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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I’m Glad You *GLOW* To School With Me Valentine (+Printable)

posted in: Notes | 3

I'm Glad You *GLOW* To School With Me - Printable Valentine to Give With Glow SticksThis year marks a milestone for us — Toby’s first Valentine’s Day at school.  As we’ve geared up for Valentine’s Day with our Valentine Blessings activity and by making Heart Cracker Crisps, Toby has gotten understandably excited.  One of his big concerns was “will I get Valentines from my friends too?”

Why yes, that’s the plan.  And as we’ve gotten closer to the “big day” (the preschool class Valentine’s Day party), it was finally time to figure out what we were doing about making those Valentines.  Toby wanted to make something for his friends.  He also wanted to give them glow sticks like we played with earlier this month.

Between those two desires and a few neat “non candy” Valentine ideas I saw on Pinterest, we came up with this Valentine.  Each kid will receive one or two glow sticks ready for use, along with a printout of this hand-drawn Valentine (toddler approved).

Toby was all smiles when I pointed it out: “see, glow and grow sound similar, isn’t that silly!”  Hopefully his classmates get the play on words… but if not, oh well!

Since I already went through the effort of making these for Toby to share with his class, I thought to myself, “why not share the love?”  All you’ll need to do after printing these out is attach your glow sticks.

If you need a source for getting some good quality glow sticks, here’s a pack of 100 glow stick bracelets #afflink on Amazon that we reviewed and were pleased with.

While you could do any number of creative things to pair the glow sticks with their Valentine, here are some ideas we had:

  • punch a hole in the valentine and thread it through the glow stick, curved into bracelet form (this would activate the glow stick though, so unless you’re making these last minute…)
  • punch two holes in the valentine and thread the straight glow stick through
  • punch a hole in the valentine and tie it onto the glow stick with a ribbon
  • use tape to stick the glow stick to the back side of the valentine

For any of these that aren’t put into bracelet form, I’d probably attach the bracelet connector piece to one end, as we did for our valentines.

So, after printing out our valentines (on pink paper, of course), I cut the paper lengthwise, and left the remaining cuts for Toby to do.  He got some good scissor skills practice in!

Next, we punched two holes in each valentine — one at the top (through the “O” in “GLOW”) and the other at the bottom, near the two stick figures.  {Yes, I customized Toby’s valentines with his name… per teacher instruction we excluded any “to: so and so” fields.}  Here’s a picture of our half-finished valentines.

bphotoart-glow-stick-school-valentine-2829

Toby couldn’t get enough of a grip on the hole punch to punch the holes on his own, so he got help on that step:

bphotoart-glow-stick-school-valentine-2823

And then we put the glow sticks through the two holes — make sure to bend/curve the paper and keep the glow stick straight, otherwise it will “crack” and activate the glowing goodness.

bphotoart-glow-stick-school-valentine-2827

bphotoart-glow-stick-school-valentine-2828

Cute, huh!  My husband thought it was clever.  Bonus points!

Anyways, if you’ve like to download a free printable to use these for your child’s Valentine’s Day exchange, I’ve put together a generic printable for you.  Here’s what it looks like (see below) — well, the printable is an 8-up version.  Just underneath the image are links to download the 8-up valentine printable.

bphotoart-glad-you-glow-school-valentine

Download valentine printable sheet: PDF / JPG

As I said, the printout you’ll be downloading is set up to print out eight per sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper.  Depending on your printer’s margins, you may need to scale it down a bit.

These were actually really fun to make, and I’m glad we came up with a fun (non-candy) valentine that my toddler was excited to give his classmates.

What kind of valentines do your kids give?  I’d love to get more ideas or hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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

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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:

Heart Cracker Crisps

posted in: Notes | 1

Heart Cracker Crisps ...the easiest cracker recipe ever!l have to admit, when I made these crackers I was a bit sad I couldn’t try them (we’re doing the Whole30 this month).  But, my toddler loved the crackers, so they have to be good!

This recipe is so simple you will want to stock up on crackers.  It can be adapted for gluten free too.

So, what did we do?

Well, last month we hosted a number of parties, and we ended up with way too many burger buns.  I went ahead and made croutons with a dozen buns, but still had two dozen left.  What to do…

In my search for recipes to use up bread, I found several suggestions to make crackers.  And so I took that concept and winged it.

First we quartered the buns with a bread knife.  Then, we used a rolling pin to squish and flatten the quartered buns (psst.. lots of fun for toddlers!).  The flattened pieces were then put onto a few baking sheets and drizzled with olive oil.  After a generous sprinkling of salt, I placed the baking sheets in the oven to crisp up.

