Pipe Cleaner Kaleidoscope

This is a fun and easy little toy for the preschool set (okay, I played with it for quite a while the evening that I made it).  If your kids like kaleidoscopes, they are sure to enjoy this toy.  I didn’t have any plastic containers lying around, so I’ve used a glass one, but next time I have an empty peanut butter jar I’ll switch this over.  My kids are old enough not to break this one, but I think the magnet will be stronger through thin plastic vice thick glass.Pipe cleaner magnet jar

All I did was cut up twenty piece of pipe cleaner into fairly small pieces (3/4″-2″) and put them in a jar.  I gave my kids the jar and a strong magnet that I pulled of the fridge.  Voilà, hours of fun!  I got the idea from Pre-school Play on Blogspot.

When my 4 year old tried it out he almost immediately asked if we could try it with pom-poms, so that was the perfect segue into a very basic discussion about magnets and what they will/will not attract.

This was a real hit with both my 4 year old and my 2 year old 🙂

pipe cleaner kaleidoscope


Fireworks in a Vase

I came across this idea on jugglingwithkids.com and thought it would be right up our alley.  Sure enough, the kids loved it!  I only wish it lasted longer.  The whole activity was done in under 10 minutes 😦

Here’s what we did:

  1. Fill a tall vase with water.fireworks in a vase 2
  2. Pour a small amount of water into a small cup that’s good for pouring.
  3. Add 3-4 drops of liquid food colouring to the oil.  Do not add more than that!  Your water will darken fast enough with only 3 or 4 drops.  We added 4 drops, one each of purple, pink, blue and green.
  4. Mix up the oil and food colouring with a fork.  Mix it until you have only tiny droplets of food colouring throughout the oil.
  5. Pour the oil mixture into the vase.
  6. Watch as the colours fall from the oil down into the water.

thumbs up for fireworks in a vaseAs you can see, this activity got the thumbs up, but it was very short lived.  On the up side it was also very quick to set up and to clean up.

Home Made Play Dough

My kids are play dough lovers, but not always so good at remembering to put it away before it dries out.  That’s where home made play dough comes in 🙂  Much less expensive than the store bought stuff and I like to make it nice and soft so my kids can use the noodle making tools on their own.  The recipe I use is a combination from the Feed Me I’m Yours book by Vicki Lansky and a recipe that I picked up at the Early Year’s Centre in Olreans.  Here it is:

Mix in a medium bowl:

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/4-1/2 cup salt ( I found in Ottawa 1/4 cup was enough, but out here on the coast I need closer to the 1/2 mark)
  • 2 Tbsp cream of tartar


  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 cup boiling water

Mix with a wooden spoon until it is cool enough to knead with your hands.  At this point I usually have to add a little more flour.  Again, I didn’t when I was in Ottawa, but the maritime environment is just too humid!  I always have to use the max or extra flour in bread recipes too.

Now add the food colouring.  When the kids were little I used to just make it all one colour, but now that Danny is older, he likes to mix colours.  I take the opportunity to divide the play dough to give him the chance to try out a few colour combinations. Today we used Club House Neon liquid food colouring for a fun change.

Thanks to Crayola’s creative colour naming, Danny decided to give them all names.  The blue one is Blue Wave Swirl, the pink one is Pink One’s Kitchen, and the orange one is Orange Trombone Blast.

Stretch Pants for Kids

My son’s dance school was really late getting their recital costumes out this year, and unlucky us, his pants were way too big!  With just a week to get something workable, I decided to sew him a pair of pants myself.  I had a bunch of black lycra that was very similar to the fabric of his costume pants, so all I needed was a pattern.  He had his pants that he wore to class which fit him perfectly, so I decided to use those as a template.  Here’s what I did:

