Kid Friendly Art Project – Toy Prints

It is a dreary, dark, rainy day today. And honestly, I’m not all that sad about it. It signals the coming of fall, and the end of summer. Fall is my most favorite time of the year! It’s like spring, but less mushy. This fall will be a difficult time for me, though, since I am returning to school and am currently in a night class that takes 12 hours a week for 7 weeks. My mom guilt is hitting hard since it keeps me from my family for 3 nights a week, and on some of those nights, the only time I will see my daughter is before work/school that morning.

To counteract that mom guilt, I’ve been trying to fit in as many family activities in my free time as I possibly can. That does mean burning the candle at both ends for me, but it’s only for 7 weeks, right? It’s all temporary! I’ve chosen the sunniest project that we’ve squeezed in recently to bring a little vitamin D to your day.

This project was actually inspired by a tangled slinky. Trying to untangle it, I ended up just bouncing the bottom of it around on the coffee table and noticed that the action was similar to stamping something over and over and over again, which led my mind into imagining it was bouncing in some fresh paint and then bouncing on a clean canvas and leaving it’s imprint behind. My mind is colorful – what can I say? It got me wondering – what other toys could be used to make unique prints on a canvas? I discussed it with my husband and daughter, and I was affirmed that this was not one of my crazier ideas, because it got them thinking about it, too. So since I already have a stash of paint & blank canvases in my craft studio, we were off to the Dollar Tree to get some toys that could act as neat prints!

artists-tools

This project is great for more than just busting boredom, or getting those creative juices flowing. We had a really fun time looking at different toy shapes and trying to find out if they would have a distinctive shape. Even my 4 year old daughter was grasping the concept – when she wasn’t just trying to get new toys. It made us think about things and shapes in a different way, and that kind of spatial, conceptual thinking can be hard to reign in with children (and to inspire in adults), so it’s a great thinking method to foster and develop. Yes – this toy is  a pull tractor – but what does it look like just from underneath? What kind of shape would it leave behind? Would you stamp it – like the pony hooves – or drag it – like the sand roller? How would it be distinctive – or, how would you know afterwards which toy it was that left that shape behind?

The toys we ended up choosing were a plastic dinosaur, pony, the broken slinky, a tractor with a pull behind cement mixer (though we couldn’t figure out how to attach the cement mixer to the tractor – that’s what you get for buying toys at the Dollar Tree), and a sand roller, which I guess is used while playing in sand to leave neat imprints in it? I felt a little bit like we were cheating with that toy, but it was neat so I let it slide. The only thing I put my foot down on was a rubber bouncy ball. Not only did I think it was only a ploy to get another rubber bouncy ball (how many bouncy balls does a child need), but even if we did use it, I did not want a ball covered in paint bouncing around my porch – even if it was outside! I didn’t want to try and get hot pink acrylic paint off of my siding, or out of my hair, or off of one of the high up windows. So I was mean mom about the bouncy ball 😉

platysarus

Funny story – when we got the dinosaur, we were so intent on looking at the foot shape that I didn’t realize until we got it home that I have no clue if this was ever an actual dinosaur, or if this was just another Dollar Tree toy fail. Thoughts? Anyone know what this is? Duck Billed Platysaurus?

getting-ready

I had two blank canvases and some assorted acrylic paints. Using a piece of cardboard from our recycle bin as a palette, we were ready to go!

tractor-tires

We did the tractor first with bright pink paint. The tires were a little too small to leave a distinctive tread – the paint seemed to just go onto them so thick that it was hard to see. But in some places if you look close enough, you can see it, and the two tracks right next to each other made it a distinctive print.

first-set-of-dino-tracks

Next up was the platy-sarus, which left the two little blue foot prints on the page there. My daughter was getting pretty dramatic with the dinosaur stomps, hence how high in the air he is. He was really stompy.

pony-hooves

The pony hooves left four distinct purple prints. I feel like this toy was chosen just because my daughter really wanted a pink pony to add to her pony collection, but that’s okay, too.

slinky-rings

We used light green for the slinky, and sadly, this was the most disappointing of the toys. It didn’t bounce up and down and all over like I thought it would. Instead, the viscosity of the paint held it to the canvas once it hit the canvas, so it really had to be pulled up and then forced back down to be hard enough to stick. It did not act as bouncy as we thought it would. In hindsight, using an ink maybe, instead of a paint with a level of thickness, might have made the bouncy prints we thought it would have. But we were still happy with the “forced” placement of the green rings.

sand-roller-2

Last up was the sand roller, and since this toy was remarkably wider than the other toys, we were going to need more paint spaced out on the palette. So we used all of the colors already on the palette for a sort of muddled rainbow effect (without mixing them into an icky shade of brown). If you asked my daughter, this was her favorite tool, and the one she was looking forward to the most. It worked like a paint roller does, only it left wavy lines rather than just a solid block of color.

