Mosquito Badminton

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Are you kids sick of swatting away mosquitoes this summer? Then this quirky take on backyard badminton is sure to have them giggling!

To make our “mosquito”, we first inflated a balloon. Any color would work, but Travis chose blue.

I twisted together a mosquito body out of black pipe cleaners. Certainly there is some imagination at work here, but it featured two antennae, a proboscis, and wiggly arms and legs.

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Cut eyes from cardstock or poster board and then tape the mosquito body and eyes to the balloon.

Use flip flops as the “racquets”! Travis thought it was hilarious to bop the mosquito around outside.

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We didn’t make it a true competition, but if you want to keep score, try this: If the balloon lands on the ground on your side, that’s a point for the other team or person. First side to reach 5 points wins!

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Melted Crayon Suncatchers

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It’s so fun to harness the power of the sun when you make art in the summertime. Travis and I used melted crayons in a project once before, but that one relied on the indoor heat of a hairdryer. This time, we put the sun’s heat to work!

To set up, lay a piece of black construction paper on a baking sheet. The dark surface and the metal will help absorb as much of the sun’s heat as possible. Cut two equal sheets of wax paper, and place one on the black paper.

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The next step was a bit tricky: remove the paper wrapper from crayons and use the edge of a craft stick to shave off bits of wax. Travis found this to be quite difficult, and in all honesty, I did too.

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After he’d tried for a bit, I made sure our wax paper was covered with enough shavings. Cover that with the second piece of wax paper.

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Now place in direct sunlight (just like we did with a solar oven a few days ago)! Depending how hot the day is, your crayons may need anywhere from 1 hour to several in order to melt. You can press down, on occasion, to help the process along.

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To turn it into a suncatcher, cut the wax paper into rectangles or other shapes, and punch a hole in the top of each piece.

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Thread them onto a dowel (or attach with string), and hang up in the window to catch the sun.

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What beautiful sunshine!

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Last summer Travis helped make two DIY versions of a sundial, but he was really too young to understand how we were tracking the sun. This year, he was ready, and our model a bit more precise!

First, he traced a circle on a piece of sturdy poster board.

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Cut out and find the exact center of your poster board by measuring halfway lengthwise and crosswise.

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We used a dowel as our centerpiece, and used clay to hold it in place; Travis pressed down the clay, and then made sure the dowel was nice and secure.

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We headed out the next morning as soon as sunlight hit the patio, and I showed Travis how to trace a straight line along a ruler following the dowel’s shadow.

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I pointed out how looong the shadow was this time of day, too, and challenged him to notice how that would change as the day went on.

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We missed a few morning hours because we were out and about! But by 1 p.m. we were steadily marking on the hour. As we had guessed, the dowel’s shadow was much shorter in the middle of the afternoon, then began to lengthen again.

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After 5, we lost our sunlight on the patio!

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So now it was time to head inside and decorate the sundial. Dot markers were the perfect tool for the job!

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Travis loved the way it looked and now has a neat visual of the sun’s path across the sky each day.

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Coach Whistle

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The sports coaches at Travis’s camp have whistles… which means Travis needs one too! Well, it turns out that we couldn’t exactly make a whistle sound from this Highlights craft, but it was fun to make and Travis was so proud to wear it around his neck.

First, cut a strip of paper that is 1 inch wide and 9 inches long. I love letting Travis help with a ruler for sneaky “math” practice.

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Cut out the strip and cover in duct tape; we used a colorful blue. Cut a u-shaped notch in one end.

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Grown-up step: Hot glue two juice lids to the opposite end from the U.

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Roll up, continuing to glue, until there’s only a 1/4-inch gap open between the lids and tape. Fold back the U so it overlaps this gap. I knew we needed to get this exactly right for a true whistling sound, but because we were working in those quick minutes before camp, I had to sort of fudge it.

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Snip the end of the tape so there is an opening to blow into.

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Attach a pony bead to the back of the whistle with hot glue, and thread through yarn to go around your “coach’s” neck.

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As I mentioned, Travis did more of a hoot hoot into the whistle, and didn’t get a true whistle sound, but he loved it and proudly showed it off to camp counselors.

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Picnic Scene Craft Challenge

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Travis loves the open-ended craft challenge he finds in his Highlights magazine every month, having crafted robots and camping tents in the past, among others. Today, we wanted to make a picnic scene using nothing more than colored paper, cotton balls, and paint.

I loved the little method that Travis came up with. First he needed a paper base, and he chose green grass. We glued down a separate square of colored paper for the blanket.

Everything else in the little scene was made of cotton balls, which he dipped into paint and then glued on!

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It definitely was a five-year-old’s take on a challenge for kids as big as age 12, but I loved watching his process. There was green cotton ball grass:

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Orange cotton ball food:

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And pink cotton ball people! He then made some black cotton ball ants.

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He loved carefully pouring the paint onto each cotton ball before gluing them down, and enjoyed it so much that he wanted to make a second version. This time his pink person dined on yellow lemonade.

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Paint-Popper Art

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If the kids aren’t in camp and need to get out some crazy summer energy, then this project is for you!

