Tag Archives: kid crafts

The Super Builders

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!

cat mouse

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.

robo arm
Anyway, it’s a rainy day again today.  Maybe we’ll have to be inventors again.  Ah, sciencing!  It’s the best!


Valentines, Shmalentines.

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.


And if you’re not into these monsters, check out the monster ones I did last year.  That post also has links to my friend Stowe’s site, which is full of some fabulously geeky 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.

nuudles(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!

Doodle Wars

“Let’s both each draw a picture that’s a fish,” Myla said one day.  We each drew our own on the same page, and, as will often happen, she inevitably became more interested in what was going on on MY side.

“Don’t forget his fins,” she’d say.  “Or maybe some teeth.”

So I make a joke out of it.  “Oh yeah?!?   You know what YOURS needs??  Lobster claws.  Totally.”  And then I reached over to her drawing and doodled a quick pair of claws.

It cracked her up in a cascade of giggles.

“Oh, okay…yours looks great, mom, but it could really use some BIGGGG horns.”

Pretty soon it evolved to an all-out doodle war.  “Oh, yours would look SOOOO much better with walrus tusks!”  “It’s good, but I think it could really use an elephant trunk,”  we say to eachother in our mock-friendly voices.  …And on and on.

lemme help you2

It’s hilarious to her to impact something I’ve done in a funny way, and a great demonstration of the idea that if you want to have say in what someone else is doing, you might have to be okay with them doing the same to you…

lemme help you1

And since it’s just a quick little doodle, there’s nothing sacred in it, other than just having fun and being silly.

lemme help you3

I always love what comes of them, as crazy as they are.  I’m wondering what a finer version of it might look like.  maybe it’d be different than our usual collaborations.  It might involve taking some time and patience, which is very difficult for a 5-year old.  People have often tried to “tell” us what we should draw together, and while people sometimes have some great ideas, it sort of just has to happen.  In my world, the things that I push the hardest on are the things that don’t ever feel as genuine, and therefore aren’t as enjoyable for the viewer or the ones creating it.

But trying something new?  I’m always up for that.  🙂

The Kiwi Incident

Have you heard of Kiwi Crate?  It’s a fun little mail-to-your-doorstep program, where every month, a cute little box comes to your mailbox, filled with all the tools and supplies you need to do a couple of art projects.  (They totally don’t give us any freebies for saying so, but we think they’re pretty awesome, especially for crafty ladies like us.)

So recently, Kiwi Crate finally named their little kiwi character “Steve,” and Myla was excited.

KIWI design-process-top

“I’d like to make a Steve doll!” she said.  Since this usually involves basically ME doing all the work, I sort of brushed it off for another time.  “But I think I can make it all by myself!” she said excitedly, digging through her craft box with all the giddy anticipation of a newly hatched idea.

Allright, I thought.  I’ll help her with the basic sewing.  She’ll get a chance to see the sewing machine in action, and she can do the rest herself.

Carefully and meticulously, she cut shapes out of the felt that came with one of the monthly project kits, along with a few extra supplies from my sewing box.  She quickly and furiously drew the shapes out herself, cut them out herself.  It was HER vision, and she was so EXCITED.little kiwi work

And when the time came, I had her place her hand next to mine on the machine, and I had her help me guide it to sew on the little beak.  I had her help me pull the little needle and thread through the button eyes.  And things were going well.  How cute!  What a great learning experience!  I thought…

Until we put the stuffing in.

kiwi endAs we filled up the tiny kiwi with stuffing, she excitedly said, “So when does it get bigger?”

…Um.  What?

“When does it get bigger?  I wanted it to be the size of a pillow to cuddle with.  Isn’t it going to get bigger?”

…Uhhhh.  Oh my.

It was then that I realized that in all her furious anticipation, she had a goal in mind of exactly what she wanted this little kiwi to look like, and this tiny blue thing was NOT living up to those expectations at ALL.

As this reality hit her, she became instantly inconsolable.  Those of you who have spent time with kids this age might be familiar with the complete and utter irrationality of a kid-tantrum.  They’re these things that are unexpected, unexplainable, and completely bewildering.  There’s no use saying, “But you cut it out!  You must have KNOWN how big it was?!?”  There’s no use saying, “How would it possibly get BIGGER?!?!”  These things mean nothing to a small child.  All they know is that Thing A was in their head, and Thing B does NOT match up.

