“Ice Cream” Play Dough

My kids love playing ice cream shop!

They have a magical ability to manifest imaginary ice cream out of nothing and turn any location into an ice cream parlor. In fact, on the first day of preschool, my son claimed “ice cream man” as his dream job.

My kids are seriously dedicated to ice cream, but who isn’t?

With summer here, I wanted to do a little something to enhance their experience with the fantasy ice cream business. I know there are a number of Play-Doh sets themed after ice cream shops, but we honestly have enough Play-Doh related tools and the color of the dough turns ugly after a few minutes of manipulation by a toddler.

And, to be completely honest, I recently discovered a really cool way to make non-toxic play dough, and I wanted to see if it works.

Surprisingly, it worked extremely well!

The ingredients might be a little intimidating for parents, especially those of the healthy variety. It seems like the consistency should be pretty sticky and gross, and it is certainly a lot of sugar to put in front of kids. However, this worked out significantly better than I thought. The texture of the dough matched pretty closely with traditional Play-Doh, and since I didn’t tell my kids (right away) how I made the dough, eating it didn’t occur to them…

Except that my son asked me about the ingredients, and I didn’t want to lie.

But! The end result is so sickeningly sweet, he didn’t eat anymore beyond an initial taste test. My daughter, on the other hand, kept licking her “ice cream”, but after only a few licks she got sick of the taste rather quickly.

This activity was easy to set up, and it kept my kids entertained for hours. Sure, they could (and often do) play ice cream shop with nothing more than their imaginations, but every now and then it’s fun to make their fantasies come alive!

What You Need:

Store bought frosting
Powdered sugar
Optional:
Food coloring
Ice cream scooper
Small aluminum loaf containers
Sprinkles
Ice cream cones

Instructions:

Choose frosting that matches the colors you want. We bought a pink, a purple, and a white (which we turned into a minty blue). If you’re wanting to create your own color out of the white frosting, mix in the food coloring before adding powdered sugar.

Using a spoon, mix your powdered sugar and frosting together. The ratio should be 1:3 (for every 1 cup of frosting, add 3 cups of powdered sugar). If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle in more powdered sugar until it reaches a similar texture as Play-Doh. Eventually, the frosting will clump, and you may need to knead the dough with your hands once it is no longer gooey and sticky.

To really heighten the experience, put the “ice cream” dough in aluminum loaf tins. Give the kids an ice cream scoop (it scoops wonderfully!), sprinkles (or maybe confetti or something else that can substitute sprinkles), and ice cream cones. Don’t forget bowls and spoons as well!

While this recipe does not last forever, it did keep my kids entertained for a couple of days before we had to toss it. But, it’s so easy, I can definitely do this again without stress!

DIY Dyed Beach Sand

A couple of weeks ago we made our first beach day trip of the season! We got together with a few friends, took PTO, and spent a pleasant day in sand and sun. Of course, the kids were ecstatic. Just a few days prior, my son started making comments about wanting to go to the beach. His timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I think I surprised him quite a bit when I responded with “okay, let’s go in a few days!”.

While body riding waves is something spectacular, a child’s true enjoyment is in the sand. It keeps them entertained literally all day long, and while I do keep a watchful eye over them as they play, the endless supply of sand offers me an opportunity to relax a bit.  Everyone is happy. My daughter was particularly in love with the gritty mess. So much so, she basically bathed in it…

On the other hand, taking my family to the beach doesn’t necessarily mean I check out for the entire time. On top of making sure we pack enough sunscreen, food, and novels, I also like to plan unique activities. This time around, I discovered a craft using the resources around us!

This was an especially easy activity, and even though it may have gotten messy at certain moments, a quick rinse in the sea took care of that hassle.

