Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pumpkin Collage Card

For this craft we cut a pumpkin shape out of a folded piece of card stock, not cutting around the top fold so it was a card that opened up. Then my octopus glued on orange paper squares on the front and then made a face with cut black shapes. He finished it up by coloring the stem with marker. On the inside he wrote to his friend. Easy peasy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Leaf Rubbings

The other day my kindergartener wanted to collect leaves and send them to relatives. Since I am pretty sure everyone in our family has plenty of their own leaves falling in copious amounts on their lawns at the moment, I suggested we do something more artistic with the leaves we found. We settled on the easy to do and totally satisfying leaf rubbing. It takes no time at all and not much in the way of materials and they're ones I'm sure you have.

What You Need:
broken, unwrapped lengths of crayon (we love a craft that uses these- I hate to toss them, but who needs broken crayons!?)
white paper
flat fall leaves (We made ourselves a little adventure just collecting these.)
masking tape, optional.

What You do:
  1. On one piece of white paper lay out your leaves in whatever pattern you chose.
  2. Lay the paper you're going to color on flat on top of your leaves Secure it in the corners with tape. This helps to keep it from moving when your octopus is rubbing.
  3. Take a broken bit of crayon and rub it along the paper, over the leaves, on its side (not the ends!)
  4. Watch your leaves come out!
My kid really loved doing this a lot more than I expected. It was kind of like digging for treasure (or fossils!). He never knew which leaf was going to pop up and the more colors he used the better it came out.

A neat thing to do with an older kid would be to collect one of several varieties and label the rubbings with the tree species.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dying Rainbow Macaroni for Crafts

 I just felt the need to dye colorful macaroni and make necklaces with my octopi the other day. It turns out it's not at all hard to do. In fact it's easy and fun and the end result is brilliant!

We used rubbing alcohol to dye ours but I have read you can use vinegar as well which would be more friendly to kids who tend to put things in their mouths, but from our experience the alcohol worked really well to get vibrant colors. I haven't tried vinegar so I can't say if one's better than the other.

Pasta is a really cheap product. We bought a couple different varieties for a dollar a box- penne, ziti and ziti rigotti. Anything with a hole will work but the straighter pastas like the ziti rigotti and penne worked best for my 3 and 5 year olds for stringing so consider avoiding elbow macaroni when working with preschoolers.

This is a quick and easy project that little hands can lend a hand with. The dying alone is a family project. I like a craft where the process is just as fun as the product. Otherwise, what's the point?

And the projects you can DO with the end results are endless. Necklaces and mosaics. Christmas tree strings. They can be used for sorting shapes and colors and sizes. Counting, adding, subtracting. Practicing fine motor skills of stringing.


Here's What You Need:
  • pasta with holes, straight tube-like pasta is best (although the slightly curved ziti did dye the best!)
  • food coloring in red, yellow, blue (and green cause that's how it comes you know!)
  • rubbing alcohol (we used isopropyl)
  • ziplock bags (we used freezer bags and they still seeped a little at the zippers, so beware and maybe double up!)
  • paper towels
  • 1 cup measuring cup
  • tablespoon

Here's What You Do:
  1. Decide how many different colors you are going to make and get out that many bags.
  2. In each bag, measure 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol.  (Or even a 1/2 tbs might be fine.)
  3. Drop 10-15 drops of food coloring in each bag of alcohol to make your colors.
  4. Meanwhile have your octopus fill the one cup measuring cup with the pasta(s) of his choice. Heap it on there. Let him dump it all in one of the bags while you hold it up. (Don't let the dye out, yuck!)


