Recently, I was contacted by Education.com, asking if we’d be interested in trying out one of their many learning projects… They sent us one called “homemade airplane,” which is an airplane made from a hanger, that can “fly” on a zipline….and it looked like a pretty fun project with a fairly small supply list, so I decided to give it a try.
…Of course, we always have to add our little spin. So when I introduced the idea to Myla, she instantly wanted to make it into a dragon instead. WHOOPS okay, that’s fine, we can work with that. So here’s basically how we did the project:
1. Find a wire hanger. This proved to be quite a difficult task, as we apparently threw out all of our wire hangers in a fit of rage one day, but I found ONE hiding in the back of my closet, behind some party dresses I’ve never worn.
2. Bend the wire handle into a loop, and be sure it’s closed, as this will be what it slides down on the zipline.
(This is where I noticed that the bottom of my hanger was only connected by a wonky weak little cardboard tube which broke not long after I touched it, so I bent it into a different shape altogether, and Myla taped it together because scotch tape solves all of her problems.)
3. Trace it onto paper & cut out two. Whatever your shape is, trace it onto a folded sheet of paper so you have a front and a back.
4. Decorate it. While I hot-glued the bent-up hanger onto the back side of the paper, Myla decorated the front.
So now he looked like this:
…which she said looked ridiculously duck-like, and decided she needed to give him some head-fins.
5. Hot glue that junk. Glue it all to the hanger. Myla added the head-fins, wings, and a tail to hers.
And BOOM this is the final dragon. Pretty cool! And aside from the gluing, she pretty much did it herself.
So here’s where it springs to life.
6. Get some fishing line…or other such thin thread. The instructions said “fishing line,” but despite my massive craft resources, I couldn’t seem to find any, and decided to give this very thin thread a try. Pin it between two walls with pushpins, and BOOM you have a flying dragon, ready to decimate battlefields and lay waste to various enemies.
…Or, just fly around a corner of your room looking cool.
So there it is! Education.com has lots of other fun learning activities on their site, and I think a free sign-up gets you lots more access.
So have fun storming the castle!
(Side note: “Dracarys” is the command that the Mother of Dragons–Daenerys Targaryen, from Game of Thrones–gives her dragon Drogon, that compels him respond by shooting flames from his mouth, destroying her enemies. So, that’s nice.)
Enamel pins are kind of a big deal these days, aren’t they? They’re so cute and cool. And aaaaall the kids are collecting them. Displaying them is a whole OTHER deal.
I’ve seen banners, hanging fabric, pennants, and other ways to show of a lovely collection. A common theme is corkboard. I took the quick simple way out a while back, and grabbed the adhesive corkboard squares you find in office supply stores….which lasted a few short months before they all came crashing down in shambles…My friend Aletta came up with a suggestion: what if we DREW a background for them? The best part: it was fun and easy to make, and I could do it with the daughter!
I got a couple of embroidery canvases (it’s made to stitch through, so the fabric is a little softer than regular painting canvas, but those would probably work too), and some Sharpie markers.We started by taking a couple of pins that sort of went together, and drawing backgrounds behind them.If I started this project having some fun, it was nothing compared to the fun the kid had. Myla is age seven and tells stories as she draws, so this project was PERFECT for her imagination. She’d grab a pin and start doodling, telling stories as she went–adding characters, sceneries, and battles between pins.
It didn’t take long before we had filled our three canvases up…And we ended up with some fun, funky little canvas displays…Mine looking a bit like a Keith Haring comic book …And Myla’s turning out pretty cool as well…Later, we decided they needed a little color, and Myla gave me permission to add to them all. I didn’t want to take too much away from the pins or the drawings, so very light washes of acrylic paint seemed to really bring everything together.And voila–DIY pin displays! Ready to hang right on the wall! And if you feel like wearing a pin for a day, just take it off the canvas and put it back on when you’re done!Here’s a better look at them, one by one: Myla’s first one was a tree scene with most everyone hiding in the trees from Casper (who is famous, because there is a camera taking photos of him), and a random arm holding Audrey 2 over everyone…Her next one features Immortan Joe and the “blood bag” Mad Max (see–he’s hanging from the ceiling?) fighting, and two starry-eyed monsters stealing eggos and threatening a very passive, jet-pack flying stormtrooper. At the bottom, a lunch lady chases the running dishes, as the cats all jump on a trampoline, and beetles climb all over a building full of people.
