DIY: Celebrate Earth day by sprouting your own seeds

Around this time of the year, kids get to learn a lot about recycling, planting and trash clean up in celebration of Earth day. I think it’s important to let them know we must do these things all year around and Earth should be celebrated every day.

So, it doesn’t matter if you do this project on Earth day, this week or next month as long

as your kids experience the joys and wonders of watching their own seedlings emerge. Plus, they’ll get a little lesson on recycling and composting on top of it all!

You will need:

* An empty egg carton (the

molded pulp

ones, not plastic or

polystyrene)

* Potting soil

* Seeds

* Plastic wrap or bag

* Pen or pecil

* Tooth picks and paper to make labels

Tip: to make the germination process a breeze, pick seeds that germinate easily such as beans, pees, carrots, squash, cucumber and pumpkins. Hard to start seeds might not even sprout and you’ll end up having a frustrated kid!

Get started:

1. Separate the bottom part from the lid of the egg carton. Take the bottom part and poke holes in each cell using the tip of a pen or pencil.

Those will be the drainage holes. Place the lid of the egg carton under the bottom part, nesting one under the other. Now you have your seedling tray.

2. Place small amounts of soil in each cell and plant the seeds making sure the seeds are lightly covered by soil (follow package directions)

3. Water each cell. Be mindful not to over water the seeds, a spray bottle comes in handy.

4. Use tooth picks and paper to make labels.

You can also use rocks or clothes pins to label the seeds.

5. Cover your tray with plastic wrap or a bag to create greenhouse conditions.

6. Place the tray by the window and watch your seeds grow! Keep soil watered and remove the plastic wrap when the first leaves appear.

7. When your plants have more than two leaves, separate each cell and plant it directly into the ground (or pot). The pulp that the egg carton is made of will decompose and become

compost

.

Doing this project is a great way to teach kids about the importance of planting and re-planting, recycling and composting. Explain to them why we should plant trees, how you are recycling the egg carton and how it becomes plant food. Let them have fun while you guide them.

Make a photo journal, they’ll enjoy comparing the growth of the plants and making observations later on.

 I know I did when I was little and now I pass the experience on to my kids.

Natasha K.

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DIY: April showers tees

“April showers bring May flowers” or so they say. Well, I say make April showers fun with a rain inspired D.I.Y project. The weather is slowly warming up and my kids are longing for those special hours of outside play. While the clouds resisted to cooperate, we spent some time creating these great t-shirts. Kids love getting crafty, so take your little ones, nieces, nephews or cousins (or just your inner child!) and gather your supplies!

You will need:

* A pre-washed t-shirt

* Freezer paper

* Acrylic paint in colors of your choice

Textile medium

* A foam or spouncer brush

* Exacto knife

* Cardboard

* Surface for mixing colors (I use the cover of a take out container)

* April Showers stencil

1. Make your stencil. Click on the link to get the April Showers stencil. Cut a piece of freezer paper to  fit the image's 8.5" x 11" size. Feed the piece of freezer paper through the printer manually as you print the image, making sure the artwork gets printed on the dull side of the paper. Carefully cut out the drops and cloud shapes with your exacto knife. You have made your stencil.

2. Iron the stencil onto your t-shirt. Place the stencil shiny-side down on the center of the t-shirt and press with your iron on the hottest setting. Do not use steam.

3. The part the kids love, mixing colors and printing! Mix 2 parts acrylic paint/ 1 part textile medium. Textile medium is great because you can use acrylic paints to paint, stamp or print on fabric without having to spend a big budget on textile inks and your project will be washable. Place the piece of cardboard inside the t-shirt, under the stencil, so that the paint doesn’t transfer to the back. Take your sponge brush and dab it on the cloud area. Make sure you cover the whole thing. If you’re letting kids do this part, let them have fun while guiding them.

4. Move on to printing the drops. Mix different colors and dab your sponge brush. For lighter colors, you may need two coats of paint. Let the first coat dry before doing the second one.

5. Let the paint dry for at least an hour or so. Gently remove the stencil off of the t-shirt. Your stencil can be re-used a few more times so don’t throw it away!

6. Heat set the design on the fabric. Using your iron in the hottest setting, iron over the printed area for 20-30 seconds. Do not use steam. Wear and enjoy!

My kids are very happy with the results and are proudly saying “I made this”. Now they’re thinking to make them as gifts for all their friends but I’m not so sure about that... Remember to supervise children while doing this project, only adults should do steps. 1. 2. and 6.

Have fun and please share pictures of your April showers tees!

Natasha K.