5. Close it up realllll tight and let him squish that pasta all around in the dye.

6. Repeat with all your colors.

7. After they're mixed up really well, lie the bags flat on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet.


 8. Let them sit there for a couple hour, flipping every so often. *We did two and a half hours for the red, orange, yellow and green. But purple and blue just did not come out as well as I wanted (what're you gonna do- pasta is yellow in nature!) so I dyed them a second time in 1/2 tbs rubbing alcohol and more dye and repeated the process for another 2 hours. This time they came out nicely!*

9. When the pasta has reached your desired hues, drain out the excess liquid from the bags.

10. Dump each color of  pasta in one layer, not touching the other pastas, onto paper towel-lined cookie sheets, plates, whatever.

11. Let dry. If it's a sunny day put them out there and they will dry in no time! Our pasta was ready to use in 30 minutes on a hot sunny day.

12. Admire your beautiful pasta. I couldn't help but layer it all in a big jar like a rainbow. It was just so pretty too look at!

Making Necklaces with your Pretty Pasta.

Tie a piece of pasta onto the end of a length of yarn (a couple feet will do it.). Tape the other end for ease of stringing. Let your octopus get to work stringing macaroni. When he's all done, untie the pasta end, leave the pasta there or take it off, and tie the two ends together. Easy peasy.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Campfire Craft

 I'm not sure how it happened really. One minute we got the tent out from its hiding place under the couch. (If you don't stow stuff under there you should!) and then we were making a lake out of blue blankets and crafting a campfire out of paper for roasting cotton ball marshmallows. In the end, "camping" became quite the creative production. And it's even better because in a couple weeks I won't feel that badly about throwing it out- provided I can sneak it past the bosses.

The boy scouts are good campfire builders. We are good pretend fire builders. Smokey would be proud. And this is how we did it.

What You Need:

for your fire:
  • red and orange construction paper
  • scissors
  • glue and maybe scotch tape

Here's What You Do:
  1. 1. To make your fire: Cut out flames the long way out of your construction paper, leaving the bottom edge nice and straight and untouched. I drew out an easy zigzag flame shape and handed it over to my 4 year old to cut- good practice! 
  2. Out of leftover scrap, cut more flame shapes and paste them onto the bigger pieces here and there and wherever.
  3. glue the edge of one side onto the edge of the other side so you have a ring of fire.
  4. Cut out little u-shaped mouse holes along the bottom edge for your "firewood" to go through so the fire stands nice and straight on top instead of falling over.

for your kindling and fire wood:
  • brown paper
  • glue and some scotch tape
  • scissors

What You Do:
  1. Cut your brown paper into varying widths by 9" or so. Honestly, it's not a science and I have no idea what length we cut. 
  2. Roll each strip nice into a stick and glue it closed or tape it shut. We did both. It did not want to stay.
  3. Stick your sticks through the mouse holes you cut in your fire to make it look like they're on, well, fire.

for your marshmallows on a stick:
  • brown pipe cleaners
  • cotton balls
  • white electrical tape to keep the balls neat
  • scissors.

What You Do:
  1. Snip your cotton balls from top to bottom but only half-way through so that you can "unroll" them a little. 
  2. Wrap the snipped cotton balls around your pipe cleaner. 
  3. Wrap a length of white electrical tape around the marshmallow to help it keep its marshmallowy form. (We experimented and did some on the top and bottom of the marshmallows too but really it just looked better when we wrapped the sides of the cylinder in one go and it was way easier to do too.) Now you'll be able to pull on and off your untoasted and roasted marhsmallows to eat right up.
  4. Roast those puppies over your fire.

Who knows, maybe you can even con your kids into taking a nap "under the stars" when they're done. I wish I had!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Printable: Pop-up Birdie

We have a robin's nest in our yard and the babies have just fledged. This is what inspired this pop-up chick in a nest.

