DIY Rice-Dyed Easter Eggs

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I’m always on the lookout for creative takes on old favorites. So, when my friend over at Silicon Valley Toddler posted this idea for coloring Easter eggs with rice, I was intrigued! We decided to try it out and–WOW!–what a fun activity with absolutely gorgeous results. This method is a relatively mess-free way for toddlers and preschoolers to get in on the Easter egg-dying action (no spilled cups of egg dye #ftw). Read on for the how-to.

What you need:

– Hard boiled eggs (Easy-peasy directions: arrange eggs in the bottom of a large pot so they have a little room to dance around–old eggs that have been sitting in your fridge for a week or two are best. Finding old things in my fridge is never a problem, so this works quite well for me. Cover the eggs with about an inch of cold water and spalsh some vinegar in the pot for a bit of Voodoo magic (actually, it will just help keep the yolks sunshiney-yellow instead of that nasty gray center you get sometimes). Put the pot on the stove and bring just to a boil. Turn off the stove, cover the pot, and keep the pot on the warm burner for 12 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Transfer the cooled eggs back to their egg carton and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Done and done.)
– Dry rice–a few cups of cheap rice will do
– Liquid food coloring (we went through one whole box of food coloring when we dyed 1-dozen eggs)
– Plastic containers with lids (My mama taught me to never throw away a used margarine or lunch meat container. If your mama taught you the same, use a few of these instead of your fancy Tupperware.)

What you do:

Place a handful of rice in each container (make sure the container is deep enough for the egg to move around with the lid on).  Add a hard boiled egg to the container and several drops of food coloring.

 

Put the lid on your container and shake it to your little heart’s content!

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If you want a mulit-colored marble-ized effect, go for it. This is your egg, no judging here. Just move the egg to a second rice container with another color of food coloring.

Once you’re satisfied with your creation, remove the egg, brush off the rice, and leave ’em to dry completely.

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What gorgeous little speckled creations!

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A few notes:
*This project is best done outside. Or inside, over a drop cloth with an extra dose of patience.
*If the color starts to wear out, just add a few more drops of food coloring to the rice.
* Your fingers will get a little (and by a little, I mean a LOT) messy when you touch the wet eggs. If you don’t like rainbow hands, just wear disposable gloves. Keep wet wipes or a hose nearby for your kids, because we all know they’ll be little balls of tie-dye magic by the end of this project despite your best efforts for cleanliness.
* Have some extra plastic Easter eggs lying around your house? Make your own noise makers (as if your children don’t already fit the bill): Fill a few plastic eggs with a bit of the dry rice and tape or hot-glue the egg shut. Shake, shake, shake–you have your own little maracas!
* Save the rice! After you’re done dyeing eggs, spread out the colored rice on cookie sheets to air dry. Store the dyed and dried rice in an airtight container (that’s fancy language for a Ziploc baggie) for future art projects. We’re going to make these cactus next week in preparation for our upcoming vacation to the desert.
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DIY Easter Resurrection Garden

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Easter is coming! Easter is coming! Easter is coming!

Easter is the holiday I look forward to all year, and I can hardly contain my excitement. The time of preparation and waiting is coming to an end, and soon we will celebrate the greatest joy in our faith: Jesus is alive! I want to be really intentional with my kids during this season–I want to teach them and include them in as many activities as I can so that they will experience the joy of Easter for themselves.

Awhile back I came across this idea for making an Easter garden. The idea behind the Easter garden is to have a concrete illustration of the events of Easter. It is also a “talking point” to spur on further discussion with your kids about the meaning of Easter. Plus, it involves digging in dirt–so of course we had to make it. Here’s the how-to:

What you need:
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-Bible (we like the Jesus Storybook Bible for kids) or a printed version of the Easter story
-Large pot
-Small pot
-Dirt or potting soil
-Small, smooth stones (you’ll need as many stones as there are days left until Easter)
-1 large stone
-Permanent marker
-Plants or flowers (real or artificial) or seeds

*Note* I bought all of my supplies at the dollar store and spent a whopping $5 on everything I’d need for about 5 gardens. Gotta love the dollar store!

What you do:
Start by reading the Easter story to your kids so they will have some background on the story. As you’re reading, ask lots of questions and encourage your kids to share their thoughts with you.

