Sunday, May 24, 2009

Great and Easy Snack - Ants on a Log

I was a Brownie (young Girl Scout) when I was in elementary school and I remember, among other things, a snack that was listed in the Girl Scout handbook (I still have a copy of it somewhere). It was called Ants on a Log and I still eat it even today!! So for those of you who were never a Girl Scout, here is that wonderful snack that is fun and easy to make and your kids will love it!!

Peanut Butter

Very simply, you peal the banana (the log) and smother with peanut butter (the bark) and sprinkle on some raisins (the ants). It is that simple!!

This is a very yummy treat indeed!! Happy eating!!

*Variations: You can use celery instead of bananas or use celery with cream cheese and cranberries or peanuts. You could also use pretzel sticks and chocolate sauce.

Homemade Version of Lunch-time Favorite

So many kids in my preschool class would bring those yummy frozen round peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. You know the ones I am talking about. They don't have crusts on them, cut in perfect round circles and stay in the freezer. They thaw out by the time the kids hit the lunch table. But when you buy them in the store they cost so much. I mean we are talking like $4-5 a box for only 4 of them!!! WHAT!!!

Here is a GREAT idea instead. Make them yourself. My friend Maria and her son would have a fun afternoon activity of making PB&J sandwiches from the whole loaf of bread to be frozen and saved for later. This was a great opportunity for them to talk about food and what goes into the things we eat and also getting him involved in making his own lunches. Kids are more likely to eat something if they have a hand in the preparation of it. Here is how you make your own, assembly line style.

Loaf of bread (white, wheat, doesn't matter, whatever your kids like)
Peanut butter
Jelly (my favorite flavor is strawberry)
Cookie cutter or wide-mouthed glass (you can make different shapes as well)
Ziploc bags
fork (to seal the edges closed)

Simply lay out the bread and slather with peanut butter and jelly. You may want to use the jelly sparingly as it will seep out the sides of the sandwich. Then, just cut out the center of the sandwich with your cookie cutter or glass and crimp the edges down with the fork (to seal the sandwich closed). Place in Ziploc bags and freeze. After the sandwiches have been in the freezer for about an hour, squeeze all of the air out of the bag so they don't get frost bite.

These will freeze for months and will thaw out by lunchtime.

Also, Pampered Chef makes a really awesome tool to use for this as well called the Cut-N-Seal(pictured below). This will save a few steps when making your own sandwiches. Make sure that you label the Ziploc bags with the date and the flavor of jelly or type of peanut butter if using multiple kinds. Happy Sandwich Making!!

Fun Card Game

So I was reading through various web pages today and found a really cool card game that would be really easy for small children. It may take a few times to get the hang of it but you can use different kinds of cards to play this games based on your child's skill level.


Directions: (slightly edited from the book's version)

3-13 players
Object: Get four cards of the same suit in your hand

Make a special deck of cards with four cards of the same suit for each player. (Example: If there are three players, make a deck with four hearts, four diamonds, and four spades.)
Shuffle and deal out all the cards.
Players look at their cards. If a player had four of the same suit dealt to him, he automatically wins.
If no one has four of the same suit, everyone discards one card face down to the person on their left.
Each player picks up their new card and adds it to their hand.

Repeat steps four and five until someone gets four of the same suit. This person is the winner.

For more options, play with UNO cards as they have different colors. You can use the colors instead of suits for younger children. Or make your own cards. You just need some sturdy paper (cardboard or card stock work well) and create some cards with shapes or colors. You could also use flash cards, you know, the ones that you use to teach your kids colors and shapes and such. Use the game cards from Candy Land as your cards. Use your computer to create personalized cards by placing your family members pictures on the card and the children have to get 4 cards with daddy on them to win. The possibilities are endless!!

The original game idea comes from Crazy Eights and Other Card Games by Joanna Cole

Basic Craft Supplies

So many people often ask what kind of stuff should you keep on hand for impromptu rainy day craft times. Well, I have compiled a list of MUST HAVES for most kid-art crafts. These are things readily available in most stores and are easy to store and inexpensive to buy.

Construction Paper - get the assorted pack. You can use construction paper for ANYTHING including just for coloring.