Like ya do.And mine has a skelecorn and magic floating arctic wolf protecting the land from an alien invasion, a strong-arm with tattoos, a very worried arctic fox stressing over tree-climbers, and and Pee-Wee unwittingly driving into a city being attacked by Audrey 2, the Thing, and Godzilla. Yikes!And there you have it! Easy to do…fun for you AND for a kid…looks pretty on the wall, and yet still super functional!So go out and give it a try! Or tell me about your DIY pin display ideas–what do you do to enjoy your pin collection?
(Our pin collection featured here: anxiety wolf by Namoi Romero , pinup Dale Cooper by Emma Munger, the Thing by Annie Frenzel, chubby Stormtrooper, Spiderman, and Casper unmasked by Alex Solis), windup bird by Bleu Louise, Godzilla and box cat by Noosh Studios, sloth, hedgehog, and Nessie by BoyGirlParty, alien-head girl by Julie Filipenko, clean plate club by Mab Graves, Immortan Joe and Mad Max by Pinhead Company, tiny bat, mama otter with baby, and ray gun by LuxCups Creative, bunny-bat and broken-hearted otter by Flat Bonnie, coleoptera beetles by Dianafloresblazquez, Dark Crystal by Zen Monkey Studios, arctic wolf face by Monica Knighton, starry-eyed monsters by BeATrashCat, skelecorn and wicked black cat by Bbllowwn, and a few others that were either gifts or that I can’t seem to recall…)
The other day, I was in a crafty mood, and felt like doing a project with Myla. I pushed all my “to do” things and other commitments I’ve been putting off, and asked her if she wanted to make a doll.
She ALWAYS wants to make a doll. “There’s a creature I’ve been thinking about,” she said excitedly. “I think it would make a great doll!” She grabbed her markers and started drawing it out.
When I do projects like this, I like to let her feel like she’s a big part of making it. We went to the craft room, and picked out some fabric from my stash. Apparently, this creature is a sort of cat-like mossy dragon, so we found some mossy-looking fabric that fit perfectly. I let her decide what fabric would work best. She gave me details on how it should look–long tail, webbed feet, spiky hair…
I sat her on my lap and had her help a little with the beginning. She’s still a little needle-shy, but I showed her how to guide the fabric without pushing it. After awhile, it’s easier to finish it up myself, so she bounced off to another paper project while I finished up the sewing.
Later, when the body was done, I asked her to draw the eyes on with a pen the way she wanted, so I could paint them.
And finally, the little mossy cat-dragon was done! I’m no master sewer by any means, and my dolls are ALWAYS quite wonky, but the best part is that she doesn’t care, because we made it together and she designed it herself.
I always ask her what she thinks when it’s done, and she always says she loves them so much. Once, she said “when we make dolls, it doesn’t always turn out exactly like I thought in my drawing….but it always turns out so much BETTER.”
I noticed she uses dolls as an icebreaker with other kids at the child care room at the gym, and sort of walks up to kids and just starts playing dolls with them. Sure, they ask what the heck it is, but when she tells them, I think they sort of dig it. I brought it to visit her at school lunch the other day, and made it move around like a puppet and play, and had the kids (who had at first looked at me like I was odd…which I am, btw) cracking up and laughing at the silly antics of her little mossy doll.
So wonky or not, it took me about an hour and a half to make something that she could make connections with. In just a short amount of time, we made something she could proudly tell people she designed…and that little feeling of pride glows on her face when she talks to other kids. Which makes ME smile. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
It’s been a busy week, trying to keep up with the world…sometimes it’s nice to just step away and do an easy, fun little thing with the kid.
My mother’s day weekend was spent with a large group of giggling Girl Scouts, on a Mother-Daughter Campout in the woods. (Please please, calm your envy…)
Even with the archery, horseback riding, and nature walks we did, if you asked Myla what her favorite part was, she’d tell you it was the nature project. She’s been asking me to do it again, and since our Texas days have cooled down for a couple of days, we were able to just go into our yard and have some fun. So I thought I’d share what we worked on, in case you’d like to give it a go yourself!