All you need is food coloring, ziplock bags, and if you’re wanting to take your craft home a bottle of some sort, as well as a funnel. I found plastic and glass tubes on sale at Joann Fabrics. I believe they were something along the lines of “glitter mixing tubes”.  They were the bare minimum of what I needed for this activity because I wanted to get enough supplies for the adults to participate too (I know my friends pretty well). However, if I do this again and I’m looking to do no more than one or two bottles, there were also larger decorative bottles with corks.

The other tool you might need is something thin and pointy to make designs with your sand. A wooden dowel rod works fine, especially if it has a pointed end. Usually, you can find these in the cake decorating section of Walmart or craft stores.

The activity itself is simple. Fill a ziplock bag with sand, drop food coloring in, and start shaking. If you want to fill bottles, snip the corner of a bag, fit the funnel over the bottle’s mouth, and fill the bottle with your choice of alternating colors until the bottle is packed full. For a really cool effect, stick a rod down the sides of the bottle to make funky designs with the alternating color layers.

On the other hand…this activity does not need to be a craft that you take home! If you’re looking for some colorful beach fun that doesn’t come back with you (because let’s be honest, enough sand will follow you home without you trying), simply drop food coloring onto the ground and mix it in with a pile of sand. The result is vibrant beach sand to make unique and creative sandcastles.

This was truly an awesome beginning to our summer season, and I cannot wait to see what other activities we’ll discover in the next couple of months. At the very least, I’m going to pack food coloring for our next beach trip!

DIY Mickey Ears

WE. ARE. GOING. TO. DISNEY. WORLD

I am the quintessential fan that finds Disney World to be one of the best places on Earth. As soon as plans are finalized I set a countdown app on my phone, start organizing fast-pass schedules, research menu updates, rewatch the classic movies I grew up with (as well as the newer Disney films that have sucked me in as an adult), and poke around Youtube for travel videos that help fuel the anticipation.

Disney World is an escape from real life. As soon as you enter the park, you’re in an entirely different world filled with happiness and magic. Matching t-shirts and funky Mickey ears are not just the oddities of being a tourist…they are a way of life.

This will be our second time visiting Disney World as a family. Unfortunately, our first trip took an interesting turn of events when 3 out of the 4 of us caught a stomach bug. Thankfully we were still able to enjoy every park we intended to visit due to the timing of the symptoms, but we were pushing through our days and it certainly put a damper on the entire trip.

This year is our do-over, and with a new Disney trip comes new Mickey ears!

Cardboard, hot glue, and some fabric made last years Mickey ears possible

Last year I made adorable no-sew ears, all of them coordinating with a certain theme (such as the Beauty and the Beast ears we wore in Epcot). This year I wanted to put in more of an effort in giving them a professional look and skip matching themes in favor of reflecting our individual personalities. Using the sewing machine was the best option for the effect I wanted, and a trip to Jo-Ann Fabric helped me find material that suited each member of the family.

It is the dream of every millennial fangirl to own a pair of rose gold Mickey ears, and I can’t say I’m an exception. I struck gold (no pun intended) when I found adorable sequined rose gold material on sale!

My daughter’s first experience with fandom is happening within the world of Frozen, or as she calls it, “Let It Go“.  In fact, we scheduled our fast passes such that the very first thing we do on our very first day at the park is the Frozen Ever After ride.  There was just no other choice than to give the girl a Frozen themed set of mouse ears…complete with a snowflake.

For the boys, I decided hats were the preferred option. It would be more comfortable for my son, and my husband would probably wear a hat anyway if I didn’t give him Mickey ears instead.  Being a good sport about my insistence that we go full Disney, I didn’t fancy up his participation more than necessary. He’s getting regular black ears attached to a plain black hat. My son, on the other hand, has a bit more fun of a pattern. There were so many adorable Disney prints to choose from, but in the end, I decided on simple Mickey faces on a red background.

I’m excited to wear these awesome homemade ears. I’m excited for Disney World!

What You Need

Fabric (1/4 of a yard is more than plenty)
Foam board
Pieces of felt
Polyester fiber-fill
Rotary cutter and scissors
Hot glue
Sewing machine and threat
A hat or headband
Any embellishments you would like to decorate with.

