Mini Cardboard Christmas Trees

I’ve been getting into the Christmas Spirit this year decorating my house, and re-decorating over and over again. (Two-and-a-half year-olds can do a lot of “undecorating” in a surprisingly short amount of time.) I’ve realized that I need to add a number of kid-friendly pieces that can be handled and loved. Today we made some mini cardboard Christmas trees that can be used as backdrop for a nativity, tucked in a corner with some garland or ornaments, or just sit by themselves. We only made one size, however they’d look great grouped together in multiple sizes.

Start by cutting out a Christmas tree template. You can draw one on a folded piece of paper and then cut it out (make sure it is symmetrical), or just trace a triangle shape onto your cardboard.

Cardboard Templates

You’ll need two identical shapes to make your tree. Cut them out with an Xacto Knife. Then measuring from the center point (In both directions) cut a slot 1/8″ wide, on one tree to the bottom and on one tree going to the top. When you fit the trees together, they’ll stand up nicely.

We haven’t done much gluing with our art play group, so I decided to have the kids decorate the trees using glue and tissue paper.

Gluing

Add a bit of white school glue to a dish or tray, and then dilute it with a few drops of water. The paste should be easily spreadable with a brush. Then just have the kids “paint” their trees with the glue and stick on the squares of tissue paper. I just cut up a few pieces of tissue paper that I had stashed with my gift wrap supplies. Encourage the kids to see what happens when they layer pieces of tissue paper over one another.

neat girlsmessy boys

As you can see, there was a significant difference in ahem “organization” styles between the girls’ table and the boys’ table.

concentration

We discovered this was a good activity for concentration, and small motor skills.

finished trees

Here’s a picture of the finished trees. If you like, you can trim along the edge of the trees so that the tissue paper doesn’t hang over and obscure the tree’s shape. Or leave them as they are. I like them both ways.

Merry Christmas!

Place your finished tree and enjoy! Merry Christmas!

Autumn Leaf Window Clings

 

painting the leaves

The fall leaves have been so pretty the last few weeks that I thought we should incorporate fall colors into our art playgroup. I decided to make window clings, which we haven’t done before. I thought the clings would be a nice way to show off the kids’ work. Before all the kids got here for art group, Little O and I took a walk around the neighborhood looking for pretty leaves. When the kids got here, we pulled out the leaves and talked about all the colors we could find. We decided what paint colors to use based on the leaves in our collection. Clear contact paper is used as the “paper,” and we’re just painting with plain old Crayola washable paints. I traced the leaf outlines with a black Sharpie. Normally I wouldn’t give the kids something that looks like a coloring sheet, but since everyone in our group is two, I was pretty sure that they’d ignore the lines, which in fact happened. If you have older kids, let them draw the leaves themselves.

painted leaves

Once the leaves were painted, I just left them taped to the table to dry, since the contact paper curls up and I didn’t want paint everywhere. When the leaves were dry, I just cut them out along the lines and peeled off the backing. Little O was more than happy to help me stick them to the front window.

sticking them to the window

After the kids were done painting the contact paper leaves, I let them do a leaf collage (which you can see behind Little O’s head in the picture above). They chose the leaves they liked and placed them on the sticky side of the contact paper. They loved sticking and re-sticking the leaves. I’m not sure which activity they liked the best, but both turned out lovely!

leaf collage

leaf collage

 

Colossal Bubbles

This summer I saw a post on a food blog about making huge bubbles. The idea intrigued me, but not enough to actually bookmark the post. Then at a family reunion, my sister-in-law made the exact recipe and adults and kids alike spent at least an hour in the street blowing huge bubbles. It was a blast!

I thought we’d try the huge bubbles out at art play group. They were a hit. The kids loved seeing the huge floating orbs, chasing, and popping them. I tried to dye the solution to get a few bubble prints, but that didn’t work out so well and I wouldn’t recommend it.

reach for it

For the giant bubbles, I tried three recipes. All recipes have their merits, but the third recipe produces the biggest bubbles. I’ll start with the recipes, review them, and then get into the nitty-gritty of how to blow these giant bubbles.

RECIPE #1

This recipe is great because it is inexpensive to make, and you’ll have almost everything you need right in your kitchen cupboard. The bubbles we made were a bit finicky, they kept popping at first and were not as large as I would have liked. The longer we used it the more the bubbles stayed intact. I think it would be best to let this recipe sit for at least 30 minutes before you use it, stirring about every 5 minutes to incorporate the baking powder that has settled to the bottom. I think this recipe would work best on a humid day. I’ve heard that bubbles will last longer in humidity (but I wouldn’t know because we never have humidity around here!