And OOOOhhhhhhh the tears.  Oh the crying.  Oh, the dramatic frustration.  It was safe to say that we were done with the kiwi for the day.

Later, when the tears had finally stopped flowing, we had a chance to talk.  “You were upset because you thought when you stuffed it, it would get bigger?”  “Yes,” she said.  “Do you understand that freaking out about it doesn’t change anything?”  “Yes,” she said.  “Can we do something about it?  Can we make a bigger one?” she asked me, hurriedly.

But to avoid the bandaid trapping of instant gratification, I insisted we would need to wait.  From now on, if we were going to do this, we would take our time.  We would draw out a design, pick the fabrics, take a couple of days, and make a PLAN.

And now, this is our new word for projects:  PLAN.

Several days later, after many talks about calming down and using our words, we drew pictures, we picked out fabrics, and we started working on another Steve.

We drew pictures.  We picked out button eyes.  We talked about his beak and his wings.  We chose which fabrics to use from my fabric stash.  She helped me sew him.  She helped me stuff him.  She drew out what kind of legs she imagined he’d have.

big kiwi workingWe took our time with him and planned him out.  And when we were done, Steve came out looking pretty darn good.


It’s a hard lesson, when your imagination doesn’t match up with your reality.  It’s amazing to keep your imagination in the stars, but you also have to be aware of what’s actually within your reach, and when you’re totally and completely off-track.

Another thing that’s so hard for a kid to grasp is that if you take your time and plan something out, it makes for a MUCH better project with a much better plan.  These days, when everything is available at the touch of a button, it’s easy to forget that there’s also legitimate value in WAITING.

Myla’s five, and I’ve only just begun to try her on a chapter book at bedtime; one of my childhood favorites: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster.  “I think I’ve already seen that show,” she said, “and some of the creatures scared me.”  “But that’s the great thing,” I said.  “It can be totally different in  your imagination.”

Every night when we read a chapter or two, she asks me, “Will we go ahead and just finish it tonight?”  And every night I tell her that we just have to wait to see what happens.  Of course, she’s impatient, but she accepts it with excitement.  I thought her attention would dwindle, but so far she seems to be hanging on.

Later, we set the kiwis side by side, and I asked her to look at them with me.

final kiwis

“They’re both beautiful,” I said.  We talked about how when you have a great idea, it’s great to want to get it out as quickly as possible, but that sometimes when you take your time and plan it out, you have a chance to make it better, make it stronger, make it more like what you had in mind, maybe do things you hadn’t thought of before, or do them in different ways.  When you rush, you might get the idea out quickly, but planning it out helps you figure things out that you might not have done with the rushed version.  Since we took time to plan out the second kiwi, we made its wings flap down, so they could lay down to his side (instead of stick out to the sides) and we were able to make his beak stick straight out, like a kiwi’s.

It’s got to be hard for kids, growing up in our new world of on-demand tv, DVR, instant downloading, live streaming, wifi, and online shopping to understand the process of having to wait for ANYTHING.  I have to remind myself that that waiting is something that kids today are much less familiar with.  It’s not a skill they have ever really had to use.  It’s not better or worse than when I was a kid, it’s just different.   There’s no use pining for the past.  It’s how we live now, and there’s no use trying to completely change the world and live in a cabin somewhere….

….But I think slowing things down a little is a pretty good habit to make from time to time…

A Creative Epiphany

Oh my gosh, we just discovered a new show.  And in kid-world, anything that keeps the same goshdarn show (whichever it might be) from being on repeat over and over again is definitely something to celebrate…


We have Amazon TV, and they just released a series called “Creative Galaxy,” about art and creativity for kids.  I’d love to say that they gave us money to blog about them, or at least a stuffed animal or a visit from a character or something, but they didn’t, so this is all our own experience.

So Creative Galaxy is about a little alien named Arty (of course), and his sidekick Epiphany (which, I told Myla, means “a good idea”), and they go around the galaxy “solving problems with art.”  Okay, it’s just as perky as any typical kid’s show, but the cool thing about Creative Galaxy is that they introduce the style of certain artists (sort of like I’ve done with Myla with our own projects   in the past), and explain what the artist was trying to do with their art.  They talk about Pollock and his “action painting.”  And they have lots of clips of real kids showing how to do simple fun crafty projects.

