Salt Dough Ornaments: Part 1

dry salt dough ornaments cookie sheet

Raise your hand if you’ve made or plan to make salt dough ornaments this season! Yep, I see a lot of you out there. It seems we’re not the only ones, but in case you haven’t committed to this yet, I have one piece of advice for you: Give yourself some time!

I used this recipe on ParentDish by Anna Ranson, who blogs at The Imagination Tree. You’ll need 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of salt, and up to 1 cup of water. I mixed the dry ingredients and then added a full cup of water. Gulp. Did you catch that bit about adding up to 1 cup of water? The dough was sooo sticky, so I kept adding equal amounts of salt and flour until the dough held together without sticking to my hands. Okay, back on track…

My 3 year old and I both rolled out some dough and got busy cutting shapes with our favorite cookie cutters. I also gave her a small bowl of flour (you can barely see it at the top of this photo) for her to flour her workspace at will. She loved that, and I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that before. Her ornaments are less than perfect, but she proudly made them herself. Awwwww.

We followed Anna’s suggestion of using a straw to add a hole in each shape that we could later hang a ribbon through. Of course N saw no good reason to stop at one hole per ornament. And why should she?

The next step is to bake them at 100 C for 2-3 hours. OMG — just caught that it was Celsius, and here I was cursing my oven for not going below 170 Fahrenheit. Haha! Now I know why it took, literally, all day to bake these. Okay, so I could have just put my oven at 212 degrees and it wouldn’t have taken forever.

After they were dry, N sorted all the ornaments into hearts, trees, snowflakes, and gingerbread men…and then, of course, her little sister stepped in to mix them all up.

Ready for painting. Click over here for the next step: Salt Dough Ornaments: Part 2.

What kind of ornaments are you making?

Halloween Tradition: Little Fabric Ghosts

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This little fabric ghost tradition began last year, and N has been begging me to revive it for weeks. We haven’t had any white fabric in the house, I didn’t have the energy to make a fabric run, and then low-and-behold I found a quarter yard of fabric in a closet sweep a few days ago! Yay for “free” fabric. It’s more craft than art, but you’ll see in a minute how this can be open-ended and exploratory for curious, creative little minds.

We started with approximately 15″ squares of thin cotton fabric, a little thinner than muslin. But really, almost any thin white fabric will work. We filled the middle with about six cotton balls. Actually, it started out at “five,” but when N took over she increased the number by one or two, until the last ghost had about nine cotton balls in the head. This is good for counting, too!

I cut cotton string into lengths of 12″ – 30″ and then tied them around the “heads.” We then glued on googly eyes with white glue.

Now for the fun part! N wanted to draw a mouth on one of the ghosts so we found a Sharpie marker. Drawing the mouth turned into drawing hair, ears, and decorating the entire body. So fun!

She even drew inside the ghost. There are no limits, are there? We made four ghosts altogether, and she named this one the “dad.” The others (mom, baby, and sister) were plain white…what does this mean, I wonder?

We hung them in the tree to scare our neighbors for Halloween. Monofilament might have eliminated the noose quality of the string, but you work with what you’ve got! Boo!

I love hearing from you. Please share your Halloween tradition/s!

This post is shared with Sunday Showcase. Craft Schooling Sunday

Tin Painting for El Dia de Los Muertos

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El dia de los muertos Tin Painting, Tinkerlab.comThe Mexican folk art of tin painting is eye candy for little kids, such a fun medium to play with, and it’s perfect for El Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead, November 1 & 2).

I used to lead this activity when I taught art in Los Angeles elementary schools, and I’ve seen 100′s of children get sucked right into it, inevitably asking for more. I was curious to see if my 3-year-old would have the same reaction…she did!

She made 6 tin paintings before I had to cut her off. If you try this, you’ll have to let me know if you have the same experience with it. If you do a quick image search for Mexican Tin Art (or click this link), you’ll have some good inspiration for this project.

For this project you’ll need:

  • Permanent Markers (like Sharpies) in multiple colors
  • Pure Metal Tooling Foil. Kitchen aluminum foil is too thin to do the job, but I encourage you to try heavy duty foil it if that’s all you have. I order tooling foil from Dick Blick and it looks like you can also get it through Amazon. If you’re feeling more DIY, you could try cutting an aluminum can with tin snips as Anjie did here.
  • Paper tape or electrical tape
  • Blunt pencil
  • Magazine
  • Scissors

This is essentially an embossing project, and I think the joy in it lies in pressing into the foil to create a relief print. It’s highly rewarding, the foil is shiny and enticing, and the final product is a keepsake.

