Clothespin Apple Trees

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Autumn is by far my favorite season (apple trees! pumpkin spice! fall foliage!) and although Veronika is a bit young for it, there are so many apple crafts I want to make with her once her fingers become more dexterous and her understanding of the season increases.

But it’s never too early to throw in a cute craft about the changing seasons. So today was her first apple craft!

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We cut green circles from construction paper for the leaves. Older toddlers can practice tracing around any round item to make these and can also practice with safety scissors to cut them out. Meanwhile Veronika loved pointing out to me that these were circles.

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She then helped dot white glue onto the paper. Dotting glue is fantastic for strengthening little fingers!

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We added a red bead to each dot of glue. Red sequins would work, too!

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Of course, Veronika had just as much tendency to pull a red bead off the glue as to leave it on, but we managed to get a few finished trees.

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For the trunks, use brown marker to color on spring-type clothespins.

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Clip one on to each green circle once the glue dries.

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This would be a fantastic activity to do either before or after a trip to a real apple orchard.

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Ripping Bucket

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I’ve given Veronika paper to rip before, a fantastic way to develop strength in little hands, but today we turned it into a slightly more purposeful activity. This game is great because it can keep little ones busy solo for a while, or serve as an activity to do together.

First I filled a toy bucket with various types of paper as a sort of “invitation” for Veronika. I included an old magazine, colored construction paper, a few pieces of junk mail, and bright tissue paper. Newspaper would work great here too!

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Veronika was immediately curious about the bucket and started tossing out the contents.

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She still needs me to start a rip for her before she can tear a piece of paper in half, but then she loves the riiiiiiip that results.

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I started tearing pieces alongside her so we could refill the bucket. It was about halfway full when she announced, “Dump!” and this happened:

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And then she said, “Let’s fill it up!” We went back and forth like this a few times.

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Then I showed her how to rip out full pages from the old magazine. We crumpled these up and now the game turned into target practice.

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She got a fit of the giggles when I said, “Trash can!” and tossed a crumpled piece into the bucket. Hint: This was also a subliminal way to teach the idea of cleaning up, even though it wasn’t a real trash can.

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Before we ended the fun, we turned it into a craft. I pulled out a glue stick which she smeared all over a piece of construction paper, and we added a few of the torn pieces of paper into a sort of collage.

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She tired of this particular riff on torn paper play rather quickly, but at least we worked in a little bit of art.

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In sum, there’s lots you can do with just paper and a bucket!

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Mini Mask

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This cute mask will make your toddler laugh and might lead to lots more dress-up play!

To make the mask, cut a rectangle from paper that is 6×4 inches. Veronika loved helping me draw lines along a ruler!

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Place a quarter in the center and trace around it for a nose, then repeat for the eyes.

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Now add lots of silly features with crayons! While I worked on the “real” version, I gave Veronika extra paper and crayons to draw too. Side-by-side art like this is a great way to involve toddlers in crafts that are beyond their skill level; it makes them feel like big helpers.

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Cut out the mask, as well as the eye and nose holes. I showed her how to hold it up to her face.

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And to my own!

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At the same time, I had dragged over our box of dress up supplies and she immediately latched on to the idea of combining the mask with a costume.

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We added hats, capes, accessories and more as she held up the mask to her face.

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I quickly realized we needed a handle of some sort, so I taped a craft stick to the mask that she could hold on to as she lifted it toward her face. She loved the silly expression I had drawn, and sometimes just wanted to look at it and giggle!

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I love crafts like this that might seem small and quick, but which easily lead to an extension of play. One small mask kept her busy with the dress-up box for nearly half an hour!

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Spongy Pencil Toppers

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These fun pencil toppers were the final craft Travis and I put together to round out his new school supply swag. They’re perfect for any pencils where the eraser is completely worn down to a nub.

I had a bag of makeup sponges that we use for face paint, and the triangle shape made them the perfect candidates to turn into painted miniatures of triangular foods. Think: slices of cake, wedges of cheese, or sandwiches.

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A little puffy paint was all we needed.

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This one was a piece of cake (heh).

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Then we tested out other ideas, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (blue and yellow paint). Travis wanted a mint chocolate cake, which we made with black and green paints.

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Let the puffy paint dry completely, then add details like beads on top for cherry garnishes.

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Once the glue dries, poke the sharp end of a pencil into the bottom of the sponge to make a hole. (Note: You can also secure the sponges with hot glue for added security). Insert onto the eraser end of the pencil and write away!

Backpack Key Chains

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Travis is kitted out with notebooks and textbooks, but he won’t be completely back-to-school ready until his backpack has some homemade bling! We used up the last of a pack of craft spools for this easy DIY version.

First up was painting the spools and Travis chose red.

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I painted a second set in a marbled red and yellow.

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You’ll want to use acrylic paints so that the first rainy day doesn’t spoil your child’s craft. But since little sister Veronika wanted to get involved, I gave her some washable paints to smear around next to us.

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Once the spools dry, thread onto craft laces. Travis chose blue for his.