The Printable:

Print it up on heavy card stock. Color and cut out all the pieces. Don't forget to cut along the dotted line in the nest for the bird to pop up through! Assemble by slipping the bird through the slit from under and behind the nest. Glue the little tab on the back on either side of the pop-up bird's pull tab so that it holds the tab straight but also so that the bird can still move up and down. Do not glue the bird piece at all, just the short tab to the back of the nest. You might also want to reinforce the bird's pull tab with a popsicle stick. Now pull and push the bottom of the stick to make your chick move!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pipe Cleaner Rainbow

Whatever you call them- pipe cleaners, chenille stems- they are a great crafting material. They're fuzzy, they're bendy. You can twist them up and twist them together. You can use them for making animals, as stems on flowers (heck, I use them in the kitchen to clean out those nasty straws on sippy cups too.).

Yesterday, after way too much television, it was time to do something with our hands and creativity. Spiff and I decided we wanted to make a rainbow. But we're pretty bored with paper rainbows. Ah ha, I had just bought pipe cleaners for another project that very morning. Of course there were a rainbow of colors. But gluing them onto paper is pretty boring, and also pretty frustrating frankly. Pipe cleaners don't lend themselves much to the 2D or glue. But they do have nifty bending powers and they do have prickly ends just suited for sticking them into things. Like an egg carton. And, voila, our rainbow craft was born.

What You Need:
  • Pipe cleaners in the colors of the rainbow
  • an egg carton
  • craft glue
  • cotton balls
  • an embroidery needle or pencil or paper clip end for poking.

What You Do:
  1. Rip the top of your egg carton off so you just have the bumps. Cut the bumpy bottom of you egg carton down the middle the long way so you have a long row of 6 cups.
  2. In each second cup in from the ends, poke a line of holes with your needle for each of your pipe cleaners. This is where we'll shove the ends through. So you'll have a hole for each end of each stem.
  3. Bend the purple pipe cleaner into an arch, push one end through the innermost hole on each side. pull them ends so it'll be small enough to fit inside the next color. Do the same with blue in the neighboring holes, green in the next one, yellow in the next, orange, then red. Adjust the ends if you have to so they fit inside each other.
  4. Now bend up the ends so they tuck nicely into the cup on the underside. Now you have your rainbow.
  5. Let's make some clouds! (Because egg cartons are ugly.) Stretch several cotton balls so they're wispy and glue them all around and on top of the exposed egg carton.

And that's all there is to it! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hoppy Frog Goodies

 Spiff is celebrating his summer birthday in school on Monday with the other summer birthday boys. I wanted to give the kids in his class a small little goody for the occasion to go along with the cupcakes. Especially since Spiff's preschool days are over in only 3 days! (Say, what? When did that happen!?) I found a 2 dollar bag of rubber frogs at Target (I know our craft store Michael's sells them too in the toy bin) and we printed these little cards to stick them on. Spiff signed his name on the back of all of them and has decided which kid gets which (we'll see if that works out.) He's excited to hand them out on Monday and I feel like we got a cute, big idea for easy work and cheap money. Win, win!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Painted Pots

We used Decoart Patio Paints (I bought a sample pack on clearance in the flower section at our craft store.) on dollar ceramic pots to make pretty pots that can stay outside all summer and sit on our windowsills when winter comes. Supposedly with Patio Paints you don't need to seal the art once the pot is painted. If you can't find patio paints you can use acrylic craft paints, but you might want to put a coat of exterior varnish (such as Ceramcoat) on them. I was surprised at how long this project kept my 4 year old son entertained, and the 2 year old did a bang-up job (thankfully not literally!) too. They also really enjoyed picking out their own plants to put in and potting them.  I think I'm going to have the kids paint some of the rocks in my rock borders next to add more color to our yard.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Easy Pea-sy Garden Markers

It's planting season here in New England. Sometimes it's hard to remember where you planted what. We made these cute little garden markers to remind us using just a little patio paint (I bought a sampler pack on clearance in the flower pot section at our craft store) on some leftover shims (you can get a bunch at your local hardware store for a couple dollars.). Now, I do actually know what and where my strawberry plants are especially since they are actually growing actual berries (and poison ivy, too, color me upset!) but they were so much fun to make and came out so cute, I made a marker for them anyway. And my tomatoes too! If you know what grows in your grandparents' gardens, they'd make a great  Mother's Day or Father's Day gift too. Cheap, cute and easy peasy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Paper Butterfly

With two sheets of construction paper and a pipe cleaner you can make a pretty butterfly to hang in your window or from your ceiling.

