Morphing Monster Clay

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Yesterday Travis made monster slime. Today, we morphed it into monster…clay!

You’ll need to start with the slime recipe, whether or not you’ve made a monster jar to hold it in. As a reminder, that’s stirring together 1/2 cup glue, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and a few drops food coloring of choice. Add 1 teaspoon contact lens solution.

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Place the slime in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons white vinegar and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

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Travis loved that we were dissolving the monster – scary! Begin adding 1 and 1/4 cups cornstarch (that’s 20 tablespoons!) 1 tablespoon at a time. Eventually you’ll have a clay you can work and mold with your hands. This comes out exactly like the model magic you can buy at the store!

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Travis loved the non-goopy texture since he doesn’t always love sticky and slimy projects. Soon he was rolling up monster snakes.

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And he told me this was a mummy!

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Have fun making multiple colors and see what spooky Halloween monsters your kid will create.

Footprint Plaque

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I’ve already made a beautiful keepsake of Veronika’s footprints with paint, and today we tried a version made with clay! I had leftover air-dry clay from a project with Travis, so it was the perfect opportunity for Veronika to play with this material.

Roll out a large piece of clay with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Be sure to let your little one watch, even though they are too young to help with the process!

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Use a bowl and knife to cut out a circle large enough for both your baby’s footprints.

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Here’s the hard part: hold your baby carefully and press one foot into the clay at a time. This might be a bit uncomfortable for them, and indeed poor Veronika let out a little cry! So you’ll notice that her prints are not very deep or pronounced, but at least I was able to capture the size and shape.

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Punch two holes in the top using a straw, then lay the plaque flat to dry.

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Once dry, thread a pretty ribbon through the holes, and you’ll have a beautiful plaque to display.

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Don’t forget the name and date!

Textured Painted Fish


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Travis and I haven’t played with clay in some time, so he was really excited when I pulled out a fresh pack of it this morning. Pretty soon, we came up with great under-the-sea fun, and added texture in two unique ways.

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First, we shaped the clay into little fish. Travis needed some help with this, but sort of got the hang of shaping an oval body and pinching the back to form a tail.

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More so, though, he made his own variations on sea creatures, which was just great to watch; he thought this looked like a perfect seahorse!

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Next we painted the fish, and he loved mixing colors to help them “camouflage.”

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Now for the texture fun. I pulled out a mesh bag, and we placed it on the wet clay. Cover with a rag (to avoid dirty hands!) and press down.

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Now our fish had scales!

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Travis loved it! Some glitter paint was the final shimmery touch for the fish, but Travis wasn’t done yet, so added “coral reefs” (which got lots more glittery glue).

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Finally, our fish needed an ocean to swim in. We painted a piece of poster board blue, and added texture in another fun way – by running a comb over it for ocean waves and currants.

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In sum, this was a great art project, with lots of fun elements, new ways to make texture, and opportunity for creativity.

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Clay Animals

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After a recent snacktime story in High Five magazine about clay animals, Travis couldn’t wait to make our own. “Let’s do it right now!” he begged – good thing I had colored clay on hand!

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We started out copying the animals from the story – a yellow chick, red crab, and green frog.

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But soon Travis was off and running with his own ideas, proudly holding them up for me. A snail!

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A starfish!

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We used clay that won’t dry out since we weren’t concerned about keeping our creatures, but do use air-dry clay if your kids will want things a bit more permanent.

To add some fun, you can snip pieces of pipe cleaner to attach heads to bodies, as well as arms and legs. We tried out this method on a little bunny.

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Mushing colors together made… a robot!

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Toothpicks are great for adding details like mouths and eyes, or even chick feathers.

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Travis soon decided the toothpick was a mosquito biting the animals, so then we needed clay band-aids.

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Great fun on a rainy day!


Seaside Stepping Stone

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Happy Memorial Day! We’re officially kicking off summer, beaches, and all things seashore with this craft, care of High Five magazine. The resulting hand- or footprints would make a beautiful hostess gift if you’re visiting friends or relatives by the ocean this year. Happy summer!

To start, roll air-dry clay flat with a rolling pin. The instructions suggested placing a bowl upside down on top of the clay to cut it into a perfect circle, but I didn’t have a bowl the right size. We decided we liked the rather imperfect result of ours anyway.

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Have your child step into the clay hard enough to leave a foot imprint (or, alternatively, press in a hand).

Decorate around the print with pretty sea-inspired bits, like seashells, or ocean-hued jewels and beads.