Directions

  1. Cut the foil to the desired size. I like this foil because you can cut it with household scissors or a paper cutter. So easy!
  2. Tape off the edges to avoid cutting little fingers
  3. Place the foil on top of a magazine and draw on it with the blunt pencil. Press down firmly to make a good, strong mark. You can experiment with both a blunt and sharp pencil to see how they work differently. The magazine (or stack of newspaper) creates a cushion that allows the embossing to happen.
  4. Once the drawing is complete, decorate the tin painting with permanent markers. The foil will maintain its sheen beneath the Sharpie marks.
  5. Display proudly.
My daughter taped off these edges by herself (she was proud) and drew one of her signature spiral shapes.
When I introduced this project to elementary age children, we would also include a small piece of tracing paper (the same size as the foil) and images of Pre-Columbian and Mexican symbols (see Resources for a link to a great book). The children would trace the symbols of their choice, place the tracing paper on top of the foil, and then trace the image again. It’s a different experience from the free-form preschool activity I’m sharing here, but it may be of interest to those of you with older children.

Resources

 

Soap Making Experiments

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We made soap wrapped in hand-painted paper for Mother’s Day! I’ve never made soap before, so this was a fun experiment for us all.

First: Hand-painted paper…

Materials

  • liquid watercolors
  • assorted paintbrushes
  • pipettes
  • a big sheet of watercolor paper to cover her work area
  • small pieces of heavy, absorbent tissue paper that came with some packaging in the mail
  • scissors
  • large sheets of newspaper or newsprint for completed paintings to dry on
  • containers for paint

N squeezed watercolor onto the larger paper so that she could absorb it with the smaller scraps.

A while ago we talked about papers that can absorb paint, and she knew right away that she wanted to test out tissue paper, paper towels, and Kleenex. Sweet! She also requested those tongs up there for picking up the wet papers.

Next: Soap Making…

A few days later, we got our soap-making experiment up and running. I wanted to use an organic soap base, but couldn’t find any on short notice. And you’ll see in a moment why I opted to go with two glycerin soap bases that they sell at Michael’s: Shea Butter suspension soap base and Olive Oil suspension soap base. We broke the base up into pieces and microwaved it for about a 1.5 minutes. Clear directions are on the box. This could also be heated in a double broiler.

Once melted, we added some Lavender essence and oatmeal and mixed it up.

To keep bubbles out of the soap, N prepared the molds (also from the craft store) by spraying them with rubbing alcohol. Adult supervision with rubbing alcohol is obviously recommended!

We stuck rubber stamp-like pieces to a little bit of soap (to keep them from sliding around), and then I poured the soap mixture on top. In subsequent batches I didn’t bother “gluing” the stamps down, which improved the appearance of the soap.

Waiting for it to cool is the hardest part! But to keep our spirits high, this was a good time for lunch. Oatmeal, of course!

Aren’t they pretty?! The two cupcake-looking soaps you can see way back there came out of some silicone food containers.

I thought that I could take a bar of vegetable glycerin soap from Whole Foods and give it the same treatment. What do you think? I should have known better since I’m familiar with the Microwave-Ivory-Soap-Experiement, which is something to try on another day. It puffed the soap up into a stiff cloud…pretty to look at but useless for soap-making.

Then it was time to wrap them up.

Good real-world practice with tape cutting, folding, and wrapping.

We had a play date with our friends from Paint Cut Paste today, and N made these two especially for them (she knows how much they like rainbows!). And the rest are for N’s two grandmothers.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful, nurturing, intelligent, kind, selfless, and inspiring moms!! Moms are amazing!

This post was happily shared with It’s Playtime, Tot Tuesdays

Holi Colors

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Stanford throws the biggest Holi festival celebration in the Bay Area, and we were lucky enough to join in the fun this weekend. In India, Holi marks the beginning of spring and it’s celebrated by covering friends and strangers with bursts of powdered colors. It’s also a day when enemies turn friends, which I can only imagine is symbolized by everyone donning the same rainbow of vibrant colors — equalized by the power of joy and celebration.

It was our first Holi experience, and while I wanted to introduce my oldest daughter to the excitement of this holiday, I was also uncertain about she might react to being covered head-to-toe in pigment, the loud music, and the bursting crowds.