Things You Need:
  • 2 pieces of construction paper (or two magazine pages)
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 1 piece of string cut to about 30"
  • scotch tape (optional)

What You Do:
  1. Accordion fold one piece of paper every 1/2" or so lengthwise. (This means, fold and crease from one end half an inch, flip it over, fold it again a half an inch and so forth and so on until you get to the end of the page so that the paper is never closed in on itself and looks like an accordion.)
  2. Accordion fold the other piece every 1/2" or so width wise. 
  3. While still folded, fold each paper in half (as in fold the stack of folds you have to make like a "V" -so the two ends meet up and it kind of looks like a fan.)
  4. Now you have two pairs of wings, each set a different length.
  5. Fold the pipe cleaner in half and twist up two inches from the bent closed end, leaving the two ends free. (These will be the antennae.)
  6. Now place the wings in the pipe cleaner so the two loose ends of pipe cleaner sandwich the wings and the wings rest on the top of the twist, or butterfly body. (If you want, tape the wings together first around the middle bends.)
  7. Place the middle of the string here too. That will be your hanger.
  8. Twist the rest of the pipe cleaner up so the wings are set in place, making the top of the butterfly body.
  9. Separate the two "antennae" and twirl the ends.
  10. Tie the two ends of string together to make your loop from which to hang your butterfly.
         Trust me, this is all easier done than said.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Magnets for Mom (or Anybody!)

Mother's Day is right around the corner. So you know what that means. Us Moms wrack our brains for crafty, useful ideas that little hands can do to give to the OTHER Moms in our kids' lives. (If we're lucky, Dad will help them do something for us, right?!) This week my octupi and I crafted these nifty magnets. They were super easy and, I think, you can never have too many magnets. After all, you need SOMETHING to with which to hang all the other artwork the kids give you!

What You Need:
  • wooden plaques. I found a package of 6 business card sized ones in the wood crating aisle at Michael's.
  • primer (we do so much room-painting in this house I have a can in the basement almost always)
  • magnets. Self-adhesive ones are even better. Use hot glue if they aren't self-adhesive.
  • acrylic craft paints. Yes, it's messy, make sure you have smocks and paper lining your work surface.
  • water in a jar for rinsing
  • paper towels for drying rinsed brushes
  • paper plate for paints.
  • water-based polyurethane.
  • brushes for painting and brushes for sealing.

What You Do:
  1. A day ahead, prime the wood plaques on one side.
  2.  Next day, get your work surface ready for mischief by covering it with newspaper or brown paper. Drip some paint onto a paper plate palette.  Get out your jar of water, paper towels, brushes. Lay out your primed plaques.
  3.  Call in the beasts to paint. Let the artworks dry overnight (or for another day if you have a paint blobber like I do.)
  4.  Brush on two coats of poly, leaving them to dry in between coats.
  5.  When dry, stick magnets on the back. 
  6. Give away on Mother's Day. Or on ANY day. And maybe even keep one or two.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rice Krispie Treat Nests

In spirit of Spring, we did a little twist on the traditional Rice Krispie Treat. Using the regular old recipe from Rice Krispies we made birds' nests. Instead of spreading the sticky mess into a pan, we let it cool for a couple minutes (to make it more moldable.). Then we greased up a 1/4 c. measuring cup and scooped balls onto greased cookie sheets. We shaped them a little with greased up hands so they resembled ice cream scoops and then flipped them so the flat sides were up. Then making a little indentation in the middle we stuck some Cadbury Mini Eggs into the centers. Cute, simple, delicious. I suspect you can do just about anything with this edible Floam...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter Bunny Card

This was a really simple card to make. All you need is some scissors, colored paper (maybe card stock) and some glue. And maybe a cotton ball. Here's what we did.