First step is to Pick some plants. You want to find things that have a variety of shapes and sizes and colors, but you want to make sure they’re fairly flat. You don’t need to go far; if you’ve got houseplants nearby, or have access to grass (unlike some Ohioans I’ve heard, who are currently covered in snow) and plants in your own yard, all you have to do is gather them up.
Next, you’ll need contact paper. I’m sure it’s cheaper sold in rolls, but I only happened to have self-laminating sheets on hand, which are admittedly a bit pricier. But they got more action with this project than they’ve seen in a while, so I didn’t mind.
With your gathered plants nearby, unpeel half of the sheet with the sticky side up, so you can start placing your plants where you want them, into whatever design you choose.
Since Myla’s more into building animals and creatures and things with faces, she went straight for making something adorably weird, even adding little bits of paper for the eyes, while I made a simple little mouse. Fun little tip: clover petals look like hearts. 🙂
Or you can go decorative, like my wonky little tree-shape below.
Myla moved on to making a rabbit from various plants, being very careful in properly laying them out how she wanted. With have the page exposed, when you feel finished, just unfold the other half and fold it over your piece to seal it up.
Once you’ve folded it over and sealed it up, cut around your piece, being sure to leave quite a lot of space around. Sometimes, it even helps to seal it twice, making sure all the edges or sealed, or air will get in, and your little creations will discolor and “turn rotten,” as Myla says.
And there you have it! Just a fun and easy little idea to make into bookmarks or punch holes to make a mobile to hang in a window. And a calm little happy project that nearly anyone of any age can do. So get out and spend some time in the sunshine (if you have it) and make some lovely little things with someone you love!
Kid time is the BEST time for messes…
And drawing on yourself! Sadly, Myla’s school doesn’t allow for crazy hair color and excessive temporary tattoos (weird, huh?). So summertime was a GREAT time to do all that. And even best is when everyone else gets involved, too. At our house, family visits usually mean the markers come out at some point, and Myla offers everyone some “ink.”
I’ve always loved how well our whole family (on Matt’s side and on mine) have always been so cooperative about getting all markered up. This last visit, she got her cousin involved, and they even made a “menu” (unlike the old days, when she used to just draw whatever she wanted on you).
It always reminds me of how ages ago, Myla & I had tried printing some of our own designs on tattoo paper….
So recently, when a sister-run company called Inky & Bear asked me if I’d like to try out some of their beautifully hand-illustrated temporary tattoos, I said “HECK YEAH!” When our Inky & Bear tattoos came, we had a blast figuring out where to put them on. Myla chose a lovely little mermaid, and a sweet lil’ narwhal for her arms.
And, like with most things, Myla always has a great way to kick it up a notch. This time, by asking me to draw all sorts of sea creatures on her to go along with the nautical theme. I doodled them out in ballpoint and she even added a little creature on her own hand.
She added onto my already-existing real tattoos (and an Inky & Bear mermaid), with a little dancing Donkey doodle. (Do you know the story of Donkey?)
Angsty Disclaimer: Everytime I do a post about drawing on yourself, I get comments asking if I’m worried about the toxicity and danger of inks soaking into skin. My response to that is that if you’re worried about it, don’t do it. As for me, I’m not going to leave them on me or my daughter’s skin for very long, so it’s fine. Artist Jodi Steel draws amazing drawings on herself and her friends with Sharpie Markers, and washes it off with coconut oil (and then gets a lot of nasty comments by people telling her she’s poisoning her OWN skin). It’s temporary. It washes off. And ultimately, it’s not your skin, right?. In my opinion, there is just as much danger of chemicals eating non-organic fruit or junk food–all fine in moderation. But if it doesn’t sound right for you, don’t do it. Go get some nontoxic facepaints and try doing the same thing, except with paints! So take a deep breath, take it easy, get creative, and have a little messy fun!
Now that the monkey’s a bit older, she tends to take over and tweak her own ideas for projects. It’s been a while since I set something up with a fairly specific goal in mind, but since first grade (with all its new rules) is about to start and we’ve been working on following instructions (WITHOUT complaining), I decided to set up a project using pretty much things I had around the house.
