Mail Truck Craft

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Veronika loves when the mail truck arrives each day, so we made this cute play version at home, thanks to a suggestion in her High Five magazine. Now she can be in charge of all the mail deliveries!

To start, cover an empty cereal box with white paper, gluing or taping as needed to hold in place.
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Next, I added a strip of blue duct tape for the windshield. Blue construction paper would also work for this part.
Add additional stripes with blue washi tape or markers. We used marker for details like headlights and wheels, but for real wheels, simply glue on old juice bottle caps!
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I purposefully left the back of the box with the flap open, so that Veronika could really insert mail and take it out again.
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We used index cards as letters, and she loved scribbling messages with crayon. Big brother Travis even ran over to write a few pieces of correspondence!
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Even more fun than writing out the mail, though, was chugging her mail truck around the room before making each “delivery”!
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Tree Texture

I love working natural science into everyday outings. To wit, a walk in the park today was the perfect chance to review all the different parts of a tree, with a little art thrown in, too!

The tree in question was our family tree, for Travis’s tree journal, and we stopped by to see how it was looking in midsummer.

Then Travis went on a search to identify all the tree’s parts. For each one, he held a piece of paper to the tree and rubbed with the side of a crayon. How neat to see the different prints that emerged for each, including bark:


And leaves:

You can have your child point out features they can’t reach, too, including branches, flowers, or fruit if any.

Don’t forget to give that tree a hug before you go!

Paint in a New Way

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This project is the exact opposite of those times you give your children a direction for painting. Set out all your painting supplies (including some that might not be obvious painting supplies!) and let your children lead the way.

Our paints included dot paints, watercolors, fingerpaints, and regular tempera paint.  Our supplies included paintbrushes, craft sticks, sponges, pom poms, a rolling pin… and fingers of course! I simply set all of this out, along with lots of thick white paper.

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Veronika was first most interested in the fingerpaint, wanting to use her fingers.

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But then she loved moving the rolling pin through the blobs of paint.

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The resulting artwork on this sheet was so beautiful and shimmery!

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Next she loved using the sponges (I had both shape sponges and makeup sponges), which she pressed and swirled through the paint in such lovely ways.

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Soon she was dotting all over this masterpiece with dot markers!

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Finally, she moved onto the watercolors. It quickly became clear, though, that the water was more of a hit than the hues!

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Meanwhile, this hodgepodge of painting supplies even enticed big brother Travis over. Although he normally likes to color in coloring books these days, he decided watercolor might be fun, especially if tied into favorite TV show characters.

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What interesting shapes or creations will your children paint when you set them loose? Please share in the comments!

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Build a Cool House

This prompt from Parents magazine was the perfect project for a rainy summer day! We raided the craft bin to build a house. What kind of house you ask? It can be made of anything and for any toys your kids desire. To wit, my toddler loved it for her Calico Critters, and my son loved it as a Lego fortress!

To start, I pulled out a bunch of old delivery boxes in various sizes, as well as other building materials like empty cardboard tubes, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, masking tape, and rubber bands.

To start, we taped a few of the boxes together in a configuration that took shape piece by piece. Older kids can design their own layout. With two-year-old Veronika as the guide, I taped things together according to how she wanted it.

She loved “helping” as we added towers and turrets from the paper towel tubes and toilet paper tubes. There was a even a secret room around back.

A few craft sticks taped together made neat fences.

At this stage Veronika used it as a house for little cats and bunnies. We added some of her toy furniture inside, and it kept her so busy and playful!

Later when big brother Travis got home, he immediately wanted to tape on a few extra towers. He also used the pipe cleaners for decoration. Pom poms, paint, and anything else that strikes your kids’ fancy can be added as embellishments, too!

Needless to say it was soon a fortress for his Lego figures.

Let your children’s imaginations take the lead on this one, because it’s the perfect project for open-ended play.

Homemade Fizzy Sidewalk Paint

This fizzy sidewalk paint is a fantastic upgrade over standard chalk on the sidewalk! Thanks to good old baking soda and vinegar, your kids can have some STEM fun watching the bubbly reaction.

To make the paint, I stirred together one (16-ounce) box baking soda, 1/2 cup cornstarch, and 1 cup warm water. Stir until well combined, then divide among plastic cups and add food coloring to each. The colors didn’t come out as rich as I hoped, but we had enough pigment to show up on the pavement, which was all that mattered.

We headed outside on a very hot afternoon, and started making designs. I showed Veronika a few examples of letters and shapes, while she painted something decidedly more abstract. Older kids can make as complicated a picture as they like!

