Spin Art

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Warning: This project is a messy one! After playing with lots of spinning tops recently thanks to his latest Kiwi Crate, Travis helped test out this homemade way to make spin art. We thought it was way cooler (if a lot messier!) than a spin art machine from the store.

To make a spinning top “paintbrush”, cut several 1/2-inch wide strips of construction paper. We used about 5 strips for each top we made, but you can make them thicker (up to 10 strips) if desired.

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Tape one end of a paper strip to a toothpick and begin winding up tightly. As you reach the end of each strip, tape down and then tape on the beginning of the next strip. As mentioned, we only used 5 strips, mostly because my fingers started to cramp up. Here’s an image of it in motion, hence why it is so blurry. These made fun toys in their own right!

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Next, we set down white cardstock and added three blobs of color near the center of each, in the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue.

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Give your spinning top a whirl!

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Through trial and error, we found that this worked best when the paint blobs were very small, otherwise the top just got stuck. Since I had already dolloped on rather thick paint, ours made the best art when we set it spinning near the edges.

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The resulting spray and splatter was so fun for the kids to watch!

Sticky Sheep

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In like a lion, out like a lamb, or so the saying goes, and this adage of March has certainly been true this year. Needless to say we’re looking forward to the docile lamb weather to come. While we wait, Veronika and I decided to make our own woolly lamb inside! This activity combines farm animal play with tactile play in a very cute way. First, I printed out the face and leg templates for a sheep found at No Time for Flash Cards.

Next, I cut out almost a cloud shape from a large piece of contact paper, then attached this to the wall with clear tape and peeled off the backing. If you have white paper that is large enough, you could place the contact paper on the white paper such that you’re left with a white rim.

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Attach the head and legs, and your sheep is ready. I brought Veronika over and immediately she said “baa baa” to the sheep. I invited her to touch the contact paper, so she would realize it was sticky.

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Now, I told her that the sheep was cold and we needed to help him find his wool! I set out a tray of cotton balls, and she immediately got to work. She was so proud that she could help the sheep: “We’re making him so woolly!” she exclaimed.

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Once or twice she tried to stick a cotton ball on the wall where there was no contact paper and was so surprised when the cotton fell to the floor. This was a very teachable moment, and she realized she needed to stay within the lines of the contact paper.

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She proved remarkably adept at finding even tiny holes that needed to be filled with cotton until we had one very woolly sheep. “It’s like stickers!” she said with delight at the way that the cotton balls stayed on.

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When your toddler is done, you’ll have an adorable (and tactile!) piece of artwork on the wall. We plan to keep this up until March goes out like a lamb.

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Textured Painted Letters

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This is a fun art project for siblings to do side by side, each child decorating the letter that begins his or name. The result makes a beautiful piece of art that can decorate a playroom or bedroom!

I picked up a wooden V and T at the craft store recently, thinking they might look nice hanging above the kids’ beds, and immediately knew we could turn into a fun art project, too. To start, I ripped up origami paper into small pieces. Veronika loved helping with the ripping, a classic toddler favorite!

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I also let her pick which patterns to include and had to laugh when she thought this one was “phones”.

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Once we had enough pieces, I showed her how to brush mod podge over the paper pieces on the wooden letter to glue them down. She did her own V plus a T for big brother Travis.

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Once the mod podge dried, we added coats of pastel paint to each letter, choosing blue for the V and green for the T.

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Let the paint dry and then hang up to display!

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Pasta Artist

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Travis read about pasta artist Linda Miller Nicholson in his latest Highlights magazine, and we were so intrigued with the article that we went on to check out her Instagram. Talk about wow! We knew we couldn’t recreate anything close to her masterpieces, but thought it would be fun to try some pasta art of our own.

Nicholson uses plant-based dyes right in her pasta dough, but in a pinch, I placed a little bit of dry pasta in small zip-top bags, then added all-natural food coloring (think yellow from turmeric and red from beets) and a tablespoon of white vinegar to each bag. Seal and shake the bags to coat the pasta, then let dry on paper plates.

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From here, you could color or paint directly on the pasta, or glue the various pieces down into pictures of other things. Travis predictably wanted to make Star Wars creations, so we tried our hand at pasta x-wing fighters and Darth Vader wielding a red ziti lightsaber.

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If your kids try pasta art, we’d love to hear what they create in the comments!

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Big Mouth Game

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Here’s another classic from the Toddler’s Busy Book, a game I played with Travis when he was so young this blog didn’t even exist yet! All you need to get started is a medium-sized cardboard box.

First, I drew a face on one side of the box with markers. No doubt your toddler will want to help out with this part; Veronika sure did!

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I then used a craft knife to cut out the mouth shape. For the final touch, we rubbed a glue stick all over the top and attached strips of tissue paper to be the hair. The big mouth is hungry and ready to eat!

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You can use just about anything as balls for the target. Tennis balls were just a touch too big to easily fit, but sock balls were the perfect size.

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We also had extra tissue paper and Veronika loved crumpling these into balls and tossing into the mouth.

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“He’s so hungry!” she said with delight every time she added to the box. When it was full, she could pull everything out and start all over again.

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This game is sure to keep toddlers busy and delighted.