Cut a piece of 8.5 x 11' card stock in half width-wise so you have two pieces that are 5.5 x 8.5". Fold each in half so you have two 4.25x5.5" cards (which fit a size A-2 invitation envelopes perfectly.)

Glue a piece of blue construction paper the same size (or maybe even a smidge bigger) to the card front. Trim if necessary.

Cut a strip of green paper about 1.5-2" wide an d4.5" long. holding it the long way, snip with scissors cuts that don't go the whole width every 1/8" or so the entire length. Now you have grass. I like to "ruffle" it a little to give it some depth. Now glue that onto the bottom.

Cut out of regular old white paper a bunny (or two) and an Easter egg (or a dozen) if you want. Glue those guys into the grass. Add some color.

We also pulled a small piece of cotton from a cotton ball and glued that to the bunny's butt for a fluffy tail.

All done! Easy peasy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rainbow Cupcakes

Thanks to Disney's Family Fun we found this recipe for rainbow cupcakes. They were the perfect thing to bring to Spiff's school color picnic this month. It's Rainbow month. These cupcakes were very time-consuming to make- about an hour before you even get them in the oven (and the layering is not for the little ones, though the color mixing is great for counting and learning colors.) but the results are worth it! (You know, to make them once or twice a year anyway.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Easy Rainbow Cupcakes

Just add Skittles and taste the rainbow.

To get all the colors, buy an original package and a wild berry package of Skittles.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Leprechaun Trap

Leprechauns are tricky. If you ever want to see one, you have to be clever. They're attracted to rainbows and gold. They love to eat potatoes. Decorate an old shoe box with rainbows and gold. Sprinkle in some shamrocks if desired. My son insisted a colorful blanket would convince a passing-by Leprechaun to take a snooze, but just in case we baited our trap with a potato. Prop the shoe box lid open with a wooden spoon or ruler and- Voila! You have yourself a Leprechaun trap. When he comes by (which he will- how could he resist such glitz and glam!?) he will fumble around inside trying to get the potato out and knock the spoon with his caboose. Then the lid will close and- BAM! You've got him! Or do you? He might escape and only leave behind some gold-foiled coins and a mess!

St. Patty's Day Wreath

Wreaths are always a festive thing to make and can be as simple to do as it is fun. With little kids, I kept it easy as I could. We cut out a ring from cardboard rescued from the recycling bin. We painted it with rainbow dotters and decorated it with shamrocks cut from construction paper and "gold coins" cut from old gold card stock I had kicking around from another project. This was all recycled goods from the desk. We finally hung it with green yarn from the yarn bag looped through a hole. Sure, you could get fancier but free is nice and you won't feel badly recycling it when St. Patty's day is over. ;-)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Game: Color Hop

This is a very simple game my 4 year old and 2 year old like to play. I started playing it to help my 2 year old with his colors in a fun way and get a little exercise but my 4 year old also thinks it's fun. (I must admit, as an adult, I get bored of it a lot quicker!)

What You Need:
9 different colors of construction paper. (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, white and black is what we have.)
A piece of white paper.

The Set Up:
Set up the nine sheets of paper in a 3x3 grid on the floor.
Cut the white paper into 9 equal squares and draw on each one of the 9 colors.

What You Do:
Whoever is "It" has the stack of cards face down. "It" flips over the top card and calls out the color. The first player runs or jumps to stand on that color. Then just go it rounds so everybody playing gets a turn several times. No winners, it's just fun way to learn colors! We take turns being "It", switching whenever we get through the 9 colors once.

Friday, February 10, 2012

5 on Friday: Paint

Of course you can use brushes to paint but beyond them there are a lot of other fun and different ways to make a neat painting. These are all cheap ideas you can dispose of afterward. Makes clean up a lot easier.

