Mini Tent Craft Challenge

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This month’s craft challenge from Highlights magazine was to make a tent using only 3 materials: craft sticks, cardstock, and yarn. Travis was gamely up for the challenge!

He remembered sleeping in a tent from an adventure last summer, so knew right away that he wanted to fold the cardstock in half to make the canvas frame.

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I challenged him to think of a way to make this tent more sturdy and stable. The craft sticks!

Since we weren’t allowed to use tape, we poked the sticks through the cardstock to make a hole. Two sticks then created a sort of A-frame.

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A piece of yarn was a handy way to make it hold together.

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Travis soon had a few little tents set up, and extra craft sticks made a campfire!

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You can then have fun populating your campsite with Lego or Duplo figures for a morning of camp play! Thanks for the challenge, Highlights.

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Bow-Tie Card for Dad

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This cute Father’s Day card idea from Highlights magazine was the perfect craft for Travis to make this year… because daddy can really rock a bow tie!

To start, we measured out a long rectangle that was 11 inches long x 2 inches wide. Travis proudly followed along the line to cut this out, needing no help from me.

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We cut a second rectangle that was 5 inches x 1 inch.

Fold the large triangle in half, and open back up. Now fold the ends of that rectangle in to the center crease and secure with tape.

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Cut each side into a trapezoid shape; now it looks like a bow tie!

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Wrap the small rectangle around the center and tape down.

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Kids can now decorate the tie with markers. Because Daddy loves orange, Travis proudly added orange marker atop orange paper.

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Your kids may want to add polka dots, stripes, or other common bow-tie designs.

I cut a final piece of cardstock into the shape of a gift tag and added a happy father’s day message. Loop through the bow tie with a piece of string.

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When Father’s Day is over, this card does double-duty as a bookmark! Need more ideas this Father’s Day? Check out a few photo gift options here.

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Japanese Flower Art

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Travis has been very into all things Japanese these days, starting with ninjas and moving on through sushi, taiko drumming, and more. So we were psyched to see a project in his latest Highlights magazine that detailed how to make Japanese flower art (ikebana), a practice that goes back 500 years!

First, cut two cups from an upcycled egg carton. Poke a hole through the cups, and stack them together. Flip them so they are bottom side up and place in a flower pot or small bowl.

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Begin adding flowers, one at a time. Keep space between each flower in the arrangement, tilting them if needed.

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It was absolutely beautiful to watch Travis work, so deliberate and careful.

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I had purchased a few different types of flowers and greenery at the supermarket, and Travis loved selecting which should go next, especially the berries that were laid out.

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We could start to see why ikebana is a form of meditation!

Once the arrangement was to his satisfaction, we filled our flower pot with small stones (you can purchase these at a craft store), which heightened the beauty.

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Fill your container with water, and enjoy your flowers!

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Squishy Art Play

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Today was Veronika’s first art project!

What’s the safest art for a seven month old? Covered up! Because Veronika puts everything in her mouth, there is currently no way to safely give her markers, crayons, or paint – even all-natural or non-toxic stuff – unless it is safely sealed up. But art inside a plastic bag is the solution you’re looking for.

Place a piece of thick paper (like watercolor paper) inside a gallon zip-top bag; for the best fit, I folded our paper in half. Add a few splotches of color, and seal tightly.

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I placed this bag on Veronika’s high chair tray, and encouraged her to squish it around.

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She was a little confused at first, and more so when she realized she couldn’t actually the paint on her fingers, as she can with food on her tray. I talked about the squishy blobs she was feeling, and helped her press her hands into the piles of paint under the plastic.

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Soon she had the idea!

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Truth be told, she was a little frustrated that she couldn’t lift the whole art project up and try it for dinner. But she still had fun exploring!

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When she tired of the game, I removed the paper – her first work of art!

Squishy Art (7)Because the fingerpaint was smeared on quite thick, I folded it over the other (blank) half of the paper, resulting in a cool symmetrical painting.

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Overall, this was a great first art project for a baby, and it encapsulated all that I love about watching kids make art: that the process is a lot more important than the final product; that our role as grown-ups is to facilitate and make sure a little one is using materials safely, but to let them be the “artist”; and that after serving as a model or guide, the most fun can be had when you step back and watch your child create!