The only down side to this show in OUR house is that it gives Myla a million crafty ideas that she wants to try ALL RIGHT NOW!  But that’s okay.  We pick and choose, and then we get crafty.

Recently, I expanded Myla’s craft area, since it had started completely taking over both the living room and kitchen tables.  We used things we already had around the house, and now it’s easily accessible to her, and right next to my office area (since I work from home on my computer).  She loves that there is enough space to sit on top (she REALLY gets into her artwork!)  so we don’t even need space for a chair.  There are office organizers for her pens and paper, as well as the bins next to it for other craft supplies like paper plates, foam, stickers, and paper bags.  Perfect for all sorts of craft time!

art area

There’s nothing more that Myla likes than a stuffed animal.  I think she may actually be addicted.  I may have to look for some sort of help center for wayward stuffed animal addicts, actually.   So inspired by the show, Myla decided one day that she wanted to make her own “Epiphany” doll.

Epiphany is Arty the alien’s little sidekick.  We’re not sure what he…or she…really is, exactly, but Myla thinks he’s cute.  She started by drawing the shape onto a piece of felt.  Since she wanted it to be stuffed, I showed her that she had to have a front and a back piece.  Then she cut little arms & legs out.  I had her help me sew a simple stitch around it on the sewing machine (I often have her put her hand on it to help guide it), and then came her favorite part:  the stuffing!


When we do spontaneous projects like this, the rule is that we have to use things we already have, or we can’t do it at all.  I happened to have some little pompoms on a string, which were a bit wonky, but worked well for the little puffball on his head.  Thankfully (despite being a perfectionist) she seemed to like it just fine.  It bothered me a little, but I always let her have the last word on when it’s “done.”


She wanted him to look a little more like the photo, so we got the paints out to color the eyes and spots.


And there he is, the final little Epiphany character!  Created (almost) entirely by a 5-year old!


Sure he’s a little wonky and imperfect.  But the fact that she made him (almost) all by herself is something she’s VERY proud of.    There are some times that the final piece doesn’t look like how she imagined and a wailing pitiful freakout ensues (we’re working on that), but I think it’s good for her to see the outcome of her decisions, whatever they may be. Simple decisions, when she can make them, make her feel more involved, like she had some sort of say in what we’ve created, and makes her more emotionally invested in it.  Sure, I could’ve made her a doll, but would she learn how it was made?  No.  She’d just get the benefit without the effort.

I don’t always indulge her in dollmaking–actually I often steer clear of it, or we’d end up making a dozen dolls a day.  But on occasion, and with some boundaries, it’s fun to see where her creativity takes her!

The State of Stuff

bugle dino

People ask me sometimes if Myla and I still do our collaborations, and if we will do them forever.  I’ve come to learn that kids’ fancies are fleeting, so I do my best to just encourage her and do the best I can to support whatever she’s into at the moment.

Lately, what she’s been into has fallen into two categories…namely, Stuff Stuck to Paper and Paper Creatures.  I’ll attempt to describe them, because given a brief moment alone, and she’s furiously scissoring and coloring a creature, with her brow furrowed, and a very faraway look of concentration on her face.   In case you labor under the belief that we ethereally flutter around an immaculate house, doing artsy art thing in a perfectly-styled art room designed by artsy art professionals, I will share this photo of what our kitchen table looks like most of the time:


I admit to claiming responsibility for about 20% of the mess that constantly grows in this table (usually concerning school-related paperwork).  I have cleaned it and straightened it and battled it in full gear, time and time again, and I have just given up.  It has finally won the battle.

But see the look on that kid’s face?  That one of absolutely overwhelmingly engrossed concentration?  I’m okay with that mess.  Plus, I can sit on my end of the table and just draw in my sketchbook.  Win-win, if you can handle a messy kitchen table.  (We’ll see what happens when the husband gets back from deployment and might like a place to–oh, I dunno–EAT, maybe.)