Directions

To begin, outline the shape of the ears on a foam board, one for each ear. Make sure they are the same size. My ears measured a little over three inches both horizontally and vertically. Don’t forget to give the bottom part of the ear an arch.

 

Cut out the ears. A rotary cutter is going to give you the cleanest cut. Scissors are difficult to maneuver through the hard foam, but it’s not impossible.

It’s okay if the edging isn’t smooth.

Trace your foam cutouts four times so that you have four ear-shaped felt pieces the same size as your two foam pieces. I didn’t care what color felt I used since my material wasn’t transparent, with the exception of the Frozen themed ears. That, however, was taken care of simply by adding an extra layer of scrap blue fabric. Just keep in mind what might show through the material.

Hot glue a piece of felt to each side of the foam ears.

Then, hot glue along the top and side edges of the ears and attach pieces of the polyester filling. This will give the ears better form and a cleaner look.

On the back of the fabric, draw four mouse ear shapes. They should be about an inch bigger than the foam pieces. Using a rotary cutter, cut the pieces out.

Pin together two pieces of the ear-shaped fabric, pinning them “right” sides together with the “wrong” sides facing out. Do the same for the other two fabric earpieces.

Now it is time to sew! Sew along the side, top, and down the other side of each ear, leaving the bottom arch open.

Once removed from the sewing machine, reach into the bottom opening and pull the fabric so that the ears are now right side out. 

The foam piece is now ready to be inserted. In order to fit the foam into the fabric, bend the foam piece in half. It will feel like the foam might snap, but just keep bending until it folds “hot dog style”. 

Push the foam into the fabric, allowing it to unfold once it is covered. Adjust the fabric around the foam so there are no wrinkles.

Rather than trying to maneuver the bottom piece back into the sewing machine so as to close the bottom of the ears, hot glue at this point is secure enough. Simply fold down the access fabric on the bottom of the ears and glue it in place. 

To finish, attach the ears using hot glue to a headband or hat. For extra character, add an embellishment. I included a couple of plastic flowers in my rose gold ears, and to really capture the Frozen theme I attached a felt snowflake ornament to the middle of my daughter’s ears.

 

Hanukkah “Stained Glass” Suncatchers

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

It’s a season of light and brightness, and a time to make memories with kids!

This week as we celebrate G-d’s protection over Israel and the spread of His light, we are taking the week off of school to fully enjoy a relaxed holiday. My 5-year-old has been begging for more Hanukkah crafts after creating an aluminum foil menorah (in all it’s fire hazard glory), and with a little more time on our hands thanks to the lack of school work, I had a little more time to deliver a fun creative activity.

It doesn’t take much to nudge a child’s creativity. Put paint and a blank piece of paper in front of them and they’ll be satisfied. However, after seeing a friend put together these adorable foam menorahs for a Hanukkah party activity, we got into a conversation about how this was the time to instill memories in our children and make these holidays interactive. Although it can be cumbersome, putting in the effort to set up little crafts, especially crafts that invite parent involvement, help create the warm nostalgia our kids will become fond of. Especially if they are crafts you can keep.

The craft I choose to introduce this week not only satisfied my son’s request for a Hanukkah related art, but it also created beautiful decorations I will carefully store away for years to come.

These suncatchers ended up with a lovely “stained glass” effect that is now beautifying our foyer, and simple snowflakes have joined the collection of past popsicle stick creations hanging from our banister.

What actually worked surprisingly great was the fact that there were many steps involved. This meant my son was able to sit down for a task and then get up to pursue whatever distraction caught his attention. When he wanted to sit back down for another round of crafting, the glue or paint was dry enough for the next step.

Although we used the Magen David and dreidle as our shapes for the suncatchers (and snowflakes for the ornaments hanging off of the banister),  you can incorporate whatever ideas you discover or come up with. Chances are, I’m probably going to find other designs for other seasons.

