Defrosting Animals

Although we live in mostly Sunny California, I’ve been inspired by all of the snow and ice activities I’ve been reading about in the blog world lately. Sensory activities always go over well in our house, and I had a feeling this would work out in my favor.

Right after my daughter turned two, she was fascinated by all-things-ice. Here she on a plane, happily pouring ice from one cup to another. We were traveling to Mexico with very few toys, and were delighted to discover that she was highly engaged with ice-based activities like filling water glasses with ice cubes, playing with ice in the bathtub, and picking up ice from an ice bucket with tongs. If you have a little one and haven’t yet played with ice, this is the time!

I froze a number of animals in various plastic bowls and silicone bento containers, and put them in the freezer before going to bed. I especially like these mini bread loaves because they can fit into the nooks and crannies of my freezer and they didn’t take forever to thaw out. If you live somewhere chilly, you can probably set the ice up right in your backyard, but I had to make a little room in my freezer, which is no small feet when said freezer is 1 cubic foot and full of pureed baby food.

In the morning, we were greeted with a fun defrosting activity. The bowls of icy animals were placed in a large tub alongside odds and ends worthy of picking, banging, and melting away ice. My daughter had trouble with the hammers, as the slippery icy animals kept squirming away, and the golf tees ended up adding more danger to the activity than I’d imagined. My husband enjoyed these tools, however, which turned this into a nice collaborative project, while my daughter was invested in squirting an endless supply of warm water (courtesy of moi) all over the ice.

And between the two of them, all of the animals were freed!

Happily shared with Tot Tuesdays, Monkeying AroundHomeschool Creations, Science Sunday, High Paw: Best Toys for Toddlers, World Animal Day Bloghop

Creative Experiment #2: Pasta

Make something with pasta.

Pasta! It’s a multicultural food that can be found in everything from Pad Thai to Mac ‘n Cheese. Kids love to eat it. It’s got an amazing shelf life. And most of us already have it stockpiled in our pantries.

We eat a lot of it in our home, and it’s made an appearance in more than one art activity. For example: Drippy Gravity Painting

So now I ask you…what can you do with pasta? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in on the Experiment

  • Use pasta (noodles, macaroni, ramen…it’s up to you!), along with any other materials of your choice
  • Attach a photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Take the pasta outside, and make an installation in the dirt, sand, or sidewalk
  • Attach it to another object with a glue gun. Attach it to paper with white glue.
  • Dye it, sort it, print it, make patterns with it
  • Make a batch of fresh pasta
  • String it up like a necklace or bunting
  • As a provocation, put a variety of art materials in front of your child (i.e. pasta, markers, yarn, glue), and see what they come up with

Instructions for adding an image file

  1. Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  2. Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  3. Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  4. Click the “Submit Comment” button

Felt Dollhouse Dolls

diy felt dolls

If you had been there, you would have thought I found gold when I discovered an old handmade dollhouse in a second hand shop last year. It had real shingles, an attic, and even some built-ins like a toilet paper dispenser. It’s the little things that make me happy.

After hauling it home, I spent countless evening hours repainting it by flood lamps in the garage. The things we do for our kids, no?

Meanwhile, I was on the hunt for natural wooden dolls, and was faced with pretty severe sticker shock when I finally found them. $10 for a miniature doll?! I finally found an affordable Melissa & Doug Wooden Family Doll Set and some Wooden People that are great for painting or keeping plain (as we have).

But like any  sane person with a Martha Stewart streak, I set off to make some of my own, and you can too!


Everything can be purchased at JoAnn Fabrics (or similar fabric/craft store)

  • Pipe Cleaner(s)
  • Craft Felt
  • Embroidery Floss and Needle
  • Wooden Bead with pre-painted face. If they don’t have these, you could paint faces on plain beads with acrylic paints or paint pens.
  • Doll hair
  • Hot Glue Gun


  • The most time-consuming part of this was stitching up the clothes, but all-in-all, this was a fairly quick project.

I bent a pipe cleaner (chenille stem) into the shape you see here, and wrapped it with embroidery floss. I then tied off the floss ends so that they don’t come loose.

I made some clothes with craft felt. If you’re a Project Runway fan like I am, this is your time to shine (as I clearly am). The blue felt is about to become a pair of pants.