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And of course you’re sneaking in fine motor skills when your child threads the spools onto the lace.

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We alternated these with wooden beads, then added a clasp at the top and knotted the lace.

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Backpack? Check. COVID-19 hand sanitizer? Check. Keychain? Check. He’s ready.

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Taco Notebook

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On the heels of a fun avocado textbook, here was another project to kit out Travis’s school supplies for the first day next week!

Travis helped glue a piece of brown cardstock to the cover of a standard spiral notebook. Then we glued scrapbook paper in a gingham print (which reminded us of a picnic blanket!) on to the first sheet of paper of the notebook; let dry.

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Trim the edge of the cover so it is rounded like a taco shell.

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Next up was cutting taco fillings (lettuce, tomato, and cheese shreds) from felt. This was great scissor practice for Travis since felt is tough to cut.

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We glued the felt shapes along the inside cover of the “taco shell”.

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Once closed, it looked almost good enough to eat!

 

Crumple Painting

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Veronika has loved working with a big canvas for art lately, so today I wanted to find a novel way to let her fill a big sheet from the craft paper roll. Instead of paintbrushes, we crumpled up newspaper from the morning’s news!

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I put a few fingerpaints onto paper plates, then crumpled up the newspaper. I showed her how to dip one end in the paint and press onto the paper.

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She certainly thought it was funny but she seemed a little hesitant to try herself. More fun was turning the plates upside down to see if the newspaper would stick!

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I realized that the wads of newspaper were much too big for her little hands. Making smaller crumples was the solution.

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We ended up with neat dots all over the paper and set it aside to dry. This looks like it would make beautiful homemade wrapping paper, so we’re setting it aside for upcoming birthdays!

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The Great Chase

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Here was one last fun craft to illustrate the science of tension for Travis, using only a rubber band and some paper!

First we needed to draw two pictures on cardstock. These can be anything your kid wants, so long as there is one thing being chased and a chaser. I copied a template for a mouse chasing cheese for our first version.

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Travis of course chose two Star Wars characters for a second version! We colored in the images, then cut out.

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You’ll also need to cut a rectangle from cardstock measuring 1×2 inches for each image.

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Cut 1-inch pieces of straw. Place a straw piece in the center of each rectangle, using double-sided tape, and fold the cardstock over the straw.

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Attach one of your images to the resulting strip of paper with a second piece of double-sided tape.

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Cut a rubber band open and thread the straw pieces on. Make sure the thing being chased is below the chaser!

As you expand or tauten the elastic, the little straws “run” down it. Travis giggled watching the mouse chase its cheese.

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And loved the Star Wars version!

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Leftover Art Streamers

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Veronika has been making big works of art lately, with full sheets of craft paper from our giant roll laid down on the floor. Unfortunately I have no place to store such big masterpieces, so usually I just crumple up the paper when the fun is done. Today we came up with this way to “recycle” the art as decoration instead.

First up was making art, and Veronika loved painting all over a big piece of paper just before bed. We used a mix of watercolors, regular tempera paint, and sponge brushes with shapes on them.

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“Lots of black stars!” she said proudly as she worked.

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I left it to dry overnight. The next morning, we covered a second sheet of craft paper with lots marker scribbles and drawings.

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Now, I simply cut each masterpiece into long strips. If you’re doing this activity with a preschooler, consider drawing lines for your child to cut along and practice their cutting skills. For Veronika, I simply handed her a pair of safety scissors so she could “cut” alongside me.

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My original plan was to hang these like streamers from an archway in our home, thinking it would be a blast for the kids to run under them and through them.

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I quickly realized this wouldn’t work because the streamers needed to be much longer. I held Veronika in my arms for her to feel the streamers, which made her giggle, but it wouldn’t make for solo play.

Thinking quickly, I taped the streamers all around the kids’ craft table. Now it was a secret fort and hideout for her!

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She loved to crawl inside.

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And play peek-a-boo through the streamers with me.

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And then find her way out again.

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These streamers would also look really pretty over a window as makeshift “curtains” in a kids bedroom.

 

 

Art Station in the Tub

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I’ve seen a lot of cute “art stations” set up in playrooms and bedrooms, but when I read about setting one up for kids in the bathtub I thought it sounded like a neat alternative. After all, there’s no where better to make a mess than the exact place where you’re going to clean off.

Oddly, I couldn’t find inspirational images of what to include in our tub art station when I searched online, so I sort of just rigged this together. I filled an art caddy with a few water-friendly “art” activities. We had all-natural bath crayons, a “soap fluff” that I thought the kids might enjoy smearing on the walls (or their bodies!), and a little set of animals with washable markers.

The fluff, it turned out, didn’t interest them at all.

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The crayons received lots of attention. I had laid down scrap paper to scribble on, but of course the tub itself was fun to draw on, too.

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The biggest hit turned out to be those silly animals and markers. Once the kids had covered the animals with color, we drew a bath and used water to “scrub” them clean.

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What would you include in a bathtub art station? Please share in the comments!

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