  1. Lay out whatever your going to use to make your pattern piece.  I use Do-Sew, but you can use news paper or any other product for patterns making.
  2. Fold the pants that your using as a template in half, on leg on top of the other.
  3. Trace down the side of the pants that is not just straight up and down.  In this picture, trace down the right hand side.  Make sure not to trace right next to the pants, as you have to add a seam allowance.  If you are going to be sewing with a sewing machine, you’ll probably want to add 3/8ths to 5/8ths of an inch.  If you are going to be using a serger, you can get away with leaving only 1/4 inch.
  4. Trace across the top and bottom, remembering to add extra space for hems and elastic.  The pants I was using had a fold over knit waist band, so I had to do a bit of guess work.  It always better to leave more, as it’s very easy to cut off from the top after you’ve sewn your pants and tried them on your little one.  I left an extra 1.5″ at the bottom to allow a 3/4″ double folded hem.
  5. Make a small mark on the left side of the pattern as well so that you know where to place your pants once you’ve flipped them over.
  6. Now this is the part that’s a lot easier to demonstrate than describe, but I’ll try my best.  Your pants should be lying on a table folded in half, one leg over the other.  Without lifting them off the table, unfold the top leg so that your pants are laying out flat.  Now lift the pants up and fold the leg that was on top under the other leg.  Lay your pants down again.   This is just so that you get the “front crotch” and the “back crotch” shape traced.
  7. Line up the straight side of the pant legs with the small mark that you made on your pattern piece and make sure to line up the top and bottom.  If you’re laying your pants out like I did in my picture, you would now trace around the left side of the pants.  Remember to leave the same seam allowance that you did on the other side.
  8. You now have to extend your top and bottom lines to meet up with the left side of the pattern that you have just traced.
  9. Now cut out your pattern piece.  It should look something like the picture on the right.  The deeper curved portion will be the back of the pants.  I know that at this point it does not look like it will make a pair of pants, but trust me, it will.
  10. Lay out your fabric and fold it over so that you can fit your pattern piece on the folded part.  This will allow you to cut out two pieces at the same time.  It is easiest to fold it over so that the right sides of the fabric are together.  This just saves you from taking them apart later.  It is very important that if you have fabric that only stretches one way, or has more stretch one way, that the stretchier part goes across the width of the pants.  They will be tough (or impossible) to get on if you have the stretch going to length of the pants.
  11. Pin down your pattern piece on the folded part of your fabric.  Make sure it is not touching the folded edge of your fabric.
  12. Cut out around your pattern piece.  You now have your pattern piece and two fabric pieces all pinned together.
  13. Take off the pattern piece, but leave the other two pieces pinned together.  Sew up both the crotch seams.  I would normally recommend matching your thread to your fabric, but this was a rush job and I couldn’t find four black serger spools, so I did it in white.  The good news is that the thread shows up really well in the pictures for this tutorial 🙂
  14. Again, this part is easy to demonstrate, but tough to describe.  I’m hoping the pictures will help.  Visualize the smaller of the two seams that you just sewed as the seam that goes up the front of the pants.  The bigger of the two seams is the seam that goes up the back of the pants.  With that in mind, lift up your pants up by the waist and line the two seams up so they are smack on top of each other.  When you lay the pants back down you should have what’s pictured on the right.
  15. Now you have to sew up one leg and down the other making sure your crotch seams line up.
  16. This is when you want to have your first fitting to make sure that the waist is going to sit where you want it to sit.  Cut off extra fabric at the top if you need to.
  17. There are two ways to do the waist.  The way that I am going to show is how to do it if you have a serger.  If you have a sewing machine, you’re going to want to do a casing method.  Here is a neat little video tutorial on how to do that.
  18. Measure your child’s waist to figure out how much elastic you need.  I take the measurement and add 1/4″.  I find this works well because although I overlap by a little more than 1/4″, this serging method tends to stretch the elastic.
  19. Overlap your elastic by 1/4″-1/2″ and use the zig-zag stitch on your sewing maching to tack it down.  I go up and down several times to make sure it’s sewn together really well.
  20. Now mark each quarter of your elastic with a pin.  I do this by laying my elastic out folded in half.  Put a pin at each of the ends.  Now lay the elastic out folded in half, but with the pins lying right on top of each other.  Put the remaining two pins at the new ends.  You now have four evenly spaced pins.  Attach those pins to each quarter of the waist band on your pants, making sure to pin the elastic to the inside of the pants.
  21. serge the elastic and pants together around the top of the waist band making sure to stretch the elastic as your sewing so that you don’t have any bunching at the the places that you’ve pinned.
  22. Now roll the pants to the inside over the elastic to form your casing.  I did a double fold, but a single fold will also work.  I find it easiest if you press the waist at the stage.  I also find it helpful to pin because with stretchy fabric it’s easy to stretch one piece more than another if they aren’t pinned together.
  23. Sew along the bottom edge of the elastic using a zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine.  I tried to take a picture here, but the black stitching on black fabric doesn’t show up very well.  The best shot was one of the hem on the legs.  It’s the same stitching as at the waist.
  24. Have your child try the pants on again to figure out how much you need to hem.  I pressed up about 1/2″ and then rolled it again and pressed.  I then just sewed around the bottom using my zig-zag stitch.  The reason you use a zig-zag is so that the seam will stretch with the pants.  A strait seem on a regular sewing machine has no give, so especially at the waist, it is very important to use a zig-zag stitch.