I inserted the body into the pants, and then stitched the sides up with a blanket stitch. If you’ve never done a blanket stitch before, once your get going it’s really simple. And kind of fun. Here’s my favorite tutorial.

I cut another piece of felt for a shirt, and then stitched the seams shut.

I cut out another shape that would become a hat, glued hair to the head, and then glued the hat on top of that. Finally, the head was glued onto pipe cleaner “neck.”

Cute and bendable. Inexpensive, simple, and rewarding! If you can handle doing this all over again, make a family of dolls to inhabit your mini home.

Deconstructed Valentines

Kids Valentines Ideas  Deconstructed Valentines

Our neighborhood market does a good job at displaying an appealing array of holiday goodies just as you enter, and I’m often a sucker for such marketing ploys. They recently set up a lavish Valentine’s ordeal, and before even getting close to the milk aisle, I already had a shaker of heart sprinkles and a Fancy Nancy Valentine’s Day book in my hands.

N skimmed through the book on the way home, and then devoured every word as soon as we had a chance to sit down together. We’ve been talking a lot about this mysterious “hearts and flowers” holiday, but I don’t think it actually began to sink in until we read the book.

Once we read the book, mere moments passed before the request to “make Valentine’s cards” came in and Project Deconstructed Valentine’s was underway! It all began quite obviously with a pile of doilies, cut-out hearts, glue, and glitter.

And then the cutting began. And more cutting. Cutting, cutting, cutting. Any vision I had of  frilly Valentine’s with heartfelt messages was quickly replaced with one of hearts, cut into smithereens. A bazillion little fragments of love, splintered all of the table.

It wasn’t enough to cut up a sheet of paper. Oh, no. I had to cut hearts out of the paper first, and then hand them over for further cutting. Since we were collaborating, I was then instructed to glue the little shards to a doily, which is what you see here. A true collaboration, full of process-based goodness. And while the end-result may not be what I had in mind, I actually think we ended up with something far more interesting and fun to look at in the end.

Recipe for Making Process-based Valentine’s Cards

Although I didn’t start with this plan, in retrospect I think this is what led to our success…

  1. Look at examples of Valentine’s Cards or Read a Book about Valentine’s Day
  2. Set up some basic Valentine’s materials – Doilies, Red and Pink Paper, Glitter, Glue, Scissors, Markers
  3. Provide materials in a color scheme that will make the end product look cohesive (i.e red, pink, white, and silver)
  4. See where it takes you without prescribing how the child should make their card
  5. Gift them, hang them, or repurpose them. N wanted to decorate the house with ours, and I had a package to send off to grandma and thought this would make for a festive gift topper.

What are your Valentine’s traditions?


Vinegar and Baking Soda

Have you tried the baking soda and vinegar experiment with your kids yet? 

Yesterday N skipped her nap and requested “gooey flour and water” for her quiet time activity.  Did you hear me sighing? I sort of had “read books” or “play with a puzzle” in mind, but I guess that would be too much to expect when we rarely sit down and work on puzzles during non-quiet times, right?

I had a million little things in the hopper, but it seemed like a reasonable request. So, there she was, inches deep in flour, salt, water, and white vinegar. With its clear color and acidic smell, the vinegar gave this sensory project an elevated feeling of alchemy. She liked the smell of it, then tasted it, and then tasted everything.

As I was sitting there watching this serious game of ingredient exploration unfold, I remembered the ol’ vinegar and baking soda trick! So I brought out the baking soda and asked innocently, “would you like to add some baking soda into your cups?” Of course she said “yes,” and her reaction to the merging of the vinegar and baking soda made missing a nap totally worthwhile.

First she add baking soda to all of the cups and then she poured vinegar on top of the baking soda. We played this game in both directions: adding vinegar to baking soda and vice versa.

After depleting my white vinegar reserves, she begged me for more. (Hey! This project is a winner!) Since I was also sort of curious about how the other vinegars would react to the baking soda, I reluctantly handed over my red wine and balsamic vinegars. They each bubbled, but had slightly different reactions.

Happy experimenting!