*on Etsy*

*on Facebook*

The Secret to Successfully Blowing Out an Egg

A couple of weeks ago Leslie from Astor Knot posted a wonderful tutorial on the art of Pysanky. After reading through the tutorial, I was curious to try blowing out eggs as I've never done it before, and after doing it I thought I would share some tips with all of you who might want to try it. 

1. First, I found out that it is easier to blow out an egg that is room temperature rather than one right out of the refrigerator. Leave your carton of eggs out for a couple of hours first. Another thing that I discovered is that fresher eggs from healthier chickens have a stronger shell that is less likely to break, so spend the extra dollar or two to get better eggs.

2. To poke the holes in the eggs, I used a couple of needles, one small sharp one and one slightly larger one. Using the smaller needle, I gently poked one hole in each end. Then I used the larger needle to make one of the holes slightly larger. Then, I used the larger needle to stir up the inside of the egg, piercing the egg yolk and scrambling the inside.


3. The next step is blowing out the inside of the egg. You can do this by just blowing using your mouth, but I used one of those runny nose sucking tools designed for babies that came in a baby medical kit. It's much more fun to use this on an egg than on an infant. In this case, the egg doesn't scream bloody murder and look at you with betrayal. I put the sucker thing on top of the smaller hole, then pressed the bulb to push out the insides of the egg through the larger hole on the bottom. Do this as gently as possible so you don't break the egg. Keep repeating the process until nothing else comes out.
*Note: In this project, I used a whole carton of eggs and ended up dividing the egg innards into separate bowls which I then used to cook and bake with. Thankfully my family enjoys eggs!


4. After the egg blowing portion of the activity, my daughters and I set off to paint and decorate our new eggs! We decided to paint versus dying so we could get brighter colors, but I think we'll also do some egg dying later this week. Don't want to deprive the girls of tradition.



5. I poked some glass head needles into the top of an egg carton for the eggs to rest on while they dried.


6. Finally, we ran some brown grocery bags through the paper shredder for a "nest" and settled the newly decorated eggs in the basket. The great thing about blown out eggs is that will last as long as your kids will handle them carefully. In our household, that is about three minutes, but you may have better luck in your home. Enjoy!


Until next time,
Karina

How to Make a Checker Set


I've been wanting to make a checkerboard for some time. My older daughter just turned four and is starting to learn how to play games, although we can only do it when my younger daughter (2) is asleep because she likes to collect all the pieces we are playing with and hoard them in her lap. Take a look at the tutorial below, and afterward enjoy the game! (*Note: This tutorial originally posted here.)

How to Make a Checker Set
1. First, make handmade clay by combining 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of salt, and 3/4 cup of water in a medium mixing bowl. Stir until combined, then knead for 10-15 minutes.

2. Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inches thick.

3. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 26 pieces (you will need 12 for each side, but we did two extra just in case some get lost under the couch). We made two sets, one with stars and the other with circles. We made the small circular cutter  by cutting a strip of plastic from an old yogurt container and taping into a small loop.

5. Take shapes out and set on baking sheet with the back facing up. Poke a few holes using a toothpick to prevent the pieces from bubbling up.  Bake in the over at 300 degrees until hard, flipping every 20 minutes. It should take about an hour, but it could take longer depending on how thick your pieces are.

6. While baking, make the checkerboard. I used white fabric as the base, cutting two pieces to 17x17 inches. I also made a square of batting at 16x16 inches. On one side of one piece of white fabric, I used a ruler and a fabric pencil to draw out a board. First I drew lines 1/2 inch in on each side, and then used those lines as a starting point to draw 2x2 inch squares. That should give you eight rows of squares across and eight rows of squares up and down; sixty-four squares total. Then I cut out thirty-two 2x2 inch squares of colored fabric. I used my sewing machine to sew the colored fabric in a checkerboard pattern, making sure to line the pieces up with the lines I had drawn. Once I sewed all the squares in place, I put the two white fabrics with right sides facing in (so the fabric squares are facing in toward the other piece of white fabric) and then put the batting on top. I stitched all around the three pieces of fabric (two white pieces of fabric and one piece of batting) using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving a 2 inch gap at the end. I turned the piece inside out so the batting was tucked on the inside and the checkerboard pattern was facing out. I pressed the seams flat, then sewed around the entire board again. 

7. Back to the checker pieces! Once they are out of the oven and cool, paint them using acrylic or poster paints. Paint 12 (or thirteen in our case) in one color and the other 12 in a contrasting color. Kaela painted her round pieces and I painted the star pieces. 

8. Let dry completely.

9. Get ready to play!

I found a useful set of simple checker rules at this website, although I'm sure if you dig around you will find other great resources. Enjoy!









Karina
Windows of Agate

Ice Cream! Get Your Ice Cream!

