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.

IMG_0630

 

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.

IMG_0633

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

IMG_6554

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!

IMG_8145

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!

IMG_6552

Easter Bunny Thumbprint Craft

IMG_3254

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.

IMG_3250

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”:

IMG_3252

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?):

IMG_3249

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:

IMG_3257

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!):

IMG_3263

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

 

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Spring is finally upon us and nature is beginning to wake up after the long winter.  With warmer days and new life appearing all around us, it is the perfect opportunity to get outside and observe nature–especially if you can bring your kids along for the fun!

One of our family’s favorite activities is to go exploring–just find a trail or a beach or a patch of woods and see where it takes us. This week I decided to take advantage of my boys’ excitement over exploring (and David’s new-found obsession with scavenger hunts) and embark on our first-ever nature scavenger hunt. The concept is simple, but there is so much (fun) learning that can happen on a hunt like this.

To begin, we needed only two supplies: our “treasure map” (a Nature scavenger hunt page that I created that included items I knew we could find in the woods behind our house) and a jar with a lid (I just used a clean, empty jam jar).

IMG_3062

Then, it was time to start searching! I held onto the “treasure map” and David carried the jar, where we placed our “treasures” as they were found.

IMG_3065

Jacob loved following his big brother on our hunt, and he even found a few treasures of his own to add to our collection.

IMG_3067

The boys were thrilled to be outside running around finding treasures to place in their nature jar. David couldn’t wait to see what was next on the treasure map and he carried his nature jar around with such pride.

IMG_3071

After we’d found every item on our treasure map we walked back home and brought the nature jar inside for observation. We had three ladybugs in our jar, and the boys were absolutely mesmerized by them. In fact, David sat like this for about half an hour while I made dinner (and, just so you know, that is highly unusual!):

IMG_3080

I poked some air holes in the lid of the jar for our little ladybug friends and we kept them for two days before releasing them back into the wild (our back yard). The boys couldn’t get enough of their nature jar, so this was the perfect opportunity to sneak in some learning. Here are a few questions I asked David to get him thinking about what he observed on our nature walk and in his nature jar:

  • How many (sticks, rocks, leaves) can you see in the jar?
  • Is this rock smooth or rough? Is it hard or soft?
  • Which (stick, rock, leaf) is the biggest/smallest/longest/shortest/darkest/lightest?
  • What colors do you see?
  • How many legs are on the ladybug? How many eyes? How many wings? How many dots on its back?
  • Which of these treasures are alive or come from living things?
  • Can you arrange these stones in a row from smallest to largest?
  • Which of these items starts with a b/r/t/f sound?
  • Can you think of a word that rhymes with bug/twig/rock?
  • How many syllables are in the word flower/pinecone/twig/leaf/berry?
  • What was your favorite part of the nature walk? Why?
  • Which of these items do not belong in nature? Why shouldn’t this be in nature? Where does it belong instead? (One of our items was litter and, unfortunately, we found lots of it on the trail. After this experience, I think our next nature walk may be a litter clean-up!)

We can’t wait to go on another scavenger hunt soon to see what else we can find!

 

Repost: Easter “Resurrection Roll” Bible Story and Recipe

Easter is just a few weeks away, which means it’s time to bring back all of my favorite lent activities. Easter is such a special time to share with children, and I’m always looking for fun and creative ways to share the truth of this season with my boys. This week we will begin using our resurrection eggs and we’ll also be doing one of my all-time favorite cooking projects: resurrection rolls. Resurrection rolls are a simple (and, might I add, delicious) way to share the gospel with children, a truly memorable experience. I thought I’d repost the recipe and story here for you if you’d like to join in the fun–enjoy!

Original Post: Resurrection Roll Recipe and Bible Story

I love finding creative ways to teach important truths to kids. And I love it even more if I can find a way to tie food into the “lesson”. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I first discovered Resurrection Rolls.

Basically, Resurrection Rolls are a treat that you make where each step of the cooking process represents part of the Easter story. It’s a wonderful way to tell kids the Easter story AND the rolls themselves are sublime. I’ve had people make the rolls for me before, but this was my first time doing the whole project with David. He was able to help out a bit and was pretty engaged the whole time (even if he did keep trying to swipe marshmallows from my stash). I’ll definitely be doing this again next year–a new tradition has been born!

What you’ll need:

IMG_1498

  • 1 package of crescent rolls
  • 8 large marshmallows (plus extras to snack on while you’re waiting for the rolls to bake!)
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar plus 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Bible (or use the “script” below)

How It’s Done:

IMG_1513Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, get out your Bible and open up to John 19 or find the Easter story in a children’s Bible (my favorite is the Jesus Storybook Bible). Below you’ll find the pictures and the “script” for how I told the story to David (he’s only 2 years old, so I kept it simple for him).

IMG_1509

Say: “Even though Jesus was perfect and had never sinned–he had never ever done anything wrong– some people did not like him. They wanted to hurt Jesus because he said he was God. They made Jesus carry a cross and they killed him. This made God very sad, but it was all part of His great rescue plan. When Jesus died, his friends took his body off the cross.”

IMG_1510

Do: Give your child a marshmallow
Say: “This marshmallow represents Jesus’ body. Jesus died for you and for me, because we have sinned and we need to be rescued from our sin.”