Crayons or Markers - you can NEVER go wrong with crayons and markers. These are essential tools for any budding artist.

Tissue Paper - This is fairly inexpensive and in some cases, free. Just save the tissue paper next time you get a gift. This can be used in a variety of ways. You can glue it to anything to add a little color and texture. Wad up small squares and add a 3-D look to any image.

Glue - Whether it is glue sticks, white glue, rubber cement, spray adhesive or hot glue guns Glue is a must have for craft projects. Now remember that each glue is different and each project is different. It is good to have multiple kinds of glue available to use as some things will only need a glue stick while other projects may need a heavier more sturdy glue. Either way, these different types of glue are inexpensive and last for a really long time.

Paper Plates - from masks to animals to Frisbees and beyond, paper plates are really easy to use for crafts. You can decorate them with just about anything and use your imagination to create wonderful masks or animals.

Paint - Who doesn't like to paint (well I don't like to paint big things like walls or houses, but little craft projects, heck yeah). One really good tip is buy powdered tempera paint. This can be found in most craft supply stores or look in your neighborhood parent-teacher store. This stores really easily and you can mix colors easily to create new ones. This is also really good to use because depending on how much water you add you can use this as finger paint (the thicker the better, lots of paint, little bit of water), water colors (the thinner the better, little paint, lots of water) or regular paint. I used empty water bottles (washed and dried) and would pre-mix some paint to have around as well. The powdered paint costs a little more but it lasts FOREVER!!!

Wooden Craft Sticks - You can use these for mask handles, build boxes, "log" houses, picture frames, and so much more. The list goes on and on for the uses of Wooden Craft Sticks. These are great to have on hand.

Sharpies or Permanent Markers - Now I know you must be thinking "I would NEVER give my child a permanent marker to color with" and you are correct!!! There are too many ways this could go wrong and too many things to ruin but it is handy to have a permanent marker for writing on these wonderful crafts that your children create that will never come off.

Scissors - Most people have scissors around the house but how many of you have kid scissors. Buy a couple of pair of kid scissors (they come in round or pointed tip, round are great for small children) and let the kids practice their cutting skills. Draw lines on a paper and have them cut along the line. This helps develop their fine motor skills and improve hand-eye coordination. Just make sure they don't run with them!!

I think you get the idea. There are countless things to add to your craft supplies such as buttons. My mom used to have this huge jar of buttons and I loved to think about all the things I could decorate with them. Use them as eyes or a nose or use them as a 3-D button on a picture. You can also add glitter, but as my sister pointed out after her daughter got into some glitter, it gets EVERYWHERE. Clothespins are a good addition as well. The ideas are endless. I think that these are good basics that each person should keep on hand for those rainy days.

Quick and Easy Christmas Gift

I know, it is just now May (not even July) and nowhere near Christmas time, but as I have said before, I write as they come to me. There is no rhyme or reason, just that if I don't write it down when it pops into my head, I will forget it!!

A few weeks ago I talked about making Christmas wrapping paper. Well today I am going to share a really easy and meaningful Christmas gift that your kids can make. This can also be use simply as a holiday decoration.

burlap (this can be purchased at a fabric store or Walmart stores in the fabric dept)
2 wooden dowels (the thickness doesn't really matter)
Craft Paint (NOT WASHABLE) - Red, Green and Yellow
old paint clothes (since the paint is not washable, protect your clothing)
hot glue gun with glue sticks
Christmas Ribbon

To begin, make sure that your work surface and child is fully protected as this paint is NOT WASHABLE. Cut the burlap to fit the wooden dowels. Lay the burlap out. Place a bead of hot glue along the edge and center one wooden dowel on top of glue. Continue gluing until the dowel is wrapped completely in burlap. Repeat for the bottom.

Once you have your "wall hanging" you are ready to paint. You are going to want to paint "upside down" meaning you are going to be painting with the fingers up but when hung, the fingers will be pointing down. To do this, you simply place the "top" of the burlap closest to your body and the "bottom" of the burlap away from you.