In any case, here is what she’s been up to:

Stuff Stuck to Paper

The things she’s been creating come from out of nowhere.  A scrap of paper, a bottlecap.  Left unattended near her, they are at high risk of being glued or taped to a page and made into a “project.”  I have had to give her very good reasons why it is not a good idea to GLUE scissors to the page just for a projects’ sake.  But for the most part, I don’t mind the random things.

Sometimes, when she’s glued or taped food to the page, I’ve either secretly smuggled it to a temporary holding area (in the garage) before secreting it out to the trashcan (0nly after taking countless photos, of course) to avoid an onslaught of ants, or (as in the case of the Bugle-dragon above) I’ve sprayed it with a multitude of layers of varnish to hopefully keep ants at bay.  She’s also glued or taped a birthday candle, bottlecaps, and pieces of plants, creating a little scenery (or what she calls a “project.”)


She’s made birds with Bugles cracker beaks, and carrot parrots…


Once, I gave her a bowl of dry mixed pasta to make “projects” out of, and she made this little crab for me:


I once showed her some doodles by InkyGirl on Instagram, and the next morning she drew this:


Paper Creatures

The other thing she’s been doing is making “creatures.”  These are things she builds out of paper to be “toys.”  (Because, you know, she doesn’t have like a million ACTUAL toys.  Heheh)

Here, she frantically cuts up tiny pieces of paper and usually tapes (because she’s got no time to wait for glue) or glues them together to make some sort of creature.

paper creatures

(From left to right: Mouse from Cinderella, a talking tortilla, Unikitty, a cow, a porcupine, and a lion.)

Sometimes she cuts out & colors all the pieces, and other times she markers them…


(Catbus from Totoro, and her green catbus friend)

They’re fully realized characters, since they almost always have backsides, too.


I showed her how to use metal brads once, and she created all the pieces, cut them out, and had me help her put it together…


Other times, they are full sheets of paper (with backsides, too) that are like “dolls…”


She voraciously made this dinosaur finger puppet for me, which is pretty gosh-darned cool.  It even has a tail!


So those are exciting.  And she’s been obsessed with these paper things.  I’ve had to stock up on construction paper and tape, something I didn’t need to do when she was voraciously drawing.  But that’s what she’s into.  And that’s cool.

But the other day, I wasn’t feeling well, and I lay on my stomach on the couch with my sketchbook, and she dragged her marker box, scissors and tape into the room and started making paper bats like a madwoman.  And then she suddenly looked up, climbed onto the pillows over my head, and stared at my sketchbook, watching me draw.  I was playing with colored ballpoint pens, drawing Napoleon Dynamite.


“Are you using shading?”  she asked.

“Yes I am,” I replied, and I showed her how layers and layers of colors can look like they’re mixing to make other colors, and that darker things look like they’re behind.  Sort of like when we played with pointillism.

“I’m going to try that, too.” she said.  “And I’m going to make it look SO REAL.”  So I watched her look at the photo for references (or what she calls “estructions”), and drew her own version:


I was blown away!  Shading, “realistic” features.  So exciting, and pretty darned awesome, for a 4-year old!  She really took her time with it, focusing very hard on looking at the picture and trying to draw it the same way (making me instantly recall the Napoleon Dynamite quote: “It took me like three hours to finish the shading on your upper lip. It’s probably the best drawing I’ve ever done.”  Hehehe.)

Yesterday, I had a doodle of Wonder Woman in my sketchbook, and she tried her hand at it again, and again–I’m blown away.


It’s so cool to be able to see your kid change and grown and learn new things.  Sure, it’s a little sad to see a beloved phase go by, but my mom always said, “enjoy whatever phase she’s in, because the next phase might be a rough one.”

So while we still doodle the occasional heads from time to time (and I’ll be sure to keep giving her the option to), it’s so great to see her trying new things!  Believe, me, the collaborations have changed our lives so much for the good that I’m going to keep trying them with her, and it’ll be fun to see how they look once she’s a little older.  Maybe she’s ready to let me draw the bodies to HER heads now…

Whatever the case, I’m just glad for it.  All of it.  Messes and ants and all.


Get Messy!

Summer’s coming!  And for a stay at home, work-at-home mom, the prospect of keeping the munchkin busy all day every day for several months while simultaneously working from my computer is a daunting one indeed.  But while I work on the prospect of signing up for a little bit of summer day camps and a few hours of daycare each day, I have to remember to make some really good memories.  And sometimes, the quickest way to make a good memory…is to make a good MESS.