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The seashells were a huge hit, and Travis loved sorting through them and selecting his favorites.

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Let the clay dry completely before placing the stepping stone on the path to the ocean or beach!

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Little Artist Crate


Travis has not been very into fine arts crafts lately, so I worried our latest kit from Koala Crate might not hold his interest… To my great surprise, he was the one insisting we do each project, and mama was happy to comply! As far as Koala goes, this was a great crate to get kids simply, well, making art; in other words, heavy emphasis on the A in STEAM.

A quick note: You’ll need the provided paint markers for all three projects, so make sure you use them sparingly in each.

The first project is a nod to Piet Mondrian: a Color Block Painting using a provided canvas, paint, and washi tape. That name won’t mean much to your kids, but you can show them some of his canvases online! For Travis, the biggest thrill by far was the washi tape, which he impishly loves unwinding.

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We managed to get a few strips down onto the provided small canvas – don’t worry if you don’t wind up with exact rectangles or squares.

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The provided paint markers are good fun to squeeze onto the provided paper plate for a little artist’s palette. Needless to say, Travis didn’t exactly color block his paints into each of the washi tape squares…

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…but he loved mixing his colors all over.

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Once the paint is dry comes the big reveal, peeling back the layers of tape. Neat!

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The kit comes with a piece of cord and a sticky tab so you can mount your child’s masterpiece on the wall, a nice little touch that is sure to make them proud.

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The next project, the Art Smock, looked so exciting to Travis that he had to try it on right away.

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And then wanted to paint it at 7 o’clock at night, right before bath. I nearly said no, until remembering how much trouble I’ve had getting him to paint recently… If he was into it, then so was I! It was an important reminder to seize the right moment for your child’s creativity.

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He loved not only using the paint markers on the provided paper for his name, but also directly on the smock. Smears by Travis, slightly-smeared name by mama:

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Next up was the Abstract Sculpture, which started with the thrill of ball painting. Travis was delighted we did this on the bed Рhow taboo! Place the sheet of provided shapes in the Koala Crate (or other shoebox with lid); add the provided wooden beads, then squirt in the paints. We were nearly out of our paint markers (see my cautionary note above), but luckily I had some puffy paints on hand to supplement.

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Close the box. Now ready, set, shake! Pardon the mid-shake expression.

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Now we were looking at a cool Jackson Pollock result!

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Once the paint is dry, pop out the shapes. Now you can build a 3-D sculpture using the provided base full of holes; pipe cleaners; and painted beads and paper pieces.

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Travis preferred to bead me a full bracelet.

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No complaints from me!

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I showed him ideas for how to make the rest of the sculpture, but he wasn’t very interested. Finally, use the provided sticky foam to attach onto a cardboard base; this will keep your pipe cleaner pieces in place.

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You’ll end up with something very haphazard, like so:

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The kit didn’t end there! As befitting a crate that was all about art, there were suggestions for projects galore in the provided booklet.

First, we put on an art show. Travis and I talked about different kinds of pictures – portraits, landscapes, still lifes – as he scribbled with crayons and mama made some, er, inexpert drawings.

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He was very proud to see the art mounted on the wall and displayed for a “show.”

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The booklet also suggested several ways to explore painting, using everything but… a paintbrush!

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I set up a station for Travis with a feather, wooden block, sponge, pom poms (clip them with a clothespin for easy handling), comb, and ball.

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Travis loved the pom pom best, and then painted the block… with the feather!

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Use the ball at your own risk, ha. We didn’t even get around to painting with a q-tip or leaf, two other suggested items.

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Next we put together clay pictures. It was novel to use cardboard as a background, pressing pieces on. Travis said he had made a propeller plane, proudly wielded here.

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Mama showed him how to add texture to the clay with a pencil in this little pond scene.

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Finally, we ripped up tons of colored construction paper for a collage.

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I thought Travis might find this ho hum, but he had so much fun that soon he’d filled up all the space provided…

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…and we migrated over to the next page!

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He wanted to make a second collage, and we added bits like stickers, washi tape, and beads. Other good collage items include yarn, buttons, and fabric scraps.

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Overall, super high marks for this crate. All 3 activities were engaging and relevant, and we loved the suggestions for further exploration.



Splashy Birdbath

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We’re always hoping to attract birds to the yard, whether with bird feeders or a birdhouse constructed recently at a Home Depot workshop. So we loved this idea from our April Ranger Rick Jr.!