There is nothing better than a nice, delicious, ice cream cone in the summer. Or the autumn. Or really, anytime. Last week, my two daughters and I decided to make fake ice cream to include in our food play; read more to find out how we did it.

My father gave my kids a set of ten shaped hole punchers, which they LOVE... We made plenty of paper punches, some of which we used later in this art project, most of which were eaten by the vacuum cleaner.


Next we cut up egg cartons and painted them in pleasing, ice cream-like colors.


We named the different flavors as we painted twelve of these "ice cream scoops", and added some "sprinkles" from the hole punches. Flavors included strawberry lemony goodness, green flavor with pink cupid sprinkles, and purple grape yum yum.


The ice cream scoops were then set on the windowsill to dry while I cut some manila folders to act as the cones. The dimensions I used were 10 inches at the widest point and 6 inches at the tallest point. Then I wrapped the paper into conical shapes and taped them together. I would suggest that grown ups do this party, since it involves sharp tools.


Phase one complete!


But to be a proper ice cream vendor, you need some place to store your cones where they don't fall over and drip ice cream all over your clothes, so I used this small packing box to create a little stand. I just cut circles into the box for the cones to rest in, and added a little rectangular area to store extra ice cream scoops. Then I poked holes in the side and threaded a ribbon so the girls could wear the box and sell their very delicious ice cream.



We ended up painting the ice cream box using acrylic paints. 




And there you go! Ice cream for all!

Crafting with Kids: Making Turtles with Egg Cartons

Egg cartons are a great crafty material. We love using them to mix paints, and a couple of months ago we decided to make one of our favorite animals: turtles. This is a super easy, super cute little craft made from egg cartons, tissue paper, googly eyes, feathers, and paint. We cut up the egg carton so each cup was an individual piece, then decorated the outside with tissue paper, paints, and feathers. Then I took scraps of cardboard that I had saved from a shipping box, traced around the lid of the egg carton, added a head and tail, and then cut out the cardboard and stapled it to the corners of the cup. Then we painted the cardboard and glued on some googly eyes. 






A great book to pair this activity with is Turtles in My Sandbox by Jennifer Keats Curtis. It's a sweet story about a pregnant turtle that mistakenly lays her eggs in a little girl's sandbox instead of on the beach. The little girl and her mother end up helping the turtles as they grow to full size and then release them into the wild. After reading the book, my girls ended up putting the turtles they made into a "tank" (empty shoebox) and fed them tiny pieces of newspaper and paperclips.






Karina
Windows of Agate
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Baking Soda Clay

Here's another homemade modeling compound that good for both kids and adult artisans. Compared to the homemade polymer clay I presented a few weeks ago, it's non-elastic when wet and much "softer" when dry---that is, easy to sand smooth or to reshape, to add etchings, and possibly even to carve (I haven't tried). I've used it to make a variety of small items, particularly small bowls and candle holders (shown below in order of finished-ness). It takes paint well but I would finish painted pieces with a coat of varnish.

Sanded nice and smooth!


Materials

  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1.25 cups cold water
  • Non-stick pot
  • Wooden spoon
  • Med-large bowl (not pictured)
  • Damp cloth, lid or plate (not pictured)

Steps
Combine ingredients in pot and stir until smooth.


Cook over low-medium flame, stirring constantly, until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes.



Remove from heat and let cool in a separate container either covered with a damp towel or mostly covered with a plate or lid.


Sculpt. If necessary, use a bit of water to stick bits of dough together. Be careful, though, as the softness of this dough makes it prone to dissolve.


Allow to dry, about 2 days depending on the size and thickness of your finished piece. You can speed up drying in a 150 F oven, cracked open, or a 350 F oven turned off (heat the oven to 350 F and then turn it off).

Until next time --

Enjoy!


How to Make Egg Shakers

One of my favorite parts of parenting is inventing strange crafts out of random materials that engage my two kids for the longest amount of time for the least amount of money. The idea for this project came about from broken eggshells. I've been washing and saving eggshells for the last few months to crush and add to my garden as well as to compost. Then I realized that if you keep the two eggs halves they almost fit perfectly back together. Which made me think of the plastic egg shakers that are all the rage during preschool music classes and sing-a-longs. Which made me think what a brilliant idea someone had to make those plastic egg shakers. Which made me think that someone is making a lot of money off of that idea.

And you see how twisted and random my thoughts can be. Sometimes these thoughts turn to something productive, like developing a new hobby (gardening, recycling old clothes into new clothes, composting). Other times... well, let's just say sometimes my time can be better spent sleeping.