A long long time ago on the blog, I wrote about making beautiful messes.  When I was a kid, I loved to make a mess, and I wasn’t afraid of things like dirt, muddy clothes, or bug guts.  But somehow, in the process of growing up, instead of being carefree and fun, a roll in the grass now makes me fret about grass stains, spiders, and where the dogs may have peed.  But how is our daughter supposed to know what it’s like to squish mud between her toes and all that stuff…if I never let her do it?


And honestly, can’t all that stuff be washed away, for the most part?  I mean, what’s the worst that can happen, really?  When I was in the army, we would get disgustingly gross, sweaty and muddy and horrible-smelling and sore, and I think the fact that you are so disgustingly messy beforehand made you feel SOOOO GOOD when you got all cleaned up.

As a mom, when I find myself being resistant to something the kid wants to do, I try to ask myself  if I’m saying no for a good reason, or just because it makes me uncomfortable.  If it’s just that it makes me uncomfortable, it might be something I actually SHOULD do.

So a recent trip to our local library has unearthed my sister’s favorite book series and our newest book obsession:  The Magic Schoolbus.  Along with being EXTREMELY educational and fun for me to read to Myla in a way that can grow with her (there is the main story about going on crazy adventures and exploring things like the human body, insects, sea life, etc, and then additional more detailed information along the sides in cute “side notes”), the crazy teacher’s motto has reiterated an idea that has been a key thing I’ve learned from becoming a parent:  to “Take chances, make mistakes, GET MESSY!!!”


If you’re someone who gets the oogies about messes, there are easy stress-free ways to get messy, and the key is to GET PREPARED!   Use washable paints, wear sloppy clothes or an apron.  Put down a table cloth and have towels on hand for when you’re done.  Have the washer on standby and have a set of clean clothes waiting by a readied bathtub.


And don’t forget to JOIN IN!  Don’t just be a spectator.  It’ll be good for you to get out of your comfort zone–believe me!


Most important of all, though:  don’t take anything too seriously!  Get out there and challenge yourself to make all kinds of messes with your kids, with your family, with your friends.  You can do it!  And when you DO, don’t forget to take some pictures, and share them with me on Facebook.  I’d love to see ’em!

Happy Heart Day, Sucka!

I’ll be honest with you, here.  Shhhhhhh—-lean in a little bit; I’ll whisper it to you:   ….I don’t really like Valentine’s day.

Not even a little bit.  Maybe it’s because I was always the “new kid” who was a bit weird, so on V-day the fancy little box we made in class only ever had a scant card or two in it.  Maybe it was because as I got older, the flowers & candy seemed to be not simply a sweet sentiment shared between two people, but a rating and judging system that primarily existed ONLY for the sake of some of the snotty girls to announce to us lesser creatures that, “someone likes me THIS much, and now I am royalty.”

Okay, I admit it:  the years have made me a little bitter.  If there was a humbug for Valentine’s Day, I’d be the poster girl.  I can’t help it–I blame the unrealistic expectations of 80s movies and fairy tales.  Even now, after 12 years of marriage, I PREFER IT if my husband doesn’t do anything more than say, “Happy Valentine’s Day, babe!”

But having a kid, you start to see the silly holidays in a different light, for what they are probably MEANT to be, and right now, she’s at a stage where they’re just an opportunity to get some candy and give out fun cards.  And that’s cool.  I’m pretty alright with that.

So when our daughter’s Pre-K class had a Valentine’s party last year,  I looked around at some of the kid’s cards out there.  Some of the sentiments in the pre-made cards always seemed a little too “lovey-dovey” for my tastes.  I mean, they’re in PRE-K!  I’m not trying to marry the girl off just yet!  I’ve not ever been a big fan of many of the pre-made character cards, and while I realize she will probably insist on choosing some obnoxious character cards later down the road, right now she doesn’t really care WHAT they say as long as candy is involved…..so for now, I get to call the shots.  Yay!