After you read the story, it’s time to build your garden! First, fill the large pot up with soil to within 2 inches of the top. Place the small pot in the dirt and bury it partway down so that the opening of the small pot is still open and accessible (this will be the “tomb”). If you want to, you can now cover the soil with moss or ground covering plants.
IMG_2806Now for the rocks. I had the boys collect rocks from our yard and then we counted them to make sure we had enough (1 rock per day leading up to Easter). On each rock we used a permanent marker to write one word relating to the Easter story. I started by letting them come up with words on their own that stood out to them from our recent reading of the Easter story (cross, friend, tomb, 3 days). Once they ran out of words, I suggested my own (grace, hope, resurrection).
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We placed our rocks upside down in a pathway leading to the “tomb” (the small empty pot). Each day leading up to Easter we will turn over one rock in the path and discuss how it relates to the Easter story and to us personally.

Next, we placed our final two rocks. Inside the tomb we put a stone with the word “Jesus” on it. Then we rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb to seal it off until Easter.
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Finally, the boys decorated our garden with flowers (I was using artificial flowers because, let’s be honest, the real ones wouldn’t fare too well under my care. If you decide to use seeds or real flowers, however, you’d want to plant them way back in step 1 right after you put the dirt in the pot.).

We placed our Resurrection Garden on our dining room table as a center piece. Each night at dinner we can turn over our stone and have some conversation over our meal.
IMG_2818On Easter morning we will roll away the stone to the entrance of the tomb, but–surprise!–it will be empty (so long as I remember to empty it the night before…). This will be a visual for the boys that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is alive! And now the real party can begin 🙂

DIY Paper Heart Animal Valentines

FullSizeRenderIf you’ve been following my posts lately, then you know I was SO over January. When February 1 rolled around last weekend, I seized the opportunity to start something new. I “took down January” (recycled all of the paper snowflakes we had hanging around the house) and decided it was time to “put up February” (cover my house in hearts). Plus, since Jon was off for the day starring in his first major Hollywood blockbuster (OK, he was just an extra in a new Steve Jobs movie, but I’m sure he rocked it!) I took advantage of the quiet morning at home with the kids to do a little Valentine project.

We had gone to the library earlier in the week and checked out this cute little book, My Heart Is Like a Zoo:

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It’s a rhyming book with timely similes about the many ways our heart can love. What makes the book really unique, though are the illustrations–every picture is an animal constructed entirely of hearts. There are silly seals and a rugged moose:

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Eager beavers and a steady yak:Hall-2

And even happy hippos sipping their juice:

Hall-4Each page features a different heart animal, and my boys couldn’t get enough of them. After reading the book for about the 5,000th time that week, David suggested that we make some heart animals of our own. And, since I’m never one to shy away from a cheesy craft, I obliged. We (and by we, I mean I) set to work making our little love zoo.

Here’s a brief how-to if you want to join in the heart-animal fun:

What you need
~Paper–any paper will work, but I used a combination of construction paper and scrapbook paper. If you want more sturdy animals, use colored cardstock.
~Scissors
~Glue–glue sticks work best for this project
~Black marker
~(if you’re the perfectionist-type) Heart-shaped stencils, paper punches or die cuts

What you do
~Decide what animal you want to make. After making about a dozen of these critters, I’m convinced that you can make any animal imaginable out of hearts. If you need some inspiration, see my creations below or search Google or Pinterest for “paper heart animals” and you’ll find more animals than were on Noah’s Ark.

For instance, did you know that you could make a penguin, a blue jay, or a bear out of hearts?
IMG_1859Or a beaver and a fox?IMG_1858 What about a caterpillar and a butterfly?IMG_1857You see, the possibilities are endless…
~Next, choose what papers you want to use for each part of the animal, and just go to town cutting out hearts! I did the good ‘ol fold-your-paper-in-half freehand method for my hearts, but you could certainly use some other more-precise technique if you have the patience for that sort of thing. Cut out hearts in many sizes and colors to use for the different parts of your animal.
~Start puzzling together your animal. Cut hearts in half to make oval shapes, turn the hearts in different directions, or cut the points off the bottom of the hearts to make triangles–it’s amazing the different shapes you can form from simple hearts! If there’s a part of your animal that doesn’t lend itself to a heart-shape, I also give you permission to just cut out whatever random shape of paper you need. You’re welcome.
~After you’ve laid out your design, glue it all together. Use a black marker to add details like a nose, mouth, or whiskers.

And that’s it! Each animal only took me a few minutes to make, so I had a whole Valentine menagerie by the time my boys had finished watching Veggie Tales (yes, I also give you permission to enchant your children with television while you get lost in kids’ crafts that they should be helping you with).

Happy Heart Day, friend!