To prepare for the event, we looked at some amazing photos ahead of time, got dressed in our painting clothes, covered our skin in sun block to create a barrier for the color, and poured a little oil in our hair to protect it from the drying colors. N surprised me by embracing the colors right from the start.

And then she and her dad headed off into the crowd. I took the opportunity to snap some photos while our little one slept through the whole thing.

A festival-goer covered in color. Look at that smile! Everyone there wore the same expression. It was SO inspiring.

Another big smile. And I love how the color looks in hair.

N sang and clapped along with the Bangra music.

A sea of happy color. While time will determine the lasting effects of our outing, my daughter came home talking about “throwing color” and expressing her love for mango lassis. And I hope that the experience infused her with a perspective on the potential of crowd-generated festivals — something we could never generate behind the doors of our home.

More information on the significance and history of Holi.

Have you celebrated Holi? What joyful festivals have you been a part of?

 

The Best Playdough Recipe

stored dough

The best play dough recipe | Tinkerlab.com

Today I’m sharing what is easily the BEST playdough recipe ever.

My plan was to make a simple batch of play dough to replace the sparkly dried out purple stuff that happily met our cookie-making, glitter infusing, practice cutting, snowman-making needs over the past two months. I asked my daughter what color she would like this time around, and she answered with…

ALL of them.

Ahem. Right.

The way I have always made playdough requires that I add the color to the whole batch while it’s cooking, making it difficult to make multiple colors. But by some lucky, happy accident we managed to add the ingredients in the wrong order, which is no doubt the result of making dough with a two year old while chatting with my mother-in-law and goo-gooing at my baby! But, as that same luck would have it, I think we landed on the BEST batch of play dough yet. The texture is buttery and I was able to deliver on the multiple colors request. So, without further ado…

The Best Playdough Recipe

Supplies

  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 1/4 c. salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 5 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors. I really like Sax Concentrated Liquid Watercolors and Wilton Icing Colors, which make gorgeous shades of play dough to match any occasion, mood, or toddler request.

Mix everything but the food coloring together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.

Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board that can withstand a little food coloring. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth and then divide it into the number of colors that you’d like to make. I divided mine into four balls, flattened each of them, added a little bit of food coloring, and then kneaded it in. I added more food coloring to get the desired shades of yellow, pink, teal, and lavender.

Store the dough in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it’ll keep for months. For play dough tool ideas, you can read this post from last year.

There you have it, rainbow play dough (aka the best playdough ever).


More art, craft, and tinkering inspiration

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Spring Sink Mat Prints

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I spend a lot of time at the hardware store. And last week I spotted this flower mat — the Blumz Sink Mat! — I love that exclamation point! — It’s an exciting sink mat! — and it looked like something that could be fun to print with!

In honor of Spring’s inevitable arrival (yes, it WILL get warmer) and St. Patty’s Day (I married a “Doorley”, after all), we used green and yellow paint. The green is Biocolor and the yellow is tempera, for no other reason than that’s what was handy. Oh, and wait ’til you see the Leprechaun at the end of the post…

I also found a bag of ten foam brushes for one buck, so the luck of the Irish was clearly with me. I covered the work space and then my daughter painted the mat with our fresh Spring palette.

And then we added a sheet of paper, pressed it down with the palms of our hands, and pulled our first print.

Ooooooooh!! This was an experiment that worked!

We pulled three prints, which frankly was more than I had bargained for, and then the real fun began! If you followed our Jello experiment, you’ll recognize a common thread here…

And maybe you picked up on the addition of an apron. I love that focused expression.

There’s a leprechaun in my house!

What we used to make it happen:

  • Rubbery plastic sink mat
  • Paint
  • Foam brushes (roller brushes or wide brushes will also work)
  • Paper (I like the 80# sulfite paper from Discount School Supply)
  • Palette (Dinner plate covered with foil)

How are you getting ready for Spring? And have you printed with any unexpected materials lately?