Cranberry Invisible Messages

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If your kids are no longer surprised by the way baking soda and vinegar react, they’ll be charmed with the way a new ingredient can reveal secret messages thanks to acids and bases: cranberry sauce!

First, I stirred 3 teaspoons baking soda into a little warm water in a paper cup. We used q-tips to write out “secret codes” on thick white paper. Travis wrote down the names of favorite characters, Veronika scribbled, and I made a few drawings that I knew would work well for the big reveal, like boats and suns.

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You can let the messages dry naturally, but hair dryers are so much more fun of course. Travis jumped at the chance to set the dryer to low and wave over the pictures.

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For the reveal, I emptied a jar of cranberry sauce into a container and smoothed it into an even layer. Press your pictures firmly into the cranberry sauce (but don’t submerge), then lift up to see what appears!

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Simply wipe off any excess cranberry sauce and the pictures are ready.

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Kids can end the activity here, or add color with colored pencils for a pretty final result if you want to add in a little arts & crafts.

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Crayon Slide

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It’s raining and it’s pouring… and we really miss the playground! So this morning, I surprised the kids by bringing our toddler slide in from the back patio, dried it off, and had it waiting for them after breakfast.

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My original intent was to turn this into a craft, too. I taped a long sheet of butcher paper onto the slide, and set out some crayons. The idea is that kids can hold a crayon as they slide down, in one hand or both, and leave a wiggly trail behind.

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It turned out that neither kid liked drawing on the descent. I tried taping together a bundle of crayons, thinking this might make it easier, but still they didn’t love the process.

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Instead, Travis and Veronika invented their own version of the game: they would slid down the slide, then scribble on the paper at the bottom, then race around to go again.

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I was so proud of their turn-taking!

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We had surrounded the slide with pillows to avoid any mishaps when falling, which meant the game turned into tumbling around on pillows, too. What a great way to bring an outdoor playground in!

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Valentine’s Day Vase

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This cute Valentine’s Day gift idea from Hands on As We Grow is a great way to recycle leftover plastic bottles! We used non-dairy smoothie bottles, which were the perfect size and shape.

Clean and dry the bottles thoroughly, then set out a tray filled with Epsom salt. We added red food coloring (naturally!) for Valentine’s Day.

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Next, I showed Veronika how to smear white glue all over the bottle with a paint brush.

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Once the bottle is completely covered, simply roll in the salt. It will cling on, and it sparkles so beautifully! Veronika thought it was so pretty that we added blue food coloring and made a second bluish-purple version. Let dry completely.

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Meanwhile, Veronika was still busy playing with the Epsom salt mixture, stirring it around with a paint brush or dipping her brush into the cup of glue and back again. Just be sure to supervise play closely, as Epsom salt is not edible.

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When the vases are dry, fill with roses and set out for someone special!

Valentine Window of Hearts

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Veronika has made lots of Valentine cards to give away this year, but we realized our house was lacking in decorations that we had kept for ourselves! I had leftover doilies from one of her projects, and these only needed a little toddler-friendly embellishment before we could hang them in the windows.

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First, Veronika used dot markers to decorate some of the doilies. We chose red and purple, to keep with a Valentine’s color scheme.

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I thought she might also enjoy painting some of the doilies, but she hasn’t wanted to get her hands messy lately. Instead, I placed a few of the doilies in a plastic container and added two balls, one big and one small. Squeeze in a few drops of red paint, then roll the balls around. Your toddler might want to do this with his or her hands and get nice and messy!

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Veronika preferred it when I showed her how she could til the container to and fro, making the balls scatter paint across the doilies.

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Let these painted ones dry before adding to the other doilies hanging in your window. This made the easiest toddler “garland” ever!

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Sponge Towers and Stamps

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Large kitchen sponges are easy to buy cheaply and in bulk, so consider stocking up the next time you’re at the store. I love keeping a few in the craft bin because they always come in handy, and not just for watery outdoor summer play.

Veronika and I found two fun ways to play with them this winter afternoon! First, I cut several of the sponges into strips so they made almost a soft foam version of Jenga blocks! I showed her to stack these into layers, and she loved helping add to each strata as our tower grew taller.

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And of course she loved knocking the sponges over.

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She also came up with her own way to stack them, simply one strip atop another, and I loved watching her concentration!

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Note: If building up the Jenga-style towers is too tough for your toddler, you can also make simple shape blocks. Aside from the obvious opportunity to talk about shapes or short by shape, toddlers will no doubt find many uses for these soft (danger-free!) blocks.

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They were great fun for hauling around in her dump truck…

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…or teaching an early intro to simple patterns, like alternating pink and blue.

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When the stacking was done, we still had a few sponges left over so I wanted to use them for more of an artsy craft. Sponges make perfect “stamps” for painting and since we’re so near to Valentine’s Day, I cut them into heart shapes.

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These made great prints, and Veronika was especially intrigued with the fact that the color that appeared on the paper wasn’t the yellow or blue of the sponge…

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…but red paint! So this accidentally turned into a quick lesson on cause and effect.

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Want more ways to play with DIY sponge blocks? Check out what big brother Travis was doing with them 4 years ago!

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