed with shoveling snow, snow sensory play, you name it — if it has to do with snow, he’s rearing and ready to go. I’ve felt bad about not being able to get out more this winter (negative digits, windchill, plus sick bugs)… but fortunately we stumbled across two nice snow activities this winter:

  • “shoveling” snow on our deck
  • indoor snow sensory play

Coincidentally, both of these activities *will* work even when the snow is melty and the weather is on the warmer side! So read on to see what we’ve done for snow sensory play — indoors and out.

Snowy Day - Sensory Snow Play

Outdoors Snow “Shoveling” Fun

This past week we’ve finally seen temperatures rise above freezing, so Toby was thrilled to get out on the deck *without* a coat. I think he played for an hour out there, shoveling, scooping, and otherwise manipulating the snow. It started as a trip out on the deck to fill up a mixing bowl with snow for indoor snow sensory play… and turned into outdoors fun!

Snow Sensory Play Indoors

He did end up back indoors at the counter, playing with his bowl of snow. We don’t have a proper sensory bin, so have just been using jelly roll sheet pans to contain the melting snow. But, no matter. His fun has not been diminished by “lack” of proper materials. I supplied a few “real” kitchen items, and he supplemented everything else from the playroom. It’s always interesting to see what creative ideas toddlers will come up with on their own!

Without much prompting, Toby discovered how to use the straw to move water from one place to another. He then experimented with putting ice chunks into a jar via the straw, all on his own. Really quite neat! Here are a few images of the snowy day fun — both indoors and out.

Click on an image below to open the gallery view. Also, make sure to scroll to the end of this post, as I’ve shared some more great ideas for snow sensory play!

More Snow Sensory Play Ideas

Want to play in the snow? Indoors or Out? Well, here are some other blog posts that may help get your parental creative juices flowing. These links will open in a new window, in case you want to refer to this (non-exhaustive) list).

Indoor Snow Play

Outdoor Snow Play

What If You Don’t have Snow?

Have More Snow Play Ideas?

What about you? Do you have more snowy day ideas for kids, or great snowy sensory play suggestions? Maybe you have some fond memories of activities you loved when growing up? I’d love to hear them in the comments section.

Jackson Pollock Art with Permanent Markers

posted in: Parenting | 4

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can share these pictures of a top secret present being made. As I’ve mentioned earlier, this year our little one really understood the concept of giving — and so, both Mama and Daddy took turns helping him make presents for both parents. I received several lovely drawings with toddler-traced hands (so cute). And when we were deciding what to make for Daddy’s present…someone *really* loved the idea of personalized golf balls (“So Dada can golf!!!”).

Read More

Making Memories for the Holidays

posted in: Notes | 0

What have you done this year to cultivate family time and creative play for the holidays?

bphotoart-IMG_4461

We really had fun with holiday activities this year (see pictures below). Many memories were made, including: playing in the snow, experimenting with grain-free cookie recipes, seeing Santa,and giving toys to those in need. Instead of cultivating the “I want for Christmas” attitude, we focused on making gifts to give to others, crafts that symbolized the meaning of Christmas, and outdoor play, of course! Pinterest has been pretty helpful for ideas, especially crafts that are easy enough for an independent toddler to do mostly on his own (follow me on Pinterest). Read More

Indoor Winter Fun | Holiday Ornaments

posted in: Parenting | 1

We haven’t ventured outdoors too much lately with it being so cold — the teens is just a little chilly to play outside for long. So, many winter crafts have ensued. I figured you might enjoy seeing a touch of our holiday decorations as they go up, and maybe these will inspire you to get creative with your little ones this week too!

Today’s craft was from a well-anticipated playdate; we improvised a gluten free dough recipe so both kids could participate. It actually turned out really well — the ornaments are adorable, don’t you think? Ok, I may be a little biased, but I am just glad the dough baked into something durable and non-breakable. Plus, Toby finally got to use his favorite cookie cutter, the train.