So I decided to make my OWN cards for her!   I didn’t want to make them TOO pessimistic (I mean my gut idea was “Valentines Day SUCKS” with suckers on them, but OKAY okay–I guess I admit that’s a little harsh for a kid’s class), so since she likes monsters, I just made these…

valentines 2014

And you can use ’em too, if you want to!  They’re easy and don’t take much work.  Just right click the image and save it to your desktop.  Print it out on cardstock, and punch holes where the black dots are, and slip a lollipop stick in.  I even cut around each one a little, just for something different, but you can just cut straight on the black lines to keep it easy peasy.

photo 2

And I don’t really think they’re THAT bad, are they?  I softened it up with the “Love, Myla” part.  Shoot, Pre-K kids can’t read anyway, but they know lollipops taste good, AMIRIGHT???

This year, with the overwhelming amount of candy I’m sure she’ll get, I thought we could be the ones that send the “different” ones, ones with little toys or something in ’em.  I found some pre-made ones with little rubbery bugs (which our daughter loves), and I decided to keep the homemade theme going for as long as I can get away with it… Maybe “You Don’t Really Bug Me So Much.”  Is that too long for a card?  Heh-heh.

Being artsy fartsy comes in handy sometimes!  My college friend James Stowe knows that firsthand–each year, his son & daughter request themed V-day cards, and he creates them himself.  A few years back, he made the CUTEST Star Wars cards that were all OVER the internet.  He’s done Dr. Who Villains and Mario Brothers, D&D and now Firefly and he’s offering those over on his website as a printable PDF for only $3 apiece!

So if you’re a humbug about Valentine’s Day (or even if you’re not), feel free to print my sucka sheets out for yourself.  Or get some from an artist like Stowe.  Or come up with your OWN!  I may not like Valentine’s day, but I’d LOVE to see what you do!


Once upon a time, our daughter commented that an artist’s work we saw in a shop wasn’t so great because “it looks like scribbles.”  In an effort to try to expand her creativity, it occurred to me that other than the rare kid’s book, there isn’t much out there to explain different kinds of art to kids in a way that makes sense in their little world.  I guess kids try so hard to learn how to draw things literally, that it’s difficult for them to understand why anyone would INTENTIONALLY draw something unrecognizable!

We had learned a little about Frida, and how she “painted her dreams.”  Then I taught her to “dance” with the paint, like Pollock.  Like their work or don’t, but each one of them was important to the history of art for a reason, and I think helping someone else make sense of that reason is a fun challenge.

So I saw another opportunity in Picasso.  Picasso was a fine artist, and actually drew quite realistically, but what really set him apart was when he expanded on the idea of breaking up the face into its most basic SHAPES.  He also played with the idea of seeing if he could show different perspectives in the same piece.  Could she be turned to the side, but also show both of her eyes?  What would that look like?

This was fun, because it didn’t take a lot of prep work.  When our daughter came home from school, I had a plate full of shapes that I had cut out of construction paper  waiting for her, along with some glue.


“Picasso made shapes into faces,” I told her.  “Let’s see if we can make a face using only shapes.”  So we happily cut and pasted.  At first she balked a little.  “Your dress looks strange,” she questioned me.  “And why are her cheeks two different colors?”  Because, my dear, we’re trying to mix things up a bit.  Picasso-style.


I told her it didn’t have to be perfect, and it didn’t have to look EXACTLY like the thing you were trying to draw.  It was just supposed to be a fun experiment.  What would it look like if you used shapes for the eyes instead of drawing them?


She couldn’t help herself, and finished some additional spots in pen.  And although she struggled with the need for symmetry, she was able to step out of her comfort zone a bit and enjoyed trying something new.


We left the shape plate on the table, and she created a rabbit the next day.  (I KNOW those mismatched ears were killin’ her…)


So, like we did with Pollock and Frida, I showed her a drawing of Picasso I had done, and she drew a body for him.  She put him in stripes, gluing little shapes down onto paper, just like we did.  And while that may not have been Picasso’s medium, the basic idea is there, I think.

Besides, I think Picasso might have actually had fun with construction paper and glue.


So if you’re looking for a fun kid project that also teaches them about art, give it a try!  And I’d love to see what you come up with over on the Facebook page!

(OH!  And if you’d like to see more artsy artwork from both me AND the kiddo, I’m on Instagram now!–@busymockingbird.  But more about that later…)

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