 

DIY String Board Art

photo (23)Our church has this beautiful piece of artwork that I have been admiring for weeks. It’s a huge mural of a tree, probably 10 feet long by 6 feet high. The entire piece is made with strings zig-zagging across a wooden background. The negative space, the shape of the tree, is the only open part on the giant mural.  It’s gorgeous and I want it. So I decided to make it. Well, sort of…

I would love to make a huge statement piece similar to the tree art some day, but for my first go I thought I would start with something a bit simpler (read: smaller). Since the boys are sharing a new room, I decided to make some monogrammed initials to put on display. The project was quite simple and only required three materials that we already had at home. Read on for the how-to:

DIY String Board Art

What You Need:
-Piece of wood (we used scraps from another project that are about 4″ x 6″)
-Hammer and small finishing nails (each of my art boards used about 60-75 nails)
-Thread, string, embroidery floss, or yarn (I used standard sewing thread, but thicker embroidery floss would have looked a bit nicer)
-Pencil and scissors

What You Do:
1. Use a pencil to draw a silhouette of the shape you want to create. I made a letter on each board, but you could just as easily do any other shape (number, tree, bird, flower, sailboat, train, etc.). My letters were drawn freehand, but if you want to be more precise you can use a stencil from an image and trace it onto your board.

2. Hammer nails along the borders of the board and your shape outline. The closer together you place the nails, the more detailed your artwork will be. Jon, my ever-industrious husband, offered to help me with the wood-and-nails portion of this project. My clumsy thumbs thank him.

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3. Erase your pencil marks from around the nails as best you can.

4. Tie your string around one of the nails with a few strong knots, leaving the string attached to the spool. Trim the “tail” of the string so it won’t get in your way when you begin wrapping the board.

5. Start by tracing the border of the board with your string. Go from nail to nail around the edge of the board. At each nail, wrap the string one or two times around the nail to help anchor it to the board, then go on to the next nail and do the same thing. After you outline the border of the board, criss-cross the string across the board and do the same thing to outline the shape.

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6. Now is the fun part! Start criss-crossing the string across the board, wrapping the string around each nail that you come to. Go crazy here, but be careful not to cross the string into your shape outline. Criss-cross and wrap to your little heart’s content–the more criss-crosses you do, the more defined your shape outline will become. My little boards took me about 20 minutes each to adequately cover in string cobwebs (now I’m glad I didn’t opt for a board the size of my big screen!).IMG_0634

7. Ta-da! A new piece of art, completed from start to finish in about half an hour.IMG_0636

This was a simple, mindless project for me to work on while The Boy watched Toy Story for the 50-gazillionth time, but I could see so many other potential applications. Rainy day art project: if you have older kids, they would enjoy helping with this project from start to finish. Seasonal decorations: how about pumpkins, leaves, stars, hearts, or Christmas trees? New baby gift: every baby needs some cute decorations for their nursery.  Whatever you decide to create, I’m sure it will turn out beautifully.

Happy crafting!

DIY Custom Children’s Books

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As a former classroom teacher, I know the power of reading with children. It is not a surprise, then, that reading is an important part of our daily routine. I’m always seeking out new reading material to keep my little guys engaged–something to keep the reading game fresh and interesting for them. Their favorite books, however, do not feature any characters you’ve ever heard of.  They aren’t books about a cat in a hat or a mouse you take to school (although they love those ones, too). No, their favorite books feature their favorite people: themselves!

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I started making storybooks for David when he was a baby. As I was sorting through the thousands of photos that we had of him up to that point, I came to the realization that most of those photos would never be seen by anyone. They would remain locked on my computer hard drive forever, never to be printed or put to any actual use.  I happened to have a voucher that I needed to use for a photo book, and the idea for a customized storybook was born.

To make the storybooks, I just order a photo book online that I have customized with photos and text. For inspiration, I use other books or basic concepts to write out a story that goes along with the photos I have selected. It’s quite simple, and the books have already become family keepsakes.