1. Q-tips.
Put one in each color to prevent too much mixing and brown paint. It really bugs my 4 year old when my 2 year old dips his red-covered paint brush into the yellow paint, then the blue, the green, the purple, the orange, making 6 different cups of brown, brown, brown.

2. Sponges
Cut them into different shapes and use them as stamps in paint.

3. Cotton Balls
Dip into different colors and press onto paper to make dots.

4. Toilet paper rolls
Either dip the ends in paint and stamp to make circles or dip the sides in and roll it onto paper to make blocks.

5. Potatoes
We used to cut potatoes in half and then an adult would cut a star shape out of the cut face so it was like a stamp. Then we'd stamp stars allover brown paper to make our own wrapping paper.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Games: Crazy Shapes

While Spiff and I were playing Crazy Eights the other night it occurred to me that it would be great to play it with shapes and colors as a fun way to commit those shapes to memory (and colors for Squidgee). I can't let an idea like that go, so of course I got to work. I made this printable deck of cards which he colored and we've already played about a dozen times. Most times I've lost, but who's counting? Oh yeah, Spiff.

The Printables:

Here's how you play. Pretty much it's Crazy Eights, but here's the longer version:

The Set-Up:
  • Shuffle the cards.
  • Deal out 5 cards to each player, face down.
  • Place the remainder of the cards face down in a pile between the players. This will be the Draw pile.
  • Flip one card over from the Draw pile and set it up face up next to the pile. This will be the Discard pile.

The Play:
  • Youngest player goes first, and play continues to each player clock-wise.
  • On each turn the player plays a card from his hand on top of the Discard pile that matches the top card in either Shape or Color.
  • If a player doesn't have a matching card, then the player draws from the Draw pile without playing a card and play continues to the next person.
  • If a player has a Wild Card, he can play it any turn regardless of what's on top of the Discard pile. He gets to choose which color- Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue or Purple (yeah, I know, I left out Indigo, I wonder when Spiff will notice.)- is to be played by the next player.

The Winner:
  • Whoever plays all of the cards in their hand first is the winner. Hooray!
Did I miss anything? Let me know. It's apt to happen!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentines: Bugs!

Here are some buggy valentines to give to your love bugs. Just print these up on some paper or card stock, color and cut. These fit in standard invitation envelopes. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Q-Tip Dino

Often I come across a craft that is so cute and easy and clever I just have to go home and do it with the kids even if it means buying white q-tips for a whole dollar at the store (pardon us, our q-tips had pink sticks.). We went to our local children's museum one day and all around the art room these guys were hanging:

Of course, having a couple dino-kids as I do, I was so excited to go home and try it. And then we did it again, and again. I think Spiff made about a dozen of these in one week alone. By the end of that week, I had moved onto Euplocephalus fossils just to do something different. Just cut out a dinosaur skull from white paper and make the appropriate black holes for eyes and nose. On a another piece of paper draw some lines for guides then go to town with glue and q-tips. Bend some for the feet, cut 3 into halves for ribs. Easy peasy and pretty darn cute. If we're calling dinosaur bones cute.

Friday, February 3, 2012

5 on Friday: Paper and Pencil Games

Here are a few great games to play out and about at a restaurant or in a waiting room. All you need is a pen and some paper. When I was a kid this was all my mother ever had in her purse (and if you were lucky, some Certs.) and usually the paper was a receipt or an old bill envelope (we got really excited if there wasn't a window in it. The little things!). Needless to say, we knew a lot of games you didn't need anything at all for, but that's a post for another day.

1. Tic-Tac-Toe:

I think it's safe bet everybody knows this game for two players, but it's a good oldie which is why everybody knows it.