Whale Napkin Holder

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As we head into summer nights and summer dinners – whether poolside, seaside, or just out on the patio – this is a cute napkin holder project for kids to put together. Make as many as you want, whether just one whale to add summer fun to your child’s table, or a whole pod of whales for family dinners al fresco!

Cut a length of cardstock (we chose blue) to fit around a toilet paper tube, and attach with a gluestick.

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Travis thought it was so neat that the rectangle he cut out could be wrapped around in this way!

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While he worked on that rectangle, I drew a whale for him on a second piece of blue cardstock and cut it out (bigger kids can do this part themselves).

Travis added some belly lines with marker, and glued down a wiggly eye.

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Glue the whale to the tube and your holder is ready!

It was fun to show him how to accordion-fold a napkin, alternating folds over and under.

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Slip the napkin in the tube and your whale now has a water spout. Meanwhile, summer diners have a napkin ready when it’s time to wipe those buttery fingers from corn on the cob!

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Play with a Pom-Pom

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I got crafty for Veronika today! This pom-pom was sort of a labor of love, but if that definition doesn’t fit our children, what does?

Trace a large circle (about 8 inches across) on paper. Add a smaller circle (about 2 to 4 inches across) in the middle. Cut out this template and trace onto two pieces of cardboard.

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A thin cardboard works best, like an empty cereal box or frozen pizza box.

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Place the two cardboard pieces together, and begin wrapping around with yarn.

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You can use only one color, but I liked a two-tone look, alternating layers of yellow and green. For a nice thick pom-pom, wrap in about four layers. Veronika couldn’t wait to get her hands on this thing!

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Insert scissors through the yarn to the gap between the two cardboard pieces, and begin snipping the yarn in half.

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Insert another piece of yarn right into the middle and pull tightly – you now have a ball! Tie that yarn securely.

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Before I talk about playtime, I want to mention how fun it was to make this next to Veronika. I worked for about an hour as she played with toys and cooed next to me.

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Especially if you are a first-time-parent, activities like this can help fill those hours or days with a baby that might otherwise seem endless. This one engages baby and caregvier both!

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Now it was playtime, and as you can see from Veronika’s face, the pom-pom is quite simply a delight!

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We tossed it in the air, or used it to hone her grasping skills.

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We tickled her toes with it.

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She played cheerleader as she watched big brother play.

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She basically just had a ball! Do supervise closely, since the homemade nature of this pom-pom means strands of yarn might come lose and pose a choking hazard.

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Popsicle Sticks Bow and Arrow

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When your son requests a bow and arrow at 6 am on a Saturday, you pray to the craft gods that you have all the materials in your craft bin. And when in fact you do, it feels like a little miracle, especially when that includes wooden bobbins that I’d purchased only the day before for a different craft, but had never owned before. Clearly it was meant to be!

So here is the quite-complicated bow and arrow we put together. For my preschooler, it mostly meant watching mommy since it involves lots of hot glue. If your child is 8 year old and up, they can get more hands on!

First, glue together 6 jumbo craft sticks in an arc, securing at each meeting point with hot glue.

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Repeat with 6 additional craft sticks for the other side of the bow. It’s very important that you line these up exactly right, or your two sides won’t glue together properly.

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Although not necessary, we added reenforcements and embellishments with decorative craft sticks, making V and T shapes. Hot glue these down.

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Add wooden bobbins at each of the craft stick intersections, gluing the right side of the bow to the tops of the bobbins and the left side of the bow to the bottom of the bobbins.

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Ideally, we would have used a very stretchy elastic for the bow string. Since I didn’t have one that was large enough (the craft bin gods weren’t perfect!) we tied on two taut pieces of twine instead. This wasn’t ideal, but it worked in a pinch. Add duct tape around the center for a smoother arrow launch.

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To prepare the arrows, insert two straws together and tape where they meet.

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Hot glue a pom pom to one end and cut the other end into a V so it can notch onto your bow string. Again, what I had on hand (bendy straws) wasn’t ideal. Next time we’ll use thicker straight straws, which will make much sturdier arrows.