You will need:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup original Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • 1/2 Tbsp Baking Powder

RECIPE #2

This recipe was easy to make, and had the additional ingredients of corn starch and glycerin* (I got mine at a grocery store, but they kept it behind the counter at the pharmacy. You can also order it from Amazon.). This recipe worked well, the bubbles were a bit larger than the first recipe, but again, it needs time to sit. I think this one would also work best on a humid day.

  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup blue Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp glycerin*

First dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Then add all remaining ingredients and stir to mix. Don’t mix too quickly–you don’t want to build up a lot of froth. I found this recipe over on Happy Hooligans. She seemed to have better success with it than I did. She recommends that you should let the solution sit for at least an hour before using it, stirring occasionally to keep mixing in the cornstarch that has settled out. I couldn’t wait that long, so perhaps that’s why we didn’t have so much success. I did notice like she did that the more you played with it, the better the solution got.

I did try her bubble blowers (two straws as “handles” and string looped through them.) though they were probably easier to use for little kids than the blowers I ended up using, I found that the bubbles popped more often because your fingers were wrapped around the straws and interfering with the film of the bubble.

RECIPE #3

I found this recipe on the blog “Our Best Bites,” however the original recipe comes from SamLRichards.com. You can cut the recipe in half, which I would recommend doing. You still get to blow A LOT of bubbles, and there is less left-over solution. I found that the saved solution didn’t work as well a few days after making it, so just do a half recipe and make a fresh batch every time you want to blow bubbles.

  • 1 gallon water (16 cups)
  • 1 cup original Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp glycerin*
  • 1/2 tsp J-Lube

Mix everything in a very clean bucket (dust and dirt will make your bubbles pop!) Dip your bubble wand into the solution and let it soak until the string is very wet. Again, the bubbles will last longer and be bigger on a humid day, but we had success in our very dry Colorado climate.

By the way, this ingredient “J-Lube?” Yes, it is a weird ingredient. It is a veterinarian obstetrical lubricant. You can buy it on Amazon. You will pay about $25 for a big bottle, and you need only 1/2 tsp! So if you order it, you’ll be set to make bubbles for life. I haven’t tried the recipe without it, or substituting it for something else, so I can’t tell you what the solution will be like if you omit it. Sam L Richards seems to think it is the most important ingredient.

I do know from a very cursory reading of the soap bubble wiki, that the J-Lube is one ingredient that creates long polymer chains (which you want). The polymer chains make the bubble a bit “stronger” and less likely to pop, thus able to blow a bigger bubble.

BUBBLE WAND

All you’ll need is a couple of dowels (mine were 5/16 of an inch) and some 100% cotton yarn. Cut a length of yarn–I think mine was about 6 feet long. Tie one end to one dowel. Tie another knot to the other dowel about 2 feet further down the yarn. Now take the other end of the yard and tie it to the original dowel near the first knot. You’ll now have a triangular shaped frame to blow your bubbles with.

happy bubbles

As you can see, you want the bottom length of yarn longer than the top length so that you get a good opening for the bubble to form. (If you need a more detailed tutorial, please check out the original post on Sam L Richards–link above.)

If you have a slight breeze to work with, just dip your bubble want into the solution, hold your arms up over your head and spread them wide. Let the breeze take the bubble. The more you do it, the more you’ll get a feel for when you need to “close off” the bubble, bringing the dowels close together so that the bubble can take off and float away. If you don’t have a breeze, just make sure you have a level ground to walk on, because you’ll need to hold your arms high and wide and walk backward to form the bubble.

BUBBLE SNAKES

We also tried out bubble snakes, which were also fun, but didn’t require gross-motor movement. This one was more of a fine-motor skill. To make the “snake” making machine, cut the bottom off of a plastic water bottle, and cover it with a tube sock or a bit of terrycloth rag secured with a rubber band. Dip the rag into the solution, and blow through the mouth piece of the bottle. You’ll get an amazing bubble snake!

bubble snake

As you can see, this is a fun and different way to blow bubbles. We colored the “snakes” by adding food coloring to the rag.