After that, we went back with the other tools to fill in areas that looked empty, or to add more prints from those that we thought were under-represented. Since the colors were mixed up on the palette, we didn’t stick to the colors from before and ended up using the random colors on the prints.

finished

Our finished prints! I really like how these turn out! I am hoping to find some cheap pop-in frames to put these in and hang them on the wall in the toy/play area in our family room. You can definitely see the pony hooves and the roller marks. The dino prints are a bit more hidden, but there. What I like most about these is how I remember so vividly making them whenever I look at them. I can remember shopping for the toys and trying each one individually to see how it looked. And I can remember my daughter’s sense of wonder when we saw what they did. Maybe I’m just sentimental, though.

Clean up from this project was quicker and easier than setup. The cardboard went back into the recycle bin, and the tractor and slinky toys went into the garbage. The pony hooves and dino feet got washed off for future play, as did the sand roller for play at the sand pit next summer. If I hadn’t decided to wash them and just toss them, I would have only been out $3. Since I did this outside on our front porch, I wasn’t worried about paint splatters on anything.

Other applications I could see this for would be for remembering a special toy or item that doesn’t hold a function, but still holds a special place. If you have a certain color theme in a nursery, this would be a neat way to incorporate those colors in a fun, homemade print. A lot of baby items have distinctive shapes, too – like little baby shoes, pacifiers, teething rings… Although I wouldn’t recommend holding onto any of those once they’ve been used for painting. My daughter is old enough (most of the time) to know not to chew on toys, so I worry less about her ingesting the paint. And she’s nearly 5, so I’m sure her immune system is pretty strong by now (right?).

It can be a challenge to do projects like this with kids – they are messy, they have short attention spans, and sometimes they are just so unskilled (amateurs). Just kidding… But seriously – if you’re a perfectionist, or a naturally control-driven person, it can be hard to let go. Give this project a try, though. If your child understands WHAT each item can do, they can mimic it pretty well. Clean up is minimal, and it’s easy and quick, and if your child is like mine and drawn more to experiments than art, it can be a way of experimenting how different toys look that will still capture their curiosity. Putting art into children’s lives is so beneficial that it should never be seen as a waste of time, but an investment into their future success and creativity. I only wish there was more of an emphasis on that in schools! But I’m not a teacher, nor do I wish to be 😉

Crib Upcycle, Part 2: Clothes Drying Rack

Earlier, I told you about how I had planned a 3 part project using all of the parts of my daughter’s long since outgrown crib (you can read about that here). I’m ready to share with you part two of this use it all adventure – my new clothes drying rack!

Done Open

This part of the project involved using one of the long panels of the crib that held the little bug inside with vertical slats.

Crib Slats

It also involves the use of power tools – namely, a circular saw and a drill. I’m pretty proud of myself, I’m not going to lie. If you’re ever nervous about using power tools, spend a day volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on a site build, and you’ll quickly learn more than you ever thought you’d learn. Continue reading

Crib Upcycle, Part 1: Memo Board/Photo Hanger

Anyone else out there a parent? A few of you? I swear, there’s never been a time in my life where I’ve spent more money on things I’ve used so little. The baby swing, the cloth diapers, the adorable clothes, the bottles… I guess I could have had more than one baby to make these items have a little more life, but that seems like a lot of investment just to get more use out of a bottle! 😉 I’m a one and done mom. More power to you if you have a large brood, but my family feels whole as three.

One of the biggest investments my husband and I made was the crib. Paired with the matching dresser/changing table (which is now a “buffet” that is storing towels & washcloths in my hallway), the total came up to right around $300 – and that’s cheap compared to the fancy furniture some parents buy! What can I say? I’m frugal.

Thankfully, most of our baby items found new homes after they grew out of usefulness for our family. We loaned out the crib once my daughter was in a big girl bed to a friend that had need for two cribs at a time, but I’ve found that there is little need out there for used baby cribs. It seems that among families that don’t mind buying new, the crib is something that is rarely bought used. There are those that buy everything used, which is a great way to be – but when it came down to it, I felt a little bit attached to the thing once it found it’s way back to me. Sure, there were other things I kept, too – some baby blankets, some of the cutest little teeny tiny baby outfits, a couple special toys… But those are easily packed away into my special things chest.