Quick & Easy Popsicle Stick Puppets

My son has been playing “puppets” with things that aren’t really puppets for a few days, so yesterday I suggested we make some puppets of people that he knows.  We didn’t have a lot of time to make complicated puppets, so we made these ones that are really easy and fast.

Here’s what you need:

  • constructions paper
  • something round to trace
  • pencil/markers/pens
  • scissors
  • glue
  • Popsicle sticks
  • yarn scraps

Here’s how to make them:

  1. Fold your paper in half.
  2. Place your “circle” (we used the bottom of a large glass) on the paper and trace.
  3. Cut out your circle through both layers.  This gives you two identical circles (and blew my 4 year old’s mind): one for the face and one for the back of the head.
  4. Draw your face on one of the circles.
  5. Put glue all the way around the edge of the other circle.  Attach cut pieces of yarn for hair and attach the popsicle stick.  These get sandwiched between the two circles.
  6. Press the face piece down on top of the popsicle, hair and back piece.

Voila! You can now enjoy endless hours of puppet shows 🙂

Foil Art

My mom bought the kids a foil art kit by Elmer’s because both my kiddos love shiny and sparkly things.  The age on the box says 5+, so my kids are a little young for it and they did need quite a bit of help.  They still had fun and there seems to be a good bang for buck (my mom paid ~$10).  There are 10 posters (2 10″x7″, 4 5″x7″ and 4 3.5″x5″) and 40 small stickers.  There are 40 sheets of foil in 10 different colours. Each of my kids did two little posters, so I’ve still got lots left over in my craft closet to pull out on a rainy day.

The way this works is you get a bunch of pre-printed posters and stickers.  The posters have individual yellow stickers that you have to peel off.  Then you place one of the pieces of coloured foil over the sticky part and rub it.  When you lift up the foil piece, the coloured part has stayed on the poster and you are left with just a clear plastic sheet.  It’s simple and you get a good result even if you have no artistic talent.  Where the little kids need help is to get off all the sticker parts because some of the pieces are really quite small.  Also, they tend to rub too roughly and end up crinkling the foil instead of pressing it on to the sticky stuff.  All in all we had lots of fun and look forward to doing more.

Butterfly Mobile

This craft got five stars from both my kids, and as usual, it’s not quite what I had in mind when I started.  However, the end result was more awe inspiring than the original would have been.

This craft really started with a buy one get one for a penny sale on craft foam at Micheal’s.  I decided instead of buying a second pack of regular foam I would buy a pack of pre-cut butterflies.  Once I got them home I sort of regretted the buy because I thought a few might be fun, but it was going to get boring decorating a whole stack of butterflies.  So the butterfly foam pack has been sitting in my craft closet for a few months and I had been mulling over the idea of doing a mobile with some of them to at least deplete the stack .  Yesterday when Danny wanted to craft he spotted them and asked to make some butterflies.  I sold him on the mobile idea and we started to decorate.  We actually had lots of fun and between the three of us we decorated 11 butterflies!  I had planned on dismantling his planetary mobile that we made a few months ago and replacing the planets and stars with butterflies, but as I was laying them out to dry on the dining room table, I looked up and realized that our light fixture would make a really great mobile base.  My son was more than thrilled to have his work on display in such a high traffic area of our house 🙂  It does add a certain je ne sais quoi to the ambiance in our dinning room (and by je ne sais quoi, I literally mean I don’t know).  My husband claims that he know exactly what it adds, and judging by his tone it wasn’t all good… Oh well, he’ll just have to get used to it.  I suspect having a mobile in our dining room is going to be a recurring project idea 🙂

Okay, so here’s what we used to make this mobile (so many substitutions are possible, so just use what you have!)

  • pre-cut craft foam butterflies
  • peel and stick craft foam flowers
  • peel and stick sparkly craft foam (I cut it into small rectangles)
  • Crayola pip squeaks glitter pens
  • Elmers Shimmer and Shine art glaze
  • crochet thread
  • darning needle (a.k.a yarn needle)

And here’s how we made them:

  1. Gather all your supplies and decorate the butterflies.  The kids don’t need a lot of help with this one, so I decorated some butterflies as well.  I found that my decorating gave the kids ideas for how they could decorate theirs.
  2. Thread your needle with crochet thread and use the needle to pierce the foam butterflies.
  3. Tie crochet thread to your mobile base (in this case my light fixture).