What you will need:

Popsicle Sticks
School Glue
Paint
Tissue Paper
Twine, Ribbon, or Wire
Glitter for the snowflakes (if you so choose)

Directions:

The first step is to assemble the shapes of the suncatchers or ornaments.
To create the Magen David shape, simply create two triangles using six popsicle sticks, and placing the triangles on top of one another with one triangle upside down.

The dreidel design requires six popsicle sticks. Two sticks are placed parallel from one another, with one stick connecting them at the top. Two sticks are glued to the bottom of the design, coming together diagonally from the two parallel sticks. At the top add one stick to create the handle.

The snowflakes are the easiest design, with two Xs or Ts on top of each other using four popsicle sticks.

Once the designs are glued and dried, it’s time to paint them! The dreidels and stars were painted variations of dark blue, white, and gold. The snowflakes were painted white, followed by a sprinkling of glitter…because I’m brave like that.

(But actually…the baby got into the glitter, later on, making my choices a little more regrettable)

 

 

 

 

At this point, the snowflakes are done as soon as they are dried!

 

When the paint is dry, tie to the top of the ornament whatever you are using to hang your design.

And then it is time to add the tissue paper. Choose what colors to include, and cut the paper into small pieces. It doesn’t matter if they are all uniform.

On the BACK of the popsicle stick designs, lay the tissue paper across the sticks. It’s okay if there are pieces sticking out where you don’t want them showing. You can cut trim them up later. Make sure the entire design is covered.

Take a paintbrush (we used a foam brush) and dip it into a mixture that is one part water and one part white glue (fun fact: this is often a good substitute for modge podge).

Dab the tissue paper with the glue mix until the entire design is covered.

 

Leave them to dry completely (ours took overnight). I recommend propping them up on something if you use newspaper to catch drips since the newspaper will end up sticking to the tissue paper.

Cut off any access tissue paper that sticks out along the sides, and you’re ready to hang them in a window!

Whatever holiday you are celebrating this season…may this time find you happy, healthy, and filled with Shalom!

 

G-d Doesn’t Lose Track of Us: Yom Kippur Reflections

Yom Kippur continues to inch upon us, and for some, it is going to be a difficult day emotionally.  We go through the same routine every year, inflicting ourselves by fasting, acknowledging our sinful nature and promising to at least try and do better in the coming year. And of course, thanking G-d for his redemption no matter how undeserving we are. Sometimes it’s a fairly smooth process. Other times it is raw and tough.

For many individuals in my life at the moment, this is going to be a particularly difficult day that forces us to reflect on pain and trauma we are still trying to navigate. Some years Yom Kippur is a reinvigorating recognition of what G-d has done for us, while other years (such as this one), it is the tender spot a doctor touches in order to diagnose the core disease.

Wanting to make this day as reflective, personal, and intentional as I possibly can, there have been a lot of emotional preparations on my end. However, as with most times and seasons, there are traditions that have stood the test of time which offer guidance on how to make the most of our experience.

This year, for me, it is the story of Jonah.

Traditionally, the book of Jonah is read and analyzed on Yom Kippur. I’ve overheard many people speculate why that is, and theories tend to vary from person to person. But it’s a tradition taking place all over the world on this sacred day, year in and year out. And somehow, in a variety of ways, it is relevant.

This year, in particular, Jonah’s story is a punch in my gut. I’ve heard it since childhood. It’s a story that can be found even in the most watered down (no pun intended) storybook Bibles. It’s one of the popular ones we memorize as children and recall easily into adulthood. And yet somewhere, somehow, I forget the grit of a major message in the story.

Jonah demonstrates an important reality. Yes, we learn that running away from G-d is pointless. But we don’t always find ourselves purposely running from G-d. That aspect isn’t always relatable. Sometimes we’ve been following Him all along, and confusingly find ourselves lost and seemingly without direction. Sometimes we find ourselves in a panic because no matter how hard we tried, something pushed us off course. Sometimes we expect the thunder and lightning when G-d is working through the whispers of a still small voice we’re struggling to hear.