The decision was made – keep the crib, but upcycle it into items that are more purposeful. The internet is FULL of furniture upcycle ideas, and cribs are definitely up there in terms of reusability. I’ve divided the parts of my crib into three projects of varying difficulty. I’m using the whole buffalo, as it were. (Is using that phrase cultural appropriation? Or offensive? I hope not. It isn’t meant that way..). No parts left behind (except maybe hardware, and a couple little bits and pieces that I cut off here and there)!

Crib Part 1 CoverThe first project is by far the easiest and takes about 5 minutes and a small investment of hardware. I was actually inspired (who am I kidding, I totally stole the idea) by a friend of mine who did something similar (not even similar – absolutely the same thing) in her living room.

By taking the metal grid that holds the mattress and hanging it on the wall, you now have a lovely, large picture or memo hanging grid.

Grid Close Up

I use clothespins to hold the items on. Clothespins are also great to customize with some acrylic paint, markers, glitter, spray paint, washi tape… Another fun thing about this is that it’s magnetic – so you can use magnets where they will fit.

Hooks

To attach it to the wall, I used my husband some large sized screw in hooks and just hung the grid right from them. That’s it – easy peasy.

Photo Hanging Grid

I did say this was the easiest of the projects. One piece of the crib used, a pile more to go! What do you think? Is this too “out-there” of an idea for you, or are you going to kick your toddler out of their crib early so you can get a head start? Let me know what you think!

Green (smoothie) With Envy

Finished Green Smoothie

Breakfast, man. Love it or hate it, you have to eat it. Or maybe, you don’t. Some studies are now saying that breakfast actually is NOT the most important meal of the day. Others say that you have to eat it to get your metabolism right. I know that if I don’t have breakfast on a weekday, I’m going to be one hangry B by the time 10:00 rolls around.

So the trick is, how do I eat a breakfast that is healthy, yummy, and something I can eat either on the way to work or on a quick break at my desk at work? Because I guarantee you that if I have to wake up earlier than the 5:30 that I should be waking up now to get a breakfast in before I leave the house, you’re going to see one hangry lady…

In my research for some healthy breakfast options, I’ve been reading a lot about green smoothies, made green by the addition of leafy greens like kale, spinach, or collard greens. The greens add healthy vitamins without adding any taste (so to keep the taste out, avoid things like Arugula!). Adding some fruits will bring some of that yummy sweet smoothie flavor, and using a healthy liquid base will really bring this full circle to be a filling, fiber-ful, easily digestible morning meal that will keep you full and increase your intake of fruits & veggies with little effort!

Preschooler Approved
This smoothie is preschooler approved! And that’s saying something.

The smoothies differ from juicing in that all of that fiberful veggie & fruit pulp is kept in the beverage. However – if you are on a specific diet plan, you will want to see the plan’s fine print regarding blending up your fruits & veggies. Weight Watchers Smart Points, for example, add up for fruits & veggies if they are made into a drink rather than ate whole. And while there are skeptics out there that doubt the benefits of these as a staple, well, it’s still better than grabbing a donut on your way into the office!

The first time I made these, I will admit I was a little nervous to try it. My Target cheapo blender does a great job, but the appearance of a green beverage with darker flecks of green floating in it didn’t have me clamoring for a straw. However, the reception was positive! My four year old daughter said, “Mmm – this is the most delicious smoothie ever. Thank you for making it for me, mommy!” And coming from a bed-headed grumpy 4 year old who doesn’t like most of what we put in front of her, I consider that a 5 star review!

Smoothie Ingredients

Here’s the recipe that will make your pals green with envy:

Green Smoothie!

  • 1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 large handful leafy greens, such as kale
  • 1 – 2 cups fresh fruit, such as bananas, strawberries, kiwi, apples, berries, melon…
  • 1 tbsp flax seed
  • 1 tsp Stevia powder sweetener, or sweetener of choice to taste

Blend together, and then serve either over ice or blended with ice.

That’s it! Super easy, super nutritious, and super yummy!

Finished Breakfast

Veggie & Fruit Print Table Runner

You may recall a while back I posted about an Ikea haul (here)– it included this table runner:

Table Runner
$5.99 Marit Table Runner – SCORE!