So I decided we’d make some monster masks.
When she came home from summer daycare, I had it all laid out on the kitchen table, ready to go: glue, sparkles, google eyes, puffballs, foam, washable paints, scissors, tape, construction paper, some scraps of fur from my monster dolls, and a couple of cardboard boxes from the recycle bin. The key here is to set it up so that it’s stress-free, and you’re not worrying about paint splashing onto nice things, so I laid out a tablecloth, and put a messy shirt for her to change into. A little prep work, and making messes isn’t so bad.
She was excited right away, and started making her own ideas up, which is usually okay, but as I said, we’re working on following directions–so I asked her if she could start by painting the boxes, and THEN we could decorate them. I tried to work a little ahead of her, so she could see what I was going for. (In hindsight, it might’ve helped for her to see a final version to shoot for, but ain’t nobody got time f’that. That would’ve meant either that I’d be doing a kid project twice, or that she’d be doing it on her own while looking at my final piece, and for me, the purpose is to do it TOGETHER.)
So we painted and decorated… and since she’s pretty fast, BOOM–she was finished with her monster “mask” in no time! I love that she made a little unicorn horn. The funny thing is that I had THOUGHT I’d make a horn, but didn’t get a chance before she beat me to it…
So the monkey and I have been “off” for a few days. Every issue has been an argument, every request a struggle. This has resulted in fits and frustration, tears and tantrums. I won’t bore you with the details, and I don’t really need any advice or criticism about it–it’s a phase, I know it’ll pass, but in the meantime, it’s torturous. Of course, I’ve checked that something was not horribly horribly wrong, and by all accounts, I’m fairly certain I’ve ruled out anything major…I think it is just a matter of resisting structure, and avoiding conflict with other kids.
But since life is full of conflict and structure, I have started trying to implement that into our down time. The trick, I think, is to make it fun so it doesn’t SEEM like structure. So when I told her yesterday it was “project time,” she asked if we could glue macaroni noodles to paper.
Dang. I didn’t have any macaroni noodles, because no one in the whole house eats macaroni. But what I DID have was a big ol’ bag of kid-beads that a friend had given us. Sometimes, I give her a project to do and I go do something productive, like clean the kitchen, or sweep the floor. But this time, considering all the struggles we’ve been having, I thought it was important to do this project WITH her.
So it’s super easy: doodle something on some paper, and glue some random beads to it. Or macaroni. Or beans. Or Q-tips. Or leaves. Or cereal. Or grass. Or whatever random things you have around the house. It really doesn’t matter, because that part’s not at ALL important. The important thing is that I spend some time WITH her. Since she often goes into a project with an idea already of what she wants to do, she requested we turn them into ornaments, so each one has a little loop for a string to go through.
And it’s things like this that don’t take a lot of effort to do that really help me on the rough days. I don’t care what I made. I don’t care what it looks like. The fact that we did it together is what’s important. Spending actual time with her. Stopping to take a few pictures, but mostly listening to her and her ideas, and having fun WITH her instead of just giving her busy work to do. Instead of just tossing an ipad at her. Instead of just turning on the TV…
I am the mother of a strong-willed girl. Because of our collaborations, people sometimes applaud my mom-skills…but I’ll tell you a secret every mom should freely admit without fear: I don’t really know what I’m doing. I just do what feels right, even if it’s not my favorite option. I talk it over with my husband, and we figure out something that works. And you know what I’ve learned? NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE DOING. And the very most important thing (especially when you’re a new mom) is to keep in mind that what works for my kid won’t always work for yours.
I’ve had lots of people give me parenting advice, and after it fails me, I get the feeling that they think I’ve “done it wrong.” And then I feel like I’ve done it wrong. But I’ve learned over time, that there is no “wrong.” You just try and try again, and hope that you stumble along something that works before you pull out all your hair. You can’t fault someone for trying, and you can’t give them the squinchy eye if what works for you didn’t work for them. Give them a pat on the back for their struggle, and help them come up with another idea…or at least offer them a spot on your couch, a sympathetic ear, or a playdate.