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But my little knight/samurai/warrior now had a bow, and that was all that mattered!

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We might not have had perfect launches, but we did have imaginative fun!

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Coral Reef Diorama

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Today, Travis and I did an activity in conjunction with our Taste of Thai recipes to help him learn about the coral reefs of Thailand.

There was a lot in this lesson that was new for Travis, including guided imagery, but first I had to set the stage! I asked him if he knew what a scuba diver was and he correctly answered someone who dives underwater (thanks Fireman Sam!).

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I showed him an included picture with scuba gear and then we mimed climbing in to all this equipment. Shimmy shimmy into your wet suit! This part was silly and fun.

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Next up was our imaginary trip: a guided imagery about scuba diving in a coral reef. I knew this would be a bit of a challenge for my four-year-old, so instead of asking him to sit quietly with eyes closed, I had him paint a box blue for our upcoming diorama while I read the scenario. This allowed his hands to keep busy as he listened, and he liked the process!

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For a simple, little-kid diorama, we made a version using play dough blobs as the base onto which we could add shells, fish stickers, and fake coral.

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To make the coral, thread beads onto pipe cleaners – great for fine motor skills!

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While we worked, I played Raddish’s suggested video in the background so he could see real examples.

Travis’s favorite part was using play dough to make the body for snails and hermit crabs who could live in our shells from the craft store!

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He was so proud when he thought one of his shell creations looked like a narwhal.

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Meanwhile, I made a few more tropical examples for him to see.

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Bigger kids can delve a lot further into this homeschool lesson. Raddish also provided a list of discussion questions about the coral reef and links to further reading about what they are and how to protect them.

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But for my preschooler, this simplified lesson was good fun!

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Adventure Pouch

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Travis has a few new animal figure toys that need to come along on all his adventures (of course). We needed a safe way to transport them and this adventure pouch craft from Highlights magazine fit the bill perfectly!

First, trace a pouch shape onto felt. I had Travis take the first try at it and just enlarged his version slightly since his original oval was a touch too small.

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Cut out, and trace the same shape onto a second sheet of felt so your pouch as two sides. Cut out.

Use hot glue to attach the two felt pieces together, leaving the top open.

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To decorate, Highlights suggested cutting additional shapes from other colors of felt and gluing them on. Since felt is tough for Travis to get through with scissors, we used neat ocean felt stickers, instead.

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Punch holes at the top of the pouch, and lace yarn or twine through the holes. Knot to secure, and pull up on the strings to seal it shut.

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Travis loved putting his animal friends in and out of the pouch, their new home! This pouch would also work great for collecting treasures on a nature walk.

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What will your child do with the adventure pouch? Please share in the comments!

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Collagraph Prints

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Collagraphy (not to be confused with calligraphy!) is a print-making technique that uses textured elements applied to a rigid surface to make a picture. It’s a fun art process that will engage your preschooler with texture in new ways.

Before school, Travis and I glued various items from our craft bin onto a piece of cardboard. Sponges can be cut into smaller sizes and applied.

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We also added craft sticks, foam pieces, and buttons.

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Corrugated cardboard works especially well; try using the reverse side of a coffee cup sleeve for this!

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I asked Travis what kind of scene we should make, and he decided a spring garden. We glued down all our elements to make flowers, a tree, a fence, and “pebbles” on the ground (these were the buttons).

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By the time he was home from school, the glue was dry and it was time to paint! I set out cups with different colors. For the first round, we stayed true to nature: a yellow sun, green flower stems, red blossoms, etc.

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Press a piece of white paper over the print, making sure to press down hard on all your 3-D elements.

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We lifted up the paper for the big reveal. Travis was astonished and loved it!

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He immediately wanted to make a second version, but with different colors to see how it turned out.

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We’d run out of yellow for the sun and sky, so instead painted these parts black. As we lifted off the paper, I said it looked like a black rain cloud. But Travis said, “It’s a turtle with a smile!” Talk about glass half-full, what a wonderful answer!

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Then he decided it would be silly to make an all-black print, very Rorschach test of him.

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In sum, this was a a fantastic art project and we would definitely do it again.