Starting with the green paint, paint your child's hand completely and paint a row of hand prints near the "bottom" of the burlap (furthest away from you). Make sure that you reload your child's hand with paint often. Making a pyramid, move up one row and repeat, the number of hands getting smaller and smaller. Repeat until you have only one hand print at the top. (see picture for clearer understanding). Wash the green paint completely from their hands and move on the next task.

With the red paint, simply paint the fingertips or the thumbprint in red and have the child paint the "ornaments" on the tree.

For the star at the top, you can either paint freehand with a paint brush or you can use your child's hand print (this time with the fingers facing UP, opposite than the tree). Simply cover the hand in yellow paint and place hand on top of tree. You can also use a star sponge.

After the painting is completely dry, you can write the child's name and date on the bottom of the hanging with a sharpie and glue some Christmas ribbon to the dowel to create a way to hang this wonderful Christmas surprise.

Paper Bag Crafts - Pumpkins

Paper bags are such an easy and inexpensive tool when it comes to crafts. You know the ones I'm talking about. We used to take our lunches to school in them if we weren't cool enough to have the latest super hero or princess lunchbox. The ideas are endless when it comes to using these for crafts. It is, however, best to use brand new ones instead of recycling the ones used for lunch.

For now we are going to talk paper bag pumpkins. These are really great and easy decorations for the fall (I know, it is no where near fall yet, but I just write as they come to my mind). You can line the driveway or the porch with some of these or hang them from the ceiling for a party. Either way, they are really easy and kid-friendly!!

Paper Bags (lunch sized)
black construction paper
green tissue paper
orange paint (tempera or washable paint is best with small kids)
glue stick or white glue
paint brushes
newspaper (just a few sheets per bag)
rubber bands

To start simply have your child paint the paper bag with orange paint leaving about 1 inch brown at the top. Remember to open the bag so they paint the whole thing. The bottom can be painted or left as is. Remember this is kid-art, it is ok if there are streaks or missed spots. Let them do it!!!

While the paint is drying, use the scissors and cut out a few triangles and crooked mouth from the construction paper. Smaller children will need help with this. It might be easier to use basic shapes instead of trying to cut out a "jack-o-lantern" mouth.

When the paint is all dry, it is time to glue the face on. Using the glue stick (or white glue) have the children place the eyes, nose and mouth onto the pumpkin. Remember, again, this is kid-art. The face doesn't have to be perfect and unless your child is a perfectionist at the age of 2, it will NOT be perfect. It is OK!!!! Let them do it!!!

After the glue has dried, wad up the newspaper and fill the paper bag pumpkin leaving some room to close it at the top. Close the bag and secure with rubber band leaving a "stem" at the top.

Take the green tissue paper and create a "leaf" out of it. You can do this by cutting the tissue paper into the shape of a leaf with a long stem or go abstract and just have some green tissue paper sticking out of the top of the bag. Insert the leaf into the bag so that it is hanging out of the "stem".

For large pumpkins, use brown paper grocery bags, most grocery stores have them. These are great decorations to add to any yard or porch and are a great family fun project!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fun "Stained-Glass" Window Hangings

Do you like those wonderful stained-glass windows that you see in really old houses? Aren't they so beautiful? Well, here is an easy craft for you to make with your children that will mimic the colors of the stained-glass window and still let the light through.

Construction Paper
Clear Contact Paper
various colors of tissue paper, cut into small 0.5" pieces

To start, figure out what design you want your Stained-glass window to be. Once you figure this out, draw the picture out on the construction paper and cut out. This should only be the outline of the picture (no details) as you are going to cut out the middle of this as well, leaving a thin frame of the image (see diagram below).

When you have the outline cut out, cut the clear contact paper into a square about 1-2 inches larger than the outline image. Peel back the paper coating and lay the image outline on the sticky side.

Now you are ready to create your masterpiece. Fill the inside of your image with the colored tissue paper (see diagram below). Once you are finished, simply stick the "stained-glass" hanging directly on the window. After it looses it's stickiness, you can "laminate" the hanging with another sheet of contact paper (basically sandwiching the tissue paper/frame between two pieces of contact paper). You can then punch a hole and hang it in front of the window or in the yard.

