Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homemade Wrapping Paper

With the holidays right around the corner everyone is looking for a few ways to save some money. A great way to spend some quality time with your family and a creative way to wrap your gifts is by making your own homemade wrapping paper!

You will need:

Solid color wrapping paper or craft paper
Paper plates
Items you can use to paint with:
Water bottles
Soda cans
Hands and feet

*The posibilites are endless when it comes to finding items to paint with! Be creative and have fun!!

*We used pop cans, cotton balls and a paintbrush to splatter paint!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Finger Alphabets

This is a great way to get your children to practice writing their letters.  Set up a cookie sheet or pan with edges (shorter edges are good but you don't want a flat cookie sheet unless you have a really awesome vacuum) by placing a thin layer of cornmeal on the bottom of the pan.  Show your children how they can use their fingers to make letters or pictures, then roll up their sleeves and let them go!  If you want to try other materials such as flour, sand, or rice you can do so but cornmeal is a cheap option that works really well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kitchen Play

I understand how frustrating it can be trying to get dinner ready with little ones underfoot.  They want to know what you are doing, what that pan is for, why you're doing that, and can they help?  A great way to get them out of the kitchen while keeping them involved is to give them one or two pans with dried rice or dried beans and some kitchen utensils.  They can use the utensils to practice their measuring, make a pretend dinner, or just dig around.  If you are brave enough to give them two pans, they can scoop from one pan and pour into the other pan.  This will normally buy me enough time with my 2 1/2 year old that I can finish dinner with a shred of sanity left!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Painting Easel

I have always wanted to buy an art easel for my kids but it takes up too much space, there's a huge waste of paper, and the paint makes a mess all over the house when the little one is not supervised.  I think I have stumbled across a solution: use a window, door, or other glass pane.  Using washable paint, this will be easily cleaned.  It can be set up outside (if you are really brave you can use your own back door!).  The only expense becomes the paint and brushes which you can purchase nice jars for paint at Lakeshore Learning or Learning Palace and it will help keep the paint a little more contained.

While visiting a children's museum in Seattle I saw this idea in use and I immediately thought of going to ReStore and finding a used window at an affordable price.  It would be easy to add a base of some sort (depending on the base you find.  Also, a picture frame might work if you hung an old frame on your fence your children could use that to paint.  The frames would have to be weatherized but there are stains or sprays that make that really easy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Supply Storage

We live in a small house and I have tried to be pretty inventive on storing things so that our stuff is easily used but also not super cluttered.  I have by no means mastered this skill but I am slowly working on improving the systems in our home.

Craft supplies have been difficult to store because my youngest likes to color on everything with any type of pen or paint she can find.  I don't know how she does it but there always seems to be some sort of writing utensil that she finds!!  This means I don't want to keep the craft supplies accessible to the kids all the time but I do want them to be usable.  Also, I have a hard time with the idea that sometimes we don't get them all picked up before we move to the next craft adventure.  With all of this in mind, I decided that keeping craft supplies out of reach of the kids was the best idea for our family.

While our house is small, one thing we do have is storage above our kitchen cabinets.  I just found great baskets at Michael's on sale.  These baskets are fun and cute but also very practical because each basket has a small chalkboard on the front.  They come in different sizes and are easy to use with handles.  This is a very practical use of space above our cabinets and it will help us keep our craft, play dough, and other less used supplies in good condition.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Paper Dresses

One of my favorite parenting magazine is Disney's Family Fun.  They offer all sorts of great advice and share a lot of advice from other parents.  This month, one mom wrote in and shared and idea that I love because I have a princess who refuses to wear anything that isn't a dress.

The idea is simple: take a large piece of white paper, fold it over and trace your child's outline.  Cut the pieces out for your child then let them decorate.  Use paint, markers, curling ribbon, stickers or anything else you (or your child) desire.  When the dress is decorated, use a hole punch along the sides of the dress and string the two pieces together with yarn or curling ribbon.  The dress is now ready for your child to wear.

This can be done with two pieces of large colored cardstock found at Dollar Tree stores or you can purchase a roll of butcher paper at IKEA or we found one a few years back at Albertsons.

The thing I love about this is it would be a great play date or birthday party idea.  If you had a few helpers you could pre-cut the paper and have a few helpers oversee decorating while all of the girls made dresses and maybe even crowns for a tea party birthday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pen Pal Project

So I had a friend the other day complain about having to throw away (or recycle) her daughter's artwork.  Her daughter was distressed every time any paper she drew on had to disappear.  This gave me an idea.  I'm going to be setting up folders for different members of my family and friends who live out of town.  The folder is going to have a few letters stamped and addressed to that specific person.

I can now have my kids write a letter (or for the little ones draw a picture) to one of these people.  When my kids are done with an art project, they can select an envelope from a folder and mail it to a friend or family member.  This will help buy me enough time to get dinner done, a load of laundry folded, or anything else I need to do in 15 minutes.  My friends and family will be so excited to receive their letters, and my kids will have time to practice their writing (or drawing).

Monday, March 29, 2010

SCRAP as only Portland can!

This weekend we found a great little treasure in Portland...SCRAP.  SCRAP stands for School & Community Reuse Action Project.  It is a non-profit that collects clean, reuseable materials and organizes them in their shop for resale.  You can come in and join a workshop where you work in their space or you can just shop.

The stuff they have is pretty amazing.  There are tons of fabric scraps, yarn, half-used bottles of paint, glitter, and glue, velcro pieces, magnets, greeting cards, and electronic components.  My favorite was actually a box of photos that people had taken of celebrities and athletes autographing stuff.  No joke!  You could buy a picture some random person took of a random famous person signing their name.  If you wanted more than just one, you could have a whole box full!  This is why I love Portland!!!

My kids had a great time.  I gave them each $2 and they spent 2 hours pouring over the items trying to make a great purchasing decision. They grabbed things then found other things.  They put stuff back and went back for more.  In the end, we paid about $8 and I found stuff for my entire high school class to use to make hoover crafts and my kids each ended up with about 3 "creations" worth of stuff.  We were all very satisfied and spent the rest of the afternoon inventing at the kitchen table.

SCRAP is located at the corner of MLK and Scranton in NE Portland.  Their phone number is 503-294-0769 and they are open daily from 11 am until 6 pm.  There are all sorts of events and functions offered there ranging from adult-only events to kids summer camps.  Check out SCRAP's website for more details.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Today I was looking for something that would be a fun adventure for me and my kids but something that would keep us at home.  My son is learning about birds in his first grade class so we decided to try and learn how to make an origami hummingbird.  Online we found some websites that were really good but I had a hard time following some of the instructions.

After one failed attempt at the hummingbird we packed in the car and headed to the library where we found a shelf full of origami and paper airplane books.  I was really impressed with the books and the pictures in the books.  My first grader was able to follow some of the instructions for the basic folds and he figured out a pinwheel on his own.  The other two needed help but loved decorating the finished paper products.  I have a whole bunch of 12x12 inch paper left over from some long-lost scrap-booking projects so we used those and the kids had a wonderful time.  We never made it to the hummingbird but a dog, two cats, a flower, many paper airplanes and many snowflakes later I think we managed to spend about 2 hours around the kitchen table.

Some of the books I really liked were Easy Origami by Didier Boursin and Totally Cool Origami Animals by Ann Kristen Krier.  We also found Paper Airplanes: Models to build and fly by Emery J. Kelly to be a lot of fun (although I think I'm going to be finding crashed airplanes in my house for years to come now!!).

Overall, I think this was great because the cost was nominal with borrowed books and left over paper.  We had a great evening and rediscovered the kitchen table in time for dinner!