At this point, you could just eat them as is… but since we’d been reading about Valentine’s Day I decided to indulge my son’s enthusiam and make the crisps into hearts.

Doing so was pretty easy, since we used burger buns – once quartered they are lmost heart shaped.  With a paring knife, I trimmed off the corners of the bun’s outer edge, and then between those two corners I cut out a triangle.

Voila! A heart!

Toby was thrilled.  And he wanted to eat them right then and there.  Based on his enjoyment, I’d surmise that the cracker crisps are deliciously crunchy…

So here’s the recipe.  And make sure to check out the photos further down to see what we did (click any image to open in gallery view mode).

Heart Cracker Crisps Recipe

Ingredients:

  • burger buns, bread, etc
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 200 F
  • Quarter the buns, then press flat or flatten with rolling pin.
  • Place pieces on baking sheets, then drizzle with olive oil (you could spread butter over top instead). Sprinkle with sea salt (or try cinnamon sugar!).
  • Bake until crisp and golden, about 10-20 minutes,checking frequently.
  • Let cool.
  • To make heart shape crackers, cut off corners of rounded edge of cracker, then cut out a triangle between those two corners.

Note: You could adapt this to include cinnamon sugar on top for a sweet treat!  To make gluten free crisps, just use gluten free buns.

So yeah! Three ingredient cracker crisps!  Perfect for any time of the year, or maybe a less sweet alternative to all the Valentine’s Day candy… your choice.

Have you made anything like these before?  Or maybe you have a great recipe for using up leftover bread… share in the comments below!

 

More Creative Valentine’s Day Activities for Kids:

Creative Valentine's Day Activities for Kids

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.

Valentine’s Day Blessing Activity

posted in: Learning | 4
Valentine Blessings - a book-based activity
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

I grew up loving the Berenstain Bears books, and it is so fun to see my son enjoy the adventures of the Bear family too.  What’s neat is that Mike Berenstain (Stan and Jan’s son) continued his parents’ legacy by continuing the series!  This book-based activity is inspired by one such book… The Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Blessings #afflink.

It’s a cute story about a valentine Brother Bear gets from his secret admirer, which distracts him from the upcoming hockey game.  The story line is simple, but there are some good lessons within.  Papa Bear tries to help Brother feel better about things by telling how Mama and he started dating… and ultimately Brother’s hockey game goes well, the secret admirer is revealed… you get the idea.

I love that the book comes with some built-in activity suggestions.  There are some talking points for parents to help kids get thinking about ways they can be a blessing to others.  Maybe by making a special valentine and sending it to someone, or by helping out in the community.

Valentine Blessing Activities

I love the phrase, “blessed to be a blessing.”  Part of the goodness of life is being able to pay it forward.  To care about others and empathize with them.  To bring joy into the lives of those who need it.

So, to kick things off, Toby and I talked about what things we do (or could do) to be a blessing to others.  Here are some things we came up with:

  1. Make and send cards to people
  2. Send artwork to people, or give it to patients at the local hospital.  (I love this idea, because the minimalist in me can’t allow all my son’s masterpieces to be saved for the memory box.  What a great alternative destination compared to the recycle bin!).
  3. Make meals for others (we make meals for new moms and the sick through our church… Toby likes to help with the prep and delivery).
  4. Give away things we don’t need or use anymore
  5. Leave a cup of pennies by the mechanical horse at the grocery store (it’s a penny per ride)
  6. Take cookies or other treats to school and leave them in the mailboxes
  7. Bake bread and drop it off on our neighbors’ doorstep
  8. Put out a snack for the mailman and the trash guys.
  9. Pick flowers and give them to people
  10. Call people just to say hello

I’m sure there are many more ways to help others, but these were just a few of the things we thought of.  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Sending “Blessings” in the Mail

Now, before we get onto my craft activity idea, I have to confess.  I didn’t get my usual slew of photos taken to document our activity.  I’m going to blame it on the RSV virus that Zack has been dealing with… the past few days have been spent holding a sick baby boy so that he could feel a little less miserable.  I guess that’s a blessing though — we were able to find a position in which he could be comfortable.

So, I’ll share our activity, and then add photos to this post at a later time.  Now, back to business.