Back to the original point of this post, which began with me staring at half broken eggshells and feeling like they could be something more. I loved the way they fit back together after being broken, so I thought we could make real egg shakers minus the plastic. This turned out to be a multi-day process with the drying times factored it, but it was really sort of fun. So here's how to do it.

1. Clean your eggshells thoroughly and lay them out to dry.


2. Fill partially with different dried beans. We used lentils, split peas, and black beans.


3. Apply a thin layer of glue along the rim of the eggshell and fit the other side snugly on top, making sure it matches up perfectly.


4. Let dry for a few hours or overnight.


5. Cut thin strips of newspaper, about .5 inches by 2 inches, for the paper mache. Make a paste from flour and water (boil half a cup of water on the stove and whisk in a heaping tablespoon of flour - simmer lightly for a minute and then let cool). Dip paper in paste or use a paintbrush to apply the paste on the egg and cover the eggs with a few layers of newspaper and paper mache paste.


6. Let dry overnight. (Lay them on the egg cartons and make sure to rotate them so the entire egg dries.)


8. Use poster or acrylic paints to add color to your egg shakers.


9. Do a lesson on color mixing by only starting out with red, yellow, blue and white. Use the egg carton to mix colors (yellow + blue = green, red + blue = purple, red + white = pink, etc). 


10. Paint!


11. Let dry and then let the musicians loose on the shakers! I find the sound of beans on eggshells really soothing and much more pleasant than the plastic variety. Store the egg shakers in the dried out egg carton and also use in food play.


Tutorial: Felt Tic-Tac-Toe Boards

Tic-tac-toe games are no longer the paper and pencil variety of Xs and Os. These days, anybody can spice up the game with a little creativity and some fun loving companions to share it with. Tic-tac-toe is a great first game for kids because it's 1) easy 2) quick and 3) simple to transport. But the game is not only for kids - stay tuned for how you can incorporate tic-tac-toe in your workplace or home!

Materials:
Felt in various colors
Buttons
Yarn
Needle

Instructions:
1. Start out with a square piece of felt in the size board you want. (Mine was 9" x 9".)
2. Cut four strips of contrast felt for the lines, about 1/4" wide and the length of the board.
3. Use a ruler to help place the lines so that your board has nine equal squares. Pin the lines and then hand sew, machine sew, or glue the lines onto the board.


4. Now comes the fun part! Think of a theme for your board and create two different shapes for the pieces. You will need five of each shape.
5. Use scissors to cut the felt into each shape (I doubled up the felt for a sturdier piece). Then embellish each piece with a button and yarn details.


6. Place your finished pieces on the board and get ready to play!






For the kids, create as many different sets of pieces as you want! If your kids are old enough, they can help make their own shapes and designs and embellish them by gluing googly eyes, feathers, or yarn. The pieces can also be used for younger kids as they learn to sort, count, add, and subtract.

For adults, here are some fun ideas about how to use tic-tac-toe to transform a boring or annoying situation to a super fun one:
1. Make a board and keep it at your office. Battle the mid-day blues by challenging your co-workers to a game (loser buys the winner something from the snack machine).
2.Play tic-tac-toe with your spouse/partner/roommate to decide who does the dishes/changes the kid's diaper/responds to child's tantrum/cleans the closet. Also great in determining who chooses the movie for the evening, what toppings to go on pizza, and any other situation where conflict may arise.



Karina

Marvelous Mosaics to Do with Kids

Living in NYC, my children and I are always in awe of the mosaic tiles in subway stations. There are some beautiful ones to look at, and a few of my daughter's favorites include:

81st Street B/C line - American Museum of Natural History Station

Prince Street Station
N/R Prince Street Station

34th Street
8th Avenue and 34th Street Station

No matter where you live, there is sure to be creative inspiration for your own mosaic creations. It's a fun (and cheap!) activity to do with your kids and offers lots of wiggle room for creativity and experimentation. And what an assortment of materials you can use for a mosaic! Here are just a few ideas to get you going...

Materials
-Mosaic items, ideas include:
  • Colored beans
  • Pasta shells that are painted and dried
  • Cut or torn pieces of paper (magazines, wrapping paper, catalogs, old photos)
  • Buttons
  • Colored paperclips
  • Small pieces of yarn
  • Tissue paper
- Craft glue
- Cardboard (use scraps from mailing boxes, cereal boxes, shoe boxes, etc.)
- Pencil

Directions
Draw an outline of an object on the cardboard with a pencil (start simple - first try doing a large heart, star, or rainbow). Use craft glue to adhere the various objects to the image, using different colors of mosaic items to fill in the image and the background. Experiment with different textures and colors of objects to create interesting art! Once you get the hang of it, try using smaller pieces to do more detailed images.



Karina
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