Bubble Wrap Dance Painting

While perusing Pinterest, I saw this idea for bubble wrap stomp painting. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and decided to give it a go when the kids were over for our art play date.

bubble wrapped foot

When the bubble wrap came out, Little O put it on the floor and started stomping on it immediately, so I thought this activity would be a hit! Then we wrapped all of their little feet in bubble wrap. We added dollops of paint to the rolled out sheets of paper, and let them go for it. They really were unsure of what to do. I was quite surprised that they were so hesitant about stomping around on the paint with their little bubble-wrapped feet.

bubbles and bubble wrap

In order to encourage them, we turned up some music and started dancing. This got them moving around more and more. Then we added real bubbles to the mix and tried to get them moving even more. All of my pictures show them standing around flat-footed, but I promise they were moving! I’m sure this will be a fun activity to introduce again. It has great gross-motor and sensory elements, and appeals to lots of ages.

Making Friends with Onions

making friends with onions

I didn’t get permission from my sister to use this image of her; nevertheless, I’m going to risk using it because it IS SO GOOD! She is a genius. She posted this image a while ago on Facebook, and it had me laughing until I actually tried her idea. Swimming goggles while chopping onions is a miracle! No tears. None. No runny nose.

My sister is a chemist, and therefore she would know that gasses released from cutting the onion waft up to your eyes, turning into sulfuric acid when the gas combines with the water on your eye. This of course results in your eyes tearing up to get rid of the acid. Thus, she would know that protecting your eyes from that gas would prevent the tears. I am not a chemist, and would have no such knowledge of the chemical reaction going on in my eyes every time I chop an onion. Therefore, I think my sister is a genius!

End of story. Wear your swimming goggles. I promise they won’t let you down.

Marbling Paper with Shaving Cream

Where has the time gone? Last I checked, it was still July and here we are at the end of August! Sigh. Hopefully the oncoming fall chill will have me working on blog posts a tiny bit more often.

With the busy summer schedule (hopefully) behind us, we have been doing a few more art projects around here. I wanted to share this one because it was so much fun and kept the kids’ attention for so long. This activity is one I’m sure we’ll be repeating.

I kept thinking that I wanted to use shaving cream as a sensory material, I just couldn’t figure out how I wanted to incorporate it into an art project. Then I saw this idea for marbling paper. I do have to say that the kids didn’t care one bit about marbling the paper, but the moms enjoyed it and it is a little keepsake to remember the activity.

We started by giving each child a pie plate or cake pan full of shaving cream. They were all really unsure of it at first and didn’t want to touch it even after some encouragement. I gave them rubber scrapers to mix the shaving cream with, which got them interested in the material. After mixing for a bit, we added a little paint to each pan and let the kids mix the paint into the shaving cream. This activity by itself was great–the kids would request colors and then mix and mix.

adding tempera paintspots of food coloring

Once the kids were tired of mixing the color, moms helped them smooth the shaving cream and then we added dots of food coloring to the top. Each child got a cotton swab and started mixing with the swab. This results in a marbled look.

marbling the colorshands in shaving cream

As you can see, the kids got much more comfortable with the shaving cream the more they played around with it. They started mixing with rubber scrapers, then progressed to cotton swabs, then got into it with their hands. I had a 5-gallon bucket of warm water close to the table for clean-up. I would highly recommend some kind of clean-up station very near your work area.

Once you have a nice marbled surface, lay a sheet of paper down on the top of the shaving cream and press lightly. Peel back the paper. There will be a good amount of shaving cream stuck to the paper, which you can just scrape off with a ruler or craft stick.

scrape off excess shaving cream

The results are pretty, and you can use your marbled paper for just about anything.

marbled paper1marbled paper

You can use any paint for this project, but please note that if you do use food coloring as I did, it will stain clothing and hands.

Frozen Paint Pops

frozen paint pops

It’s been hot here lately. So hot that all you want to do is lay on the couch. So hot that even going to the pool seems like too much to do. I thought that something frozen would be a great idea for art group. Frozen paint pops turned out to be a great idea! They were super easy to make, and fun to use.

To make the pops, mix up some liquid watercolor, or thin down some tempera or finger paint. Then pour into ice cube trays. Put them in the freezer. After about 20 minutes, add craft sticks. Don’t worry if they don’t stick straight up-the kids aren’t going to mind. Put them back in the freezer and freeze until they are solid. Then remove them from the tray and use like a paintbrush.

painting with ice

None of the kids mistook these for popscicles, but you could probably use frozen Kool-Aid or Jello paint if you have kids that still like to put things in their mouths.

how cold is it?

We definitely had kids feeling the ice and painting their hands with it, but nothing went in the mouth.

collaborative painting

When the kids have had enough painting on their own paper, get a large sheet out and have them do a collaborative painting. It was fun to see how the colors mixed and what kinds of shapes we could make with the ice, drips, and sticks.