Around our home, we have a lot of stuff that ends up getting recycled.  And while that’s better than being tossed in the trash, I’d much rather repurpose things that can be reused in some way or another.  I’m all for form over function.  So, for this recycled Valentine craft, I gave my toddler a bunch of paper and had him cut it up, with scissors, to his heart’s content.  Once the “shredding” was finished, we started decorating.  I had Toby glue and tape the paper strips all over the front of a piece of red paper (since the majority of the paper Toby cut up was white).  After that, we had to let things dry.

Once the glue was dry, we folded the paper in half, so that the white was on the outside.  Then I cut out a heart window in the paper, so it would make a window on the front of the card.  If your child is old enough to cut out the heart, go for it (my son’s scissor skills aren’t quite refined enough yet).

You’ll now have a nice window to the inside of the card, providing a nice color contrast.  Feel free to glue the heart you cut out onto the inside of the card somewhere.

I invited Toby to decorate the card himself, so he could write or draw whatever message he desired. If you want, you can write something cutesy inside.

Toby proceeded to decorate some additional pieces of paper… he wanted to mail more cards to people, to make them happy. Made my heart melt!

Valentine’s Day Read and Play – Along with me, more than 20 bloggers are participating in a Valentine themed read and play!  Make sure to check out the other fun book-based Valentine’s activities…. enjoy!

 

Race Car Math

posted in: Learning | 1

Toby has been enthralled with race cars lately.  It may be partly because he got a number of them as gifts.   Whatever the reason, I thought we could take advantage of his enthusiasm and work on his math skills.  Especially since he was having difficulty differentiating between pairs and single items when counting the number of matches in our photo memory game.

So, I told Toby to gather up some race cars so we could do an activity. He was thrilled.

There was no set lesson plan, but I knew I wanted to work on addition and subtraction with the cars as a visual.  So I’ll tekk you what we ended up doing, and then share some pictures to show you what our race car math activity actually looked like.

Race Car Math
We used race cars for a visual aid with simple addition and subtraction.

Race Car Math Activities

So, what did we do? A lot of things! These mini activities were spur of the moment, prompted by the questions Toby asked, as well as the opportunities that I saw arise.

  • We Weighed Race Cars – Toby practiced reading and writing numbers.  We spent quite a bit of time talking about which cars were heavier and might therefore go faster.
  • We Grouped Race Cars – Next, we made piles and groups of cars so that we could examine which piles were bigger.  We made three piles and used words to describe them (big, bigger, biggest …small, smaller, smallest).  Toby also counted the cars in each group so we could learn which numbers were highest and lowest.
  • We Added and Subtracted Race Cars – To familiarize Toby with the concepts of addition and subtraction, I changed up the number of cars in the pile; we recounted and he discovered the difference.  He had fun with this!
  • We Paired Race Cars – As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to reinforce how to count pairs.  So, we spent time pairing up cars and then counting both the number of pairs …and the total number of cars.
  • We Raced Cars Down Ramps – Finally, it was time to see which of those cars were actually the fastest.  We raced the race cars on a small ramp, then on a big ramp.  Toby had the most fun with this activity. We experimented with different angled slopes, and at what point the cars couldn’t actually roll down the ramp.

Race Cars + Math = Fun!

I love turning everyday play into teachable moments like these.  It doesn’t take any prep work or planning.  Now, take a peek at the images below to see what our race car math morning looked like!

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

A-Z STEM SeriesThis post is part of the A-Z STEM Series (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for Kids.

Throughout January, many wonderful bloggers are working their way through the alphabet of great kids STEM activities perfect for home or school.

These kids STEM activities will be specifically geared for preschool through early elementary ages. Each letter of the alphabet will be represented with a different STEM activity for science, technology, engineering, and math.

By the end of the month, you will have an amazing resource to use with your students and/or children!

Balloons! 10 Easy Indoor Activity Ideas

posted in: Parenting | 17

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!

Quick + Easy Photo Memory Game

posted in: Learning | 12

Quick + Easy Photo Memory GameAnother quick and easy indoor activity, this photo memory game is sure to be a hit. Assuming you can find pictures on your computer, you’ll be able to make your own memory game with the pictures on your hard drive. If you want to involve your child in the image selection process, by all means! Or, you could pick and print the photos ahead of time, to make life easier on you. That’s what I did this time, since Toby frequently tries to hijack my keyboard or mouse if I sit down with him to do something at the computer.