You can use this for fun decorations for every season. Use a leaf with yellows, browns and orange tissue paper for a fall decor. Use a black snowman outline with white tissue paper for winter. Use a pumpkin with orange tissue paper and black eyes, nose and mouth for a Halloween jack-o-lantern. The uses are endless!!! This is really easy and very little mess. Just keep non-used tissue paper squares in a Ziploc bag for future use!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Make Your Own Puzzle

Do your kids like puzzles? Is it hard to find sturdy puzzles for the younger children? Want to make a personalized puzzle for your child? Well, if you answered YES to any of these questions, look no further because here is an easy way to make your own puzzles and the uses are ENDLESS!!!

Picture/coloring sheet (whatever image you want the finished puzzle to look like)*
Spray Glue
Foam Core (basically poster board with foam inside – you can buy it at wal-mart or target or any school supply place)
Box Cutter or Exacto Knife *parents should do cutting as blades are VERY sharp

* This makes the puzzle individualized. Use a photo of your child, a picture they have colored or a basic shape or an Egg for a game with Humpty Dumpty.

After your child has picked out the picture and decorated it, simply attach the picture to one side of the foam core. Cut the foam core to fit the image used. Then turn the whole piece over and draw puzzle piece shapes on back. For cutting purposes, it is best to use straight lines instead of the traditional rounded puzzle shape (see diagram for best straight line shape). Using the box cutter or exacto knife, cut along the lines. You can store these puzzles in Ziploc bags. They can be made into all kinds of different shapes, sizes and colors. The sky and your imagination are you limits!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What Time is it Mr. Wolf?

I am currently a missionary in Ensenada Mexico and work with children of various ages here. This is a game I learned here and all the kids I have EVER played this with LOVE it!! It is a variation of the classic "Red Light, Green Light" game we used to play as a kid.

Can be played with as little as 2 people but so much more fun when you add more!!

Kids are in a line with one across the room (he is Mr. Wolf) with his back to the others (see diagram below). Kids all ask, "Mr. Wolf, What time is it?". Mr. Wolf says a number between 1-12 (like a time of day). The kids take that many steps towards Mr. Wolf (ex. if Mr. Wolf says it is 2:00 or 2, kids take two steps forward toward Mr. Wolf). This is repeated until the kids are close to Mr. Wolf. When the kids ask the next time, "Mr. Wolf, What time is it?," Mr. Wolf says, "Dinner Time" and turns and chases the kids back to the starting line trying to catch on of them. The person that is caught is the new Mr. Wolf.

This game is super fun and can be played for hours. It is a great outdoors game but can be played inside a larger facility.

Have Old Broken Crayons?

If you are like most parents or child care providers, you have TONS of broken crayons all over the place. Most of them are broken into such small pieces that you can't use them anymore. Well, don't throw them away, put them into a plastic bag and store for a rainy day.

Make Your Own Holiday Crayons

old broken crayons (take off all paper)
plastic candy molds

Simply melt the broken crayons in the microwave stirring often so you don't burn them. Pour them into the candy molds and let dry. Pop them out and you have your very own fancy schmancy crayons in all kinds of shapes and sizes. You can even mix and match colors. Fill the bottome with one color, allow to dry fully and then add more colors.

These are great as party favors or just a great way to give new life to old broken crayons.

More Painting Ideas

Tired of the painting with a paintbrush? Try these fun and unusual objects to make really cool designs.

old toy cars and trucks
old comb
drinking straw
old toothbrush
old cookie cutters


Drive the cars and trucks through the paint and then drive them around on your paper.

Roll marble in paint and then using a shoe box top roll the marble across the paper. This is create for stimulating hand-eye coordination. For a fun Halloween decoration, use black construction paper and white paint. Using a plastic container or old coffee can, cut paper to fit inside and roll marble around on the paper creating a "spider web". Simply add a plasic spider ring with the ring part cut off and hang.

Use the comb to create texture in your picture.

Water down some paint and put drops on the paper then have the child blow those drops around using the straw. Watch as the paint dances around the paper leaving really fun streaks.

Flick paint specs onto paper using an old toothbrush. Dip the toothbrush into the watered down paint and using your thumb or finger, run it along the toothbrush with the bristles down toward the paper. Watch as the paint drops in small dots all over the paper.