NOTE: After I hung them all up I realized that we could have let them dry completely and decorated the other side as well before hanging them.  We may do that next time, although the effect is still quite impressive with only one side decorated.

Craft Foam Art Frame

This is another craft that we did after my son watched an episode of Artzooka!.  The episode showed how you can change the look of the same picture by adding different backgrounds and different frames.  My son just picked up the idea of making a frame for his picture, so we didn’t photocopy his drawing to make multiple frames/backgrounds.  The instructions for this particular craft can be found here, but it doesn’t give instructions on how to make a frame, it just gives suggestions on what to use and how to decorate.

Here’s what we did:

  1. Draw a  picture.
  2. Add a background (Danny chose to do those with purple marker).
  3. Tape your picture to cardboard.  I used a cheerios box that I cut out a little bigger than the drawing.
  4. Cut out pieces of craft foam to cover the cardboard border.  This is what made our frame.
  5. Glue the craft foam to the cardboard using a good tacky glue.  I have found that Aleene’s Super Thick Tacky Glue works really well for hard to hold items (craft foam, pipe cleaners, pom-pom’s etc.)
  6. Cut off the excess card board.
  7. Next came the part where this project went off the rails.  But, hey, that’s the fun when you do crafts with preschoolers.  We were now supposed to decorate the frame.  Danny asked for paints, so I got out the paints, and he proceeded to paint over his drawing…Then he asked to decorate the frame with foam flowers.  I pieced together the flower using three thin strips of craft foam and a lot of scotch tape.  I would put the tutorial up, but lets just say my way of making that flower wasn’t exactly an elegant solution.

I thought it was a shame that Danny painted over his cute self portrait, but my husband still gave it a place of honour on the office wall.  It was a fun project although I ended up doing more if it than I would have liked.  If Danny is still into crafts, we’ll try it again in a few years when he can help with the design and cutting.

Egg Carton Insects

I remember as a kid making caterpillars out of egg cartons, so last year I decided to do a little twist and make some ants.  They turned out well, but I did most of the work.  I think Danny painted his, but he got me to do the face legs and antennae.  This year I thought little lady bugs might be cute, so I set up the stuff and got ready to make some lady bugs.  The thing is, as Danny gets older he has more ideas of his own, so when I presented the idea of making egg carton insects, he immediately suggested making butterflies.  I wasn’t prepared for that, but decided to go with the flow.  Anna on the other hand wanted to make a caterpillar, which actually worked out well because she only wanted to do the painting part.  She was able to occupy herself longer with a 6 egg caterpillar than she would have with a one egg lady bug.   So, I didn’t have any enlightened ideas in the heat of the moment for the butterfly wings, so we just cut some out of construction paper and glued the is to the egg carton butterfly body.  Danny had a great idea though to decorate his wings.  He used the left over “spike” that gets cut out from between the egg holders, dipped it in paint and used it as a stamp.  I’ve displayed the part on the bottom right corner of this photo, although you can’t really tell what it is.  It just made a cute square stamp that added a little extra fun to the decorating process.  We used pipe cleaner for the antennae, which Danny then painted to make them extra special.

This was a fun and easy craft that didn’t require anything that we didn’t already have in our craft box.

Get Well Soon

This is a bit of an aside from my usual posts, as it’s not about something that I made, but I thought it was worth a post as it’s a really neat idea if crafty people want to try it on their own.

My son recently had eye surgery to help correct his strabismus (lazy eye).  The day surgery pamphlet that we got from the hospital warned us not to promise our child “fatty food like hamburgers, french fries or chicken nuggets”.  Hmmmm, I wonder which restaurant they are targeting…Regardless, what they really don’t want you to do is fill your child up with fatty food after they have had a general anaesthetic as that will usually cause the child to throw up everything they’ve eaten. We got this pamphlet about a month before Danny’s surgery date, so I had a while to mull over something special that we could get him that wouldn’t violate any of the hospital’s recommendations.  A week and a half out Blossomsform his surgery date I still hadn’t come up with anything when I noticed a small shop in the same plaza as my bank.  It was called Blossoms – Fresh Fruit Arrangements and I knew that I had just stumbled on the perfect get well gift.  I was able to pre-order and have my mom pick it up on the day of the surgery so that it was waiting for us when we came home from the hospital.  I know it would have had more of a wow-factor for Danny if he had been able to open his eyes for more than a blink at a time, but he was still impressed and he really enjoyed eating it 🙂  It was fairly pricey, but considering we got a lot of tasty fruit and it helped to lift the spirits of a miserable four year old, it was well worth it.