So, all you need to do is find some photos.  What kind of photos?  Here are some ideas:

  1. phone snapshots – these will be good enough, quality-wise, for the size we’ll be printing.  Copy them from your phone when tethered, email them to yourself, or transfer them by some other method.
  2. family snapshots – go through your old photo archives and scan or photocopy those old snapshots.  Hey, you could even take a picture of it with your phone.  (let me include my obligatory “don’t infringe anyone’s copyright” message here).
  3. your child’s artwork – I’ve been taking photos of Toby’s artwork when it comes in the door, so I have a lot of it on my computer already. I think it’d be fun to do a “match the artwork” game.
  4. public domain images – you can find a plethora of public domain images online.  Many are old photographs, so this would be fun for kids to talk and learn while playing.
  5. words – for kids who are learning sight words, you could have them pair words.  Or use their weekly spelling words in the game… the possibilities are endless.  I know there are some sites that have free photos with words in them.

For this particular game, I chose nine pictures from my cell phone’s repository. Using the “print” feature on my PC, I printed out the pictures, in wallet size — twice.

This dialog can be accessed by right-clicking on the selected images you want to print; select “Print” from the drop down menu (circled in screenshot below).

bphotoart-photo-memory-game-print

Here you can see the print dialog — this machine is running Windows 7.  I’m sure it looks different in the current edition, but al least the screenshot will give you an idea of how easy it was for me to set this up.  bphotoart-photo-memory-game

 

Notice the screenshot says “copies of each picture: 1”  — I printed the sheet of 9 images out twice, giving us eighteen cards total for the memory game.  I figured that was enough for now.

Now, you can just print on plain paper, or, if you want to get fancy, you can do one of two things:

  • Laminate it!  Print your pictures out, adhere wrapping or scrapbook paper to the back side, and then cut out and laminate each photo card.  You can get a nice thermal laminator #afflink online.
  • Print double-sided on Cardstock!  On one side of the cardstock paper, print a pattern or design for the back side off the cards.  On the other, print the wallet-sized photos. Then cut out and get playing. Here’s a link to some cardstock paper #afflink you can buy online.

And then cutting out the cards can be done with a paper cutter,  rotary trimmer, or even a pair of scissors.  whatever is easiest, whatever you have on hand.

We ended up playing memory as our “calm-down” activity before bed.  Toby was really excited to see the pictures, and specifically wanted to find the one of him at the baseball game (where Torii Hunter, then on the Detroit Tigers, threw him a ball).

We had a very excited toddler at the end of the ballgame…

A photo posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@bphotoart_com) on

So anyways, Toby loved the homemade memory game because it had photos of him and his family. He talked about the pictures while we played, which was fun for me. I can see this being a fun “looking back” game to play at family gatherings, reunions, or even low-key anniversaries. Not just for kids!

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. 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!

Learning About Fingerprints

posted in: Learning | 2

bphotoart-learning-about-fingerprints-I’ve been having fun on our learning ventures lately.  Toby has enjoyed learning about bugs, and exploring empathy, and a host of other things that I haven’t had opportunity to blog about.  But this fingerprint activity was definitely a hit.  And I guess I know why — it is messy!  Well, for your fingers, at least.  Assuming your child knows not to smear the ink everywhere, this fingerprint activity shouldn’t be too much in the clean up department.

So, to learn about fingerprints, I got out our rubber stamp collection.  And some ink pads. If you don’t already have these supplies on hand, here are some ideas to get you started (#afflinks):

Ok, now we’ve got the materials covered.  Let me explain what we did.  If your child is older, and wants to experiment with lifting fingerprints from surfaces, there are a few “at home” tutorials on dusting and collecting fingerprints.  But I decided we’d focus on the concept instead.

Now, you may be wondering why I got out the rubber stamps when fingerprints are the purported subject.  Well, my son doesn’t always like to get messy, so it gave us an entry into my planned activities.  Plus, we could see how applying different amounts of ink and different levels of pressure would impact the final print.

Stamps have more negative space than a fingerprint, so it’s also harder for a toddler to smear the ink into a blurred blob.  I showed Toby how my fingerprint looked in ink — and not surprisingly, it was much clearer than his own attempts (for two reasons).  First, kids have smaller fingers.  And then there’s that smearing/precision factor I just mentioned.