IMG_1512

Say: “After Jesus died, his friends came and they put special oil and spices on Jesus’ body to get him ready for burial.”
Do: Roll the marshmallow in melted butter, then in cinnamon sugar

Say: “Next, Jesus’ friends wrapped his body in special cloths–almost like a mummy! Jesus had died, and they were getting his body ready to bury.”
Do: Roll the cinnamon-sugar marshmallow up in a crescent roll (it won’t look like a crescent roll). Press all of the seams firmly. Repeat for each of the crescent rolls. Place the rolls on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

IMG_1511

Say: “Next, they laid Jesus’ body in a tomb. A tomb is like a big cave carved out of rock. Then big, strong soldiers rolled a heavy rock in front of the tomb so nobody could get in or out of the tomb. They even put a special seal over the entrance so they would know if anybody tried to move the rock that was in front of the entrance. Soldiers stood in front of the tomb to guard it day and night.”
Do: Put the rolls in the oven and set your timer for 10-12 minutes. Let the rolls bake until they are golden-brown. I even let David stand guard in front of our oven “tomb” with his toy sword.

IMG_1506

Say: “Jesus was dead in the tomb for three days. Let’s count to three: one, two, three. How many days was he in the tomb? That’s right, three days.”
(We had some time to wait for the rolls, so I let David play while they were baking. I kept going back to him, though, and we’d repeat this whole conversation about how long Jesus was in the tomb.)

IMG_1514

Do: When the rolls are done baking, take them out of the oven and let them cool (I let mine cool for about 20 minutes, and that was perfect). The marshmallow will probably have exploded out of your rolls, but that’s to be expected (that’s why we put down the parchment paper!). After the rolls have cooled…

IMG_1516

Say: “Three days after Jesus had died, an angel of God appeared to one of Jesus’ friends. He told her that Jesus was alive! Jesus’ friends decided to look in the tomb where they had put Jesus’ body, but when they did, it was empty! Jesus had risen! And still today, Jesus is alive. Today he lives in heaven with God.”
Do: Cut open one of the rolls. The marshmallow has melted, so the “tomb” is now empty.

IMG_1522

Do: Eat your yummy rolls!
Say: “These rolls are sweet, just like the love of God. God made you and he loves you very much. And some day, if you choose to love and follow God, you will be able to spend forever and ever in heaven with him and Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is our Great Rescuer. The Bible tells us that the only way to Heaven is through loving and believing in Jesus. We celebrate Easter, because Jesus died and rose again so that we could have a way to Heaven.”

DIY Lacing Cards Activity

The other day I was working on a little sewing project while David was playing. He kept coming over to me wanting to “help” me sew. As any parent knows, a child’s help is anything but that–plus, I didn’t think that a 3-year old boy who is prone to throwing every item in sight should necessarily be “helping” with a pile of sharp pins and needles. I made him a deal, though: I would make him his own sewing project if he would just leave mine well-enough alone.

After a quick look around our house I found some supplies to make David his own set of lacing cards. Lacing is a great fine-motor activity for toddlers and preschoolers and something they actually enjoy doing (now if only I could train my preschooler to do all of my mending…). Here’s the how-to:

DIY Lacing Cards

What you need:
-Cardboard (I used a cereal box)
-Scissors
-Tracing templates (I used cookie cutters)
-Hole-punch
-Yarn or ribbon
-Tape

What you do:

1. Start with a flat piece of cardboard. I cut apart a cereal box into pieces that lay flat.

IMG_1461 2. Trace the shapes that you want to use onto the cardboard. I used large children’s cookie cutters, but you could use just about any found object to trace around. Or, if you are the artistic type, you could even free-draw the shapes. It’s up to you. I ended up tracing six shapes onto one cereal box. IMG_1462 3. Cut out the shapes. Then, use a hole-punch to punch holes around the perimeter of each shape. Make sure the holes are not too close to the edge so the cardboard will not tear when your enthusiastic child begins lacing. IMG_1463 4. Tie one end of a piece of yarn or ribbon onto one of the holes with a double-knot. Cut the piece of yarn just long enough so that it can be laced through all of the holes without running out of string. Wrap a small piece of tape around the “open” end of the yarn to make a durable tip. I just used plain white yarn because that’s what I had on hand, but using a variety of colors would be much more exciting! IMG_1464 5. Start lacing! IMG_1474

DIY Advent Tree

Advent, the season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, is officially upon us. I’ve been wanting to do something special with the boys to celebrate advent, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Since we recently moved and downsized, we don’t have any of our Christmas decorations or usual Christmas activities with us. Plus, we’re going “home” to Seattle in 2 weeks so it’s hardly worth the effort or the expense of a full Christmas set-up at hour house here.

It seems like everyone I know went out and got their Christmas tree last weekend, so I decided that we needed a tree of our own. And that’s where I came up with the idea for our advent tree:

unnamed

I basically put together all of the ideas that I had floating around in my head and this is what I came up with: a simple, Jesus-focused project that will get my kids thinking about the true meaning of Christmas every day.

I started by painting a large tree on the back of some wrapping paper (the only paper I had that was big enough for the size of tree I wanted to make).

Then I went online and printed off some color-your-own Christmas tree ornaments and cut them out. On each ornament I wrote three things: Read, Pray, Do. For the “Read” part of the ornament I wrote a scripture verse relating to Jesus’ birth or why He was born; “Pray” has someone or something for us to pray for that day; and “Do” is a project or act of service that we will do together on that day to share Jesus’ love with others (just Google or search Pinterest for “acts of kindness” to generate a good list of ideas).

unnamed (1)

Each day David will choose an ornament from the basket, decorate it, and hang it on our advent tree. Then we will complete the “Read, Pray, Do” items that are on the ornament.

unnamed (2)

By the end of advent (or, in our case, the first 2 weeks of advent!) we will have a beautifully decorated tree. More importantly, though, we will have learned more about God’s great Love sent to us. And that, of course, is the most beautiful thing of all.