I was excited this weekend to finally put some work to it. I had planned on doing some sort of print on this using a handcut woodblock, but I was waiting for the perfect idea & inspiration to strike. Inspiration struck, but it wasn’t in the form of a woodblock and was instead an old school project that came to mind. I’m so glad it was, because I was able to involve the whole family and teach my daughter a fun trick.

Did you ever try this out as a kid? I remember carving stamps out of potatoes, but never using the natural shape of the vegetable to act as a stamp. It was a lot of fun. First up – you will need veggies:

Veggies

Not pictured was the celery. I forgot. Continue reading

Election Season Survival Guide

IMG_3211

My fellow Americans…

I wonder how people used to fight about elections before the internet. Would people go stand on the sidewalks and yell at the people next to them? Would they call them idiots and terrorists and other horrible terms in person because they looked at a solution to a problem from a different view than they did? Did people act as experts on events that happened an entire country away? I somehow think it was different. My, how the internet has changed things!

If you’re anything like me, you’re tired of the negativity, the falsehoods, the mudslinging – and that’s not even between the candidates,  but between the people I know! I’ve decided to put together a survival guide. I strongly believe that if we all follow this, we’ll be living in a much happier country! Continue reading

DIY Decorated Shoes – Galaxy Print

Finished Galaxy Shoes

Personal note – I am having the hardest time switching from PC to Mac. Eesh! This post has been 3 weeks in progress due to trying to find a way to store my photos. Everyone starts somewhere…

Onto shoes!

Have you ever bought shoes for children before? It’s ridiculously expensive. Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like to spend more than $15 on a pair of shoes for someone who won’t fit them for more than 6 months. That’s nearly impossible, I’ve found. A pair of sneakers for my daughter generally start at $23 at the cheapie store, and that’s without the licensed character on the shoe. And none of them are truly that cute.

This is part of the reason I started painting/decorating my daughter’s shoes myself. Why pay $27 for a pair of Dora sneakers when you can get some plain canvas shoes for much cheaper and make them personalized and unique and supa dupa cute???

thumb_WonderLucy_012_1024
These are some Wonder Woman shoes I painted for my daughter, as worn in her Wonder Woman photo shoot. Photograph taken by Lupo Photography of Omaha. By this time, the shoes were already showing some age, but still holding up!

I’m going to be making a series of DIY decorated shoes and sharing those with you. Up first is my current obsession – GALAXY PRINT! Continue reading

CURRENTLY – a July life, blog, and all else update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, which I hate! I’m working to alleviate that. In the meantime, here’s a quick update of life right now, which might explain why I haven’t been as diligent in posting as I would like to be.

SCHOOL!

A person recently reminded me that if you aren’t doing what you love in life, change it. I’ve heard it years before, and I’ve always brushed it off thinking that not everyone can have a job doing what they like to do, because I’d really like to get paid to read books all day. Continue reading

Dinner Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope (please??)

Pizza NightAww – family pizza night. Don’t let this picture fool you. While preparing dinner may be fun for my 4 year old, eating the meal is a whole different story.

I’m going to let you new parents of 1 year olds in on something – your kid may be special to you, and you may think that you lucked out because your child eats everything and you don’t have one of those picky eaters. But you just haven’t gotten there yet. Trust me. Your perfect little angel just hasn’t really developed those taste buds fully yet. Your eater that will eat the delicious healthy meals that you prepare now is going to take a turn. They all do. Mine sure did. I was that parent that said that my perfect child wasn’t a picky eater, and was never going to be since I exposed her to all sorts of foods and made healthy meals and even made my own baby food and didn’t make “kid food” for her.

Didn’t matter. Ages 2, 3, and 4 are all about the struggle. The struggle is real.

She’s STARVING when we get home and begging for snacks while I’m making dinner. Once I’m finally able to put it on the table, after begging her countless times to go play toys or read a book or watch TV for three minutes so that I can actually step through the kitchen and open the oven without her underfoot, she all of a sudden isn’t hungry. It doesn’t matter if it’s mac & cheese & hot dogs or chicken nuggets or grilled cheese. Getting her to eat one bite is a struggle. And when dinner is finally over, after spending an hour arguing with a child to eat even two bites, all of a sudden, she’s hungry again.

I’ve tried the starve method. Doesn’t make a difference. I’ve tried making her sit at the table until she eats ONE BITE – which after she puts it in her mouth she practically gags from all of that mental buildup. Her record is one hour and 15 minutes.

And so far, I am still standing firm on my refusal to either make kid only meals (she will not eat chicken nuggets every day of her life) or to make her a separate meal. I may adapt a meal I am making for her, or let her eat an applesauce & yogurt dinner combo after she’s tried what I have made and didn’t like it, but I’m not giving any more inches on this one.