But in that confusion, we can still gain from Jonah’s experience. He thought he could hide from G-d. He hopped a ship heading in the opposite direction of where he was commanded to go and snuck his way to the very bottom of the hold. And in response, G-d did him one better. Jonah was tossed into the sea and swallowed by a whale.

Jonah found himself in the deepest darkest place physically possible.

And yet, that was not too far for G-d.

In Jonah, we find a comforting example. Each of us experiences a deep dark place at some point. Some have been there in the past, some continue to waver in and out, and others are there now. We don’t necessarily find ourselves there because of a decision to run from G-d. Some of us find ourselves stumbling into that area in the middle of our journey, feeling confident that we’ve been going in the right direction but suddenly wondering what went wrong.

Regardless of how we get there, wherever “there” is, Jonah’s story demonstrates that G-d knows exactly where we are. No matter how deep we find ourselves, He can still hear every word in our hearts. There is no place we can go that isn’t within His reach, and it is impossible to be outside of G-d’s watch.

G-d never ever loses track of us.

And that is a message to absorb during Yom Kippur. Whether we’re struggling through correcting what we’ve done wrong, or we are bruised and battered by something pushing us into an unpleasant or even scary circumstance, or (more likely) we’re dealing with a little bit of both, we are in good company along the way. Of that, we can be absolutely certain.

And if He knows where we are, He also knows the way out.

Yom Kippur, in essence, is a time to stop our thrashing from fear of drowning. It’s a time to admit that yes, we’ve done things we weren’t supposed to. And yes, things were done to us that were unjust.

It is a time to acknowledge just how desperately we need G-d to save us and surrender to that need. Insightful to the fact that we sometimes need prompting, G-d has given us Yom Kippur to cry out for His help while knowing that He can hear our wails from wherever we are.

But even when we’re swallowed into what seems like unreachable depths, we’re never abandoned. Sometimes sin is reactionary to fear. Sometimes it is a symptom of our confusion. But at some point, it is time to refocus from that distraction and realize that no matter how deep and dark things seem…G-d has already saved us from the deepest and darkest place possible. And now that it’s been done, He most certainly isn’t going to leave us behind now.

For those fasting from sundown on Tuesday to sundown on Wednesday: May your fast be safe, intentional, effective, and meaningful.

Five Alternatives to Paint Brushes

Today I planned to mop the kitchen floor. I don’t know why that matters considering tomorrow it will once again see drops of paint, but I figured since I’m going to be scrubbing anyway we might as well make a mess.

As many of my friends know, I am the Napoleon Bonaparte of the revolution against bougie motherhood. If my kids are without mosquito bites, dirt under the fingernails, skinned knees, and splattered paint on their clothes…I start to wonder what I’m doing wrong. It’s unfair to expect kids to act like anything but kids, and I say we might as well facilitate some of the opportunities for them to enjoy childhood. Life is too short to be tidy. We survived our own germ ridden grubby childhood…our kids will survive theirs.

Sensory play is a driving force in the way kids explore the world, and inside every child is the creativity that makes an artist. At least that’s what I believe, anyway. Understanding these two aspects offers the opportunity for fun projects that, while messy, create interesting paintings you wouldn’t be able to recreate with a regular paintbrush.

Here are 5 alternative paint activities we’ve tried:

This one takes some overnight prep time, however, it’s super easy to put together.

All you need is an ice tray, food coloring, popsicle sticks, and aluminum foil or saran wrap.

It’s a pretty obvious process. Fill the ice trays with water, leaving enough room for food coloring, as well as space at the top so the different colors don’t slosh into one another.

Experiment with varying amounts of food coloring, as well as color mixtures for different shades. Use your popsicle sticks to stir the coloring.

Cover the ice tray with saran wrap. Or if you’re like me and completely incapable of working with saran wrap, aluminum foil works just as well. I simply marked out the lines of the tray beforehand so I knew where to find each slot once covered.

