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!

 

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.

 

 

Blogging For Books: Everything Beautiful

My most recent Blogging for Books order was a little different this time around. Rather than my typical novel or cookbook, I went with a new adult coloring book titled Everything Beautiful, by Waterbrook.

There is nothing that makes this one stand out from others, however, I found that it provided a relaxing form of entertainment most people expect from an adult coloring book.

The artwork is beautiful, and coloring the simple yet detailed pages helped me decompress from built up stress I had harbored from a long day. The messages formed into the pictures were encouraging, and overall I felt good after spending even just a few moments coloring a page.

Again, Everything Beautiful is not especially unique. It is yet another adult coloring books you find in, say, the book aisle of a grocery store. However, it serves it’s purpose and would make a beautiful gift for someone you love.

The Snowy Day

I struck homeschooling gold this week! While planning through the Before Five In A Row curriculum I’m currently using with Hudi, I had scheduled to read The Snowy Day this week. I wanted so badly to be able to have a hands on experience, but there was no way  I could coordinate his curriculum schedule with the weather way back in June (when I was doing the planning). To add on to the struggle, it doesn’t snow here. Not really. We get maybe one or two ice storms a year, and every few years we might get one decent snow (decent being about  1-2 inches of powder). So I took a chance and picked a random week in January, since that was the most likely month (other than February) we’d see snow.

It honestly feels like G-d has blessed our homeschool endeavors, because this was the week we had snow! Not just ice like we normally expect, but about an inch or two of fluffy powder to play in! I had hoped all year (well, since June) for the off chance of this happening, and to my extreme delight it did!

Around here, everything shuts down at just the mildest snow/ice “storm”. It’s not that southerner’s can’t handle the weather (as much as us yankees like to joke about that). It’s the fact that we see so little of winter weather, there’s no point in maintaining the supplies and equipment necessary to keep roads safe.

Growing up in Chicago we had an entire season to space out all of winter’s homey charm. Here we have to jam pack it into the one day a year we see snow. Being stuck at home means you don’t have anywhere to be, which frees you up to spend the day on all the comfy and fun things that make this season special.

Our snow day fun actually started yesterday while we were still keeping an eye on weather reports, and crossing our fingers for a good snowfall. As part of Hudi’s school we did “snow painting”, which was an incredibly easy activity using staple ingredients.

2878756When the snow finally did come the next day (today) we woke up to eat breakfast (french toast), and bundled ourselves up to go play outside. Hudi immediately made the connection between playing in the snow and his book. Just like Peter in The Snowy Day, he made tracks with a stick, attempted to build a snowman, and enjoyed snow ball fights (which was his favorite activity). I also got a little artsy and took his paints outside. There was nothing special about it…I just let him paint the snow! Why this isn’t a more common activity, I don’t know, but we had a whole yard of natural white canvas, so why not?

When we came inside we warmed ourselves up with an incredibly delicious cup of hot chocolate. Candy Land was played over a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup (I keep that recipe to myself…sorry!). We then collected up the bowls we had set out earlier and made snow cream (3 different varieties!).

After spending some time inside, we eventually bundled ourselves up once more and headed back out. More snowballs were tossed at each other, and we took an evening stroll around the block. Our day began to settle down in front of the gas logs, where we had an indoor picnic dinner (once again…homemade chicken noodle soup).

It was exactly what you dream of when you envision a snow day. I’m hoping tomorrow (since this is a rare occasion when the snow isn’t melting within 24 hours apparently) we can make homemade pretzels.

So…the instructions for snow painting, the hot chocolate, and the snow cream we had today…

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Snow Painting
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
Dark construction paper
Paint brushes

Mix the flour, salt, and water together until it’s well combined and forms a sort of paste. This activity is as simple as painting the mixture onto paper. Dark construction paper works best! The final product looks like snow!

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Chocolate Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
8 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 TBS nutella
4 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups brown sugar

Directions
In a large saucepan, mix all of the ingredients until well combined. This can also be mixed in a crock pot and left to heat for as long as it takes to warm up enough to be enjoyed.

We definitely used the crock pot so that it could be ready when we came in from the snow!

Garnished with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and sprinkles!

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Snow Cream – Basic Recipe

Ingredients 
8 cups of snow
1 – 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1-3 tsp vanilla

Instructions
Place a bowl outside during a snowfall. To get even more snow, place multiple bowls outside. After a few hours, bring your bowls inside. If you had a few inches of snow, you can also collect the top layer of snow directly from the ground…assuming it’s clean. Have your ingredients ready to go before you bring in the snow, since you’re going to want to work rather quickly before it melts.

For a basic snow cream, add in one can of sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla. You can also add some sugar (white or brown!).

Be gentle with stirring (more like a churn), since you don’t want the snow to melt too quickly.

You can also get creative with your flavors. Simply use the basic recipe as a base, and add any variety of other ingredients. The two other flavors we tried today were…

Chocolate peanut butter: We mixed in a few tablespoons of chocolate syrup, and about three large spoonfuls of peanut butter.

We also created a “bourbon Italian sweet cream” flavor. I poured a little bit (maybe half a cup) of Italian sweet cream coffee cream into the mix, as well as torani bourbon caramel flavoring. I’d suggest maybe 1-2 tablespoons. This one was probably my favorite of the three!

Dyed Sugar Cubes

My son has crazy good dexterity, and his hand eye coordination has a tendency to amaze me. Not even 2 years old  and he can pull the outlet covers out of the sockets (which he doesn’t do much of, thank G-d), and build intricate towers out of his blocks with crazy balancing techniques. I truly enjoy watching him at work when he’s playing a fine motor or manipulative game, and I often wonder if this is going to be a factor in the hobbies and career he will choose someday.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. For now, he’s just a boy exploring the world.