Happily shared with Kids Can Craft, Made by you Mondays, Marvelously Messy

Valentine Snack

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Since we started cutting hearts in our house last month, I’ve grown to love Valentine’s Day in ways I didn’t foresee. Actually, forget Valentine’s Day — holidays in general have taken on a whole new meaning with children in the house. Everything is amplified. The mailman’s delivery foretells the arrival of potential Valentines. Cookies have to be made. Sprinkles are added to everything edible. We’ve had flowers in the house for the past two weeks. It’s really lovely, actually. So, I volunteered to host a Valentine activity at my daughter’s preschool tomorrow in order to spread some Valentine cheer to her friends and teachers. Initially I thought we’d bring cookies to frost, but I’d probably lose favor with some of the other parents. And, after a long week, I don’t have the stamina to turn my kitchen into a cookie factory. When I landed on the idea of frosting heart-shaped bread with cream cheese and sprinkles, I started breathing easy. They look like a cookies without all the extra sugar, and they are so incredibly easy to make! Yay.

For my test run, I toasted some bread, cut out heart shapes with our large heart cookie cutter, applied some cream cheese, and tossed on Valentine sprinkles. Voila! My plan for tomorrow involves setting up a toaster and inviting the children to cut their own hearts from their toast. I’ll have tubs of spreadable cream cheese (and jam for the lactose-free kids) with butter knives for easy spreading. And lots of sprinkles, of course. My daughter adores cooking with me, and I imagine her friends will enjoy the processes of toasting, cutting, spreading, and sprinkling. What do you think?

I turned my test run into today’s lunch — I added some hummus and turkey to the sprinkles and cream cheese, and we had a sandwich. Weird combo, I know, but my daughter ate it up!

How are you celebrating today?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!!

Deconstructed Valentines

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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?

 

Sweet Potato Heart Prints

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“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.

Materials

  • 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.

Candy Cane Still Life

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At least half of the art activities that happen in our home are improvisations. Today was another rainy day, and after setting up a marble run, sommersaulting off the couch, playing with neighborhood friends, and jumping in puddles, I pulled Candy Can Still Life out of my rabbit hat. It was a short activity, but totally worthwhile and applicable, I think, to a wide variety of ages. In terms of creating a still life, my toddler (is 2.5 still a toddler? I’m not so sure.) isn’t at all interested in depicting objects realistically, but at her age we could take inspiration from the colors of candy canes.

Materials

  • Black paper
  • Silver Sharpie
  • Red and White Chalk

I started by placing a black paper in front of her and asking, “What color are candy canes?” After a silent pause, I brought out the glass full of canes for further investigation, and we saw that they’re red and white!  This was my cue to “dig up” some red and white mark-making tools. I also asked if she’d like the silver sharpie. Um, yeah, have you ever met a toddler who didn’t want to draw with a Sharpie? Not likely.

After drawing with the Sharpie, she played around with the red chalk, and became fascinated with how it broke apart when she made forceful polkadots on the page. The smearing was pretty interesting, but after getting covered with a handful of red dust she was done. Fair enough.

I like how the vivid colors pop off the black background. While my child-art-projects generally have a focus on process over product, as this one does, I also really like how it turned out. The coherency of the final product seems to be the result of working within the constraints of limited materials. Professional artists work well with constraints, and I believe that children benefit from a similar approach to art making. So there you have it…a Candy Cane Still Life, of course!

If you try this out, I’d love to hear from you! Happy Drawing, and Happy Holidays!

Frozen Wreath

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Until a few weeks ago, I thought Halloween was the best “season” to celebrate with little kids, but now I’m beginning to think it’s got nothing on the winter holidays. My two year old is enamored by holiday lights, menorahs, ornaments, snowmen, animatronic lawn decorations, Santa, nutcrackers, and gingerbread houses. And the list goes on and on. When I picked her up from preschool this week, I found out that she led her class in a round of Jingle Bells! So, this wreath project is clearly the icing on a very well-frosted gingerbread bundt cake!

To make the wreath, N and I foraged for berries, rosemary sprigs, red leaves, and green sweetgum tree balls on our way home from the park, and then set to work making magic happen when we got home. We filled a bundt pan with water, added our beautiful natural finds, waited for it to freeze, added a ribbon and some more water, and then froze it some more. The perfect spot to hang it ended up being a post by the street, where we could enjoy catching many of our neighbors stop in their tracks to take a closer look. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me, as little creative surprises can be mood changers and eye openers, and it reminded me of Keri Smith’s fun-to-read book, The Guerilla Art Kit.

I stole this idea from the very thoughtful and creative Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent. While our warm California weather renders a wreath like this useless after an hour or two, the lore and magic of winter evoked by this project make the process so worthwhile.

Thanks for the fun idea, Jean, and happy winter!