Happily shared with Childhood 101

Sweet Potato Heart Prints

“A life without love is like a year without summer.” – Swedish proverb

Now that our light-up snowman and twinkly lights have finally come down (yes, we’re those people!), we’ve been talking up Valentine’s Day and all things hearts. While I see it as a holiday full of commercial hype and overpriced flowers, I’m reminded that for children it can be full of play and joy and loads of sugar. Mmmmm.

When N developed an addiction to sweet potatoes last week, I bought a five-pound bag of the little beauties only to find out she’s not eating them this week. Of course. So, amidst my plan to freeze a batch of roasted sweet potatoes I realized that they’d also be good for carving up some heart stamps.

So I cut one in half and carved out a couple hearts.

The heart shape rises about 1/2 inch off the potato base to help us get some nice, clean prints.


  • Potato Stamp/s
  • Tempera Paint. Acrylic works too, but you’ll see why I’m so happy I used washable tempera in just a moment
  • Brayer or Paint roller
  • Smooth, flat surface to squeeze the paint on
  • Paper for printing

I rolled out a little bit of paint so that N could cover the stamp in a mostly uniform fashion. And then she got stamping.

Lately, she’s been interested in figuring out how things work. And then once her curiosity is satisfied, she’ll move on to the next thing. So here she is, done stamping in about three minutes flat and apparently investigating the bottom of the stamp. I had to leave the room for five minutes to change her baby sister’s diaper, and now I see that perhaps she was actually wondering how that black paint would feel all over her hands and the table?

Wow! That was a surprise!

I calmly reminded myself that it’s all about the process. And thanked myself for using washable paints. On our old school table that has seen worse days.

If you try this project, I’ve added a new feature that allows you to leave a picture in the comment section.

Creative Experiment #1: Toilet Paper Roll

To mark the start of the new year, I’m starting a project called Creative Challenges. A new challenge will be introduced every month or so, and you are invited to join in on the fun. The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes! Okay, here we go…

Make something with a toilet paper roll.

We all have a few of these lying around (right?!), so why not have fun with them before they hit the recycling bin.

To join in on the Challenge

  • Use at least one toilet paper roll, along with any other materials of your choice
  • Attach a photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • As a provocation, put a variety of art materials in front of your child (i.e. markers, tape, yarn), and see what they come up with
  • Make an installation, using only toilet paper rolls, scissors, and string
  • Attach things to it with a glue gun
  • Decorate it to look like an object (person, animal, house, etc.)

Melted Plastic Bag Collage

I’m a recycler at heart, so projects that incorporate found materials (such as plastic lunch bags and wrapping paper) speak to my soul and my aesthetic. This is one such project. And it was also a true experiment as I’d never done this before and wasn’t at all sure how it would turn out. I love that! I borrowed this idea from MaryAnn Kohl’s Art with Anything.

We began by filling plastic lunch bags with odds and ends: stickers, cut-up pieces of old art, and wrapping paper. While we worked on this right after breakfast, which sort of explains the pajamas, my child would live in her pj’s if she could. She seems happiest jumping around the playground, but I think she may be a little cozy homebody at heart.

Once the bag was ready, we placed it between two pieces of aluminum foil…

and then ironed it flat.

After letting it cool for a minute, we peeled the foil apart to reveal our “laminated” art. While difficult to see in the photos, the heated texture of the plastic turned out mottled and bumpy. N wanted to open the bag after we heated it, which led to a nice convo about how the bag melted.

Hey, that was fun. Let’s do that again!

We made three of these altogether — two were by N and the third was a collaboration (a new word we’re working on!). We made the top two with sandwich baggies and the bottom with a ziplock bag — each worked equally well. This turned out to be fun and educational on a number of fronts:

  • Exploring Volume: My child adores filling bags with things. If she had a mountain of bags to fill while wearing her pajamas all day, she’d be in her own little piece of heaven. If your child likes to fill bags too, this project could be for you!
  • Problem-solving, creative thinking, and exploration: She could choose from an assortment of materials, and was thoughtful about which items to fill the bags with.
  • Practicing a skill: For us this was cutting with Scissors. She’s been practicing this for a while, but has recently hit her cutting stride. So for us, a good half hour was spent on just cutting up wrapping paper.
  • Plastic melts when it’s heated to a high temperature! See yesterday’s Shrinky Dink activity for more on that.