But now for the real fun: once the paint is down, use a squirt bottle filled with white vinegar and spritz over your artwork. Note: An empty mustard bottle with the cap on works perfectly; simply squeeze and dispense a little vinegar at a time.

Every time the vinegar hits the paint, foamy bubbles ensue! This was such fun for Veronika to observe.

As a bonus, this paint washes off like a dream. Simply use a watering can to rinse everything off, and the clean up becomes part of the play.

Slide Painting Activity

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Summer weather has us moving our painting to outdoor canvases, and today we found a way that was completely novel and new! To start, I lined our toddler slide with a large sheet of craft paper, securing with masking tape. It was also helpful to place an empty trash bag flat at the bottom of the slide, since this would protect the grass underneath from paint.

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I then poured washable paint into plastic cups, thinning each with a little water.

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Veronika’s task was to climb the rungs of the slide, and pour each cup of paint down. The colors instantly mix and run together in neat ways.

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And then your child can help with the process along with a paintbrush.

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The surface of the slide made such a neat impromptu “easel”!

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When your child is done, simply gather up that messy paper, stuff it in the trash bag that’s already on hand, and clean-up is done!

Pretty Nature Collage Suncatcher

We love finding uses for the treasures we bring home from nature walks and scavenger hunts, and here’s an idea that a toddler can easily help craft!

To start, I cut the center from paper plates and laid them out next to an assortment of nature finds. We only had small plates, but you can do this on a larger dinner plate size, too.

Cover the back of the plate with a square of sticky contact paper, then flip the plate over so the sticky surface faces up. I showed Veronika how she how could press down her latest finds, including wildflowers and leaves.

Once decorated to your toddler’s satisfaction, press a second square of contact paper on top, sticky side down, to seal everything in place. All it needs now is a hole punch and some twine or ribbon to hang from a window and catch the sun!

If you use dinner plates, these might even be big enough to use as a “placemat”. As an alternative, skip the plate and simply have your toddler decorate one rectangle of contact paper, then place another piece on top to seal everything together. You’ll have an instant placemat!

Painting with Nature

I love thinking outside the box when it comes to painting tools, and one of the most beautiful alternatives to a real brush are “brushes” found in nature. This is the perfect activity to culminate a day in the park or a nature walk! Veronika saved up several finds, including a bristly pine cone, yellow flowers, and different leaves.

At home, I set out all the nature treasures on a tray, along with a big sheet of craft paper and paper plates with different colors of paint. If you want to go extra wild with this project, use cardboard as your canvas and do the painting outside, too!

Veronika was hesitant to hold the pine cone, so I showed her that if we rolled it in purple paint, it made neat dots across the paper.

She couldn’t wait to test a flower! She dipped it carefully into orange paint…

…and then pressed down. “It made a flower!” she said.

Some of our leaves could be used almost like regular brushes, making long streaks of paint across the paper.

Others, like maple keys, made what looked like a silly mustache print! Have fun experimenting with colors, the way you hold your nature treasures on the paper, and more. And if your kids want a slightly different take on this activity, paint on your nature finds, not with them!

Sprinkled Candy Bar Wrappers

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The fun shredded paper “confetti” on these DIY candy bar wrappers makes them perfect to give as a gift! To wit, we made this craft today to gift on Father’s Day.

To start, you’ll need lots of tiny pieces of paper. This would be a great chance for preschoolers to work on their cutting skills, but for Veronika, it was about playing with the pieces after I cut them!

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I then wrapped two chocolate bars in additional sheets of construction paper. We chose orange and blue, for the colors of daddy’s favorite sports team of course.

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Next, a grown-up will need to make a design or word on the top of each wrapper. Ours featured a heart on one and the letters D-A-D on the other.

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Then Veronika sprinkled our paper “confetti” down on the glue. Tap lightly over a trash can to remove any excess paper pieces and let dry complete.

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The DAD version was a little harder to read than we’d hoped, but the heart was clear as could be, and needless to say daddy loved them!

Cosmetic Wedge Stamps

If your child loves stamp art, here’s a perfect way to create stamps at home, with some shape learning thrown in! Make-up sponges often come in bulk packages, so I simply grabbed a few from the bag and set them out alongside trays of paint.

Our sponges came in triangles, and I trimmed a few so we also had small diamonds and triangles in different sizes. If you want to get fancier, cut out hearts or other shapes, too!

Veronika then surprised me, by holding the sponge by one triangle point and dipping the flat bottom of it in the paint. So her prints came out as rectangles!

You can cover a sheet of paper just for fun, or fold thick paper in half and decorate just the front, in which case this would make a lovely card for a relative or friend.