Read More

Crafts and Artwork for Kids

posted in: Parenting | 5

It’s been so much fun crafting with my toddler lately. I found a lot of Advent and Christmas-themed craft ideas (thanks Pinterest, among other places). He has really been excited about an almost daily craft, and I’ve been grateful not to have to think up all these cute ideas myself. So far, we’ve made a family tree, a decoupaged candle holder, a “pocket” to hold promises (in our case, toddler-selected Bible verses), and today…well, we got sidetracked and just did free form painting on the computer. They learn so much from actual hands-on crafts, so I’ve been avoiding computer-related art for the most part. But I figure once in a while doesn’t hurt. He really enjoyed seeing how the “pen” made the paintbrush move and create colors on screen. Yes, I let him use my stylus and tablet; no, it didn’t get broken.

Read More

Crafts + Activities to Keep Your Kids Entertained!

posted in: Parenting | 0

crafts and activities: easy ideas to keep kids busy - betsy's photography - http://bphotoart.comSo we were watching “Super Nanny” on TV the other day, and I realized that some of these parents don’t realize how important it is to play. Isn’t that one of the best parts about being a kid?

Getting to play, whether outside or inside, is related to many of my favorite childhood memories. Of course, along those same lines, getting to make things, or create, is equally important.

Maybe that’s why I became a photographer — I love the process of creating. At any rate, I’ve compiled some ideas for you that might help you in a pinch if you need ways to keep your kids occupied. Some will depend on how messy your kids are, of course — so do plan for that in advance!

Make Your Own Play Dough

If you have flour and salt on hand, then you’re probably equipped for this project. Depending on the age of your kids, why not let them help MAKE the play dough before they play?

Chances are they’ll love it even more than just playing with the store-bought or pre-made stuff.  I made play dough with my boys, and we didn’t even bother to put food coloring in it. They like it “plain.”

You can also make store bought play dough colors “stretch” further by taking some of your plain play dough and blending it with those tiny colored packages for even more fun.

Don’t have a recipe? Get play dough recipes here.

Make Popsicles

This is another easy activity that your kids will probably enjoy. Making popsicles can be as complicated (or simple) as you want it to be. Just make sure you have some popsicle molds!  We found a set of silicone popsicle molds ad used them to talk about diversity (the popsicle molds were all different colors, but inside they were all the same).

Anyways, from there, you can let your kids make lemonade popsicles, pineapple-orange juice popsicles, or even yogurt popsicles.  My kids enjoyed making applesauce popsicles the other day as well.

If your kids want to make something more creative, why freeze different layers (colors,flavors) into the popsicles!

Make a Map

Get out the crayons or markers and start drawing! Maybe your kids could make a map of the backyard, or if they’re a little older, they could do something a bit more ambitious — like make a map of your neighborhood!

You can even suggest they explore or make “excursions” to the places they’re mapping out — so that they don’t forget the best places!

Make Board Games

If your kids love to play boardgames, why not encourage them to make up their own? It can be based on the traditional board games, or even something more original! Make sure to provide your kids with lots of craft materials, like cardboard, colored paper, and maybe even some clay so that they can sculpt the board game pieces or dice.

An old shirt box, once decorated properly will make a great place to store the new board game and its accessories. Next time you have game night, make sure to pull out the new addition to your collection — your kids will be so proud!

Make a Meal

If your kids are a little older (and responsible), why not teach them how to cook? It could be something simple like a favorite dessert, or they’re ready, even a batch of pancakes (make sure to be careful around the oven and stove).

While it’s up to you to decide what your kids are ready to make, they’ll probably love helping make meals if you can make it fun! Of course, desserts also call for decorations, which most kids particularly enjoy doing.

More Resources

If you’re looking for some crafty websites, why not try a few of these websites…they look promising! And remember, if you run out of ideas, it can’t hurt to ask your kids’ opinions!!

1 2 3