So, while Toby happily dotted his fingerprints all over the paper, we talked about fingerprints.  I kept it simple, going into detail as his interest guided me.  Some things I was prepared to talk about included the following:

  • everyone has their own special fingerprints
  • no two sets of fingerprints are alike (even that of identical twins)
  • animal paw prints (hey, our cats are like family to us)
  • fingerprint ridge patterns: arches, loops, whorls (here’s a PDF about ridge patterns from ScienceSpot.net’s Fingerprinting unit)
  • repeating patterns, variations, etc

We could have ended our learning activity at this point, but since Toby wanted to revisit the next day, I decided to enlarge some fingerprints.  I printed out one the size of a sheet of paper, and then made up a fingerprint “poster” so that we had two options for coloring and even cutting up into a puzzle. Here are the two printables:

fingerprint-printable

Download the “no two fingerprints…” PDF / JPG

fingerprint-printable-large

Download the “fingerprint” PDF / JPG

Toby had lots of fun with this.  If your child is interested, the larger printable would be perfect for examining fingerprint ridge patterns.  You could even use a sheet of tracing paper (or parchment paper) laid over top to practice tracing skills.

Overall, we both enjoyed learning about fingerprints, and Toby even remembered that Zebras can be identified by their stripes, just like fingerprints (thanks to his Zoo Books magazines!).  Now, make sure to take a peek at the images below; click on an image to enter gallery view mode!

 

A-Z STEM SeriesThis post is part of the A-Z STEM Series (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for Kids.

Throughout January, many wonderful bloggers are working their way through the alphabet of great kids STEM activities perfect for home or school.

These kids STEM activities will be specifically geared for preschool through early elementary ages. Each letter of the alphabet will be represented with a different STEM activity for science, technology, engineering, and math.

By the end of the month, you will have an amazing resource to use with your students and/or children!

Learning About Bugs

posted in: Learning | 2

Learning About BugsToby has been itching to use his science kit (received as a gift from one of his creative aunts!).  So I thought a good way to kick things off would be to learn about bugs! No, not real bugs (like when we captured a praying mantis, or when we observed butterflies, or even like our outdoor photo scavenger hunt.

No, this activity would be indoors (it’s winter here), and with preserved specimens. I was actually excited for Toby to start examining the bugs, as my father spent his childhood years collecting and preserving many different insects, and as a child, I loved looking at all the different bugs that had been carefully captured, labeled, and mounted on pin heads.

Science Kit Components

The science kit included the following (#afflinks), and will be the perfect compliment to the critter house #afflink that we got Toby!

Other things we might add to the box?

I’m going to let pictures tell most of the story.  But, in short, I let my toddler lead this open-ended activity.

What did we do to learn about bugs?

Look at bugs up close.  

We looked at the bugs under a magnifying glass, examining their eyes, legs, and bodies. Toby noticed that some bugs had larger eyes than others, so we talked about the reasons for that, given the nature of the particular bug.

Shine lights through the bugs.

Some of the bugs had translucent parts, while others did not. Toby liked looking at the wings, and the tiny hairs that some of the bugs had on their bodies.

Stack and count the “bug blocks.”

What toddler wouldn’t want to play with the acrylic blocks as a building toy?  Toby had fun organizing them and counting… we have been working on addition skills lately so we did some simple math problems (i.e.  3 bugs + 4 bugs = 7 bugs).

Trace outlines of bugs onto paper.

While we both enjoyed this part of our activity, Toby asked me to trace at least one bug’s shadow, since his fine motor skills aren’t quite as good as mine.  But he enjoyed practicing.

Examine bug anatomy.

We discussed the anatomy of a bug, complete with diagrams and arrows, conveniently added to the bug outlines we’d made earlier.  I kept the anatomy simple, but we could have gone into more detail if Toby’s interest hadn’t waned: abdomen, thorax, and head.

Make a bug puzzle.

This activity went on the back burner for another day, but there are plenty of bug coloring pages out there on the internet — I’d planned to print one out and make a puzzle like the puzzle we made of Martin Luther and his wife.

See how we learned about bugs…

And no, the photo gallery I promised you. Toby had a great time, and was perhaps a little too entralled with his flashlight. That being said, the photos will give you a better idea of how we did the activities mentioned above.

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

 

A-Z STEM SeriesThis post is part of the A-Z STEM Series (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for Kids.

Throughout January, many wonderful bloggers are working their way through the alphabet of great kids STEM activities perfect for home or school.

These kids STEM activities will be specifically geared for preschool through early elementary ages. Each letter of the alphabet will be represented with a different STEM activity for science, technology, engineering, and math.

By the end of the month, you will have an amazing resource to use with your students and/or children!

Make a Yearly Time Capsule

posted in: Parenting | 6

Make a Yearly Time CapsuleAs we were relaxing after a whirlwind spree of Christmas celebrations, I started thinking ahead towards the new year.  As adults, we often make resolutions and promises to ourselves, but how could that concept be reinterpreted for kids?  It reminded me of a scene in one of the Berenstain Bears books , where Sister Bear gets to compare her drawings and handwriting from when she was 5 and 6 years old — to help her see how far she’s come (The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday #afflink).