To make the popper, cut an empty toilet paper tube in half. Tie a knot in two balloons, and cut off the tops. Slip one balloon over each half of the empty tube and secure with tape. Bright and colorful tape isn’t necessary, but does add an element of fun.

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Because we knew we were going to make a mess, Travis and I headed outside for this one. I put an old sheet on the ground and covered it with thick craft paper. We filled each paint popper with a separate color and I showed Travis how to pull back on the knot of the balloon and splash the paint forward.

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Now this was fun!

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He loved selecting which color to use next, and sometimes just dripped the paint out of the popper for big thick blobs on his canvas.

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The one drawback is that the poppers didn’t last long. After a few colors, the tape and balloon came lose and the cardboard roll lost its shape.

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But it was more than enough time for him to produce fantastic splattery art.

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And get some sunshine in the process!

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Having made several varieties of kaleidoscope in a Kiwi Crate recently, today Travis helped me tackle a DIY version. Ours didn’t come out exactly as intended, but the materials were fun and it quickly became a prop in Travis’s make-believe games!

First, wrap an empty toilet paper tube in colorful construction paper; Travis chose purple. Tape on.

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Trace the bottom of the tube three times on a plastic lid. We used the lid of an oatmeal can, which was not entirely clear, and perhaps why our results weren’t 100%. But oh well! Cut out the three circles and hot glue one circle to one end of the tube.

Meanwhile, cut a piece of reflective paper so it is 1 inch shorter than the tube.

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Fold into thirds and then open back up again. Fold it up to form a prism (making sure the reflective side is on the inside) and tape to secure.

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Slide the prism into the tube, all the way back against the hot-glued circle.

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Slip the second circle over the prism. Fill the remaining space with multi-colored pony beads. Hot glue the final circle to the other end of the tube.

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Kids can decorate the outside of the tube with colored tape or markers, if desired.

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We found that this worked best when we held it directly up toward a light source. But even with slightly cloudy viewing, it worked great as a “viewfinder” or “telescope” or “homing device” in Travis’s games!

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Symmetrical Art


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Travis has done so many crafts at camp that it felt like a while since we’d sat down just to paint together. We amended that this morning with a craft intended to follow up on recent fun with symmetry.

First he folded a piece of paper in half, very importantly made a nice crease, and opened it back up again.

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I squirted out big blobs of paint near the center crease, according to his preference. “Red, and orange, and blue!” he instructed.

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He smeared them all together, noting the way the blobs ran together, made new colors (purple!), and got super smeary.

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Now we folded the paper over again, smooshing the paint inside. We opened it back up for a neat symmetrical reveal. “I made a footprint!” he said.

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He loved it so much that he immediately requested to use the second piece of paper I’d folded. This time he chose a different set of colors, including light blue, yellow, and black.

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Blob blob blob and smoosh smoosh smoosh and we opened it up again.

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He thought this one looked like Darth Vader’s mask – even cooler!

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Bottle Sailboat

Bottle Sailboat (6)Although not nearly as expert or astonishing as a model ship in a bottle, this craft is a cute riff on the idea, and a version that kids can make all by themselves!

Remove any labels from a plastic water bottle and insert a funnel into the opening. Pour in about 1/2 cup sand; you can use some you’ve saved from the beach, or buy it at the craft store. Travis loved being the very important funnel holder while I poured.

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Sprinkle in a few small sea shells; again, these can either be ones you’ve collected, or store-bought in a pinch. Replace the cap on the bottle.

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To make a sail, pinch the bottle slightly to cut a slit in the center. Insert a wooden dowel and secure with glue.

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Cut out a square from craft foam for a sail, and a triangle from the foam for a flag. Because we used sparkly craft foam, Travis didn’t add much decoration. Your kids may want to decorate their flags with markers or stickers.

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Punch two holes in the “sail” and insert onto the dowel mast. Tape on the flag.

And now set sail! Although the bottle will really float in the tub or a pool, we thought it was prettier just to look at.

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Questing Stone

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This painted rock craft is sort of a DIY riff on a “Choose Your Own Adventure Book”! Travis and I followed Highlights magazine’s suggestion for the two sides of our first stone, and also created our own alternate versions.

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All you need for the craft are rocks and puffy paints.

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For the suggested version, one side was a unicorn head. The opposite side was a dragon’s tail. Mommy’s art skills are noticeably lacking, but I like to think that adds to the DIY charm.

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Give the puffy paint ample time to dry. Then, instead of a traditional story time, we made up a tale together. Because Travis seemed antsy just sitting still, we turned it into game with action figures. Here comes Iron Man to the castle…

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Whenever we came to a crossroads in the story, Travis flipped the stone. We decided the unicorn would represent a good outcome and the dragon’s tail was bad outcome. Yay, Iron Man got into the castle!

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Oh no, the next flip was the dragon, so he was swarmed by enemies at the next turning point of the story.

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Travis didn’t like this turn of events, so decided the blob of paint he’d made on another rock represented  “water power.” If we flipped to the water symbol, Iron Man would win.

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And so on! Big kids can get truly sophisticated with their storytelling, perhaps even writing down the all the possible junctures. My 5-year-old just loved the novelty of flipping the stone and acting out a tale as we saw how it all played out.

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