Sometimes, you look around and it seems like everyone else is doing this whole parenting thing better than you. I promise you, they’re not. I know I’m not. We’re just doing the best we can over here. That smiling, happy family photo? Of course that family is posting it–they’re SO blown away that they actually have a SINGLE documented moment that looks like a magazine photo!! (I like to picture those magazine people first thing in the morning after very little sleep, with tangled hair, and bags under their eyes. And maybe a headcold, too…not to be spiteful, but because you KNOW they have to have those days).
(For a bit of a giggle, by the way, I love looking at “It’s Like They Know Us” on Facebook, where they take stock photos of “perfect” families, comment on them, and hilarity ensues. PS: If you’re going on there, you’ve got to read the comments people write for each photo; they’re just as funny).
Parenting is rough stuff. It’s not always that smiling happy, ethereal moment that gets captured in photos of people happily tossing their well-behaved, angelic toddler in the air as they smile adoringly at them. It’s not always the wonderfully monastic and artistic mom, lovingly and patiently doing art projects with her compliant and easygoing daughter. Maybe you think it’s like that for me. Maybe you think it’s like that for other people. Maybe it makes you feel like you’re not doing the best you can. If it inspires you to be a better parent, great! If it makes you feel like all your efforts are for naught because you’ll never be magazine-perfect Martha Stewart Betty Crocker parents, that’s not good. Because I can bet you it’s not like that all the time for those people. Parenting is some messy stuff, full of snot and tears and crying and frustration (and that’s just ME).
So we’re struggling a bit this week. And in case you feel like you’re the only one struggling, I promise you, you’re not alone. Maybe you worry you’re screwing them all up. Or that you’re making the wrong decisions. Or that your kid will grow up and become a jerk and it’s all your fault. I worry that ALL. THE. TIME. But as my mom told me, “the fact that you’re worrying about it means you’re doing alright.”
So good luck, grownups. Stay strong. You’re doing the best you can. And so are we. (And maybe she’ll realize that when she’s in her 30s….)
One rainy day, after watching a few too many episodes of the Amazon show “Annedroids” , Myla said, “I want to build something! I want to be an inventor. Hey mom, can we build stuff out of other stuff, too?”
Not one to turn down an awesomely creative educational opportunity, I asked her what she wanted to build.
“ROBOTS!” she exclaimed. “We can even make one that helps with chores, and does the dishes. Maybe even one that talks to us and plays Legos. Can we make one that cleans?”
Um. Well, since I don’t happen to have earned a degree in robotics and engineering, I was stalled out. Until I remembered this:
One year while visiting my parents, my nieces decided to take apart some old electronics and build stuff. They just took it all apart and hot-glued it all together. Because that’s the kind of awesome stuff they do. One of them came up with this one, and sent it to us–it’s a portrait of Myla painting!
Isn’t it AWESOME? The curly hair! The eyes! The “paints,” and even the little collaboration taped to the easel.
I offered that as a suggestion, and Myla jumped at it. We dug around the garage for some old electronics, but since I had recently donated or dumped most of them, a trip to the thrift store yielded a good harvest: $5 for an old broken cassette player and a video tape rewinder. The height of technology at the time, they now served a much more artistic purpose by yielding parts for our creations.
The cool thing was getting her familiar with some tools, which is a good skill for any kid to have. I unscrewed the main body of the pieces, and taught her a little about wire clippers and screwdrivers. This all involved a lot of work on my part, but it kept her busy and interested, just trying to figure out the tools and tiny pieces. (Plus she looks super cool in her dad’s sunglasses, which doubled as eye protection, since I didn’t have any kid-goggles.)
A big bowl came in handy to keep all the little parts in for later. That would be where we’d keep all the tiny pieces and what we could dig through to build more out of later, and she got a kick out of seeing all the little pieces inside.
I plugged in our trusty low-temp kid’s glue gun–those are the ones that heat at lower temps to make it a little easier for kids to use. Still, since she had a bad experience with it ages ago (she directly touched the hot glue), she was hesitant to use it. Instead, I let her tell me what went where, and I helped her glue. I showed her, too, how the glue dries VERY quickly, and as long as you don’t touch it right away, it’s pretty harmless.