And then it hit me — we could make a yearly time capsule for the boys to fill each year after Christmas!  The capsule could be stored away with all our holiday decorations, so I wouldn’t need to remember where it got stashed… and have the bonus of being brought out every year since we always get our house decorated to some extent (some years more than others).

So, I found a cute tea tin that we’d received a present in, and had Toby decorate a panel of paper with Dot a Dot markers #afflink.  The markers were one of Toby’s gifts from Christmas.  I have to say, these are the greatest things ever.  The fun of paint, without the prep work, mess, or cleanup.  Toby had fun putting dots all over the paper.  Meanwhile, I cut out a family photo of us.

We then used a glue stick to coat the backs of both items, and fastened them to the tin can.  Toby ran around the house with our time capsule excitedly for a few minutes; then it was my turn to write “time capsule” on the side.

After that, we filled the capsule with a variety of items:

  • Zack’s baby stats
  • Toby’s favorite things and “interview questions” that were included in our Christmas card
  • outlines of the boys’ hands
  • a family photo
  • pictures of the boys
  • favorite presents we each received
  • favorite presents we each gave
  • favorite thing we ate over the holidays
  • Toby’s artwork

Toby wanted to put a toy in the capsule too, but once I explained he wouldn’t be able to use it until next year, he decided against that.

bphotoart-yearly-time-capsule-2

We had a lot of fun filling this yearly time capsule, and I envision it becoming a treasured family tradition.  Maybe I’ll even document or scrapbook the contents each year… who knows?

Have you ever made a time capsule?  What were the most popular items you put inside?  What would you put inside a yearly time capsule?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

A Train Ride to See Santa

posted in: Local | 0

A Train Ride to See Santa on the Southern Michigan RailroadSince my toddler LOVES trains, and because this year he was old enough to fully appreciate Santa, I went online searching for something akin to Santa train rides (or a Polar Express experience).  I discovered that in Owosso, Michigan, you can buy tickets to ride on the actual Polar Express train — the Pere Marquette 1225 — through the Steam Railroading Institute.  The tickets include a stop at the North Pole, and a visit with Santa… and apparently the event sells out quickly.  The only thing left, when I got to their booking site, was the caboose — which is for 12 people, and could be rented out for $1500.  Not exactly what we were looking for… at least not this year, right?

So I finally found a (more local) alternative.  The Southern Michigan Railroad offers Santa train rides in Clinton, Michigan!  There were tickets available, both in coach and in the caboose (it costed about $40 for the three of us – baby was free).  The 30 minute train ride started and ended at the Clinton Station; and after the ride you could visit Santa inside said station.

The Santa train ride, believe it or not, was perfect for us this year.  Toby is nuts about trains, but the 30 minute train ride was just the right length.  Anything longer and he would’ve been jumping out of his seat; someone was antsy to see Santa.  We reserved seats in the caboose, but due to logistics, on the day of our ride, we did end up sitting in coach.  No matter, the ticket price was the same.

When the train arrived back at the station, everyone piled out and raced to the train station to see Santa.  Toby loved every minute of it.  He was actually so enthralled with the model trains inside the station that he ended up telling Santa he wanted a train (another one, hah) for Christmas.  Go figure.  Zack happily joined his big brother with Santa for a photo op — we did have to pry that long beard out of some baby fingers afterwards!

Here are some pictures from our train ride to see Santa; enjoy!  Click on an image to open in gallery view mode.

The whole Santa experience has been interesting for us this year.  We also saw Santa at the country club.  And when making plans for dinner that night, we were a little unsure how to proceed (that whole “two Santas” thing).  Fortunately, we’d read The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear #afflink, which tactfully addresses why there are Santa bears in all the malls, how Santa can visit houses without chimneys, or travel without snow.

And when the boys get to the age where they begin to question the magic of Santa… I just found the perfect response: How to Ensure You Don’t Botch the “Is Santa Real?” Conversation.  Seriously. Read that post.  It is magical.  And so sweet.  And is the perfect way to focus on the giving, sharing, joyful aspects of Christmas rather than the “let down” of a shattered dream about Santa.  I’m not sure how my parents handled the Santa conversation; frankly, I don’t remember.  But Santa was only an accessory to Christmas for me, growing up.