Here are the methods that I’ve tried that have kind of worked… Let me know if you have a different child dinner war method that has worked for you.

1 – Eat it or starve.

I mentioned this method briefly above. If you don’t eat what I make for you, you don’t eat. Well, normally how that turns out is the child just doesn’t eat. Prepare to be really strong for when they are hungry later. I don’t find that I’m really winning with this method – it never actually teaches my daughter to try the food, and it usually ends up with bedtime being an absolute bear because she’s hungry. I just end up feeling guilty about it, and then I know she fills up on the less than healthy breakfast at school the next day.

2 – Try one bite and if you don’t like it, you can grab something from the pantry.

I don’t recommend this one unless you are trying some brand new food and the kid truly does give it a try. This can quickly turn into the child playing mind games – if they know what is in the pantry that they will be offered as an alternative, they can use this to their advantage. It does reward them, however, for giving foods a good try. So use this sparingly.

3 – Roll the Dice

This was a suggestion of a friend of mine that works better than I had anticipated the majority of the time. On our dinner table, we have a large foam dice. For each portion of her meal – main dish, veggies, and side – she has to roll the dice and eat the number of bites that she rolled. Seems simple, and since it’s a game, she loves it.

The added bonus – and the bonus that I had not seen coming – is that after she eats the bites necessary, SHE ROLLS AGAIN! I felt a pretty big mom win in that moment. I figured dinner time was over. But no – she had so much fun playing the game that she wanted to play again!!! SCORE!

This is a great method – the only risk you run is that they will get away with only eating one bite. But – if it avoids dinnertime battles, it’s worth it.

4 – Number of bites = Number of Years

This is another method that was introduced to me by a friend of mine. Five bites if you are five, three bites if you are three, and so on… The nice thing about this is that the child knows each day what to expect. “I have to eat four bites.” Consistency can pay off with this one.

I don’t know if this method alone worked, or if it’s the fact that my daughter’s peer talked about it, so it works because it’s cool since her friend does it. But regardless – the consistency pays off, and the child feels in control of their own destiny. And really – isn’t control what it is all about?

5 – Let the child help make the meal

So I’ve read this one a lot, and I’ve got to say, I personally think it’s crap. I have let my daughter help me prepare meals, and she still won’t eat them. But she does like to “help!” While it’s good to get your kids into the kitchen, it can often be more trouble than it’s worth. So by all means – include them as much as possible if for nothing else than to teach them and expose them to new things. But don’t expect it to work miracles. And be ready to try all of your patience…

6 – Just give in. It feels good.

One of the things I like about my daughter’s pediatrician is how down to earth and realistic she is. Her piece of advice when Lucy became “that age” is that dinner time should be a nice family time. It doesn’t have to be a war. Enjoy yourself. Children are not going to starve themselves, and if they don’t get 100% of their nutrients today, they will get them tomorrow.

I do think that you should have a time when you aren’t battling, and you are talking and laughing and bonding. It doesn’t always happen in my home, but when it does, it sure feels good.

It seems to all come down to choices. Kids want to feel that they have some sort of control in their lives, and choices give them that control.

This morning, I made egg sandwiches for breakfast. English muffins, a slice of cheese, and an egg. All of those things separately my daughter likes. But for some reason, combined, they create a poison that is deadly to four year olds. After first getting frustrated that she wiped the egg yolk that got on her finger onto her chair because it was acky, we started the battle of “I’m not eating this.” I got to the desperate parent stage after about 10 minutes this morning and went into bargaining.

I gave her three choices. She immediately perked up after she heard the word “choices.”

Choice 1 – Eat one bite and then if you don’t like it you can be done.

Choice 2 – Roll the dice and eat the number of bites that you roll.

Choice 3 – 4 bites for 4 years old.

I then told her that i know what choice I’d make if I were her, and I’d choose to eat just one bite.

Much to my surprise, though, she chose number 3 – 4 bites for 4 years old. Hey – a win is a win, and I’ll take it. Parenting isn’t about logic, it’s about taking whatever wins you can get and holding onto that feeling.

So she enthusiastically ate 4 bites – because she was being cool like her friend – and even said that she liked the sandwich. “It’s just eggs, bread, and cheese, Mom.” Yeah, kid, I know. Granted, she didn’t want to eat any after her four bites, but that doesn’t matter. We both won, and the day moved on.

Kids.