Dip the cookie cutters in paint and create fun villages or holiday pictures. This is also a great and easy way to make your own wrapping paper for Christmas. Simply use a roll of brown or white butcher paper. Spread the paper out and paint away with various Christmas cookie cutters. Let dry completely. You can do this outside on the sidewalk or driveway in the summer and roll it up ready to use at Christmas.

Look for more unusual things to paint with. Find things around the house that have different shapes and textures.

Watercolor Painting & Magic Pictures

Remember how much fun it was to paint with watercolors? Remember those pictures that all you needed was water and a paintbrush and they magically turned a black and white picture into a colorful painting? Here are some easy ways to paint with and make your own watercolors and magic pictures.

Make Your Own Watercolor Paint

food coloring

Simply mix a few drops of food coloring into the water and paint away. Mix different colors and amounts of each color to create a rainbow of choices.

Make Your Own Magic Pictures

Pre-drawn Coloring Sheets (coloring books or print off a few from your computer)
washable markers or watered down washable paint
cotton swap or chopstick

Simply dot the picture with the washable paint using the cotton swap or chopstick making sure that each space has color. You can also do this by dotting the picture with the washable marker as well although this can be time consuming if you have a large picture to cover.

Allow this to dry completely and then set aside for a rainy day. All the child needs to do is pull out a paintbrush and some water and paint away. The dried paint or marker will come back to life and spread when it is painted over with water.

Invisible Ink

Ever wanted to be a spy when you were a kid? Ever wanted to talk or write to your friends but never wanted your brother and sister to know what you said or wrote? Here is a really easy way to make some invisible ink so that your kids can do just that.

Lemons (or pure lemon juice)
cotton swabs (q-tips)

In a small bowl, squeeze a couple of lemons taking out any seeds (you can also use bottled pure lemon juice). Using the cotton swabs, draw a fun picture on your paper. Let dry completely.

Using a heat source (like a lamp that has been on for a while, or a toaster or hair dryer) reveal the "secret" message/picture.

The heat turns the lemon juice a dark brown color.

Marbleized Painting

Another fun way to paint cool designs is using Shaving Cream. This gives the picture a marbleized look and is very fun to play with afterwards. Talk to kids about textures.

Shaving Cream
washable paint
card stock paper or construction paper (works best)
plastic tray or other large flat surface
paper towels

On plastic tray or other flat surface, spread shaving cream in a thick layer. Add paint to the top of the shaving cream in strips or other fun designs (not too thick). Add more colors to give more texture and layers to your art. If you want, you can also use a chopstick to swirl the paint together in even more fun designs.

Remember the paint doesn't need to be thick or it won't turn out properly.

When you are happy with the paint, lay a piece of paper (the heavier the better) on top of the paint. Pat the paper lightly to make sure it is covered with the paint.

Take the paper off the shaving cream and place on the table.

Wipe the shaving cream and paint off the paper with paper towels in one direction. If done properly, this will create a fun marbilized effect on your paper.

Let dry and hang. Experiment with different paints and thicknesses.

Suggestions for using the shaving cream after you paint:

Use as bathtub painting: You can paint on the walls of the bathtub and then wash it off. Just mix the paint up into the shaving cream and paint away.

Make fun sculptures: Play with shaving cream making fun shapes, like a snowman. Just mix the paint up into the shaving cream and have fun. You can also write your name or draw pictures on the tray in the shaving cream.

Painting with Bubbles

Tired of plain painting? Want some fun ways to paint beautiful pictures with your kids? Here is one fun way to paint while learning things like surface tension, circles, etc.

cup half-filled with water
liquid detergent (hand soap or dish soap) a few drops will do

Mix the paint, liquid detergent and water in the cup. Using the straw, blow bubbles in the water (if child is doing this, make sure they are able to blow and not be tempted to drink the paint). If you aren't making many bubbles, add more soap.

When your cup is overflowing with bubbles (not running over the side of it), take straw out of cup and pop bubbles with the paper by placing the paper onto of the cup and move up and down. You should have circle shapes in paint on your paper. If not, add more paint and try again.