And that’s how we want things to be around here for our boys.  Yes, Santa is great.  I want them to experience the magic of Santa… the joy of setting out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.  But Santa has his place.  He’s not the main reason for Christmas, but a symbol of selfless giving.  I don’t want Santa to get the credit for the best gifts!  (yes, I’m selfish that way, lol).  So we’ve relegated Santa’s offerings to the stockings… and one or two gifts to be placed under the tree in the wee hours of Christmas morning.

How do you celebrate Christmas?  Do you acknowledge Santa’s “existence” or do you fill your kids in on the real deal?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Make a Photo Frame Ornament with Crayons!

posted in: Notes | 3

Make a Photo Frame Ornament With Crayons!

For my son’s preschool holiday party, I offered to make ornaments for the kids.  I’d been planning on making some sort of photo ornament, but when I saw a crayon ornament on Pinterest, I was inspired.  My variation might not work as well for a school photo due to the triangular shape, but I really like how it turned out.

The crayons perfectly frame the picture, and I even found a creative way to include a slot for threading ribbon.

Materials Needed (#afflinks):

The first thing you’ll want to do is print out your photo.  Or find a photo that you are willing to cut up.  We had this one on the computer, and I was (unfortunately) out of color ink the day we made this craft.  That’s why I did a black and white photo… but I actually like how it turned out!  If your crayons are “standard” sized, then you should be able to use a 3.5×5 photo to make your ornament.

Next, you’ll need to select three crayons for the project.  I made a number of these (one for each child in Toby’s class), and can attest that they look best with 3 different colors… or with three of the same color.

Lay out your three crayons in a triangle shape on your cardboard.  You’ll probably want to use a pen (or crayon, whatever’s easiest) to sketch out the equilateral triangle.

Then cut out the triangle.  Check and see how the crayons will fit (note that I made my triangle sides go from the butt end of the crayon to the edge of the paper near the tip.  The last part of this step is to cut off the end of one corner — this is where you’ll thread the ribbon later.

Now it’s time to assemble your ornament.  Using your hot glue gun, run a bead of glue along one of the triangle’s edges, then put the crayon in place.  Repeat this for the remaining sides, making sure that two of the crayons’ pointy ends will meet where you cut off the corner of the triangle.  Although, they don’t have to meet perfectly.

Now, flip over the ornament, and add a blob of glue anywhere that needs reinforcing (I did the “bottom” two corners).  Then, take a little strip of cardboard and cut it to a little less than an inch.  This will go at the top of the ornament, ensuring your ribbon has someplace secure to hang.  After a dry fit, put two dabs of glue on the cardboard and then put into place.

On the back (non-photo) side, I used metallic markers to write my son’s name and the year.

Cut a piece of ribbon, thread it through, and tie a knot… then you’re done!

Honestly, the longest part of this project was designing it.  Once I knew how to do it, these crayon ornaments were easy to make!

Nite Lights – Christmas Light Show

posted in: Local | 2

Nite Lites at the Jackson County FairgroundsJust a week or so ago, I learned about Nite Lites at the Jackson County Fairgrounds, one of the largest Christmas light shows in all of Michigan.  I was elated, and told my husband we had to go.  He agreed.

You see, both of us remember going to Domino’s Farms in Ann Arbor to see the Christmas light show.  It was an event; my parents and my brother, along with my grandparents, would all pile in the car for a driving tour of the elaborate light displays.  I think my favorite part was the “tunnel” of lights.  And since that light show had been discontinued years ago, it hadn’t crossed our minds.  That is, until a local parent told me about Nite Lites.

Nite Lites is a 2 mile long car ride through an elaborate light show, complete with train rides, games for kids, the option to see Santa, and more.  It draws around 37,000 people annually — how did we not know about this?  I feel like we’ve been hiding under a rock or something.

Anyways, we took the boys out for our annual Christmas dinner (dubbed as such because we give the waitress an especially nice tip), and then headed to see the light show.

When we arrived, the line of cars waiting was about a mile long, and we spent a number of minutes inching forward while Toby was practically jumping out of his seat in excitement.

Once we were inside the fairgrounds, Toby was allowed out of his carseat, and he rode shotgun with me for the light show.  Toby was brimming with excitement as he peered through the front windshield, craning his neck to count the big candles by the “official” entrance.

As we passed each item of interest, Toby would declare, “that’s my favorite too!”  He liked the semi truck, the train bearing presents, Rudolph bowling (complete with animation), to name a few.  It really brought back the magic of Christmas for me, that feeling of excitement and childhood wonder.  I’m so glad we were able to let Toby experience the same thrill of seeing such elaborate Christmas light displays.  Zack slept through the light show, of course, but no matter.  This will definitely be an experience that we repeat in the years to come.  Nite Lites met and surpassed our expectations!