Here are a few tips for getting started on making your own customized storybooks:

  • I make all of my books using online photobook services. Shop around for photo book deals. By looking for bargains I can usually get the price of a book down to about $10 with shipping included–that’s cheaper than just about any new children’s book you can find in a book store! Group discount sites like GrouponLiving Social, and Amazon Local offer up photo book vouchers quite regularly. Also try visiting the photo book sites directly as they often run promotions on their website or on through their subscription mailing lists (some of my favorites are PicabooShutterfly, and Mixbook).
  • Try following a pattern that you find in another book your child enjoys. One of David’s favorite books I’ve made for him is called David’s Busy Day based on the book Lulu’s Busy Day by Caroline Uff.IMG_6553
  • If you really want to let your creative juices flow, make up a story adventure that features your child and some of their favorite things.
  • Older children can compose their own stories and you can work on the computer together to build their book. Make sure to include a dedication and an “About the Author” page!
  • You can also base your book on a concept that you want your child to practice: ABC’s, counting, opposites, rhyming words, feelings, animals, shapes, etc.IMG_6555photo (14)
  • Instead of using photos, try using your child’s artwork as the illustrations (just scan or snap a photo of their drawing or painting and upload it onto your computer).
  • Make a special folder on your computer for photos that you think you might like to use in a book. Every time you download photos from your camera, add to the folder any new photos that you like and build it up over time.
  • Enjoy the process and the product–hopefully these books will become treasures that you can look back on for years to come!

From our family to yours: happy reading!

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Frozen Frog Pond Activity

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Last week we had our first real week of summer. We had sunshine every day, which was both amazing and confusing to us. What do we do outside when it’s actually warm out?  I think it reached 70 degrees one day and, having grown up in a rain cloud, my poor children thought they were dying from the heat. So, I came up with a simple game that would help keep us cool. I call it:

Frozen Frog Pond

What you need:
small containers (I used snack size Ziploc food containers)
plastic frogs (I got mine at the dollar store)
kiddie pool or a large plastic tub (although the bath tub would work just fine, too)

What you do:
1. Put a few frogs into each container and fill with water until the frogs are just covered. Freeze for 2 hours or until the frog-cubes are frozen solid.

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2. Pop the frozen frog-cubes out of the containers

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3. Put the frog-cubes into the pool. Challenge your kids to see who can set the frogs free from their icy prisons. Whoever gets the most frogs out of the ice wins!

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That’s it! The boys had a lot of fun trying to get their frogs out of the ice and they certainly got cooled off in the process (Jacob kept muttering, “So cold…” as he fumbled with his ice cubes). Here are a few other ideas to extend the froggy play time:

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– Gather sticks, leaves, and rocks and make homes for your froggy friends in their pond (this one probably wouldn’t work so well if you’re using your bath tub…)
-See how many pairs of the same frog you can find
-Order the frogs from smallest to largest
-Sort the frogs into color groups
-Have a leapfrog race
-Count the frogs or work out simple story problems using the frogs (“If I have 3 frogs in the pond and one jumps out, how many are still left in the water?”)
-Have a color race: Hold up a solid-colored frog, set a timer for 30 seconds, and see how many items your child can find that are the same color.

Stay cool, friends!

Easter Bunny Thumbprint Craft

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This week has been all Easter up in our house: we dyed eggs, acted out the Easter story, made Resurrection Rolls, and played with Resurrection Eggs. And, since we weren’t Eastered-out yet, we decided to go on ahead and make Easter cards for David’s teachers here and some special far-away relatives. I saw a cute idea for making thumbprint bunnies on Pinterest and I thought they’d make adorable Easter cards. Here’s the how-to:

What you need:
– stamp pad or finger paint (we used this great stamp pad from Melissa and Doug)
– plain white paper (printer paper or construction paper)
– scrapbook paper or construction paper for the backing
– glue
– candy (optional, but highly recommended)

What you do:
Use paint or stamping ink to make a thumbprint on the paper. If you’re doing this with a young child, you will have to place their thumb on the ink pad (or paint it) and then set it on the paper for them right where you want it. Unless you want a modernist approach to thumbprint art, you’re going to have to do all of the “stamping” yourself.

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Using the child’s index finger or pinky (whatever you can wrangle them into using), make two intersecting “ears” on top of the thumbprint “head”:

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If you want to get creative, you can also make a carrot: use the thumb for the top part of the carrot and then each finger right on down to the pinky for the rest of the carrot. Wipe off the paint and then use green paint on their pinky to make all of the “leaves”. After you have made your thumbprint creations, use a fine-tipped pen (I used a super-fine Sharpie) to draw on the face and ear centers (what do you call that middle part of the rabbit’s ear, anyway?):

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We made three or four rabbits/carrots per card, and then glued them to some colorful scrapbook paper for backing. And, for good measure, I wrote the words “Hoppy Easter” (get it?) on the front each card:

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We wrote little notes to the recipients on the back of each card and then attached some bunny chocolates with a bit of tape (because who doesn’t love getting chocolates at Easter!):

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And, ta-da! Now we have some simple handmade Easter cards sure to brighten anybody’s day.