What You Do:

You make a grid of 9 squares by drawing two lines across and two lines down. One player is X, the other is O. Take turns filling in one square at a time. The winner is the first to get three in a straight line, across, up-and-down or diagonally.

tip: When I had a hard time getting Spiff to practice his letters I used this game a lot, letting him choose whatever letter from the alphabet he wanted. He got a fun game and I got to feel like he was learning his letters. ;-) (Which he was!)

2. Hangman

This is one we used to play a lot in elementary school. It's a great way to practice spelling and any amount of people can play. We're not quite here yet in our house, but maybe you are!

What You Do:

Whoever is "It" picks a word or a phrase and draws a blank line for every letter. Like this: _ _ _ _
Then they draw a hangman's post (I feel morbid just saying that, but, hey, that's the game!). Looks sort of like a 1. The other player trying guessing which letters are in the word. A. No. Draw a head on your post. B. Yes. Fill in all the b's. (B_ _ _). So forth and so on until the players guess the word/phrase or you have a dead man on a stick. You can make the body as detailed or not as you want, just agree to it first. Whenever I played with little kids, I might add five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot just to give them a good chance, but usually it was a head, a body, two legs, two feet, two arms, two hands and a hat. I don't know why he had a hat. That's just how I was taught. ;-)

3. Squares (aka, Boxes, Dots and Boxes.)

This is one I've been playing a lot with my 4 year old Spiff. He really likes it. He's not very good at it yet, but he loves it, and it gives him good practice making some squares and helps him logic how to keep me from getting some. ;-)

What You Do:

Draw a grid of 16 dots, making it 4x4 dots. Two players take turns drawing lines up and down or across from one dot to a neighboring dot, trying to make squares. No diagonal lines, of course, then you don't have any squares but some rhombuses and triangles. When a player closes off a square by making the forth side they get to stick their initial in it. When all 9 squares have been made, count up each players squares. The player with the most wins.

Of course you can make even bigger grids if you want.

4. Heads and Bodies

This is another good game for little kids, and big ones too. And there's no winner or loser, just a fun collaborative art that will make you giggle.

What You Do:

Two or three (or maybe even four) players take turns drawing various body parts to make a whole person. Or animal. Or monster. We've come up with a few that really make us laugh, complete with floral bonnets and whoopie cushion shoes.

An alternative to this is to fold a piece of paper into thirds so it's three rectangles stacked on top of each other. One person gets to draw the head in the top rectangle. Another person the torso and arms. A third person the legs and feet. To really make it goofy, the players can hide their parts by folding them behind before giving it to the next artist.

5. Word Scramble

This is another we did a lot of in elementary school. It's really good for spelling and reading.

What You Do:

Pick a nice long word. Like, I don't know, pteranodon. Now all players try to list all the words (No places or names) they can find in that one word without using a letter more than once. You can put them in any order but the letters had all better be in the original word. Any word with three or more letters counts. So:



You get the idea. The person with the most words wins.

Of all of these, the three very preschool friendly games are: Tic, Tac, Toe, Heads and Bodies, and Squares (or Dots or whatever you want to call it.). I am thrilled that we have finally reached a stage when we don't need to cart toys everywhere and can wait for our dinners with just the back of a placemat and the crayons provided.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chinese New Year Lion Puppet

Every year we go into Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year with our good friend N. And every year Spiff comes back impressed and with an urgent need to be a lion. We make paper lions. Spiff gets out some plastic oranges from the play food bin and makes me drum away on our coffee table while he dances away. I must say, even with a four year old dictator, I mean, director, it's a pretty good show.

Here's how you make our New Year's Lion:

What You Need:
  • crayons, markers etc.
  • scissors
  • glue or tape
  • two popsicle sticks
  • piece of construction paper, any color
  • this printable printed up on cardstock:

The Printable:

What You Do:
The directions are on the printable but here goes anyway. Color the pieces on the cardstock. Cut them out.

Valley fold the inside of the mouth and glue the back of the head to the back of the fold so the pieces line up to complete the front.