While nothing compares to the actual experience of driving through a light show, I figured you might enjoy seeing a few smartphone captures from our drive.

Last share from the light display…a video!

A video posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@bphotoart_com) on

If you want to visit Nite Lites 2014, there is still time!!  The Christmas light show (which went up November 27th) runs until December 30th at the Jackson County Fairgrounds — every evening, 5:30 – 9:00 pm.   It costs $15 per vehicle, or $30 per bus.  So bring the family!

Why you shouldn’t wrap your kid in Christmas lights for photos

posted in: Parenting | 11

Don't wrap your kid in Christmas lights for photos ...why? lead exposure!Around this time of year, it’s inevitable that I see photos of kids happily decked out in Christmas lights.  Hey, I know I helped trim the tree when I was young!  But there’s a difference between helping put the lights on the tree and deliberately wrapping a kid in Christmas lights.  And either way, there may be a hidden danger that has flown under your radar.

Lead exposure.  

Most Christmas lights come bearing California’s Prop 65 warning, which alerts consumers that the products may be carcinogenic and cause birth defects (lead is used in the plastic coating that insulates the wires of Christmas lights).  Jeanne Roberts of Greenhome.com writes:

 Lighting manufacturers readily admit there is lead in the PVC (polyvinyl chloride) used to insulate holiday lights from contact with water, or to prevent exposed wires which could cause a fire or electrocution … Over time, in the presence of sunlight and heat, the PVC portion of blinds, toys and light strings deteriorates, releasing lead as a form of “dust” indistinguishable from ordinary household dust. [Read more]

In a 2010 USA today article about avoiding a toxic Christmas, three sources of concern are Christmas lights, artificial trees, and candles. The article also discusses ways to minimize exposure.  But as was noted by pediatrician Philip Landrigan (Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY):

…lead-based paint in windows is a far greater source of lead poisoning than individiual [sic] consumer products, especially ones such as Christmas decorations, which are used for only a few weeks a year.

When used normally, your child will likely have minimal exposure to lead.  After all, the Christmas lights are meant to be wrapped around the tree, not to be used as a toy.  Christmas lights aren’t something that your child should be touching for any extended length of time, and certainly not something to be played with or wrapped around a child’s body.

So it shouldn’t really be a problem.  That is, unless you are considering taking it upon yourself to duplicate those “adorable” kid wrapped in Christmas light photos.

And, lead exposure aside, why mess with electricity?  We spend so much time teaching our kids not to play with outlets, how it’s unsafe, yada yada yada… but in the pursuit of “the perfect Christmas picture” we fling common sense to the wind?  Yes, unfortunately, sometimes life does work that way.

Just like taking portraits on train tracks is a bad idea… it’s a bad idea to risk lead exposure for the sake of a cute photo.

But please ….please… now that you know, please don’t go wrapping your kids in Christmas lights any more.

Some further articles on the topic.

Cocoa Salt Dough Ornaments

posted in: Parenting | 1

bphotoart-cocoa-ornaments-Toby was excited to make salt dough ornaments again this year (last year we made gluten-free ornaments during a playdate).  After our Polar Express hot cocoa activity, Toby was ready to write off cocoa powder as being “yuck” …so I decided we would scrap the entry level stuff and just save our Godiva hot cocoa powder #afflink for any future ingestion.

So, what to do with several cups’ worth of cocoa powder no one in our house enjoys?  I suppose I could’ve given it away, but we decided to try our hand at making cocoa powder ornaments.  This is an adaptation of a salt dough recipe I’ve used before.

Cocoa Salt Dough Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 c. flour
  • 2/3 c. salt
  • 1 c. water

Directions:

  • Combine all dry ingredients, mix well.  Add water; blend until well combined.
  • Roll out onto flat surface and cut into shapes with cookie cutters.  Transfer to baking sheet.
  • Poke holes for hanging with the end of a chopstick.
  • Bake at 275 F for 30-60 minutes per side, or until dried.
  • Minimize cracking by leaving the ornaments in oven to cool.

So, there you have it.  These ornaments have held up pretty well so far.  I’d say they’re a bit brittle, but maybe that’s just because Toby dropped several on the wood floor and they broke.  Can’t expect them to be unbreakable, right?

You can either thread ribbon through the holes or just use the metal hangers… your choice!  We hung them on the tree with our popcorn garland!

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