Wanting to find a new fine motor activity,  I decided to let him experiment with eye droppers, colored water, and something to absorb the liquid…which ended up being sugar cubes.

I set out cups filled with water, and added a few drops of food coloring to each of the cups. The sugar cubes were placed on a paper plate in front of my son (who, surprisingly, did not try to eat them), and I gave him the eye droppers.

Having never seen eye droppers before, he had to spend a few minutes learning how to use them. I showed him what to do and eventually he was comfortable with it after a little trial and error. Once he got the hang of it his concentration was hooked to dying the cubes.

For older kids this might be a great science experiment when learning about absorption. For now, it was just a fun way to play with colorful liquid.

And then we did a bonus activity…We pulled out a light box.

Now, our light box is actually something my grandfather built for me when I was a kid so that I could trace stuff while crafting. At the moment I use it for activities like this. Being the extremely handy person that he is, it is a super sturdy and well buil2878756t design that I could not replicate.

There are other ways to get your hands on a light box that doesn’t require the blessing of a handy dandy family member though. You can buy something, such as an unnecessarily fancy and expensive piece. Or a children’s light box that is on the smaller and cheaper end (or something in between). Chances are you will actually have far better luck looking for a light box that was meant for artists. They are much cheaper and more often than not better quality. Just be aware that some boxes do get hot enough to burn.

There is also the option of creating your own, with less skill necessary than what my grandpa used. Pintrest is filled with ideas such as these.

Typically a good light box could work in a well lit room (our box is certainly bright enough), but to make it extra cool we retreated into our laundry room (which can be completely dark with the door shut). Wanting to protect my box from sugary gunk, I put a piece of parchment paper over the surface. Considering just how bright the light is, it also helped to filter the light and protect little eyes.

The sugar cubes looked very neat with the light shining through them, and we were definitely intrigued for a good while. Kiddo spent a lot of time lining them up in various formations, and designing intricate tower structures. That was also an excellent fine motor activity!

It was a  fun experience with an easy clean up, and I felt good incorporating a new fine motor challenge (working the droppers), as well as new ways to play with colors. It’s definitely something I would do again, and I’m sure my son will be very excited when he sees me pulling out the droppers and food coloring!

Liquid Chalk

I don’t think I need to go into detail why outside time is crucial for small children. Whether it’s improved vision, a dose of vitamin D, or simply a release of energy and gain of exercise, we can list a number of benefits that come with setting children free from the indoors. A good rule of thumb is that kids should spend at the least an hour a day outside.

I grew up in the outdoors. I loved sunshine, I loved snow, I loved rain, I loved everything about the fresh air and what seemed to be limitless boundaries. I was always outside. But I also grew up surrounded by woods that created an enchanting atmosphere. Unfortunately my son doesn’t have that at the moment. He has a regular yard in a regular neighborhood.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m super grateful that we live in our house, with our yard, in our neighborhood. It is, however, somewhat of a challenge trying to fit in time for the outdoors. The things that drew me outside as a kid were far different than what’s available to him at this point in time, and more often than not we resort to doing the same things we do inside.

We play with cars. He rides his little push truck along the driveway the same way he does in the living room. We run around chasing each other. We sit and read books.

He has a lot of fun, and I don’t feel like I’m failing in anyway. I just keep trying to figure out how to make outside time special.

As I’ve said in past posts, my son really loves arts and crafts. So today I thought I’d bring the art outside. We’ve played with chalk before, but this time around I decided to change it up by making liquid chalk.

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What You Need:
– Squirt bottles (or spray bottles if you want to give spray chalk a try)
– 3 cups of water
– 6 tablespoons of cornstarch
– Food coloring
– A bowl to mix everything in
– A funnel, or something that helps make pouring easier

The bottles are easy enough to get a hold of. Most dollar stores will have them in their cleaning supply or kitchenware section. The best part is the fact that once we’re done with the chalk, they can be washed out and put away for another use.2878756

To start out the activity mix the water and cornstarch together. My son loves helping in the kitchen, so this alone was exciting enough. Once that is well combined, add the food coloring (one color per batch).

For each of the colors I used 10 drops. The yellow turned out very well, and the red was nice and vibrant (though I may add more drops in the future to make it red instead of pinkish). The green was a little weak and more of a yellow, so next time I’ll add significantly more drops. The blue also needed to be a little stronger, as it turned out to be more of a gray color on the pavement.

Once the coloring is mixed into the liquid, simply pour it into the bottles and go outside!

This was perhaps among the more successful activities I’ve introduced to my son. He loved squirting the colors onto our driveway, and was fascinated by the designs he could make. I didn’t expect it, but he ended up using every drop!

Sponge Painting

It’s a very simple and cheap activity. All you need are:
* Sponges (make sure they’re not the kind with soap already soaked in them)
* Cookie cutters (or anything that can be used as a stencil)
* Marker
* Scissors
* Paint and paper

Having an entire box of cookie cutters, I had my choice of shapes. I choose a few, traced them onto the sponge, and then cut them out. The cutting was significantly more difficult than I anticipated, so I would personally recommend staying away from shapes that are more complex. Once the sponges were cut we were ready for our art project.

At 1 1/2 years old, stamping is a concept my son only partially appreciates. He thought it was neat, and even discovered that it worked better if he brushed the paint onto the stamp rather than dipping it on to the plate.

Mostly he enjoyed smudging the sponges around the paper, creating his typical blend of color across the page. The end result was not unlike his other paintings, except that you might find a recognizable shape such as a star or elephant somewhere on the paper.

That’s not what matters though. The important thing is that he got to explore a new way of doing a familiar activity. It allowed him to experiment, and once the sponges are rinsed out and dried we now have new materials to add to his art supplies.

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