To make the birdbath, you need a clay pot and saucer from the craft store. Lay down old newspapers to cover your work surface and set up some paints – I like making Travis a “palette” on wax paper these days, so he can choose from multiple colors.

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He loved painting the clay base in gold the best!

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Meanwhile, we added simple stripes to the pot, which will be the bottom of the birdbath. But get as creative and decorative as you like, adding patterns or dots.

Leave the pot upside down to dry. Paint the bottom of the saucer as well, and position on top of the pot – this paint will actually help the two pieces fuse together as it dries.

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We waited out a couple rainy days, then headed out on a sunny morning to find the perfect spot for the birdbath.

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Travis proudly added a small layer of water, and we added a decorative stone and shell.

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Can’t wait to see what visitors we attract!


Pressed Tiles

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It’s rare that I can grab Travis’s interest for more than 30 minutes of crafting these days, so when this activity occupied us for nearly an hour, I knew we had a winner!

I came home with a new package of oven-bake clay, quite different from the white air-dry clay we normally use.

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Travis was thrilled with all the colors, and in no time he had an assortment in front of him for chiseling, shaping, and rolling.

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To make a lasting project, we used our collection of stamps – animal and pirate-themed sets worked perfectly – and pressed images into the clay. Once baked, I knew these tiles could be used for numerous games!

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For the cleanest method, press the clay into a square, cover with plastic wrap, and press the stamp on top.

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Travis didn’t always use the plastic wrap, which was just fine.

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He mostly did his own thing with the stamps and clay while I made an actual set of tiles we could use in the future. I confess my fingers hurt by the end from warming up so many different colors and flattening to 1/4-inch thick! Travis meanwhile pretended he was baking some of his in an “oven.”

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When it’s time to really bake the clay, arrange your tiles on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake according to package instructions – ours went in at 275 degrees F for 30 minutes.

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Now what to do with them! We decided we could use these as a more permanent version of our printable story cards.

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You can also play games with the animals, assigning them by habitat or finding other ways to sort them.

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If you want any of your tiles to be jewelry, make sure to poke a hole with a toothpick before baking. However you use them, these tiles are great for arts and crafts, fine motor skills, imagination, and more.

Friendship Heart Necklace

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Here’s the final craft we’re putting together this Valentine’s Day, this time thinking of a few special friends. Even if it’s not Valentine’s, this is a great craft to ask your kids who their best friends are, and to talk about budding concepts of friendship and the emotions that go with it. Also, the idea of keeping half of something for yourself and giving the other half away was a bit novel for my preschooler, so I’m glad we did the activity!

First, we needed simply to have fun with clay! Travis has become quite adept at rolling clay between his hands to form a ball.

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From here, I showed him how to flatten the balls into discs, and I asked him how we might cut out a heart shape. You can just use cookie cutters, but Travis is very into his chisel tool, so we chiseled. It helped if I made the outline of a heart for him to follow, first.

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Next, chisel each heart in a zig-zag down the middle, so you have two halves for each one.

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Punch a hole into each heart piece near the top with a chisel or straw, then let the clay air-dry overnight.

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The next day, we decorated. First, Travis applied a coat of watercolor. He decided the jagged halves looked a bit like teeth, ha!

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Then we painted on a layer of tacky glue so he could adhere beads and confetti pieces. Glitter would be pretty, too.

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We had the perfect beads with letters on them that could be used for friends’ initials, a great find in the craft bin!

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I cut strands of colored twine for necklace strings, and then our friendship hearts were ready to be shared with good buddies.

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Hand-Shaped Dish

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I’m a sucker for any craft that incorporates the size of a child’s hand. Last year, we made¬† a wreath featuring Travis’s handprints. This year we switched our art medium to clay. This little dish is perfect for holding holiday candies, and would also make a great gift for grandparents on your Christmas list!

To start, we gathered our materials: air-dry clay and balloons. Balloons and clay first thing in the morning? Travis was in heaven!

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Blow up one balloon to a size your child can comfortably hold in his or her hand; set aside.

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Trace your child’s hand onto a piece of paper and cut out; set aside.

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Now flatten your clay using a rolling pin until it is large enough to hold the handprint.

Use a clay slicing tool or plastic knife to cut around the handprint.

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Now here’s the slightly funny part: drape the hand over the balloon, and let sit somewhere kids can’t touch it or mess with it until dry.

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Once dry, remove the balloon and set your hand on the counter as a decorative dish.

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Don’t forget to inscribe with kids’ names and the year, so you’ll always remember!

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