Glue a popsicle stick on the back of each set of legs so there's a handle hanging down for each hand to grab.

Next cut out two 3" (ish) strips of construction paper and glue one end of one to one end of the either to make a long 17" strip. Accordion fold every inch or so the entire length.

Glue one end of that to the back of the front legs and the other end to the front of the back legs to complete your lion's body. (The first one I did I had the paper going vertical but Spiff didn't like it since it couldn't fit "over" his head. So on his we put the paper horizontally. I don't think it matters. They both looked great if you ask me, but kids are picky.)

Beat some pots and pans and make your lion dance.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sock Snowballs

We love snow and everything you can do in it. Snow forts, snow men, snow angels, sledding, snow ball fights. All of it. But, let's face it, sometimes it's just too cold and wet. It takes 30 minutes to get the kids bundled up and outside and about 30 seconds before Squidgee loses his mittens and cries over his cold, wet hands. The other day we built a snowman and by the time we crammed the carrot nose on nobody wanted to play outside anymore. So we came inside for a snowball fight. No puddles on the floor, no wet clothes, no crying over numb fingers and wet socks. When Squidgee got bored we didn't all have to stop and go in. It was just a good old fun snowball fight. With one twist. Our snowballs were socks.

Here's what you do:

Scrounge up 6 or so pairs of white adult (or kid) socks. Roll them into balls by putting them together like you're about to cuff the pair but then stuff the toes of both socks into the cuff of the outside sock. Keep pushing them in until the socks are all but swallowed up and look like balls. Divvy the balls and set up your boundaries and let loose! (and watch out for breakables. ) When your done, unroll them, cuff them together and put them back in Dad's drawer before he even misses them.

The other beauty of this is if you plan a Christmas in July holiday, this is a good "winter" activity for a warm summer day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tangram Game

Here are two smaller sets you can share with a friend and a puzzle worksheet too. Challenge each other to see who can solve pattern worksheets first. Or play solitaire to see how quickly you can solve them on your own!

Game Sets:

Printable Puzzle Sheet:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Make Your Own Tangrams

When I was in elementary school we had two math classes. One was your typical (boring, if you asked me) adding, subtracting, short division then onto long division class. Boring, right? The other was a sort of applied math. I don't know if it was the teacher who made it fun or the math which did but we played a couple games to help build our daily math skills that I remember well. One of these was a dice game where, in your head, you had to add or multiply the numbers on the faces of 5 dice to get the answer. If you were right you got to collect that many unit cubes. Whichever team had the most cubes at the end of the class won. That was a great learning game I highly recommend! (and all you need is some dice- and cubes I guess, but pennies would do too!)

The other task I remember well is completing tangram puzzles. Tangrams are a set of shapes all related to each other in size that form a square when a whole. Separate they are a set of two large triangles, 1 medium triangle, 2 small, a square and a parallelogram. When you put them together you can form endless amounts of shapes and pictures. They really are a lot of fun. In my math class we had silhouettes printed on paper that we had to replicate using the tangram shapes. All of them. It's a mental work-out but it's fun and great for the brain.

My kid's been a sickie. It's winter. We're stuck in the house. I remembered: TANGRAMS! I dug around until I found the set my grandfather had gotten me. They were missing a piece. Then I realized, well, duh, I can make my own. So I did. And so can you!

Really, all you need to do is make a grid divided evenly into 16 units on some cardboard. Probably the easiest is the inch. Then divide and cut your square using the following pattern. Or you could just print up the one I made above on to some good old cardstock. That's really the easiest way. And they make a nice big set for little hands. The best thing about tangrams is they will travel neatly. Just stick them in a ziplock bag and throw it in your purse for restaurant waits. And if you lose one? So what, make some more.

Tangrams for everybody!

(and at some point I'll make some pattern sheets, but really if you google tangrams, I'm sure loads of pictures will show up for you to use.)