Poke a popsicle stick into the middle of each section of the ice tray, and carefully transfer the tray to the freezer. Let it sit overnight.

Once the ice is completely frozen, pop them out of the tray. Mine came out easily, however, you can also use a knife around the edge of each piece of ice if you’re met with a struggle.

 

As each piece of ice melts, run them over white paper to create watercolor paintings. At first not much will happen, but given a few minutes, the effects can be pretty interesting to play with!

This next activity didn’t require prep time, but of the painting activities we tried, it was the messiest.

All you need is paint, paper, and a fly swatter.

Yes…a fly swatter. Personally, we used brand new and unused swatters. But hey, do each their own.

The activity is simple. Drizzle paint on to white paper and then smack it with the fly swatter. Of course this splattered paint everywhere, but the kids had a ton of fun. Next time we will do this outside if I’m not already planning to scrub the floor. That will give us the oppertunity to be a bit more violant and crazy with our splashes.

 

 

The squeegee painting was a huge hit with the kids, and it also made an incredibly beautiful picture.

Once again set up was simple. We poured a line of paint across the top of a piece of paper, using two or three different colors.

Simply swipe the squeegee down the page, and the result is gorgeous.

 Bonus points for the fact that this was not especially messy compared to all the other activities we tried, with the exception of our marble painting:

The marble painting required only a container, paper, paint, and marbles. We placed the paper at the bottom of the container with drops of paint (once again using two or three colors). After dropping a handful of marbles on top of the paint we tilted and turned the container, causing the marbles to roll around and create fun designs.

This one tied with the squeegee painting for most beautiful. I can’t decide which one’s my favorite.

Our final activity was for the sake of pure fun and mess. This is where I set up and then stepped away, leaving the kids to simply play and see what comes of it.

Like the marble painting, I took some toys from the playroom in the name of art: Hot Wheels.

I set up the track from the edge of our art table, laying pieces of paper on the floor at the end. The paint was poured onto the track and the kids let their cars run over the paint, streaking the paper with their wheels.

This one was second in messiest, but also held the kid’s attention the longest.

 

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the new art we have for our fridge. Now it’s just a matter of waiting till the paint dries.

 

 

2 Ingredient Rainbow Slime

It has been a fun year filled with one adventure after another.

Last week we wrapped up a year of preschool that took us beyond where I expected to go. We discovered the world through geography lessons using a literature-based curriculum, and simple letter and number recognition activities eventually turned into reading and multiplying. Now that I see what happens when I let my son explore the world at his own speed, I am excited for Kindergarten next year.

Though is it really Kindergarten when he’s a few weeks too young, and ahead of schedule academically? Who cares. That’s the beauty of homeschooling.

Of course, being gifted in math does not mean we have to spend all day every day working on “school work”.  After all, my son is still 4 years old and spends the majority of his time creating shenanigans with his sister.

With the free time that comes with the beginning of summer, I got in on some of the fun by introducing the kids to a new slime recipe! The great thing about it is the fact that it comes down to only two ingredients, which made set up incredibly easy even if this activity got messy.

All this recipe needs is equal parts liquid starch and white Elmers glue. That’s it! Wanting to make a large batch of it, we used four cups of each.

It started out as a pretty messy business while the glue and starch reacted to one another. It may take a few minutes before you begin feeling confident in the texture, but if you do go at it for a while and don’t feel an improvement, you may need to add a little bit of either glue or starch. If it’s too runny add a little more glue. If it’s too sticky, drop in tiny bits of starch.

To make this activity extra fun we added food coloring to give a rainbow effect!

The easiest method of accomplishing this is to divide the slime into individual plastic bags and drop in food coloring. This allows you to knead the color into the slime without dying your hands (and mixing the colors together to create an ugly brown effect before you have a chance to enjoy the beauty of multi-colored slime).

Once all of our slime had some color…it was time to play!