This is a fun way for kids to paint cool looking pictures. Do this with several different colors to make some colorful art.

Homemade Applesauce

Homemade Applesauce is really yummy and easy to make so kids can get involved. Use this to talk about how foods are made and eating healthy.

apples (you can use any kind or mix to make different flavors)

If you peel the apples and core them first then slice them, the smaller kids can use plastic knives to cut them into really small pieces. If you have a corer/slicer or a peeler/corer (like the metal one that looks like orange slices and a circle in the middle, or the big turn-style peeler that slices, peels and cores the apple) then the kids can help with that as well.

Let the kids put the apples (the smaller the faster it cooks), sugar (remember that the sugar concentrates as it cooks) and then the water (enough to cover all of the apples completely and add the water last as it will help dissolve the sugar). Cook on medium temp stirring occasionally. This will become a sauce-like consistency (see diagram below). If you want it to look more like a traditional commercial-made applesauce you should puree this mixture after it has cooled. Put in small containers in the fridge to cool it down and then eat.

Oobleck with a Book

There is always the OOBLECK experiment to read with the book Bartholomew & the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss (here is a link to the book: The Dr. Seuss book talks about Bartholomew and how he is attacked by a big sticky glob of oobleck.

green food coloring

To make Oobleck you simply mix corn starch and water together until it is runny when you pour it but solid when you try to stir or pick it up. Add a few drops of green food coloring to go with the story. It is pretty cool because it is a solid and liquid at the same time. You can pick it up and then if you leave it flat it will puddle like water.

This experiment is a great way to introduce kids to science. You can talk about solids and liquids and the differences and how this is one instance where something can be a solid and liquid at the same time. There are also videos on YouTube where people have made a giant bathtub filled with "oobleck" and actually run across it (also featured on the TV Show Numb3rs Season 4 Episode 16).

Shake and Make Ice Cream

1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup milk or half & half
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Rock Salt (in a box, not the regular table salt)
Ziploc bag
plastic container with tight closing lid (can also use a bigger Ziploc bag)

Mix up ice cream (sugar, milk and vanilla) in a bowl or pitcher and then pour some in the ziploc bag and secure closed.

Add ice and rock salt (amount doesn't really matter, just enough to coat the ice) to plastic container with lid or larger Ziploc bag. Place ice cream mixture bag into the container and close lid tightly (if using the plastic container, I like to stick the top of the mixture bag so that it is hanging out of the container, especially if you are going to eat out of the bag, that way the lip doesn't get really salty and ruin the ice cream).

Shake until ice cream is frozen adding ice and rock salt as needed (when it melts). If you have individual sized portions in the bags (abt 1 1/2 cups or so) this should take about 5-10 minutes to turn to ice cream, depending on how hard and fast the kids are shaking the container.

Shake away!! I would also suggest wrapping the container with a towel as it gets REALLY cold!!

Butter in a Jar

Making homemade butter is super fun for kids of all ages. You can use this time to talk about how we get our food or how butter was made in the "olden" days with a butter churn. This is a really simple activity and works great with preschoolers as well as "big kids".

small empty clean jar/container (baby food jar works well for smaller hands)
Whipping Cream (the liquid not to be confused with WHIPPED CREAM the solid)

To make the butter you just get an empty jar and put some whipping cream inside. Then you shake it until it becomes a solid (make sure the lid is tightly closed). It will take several minutes. If you have a video about cows or a book to read, now would be a great time to do so and the kids can continue shaking. If you have smaller children, they may need some assistance as it does get tiring and they can't shake as hard. You may want to add a clean marble to the jar for small children to help with the "churning" process.

Periodically have the kids check the jar and you will begin to notice that the milk will start to form small yellowish spots. It is really cool because it is a liquid for like ever and then all of a sudden, it hits the side and it is a solid ball. REALLY COOL.

I wouldn't necessarily advise eating it in this state. To be able to eat the butter you should pour out the left-over liquid and rinse with water to remove any excess liquid (known as buttermilk) and squeeze out the liquid in cheese cloth or press with a wooden spoon against the side of a bowl and then add salt if desired.