I just remember being warned so often about the dangers of power tools (my grandad cut the tip of his thumb off once, and I’ve heard tons of Wood Shop horror stories) that I have to fight through my fear of them sometimes. I’d rather teach her the right way to use them, than just have her be afraid.
So here’s what we created! A remote control cat, and a tiny gear robo-mouse! So what if they can’t move on their own. They were fun to make, and we had a great time building them!
This is the first little face I made as a quick example to show her how you can make things out of the junk parts…
Later, I was inspired by an Instagram artist who fixed his friend’s Ever After doll by building her a steampunk leg–and I realized I could use some of the broken electronics to make a prosthetic arm for a Monster High doll that Myla had acquired, whose arm was missing.
I had some tiny watch parts from a jewelry project I had in my craft supplies, and just hot-glued a little hook-arm together for her.
I think about this time last year, I mentioned my distaste for Valentines Day.
But having a kid always gives you a chance to find a new appreciation for things you might not have even liked before. I always ask myself if there’s an opportunity to do something fun that I would actually like to do…so I asked Myla what we could design for V-day.
“Sugar skulls!” she said (she has seen Book of Life a few times lately). I considered how to make that work for valentines, and even asked friends to help with puns (like “no bones about it,” or “don’t be a bonehead” or something), but we decided to go a whole other route after we saw this:
They’re cute little candy huggers, and they’re perfect! But since I have neither a custom cutter or the patience to hand-cut 25 of them with an x-acto blade, I tweaked the idea a little, and we went with her second idea…
They’re so easy. Yeah, these look a little wonky, but that’s because I hand-cut them with scissors while I watched TV, and it took all of about 10 minutes. If your kid’s got mad scissor-skills (ours does), you could even let her help…(unless she’s SUPER engrossed in drawing her own imaginary superhero robots…which ours was, at the time). Kids don’t care if it’s wonky, though, because: MONSTERS AND CANDY.
A few glue dots and some Dove heart candies later, and they were all done! I’ll even pass along my monster template, and you can feel free to customize it, if you like! Just right click it and save it to your desktop. Stick a glue dot on the belly, press the heart candy down, stick a glue dot on top, and fold the hands over…And BOOM! Sort-of instant valentines.
So there you go! Whether you can’t wait for your roses and chocolate, or you’re a humbug like me, I wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day!
(…Or at least I wish you lots of candy. Whichever you prefer. …Mmmm, candy.)
Have you ever played with Nuudles? Magic Nuudles are these styrofoamy-looking little tater tots that stick together with water. They’re apparently made of cornstarch (yummm! –oh, wait, you’re not supposed to EAT them), and are biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
For some reason, they kind of weirded me out at first (maybe just a sense memory of packing-popcorn disasters?), but I have changed my tune. I. LOVE. NUUDLES.
They’re easy: Stick ’em in a bowl so you can see all the colors easily. Get a little sponge (if you lose the one in the box, a wet washcloth works), give your kid some safety scissors, and BOOM, it’s just that easy.
(In case you’re not aware, I don’t get any money for anything on this blog, so no one’s holding my kid hostage, telling me I have to say good things. I just love getting good tips from other crafty moms about things that might peacefully and quietly entertain my kid that DON’T involve a TV or IPad.)
You can squish the little pieces, or cut them up with scissors, and all it takes is a little touch of water (they even say you can lick them, but…um…no thanks) to make them stick together.
Myla found them fun, and had a great time trying to make characters with them. The little blue fox above is Fig, from the Amazon show Tumble Leaf. She also made the little crab with the wooden claw (look how she made the little wooden claw!!) from the same show. Below them is what she says is Catbus, from the movie Totoro, but (admittedly) looks a bit like a CATerpillar. Hur-hur.
And look at these teensy weensy little bats!
I’m sure she told me what these are, but I’m not sure I remember (BAD momma!)…The bottom one is most likely a version of Nightcrawler, I’m sure (based on my scientific deduction…and the basic color scheme)…
And some other cute little critters…
So anyway, not that anyone asked, but I give Magic Nuudles a big high five! If you’re looking for something for a bigger kid to play with (they recommend over age 3) that doesn’t require TONS of parental involvement (alright: when you need a bit of a breather), they’re definitely worth a try!