Leaf Canvas Craft Challenge

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What was this month’s craft challenge from Highlights magazine? To use a leaf as the canvas for painting! You’ll want to use acrylic pants for the craft, which will hold up better than tempera paint.

No doubt there are fantastic artists who could create a whole miniature scene on their leaf. For my kindergartner, the project was more about the novelty of using nature as the canvas.

We found some giant leaves on a nature walk and knew those were the ones to use!

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At first, he painted along the lines of the leaf’s veins, which was great for reinforcing a recent science unit on trees and nutrition.

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Then he had fun blending colors and seeing how they mixed on the leaf.

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At the end, he liked making big blobs of paint.

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Whether your little Picasso makes something abstract, something highly detailed, or just has fun smearing paint, this was a simple and fun alternative to painting on paper.

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Mini Tent Craft Challenge

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This month’s craft challenge¬†from Highlights magazine was to make a tent using only 3 materials: craft sticks, cardstock, and yarn. Travis was gamely up for the challenge!

He remembered sleeping in a tent from an adventure last summer, so knew right away that he wanted to fold the cardstock in half to make the canvas frame.

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I challenged him to think of a way to make this tent more sturdy and stable. The craft sticks!

Since we weren’t allowed to use tape, we poked the sticks through the cardstock to make a hole. Two sticks then created a sort of A-frame.

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A piece of yarn was a handy way to make it hold together.

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Travis soon had a few little tents set up, and extra craft sticks made a campfire!

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You can then have fun populating your campsite with Lego or Duplo figures for a morning of camp play! Thanks for the challenge, Highlights.

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Adventure Pouch

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Travis has a few new animal figure toys that need to come along on all his adventures (of course). We needed a safe way to transport them and this adventure pouch craft from Highlights magazine fit the bill perfectly!

First, trace a pouch shape onto felt. I had Travis take the first try at it and just enlarged his version slightly since his original oval was a touch too small.

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Cut out, and trace the same shape onto a second sheet of felt so your pouch as two sides. Cut out.

Use hot glue to attach the two felt pieces together, leaving the top open.

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To decorate, Highlights suggested cutting additional shapes from other colors of felt and gluing them on. Since felt is tough for Travis to get through with scissors, we used neat ocean felt stickers, instead.

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Punch holes at the top of the pouch, and lace yarn or twine through the holes. Knot to secure, and pull up on the strings to seal it shut.

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Travis loved putting his animal friends in and out of the pouch, their new home! This pouch would also work great for collecting treasures on a nature walk.

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What will your child do with the adventure pouch? Please share in the comments!

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Button Toss

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This fun game (another winner from Highlights magazine) involves crafting on the front end and then becomes a sport with some math involved by the end!

To put it together, you’ll need 3 boxes, ideally of different sizes and heights. Paint each box a different color, for the best contrast.

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We also squirted on some puffy paint because, puffy paint.

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Note: If you don’t have paint, you can wrap them with wrapping paper instead. Glue the boxes together in any configuration and let dry.

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To play, I cut out paper circles and marked each with a different score for each box. The easiest was worth a 1, the second was a 2, and the hard one was a 5. (Note: Big kids can skip count by 5s, labeling the boxes 5, 10, and 15).

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In an empty egg carton, add paper circles numbered 1 through 12 (or 5 through 60, if skip-counting).

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Each player now needs 2 buttons – one to toss and one as a score piece.

Travis took his first toss – a lucky 5!

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I helped him count his button five spaces forward through our scoreboard.

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He loved the challenge of the game, and the challenge of counting his score each time.

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The first person to 12 (or 60) wins!

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Maraca Craft Challenge

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Last month, Travis’s Highlights magazine challenged him to make robots with only a few simple items. This month, the challenge was maracas!

I laid out: empty plastic water bottles, dried beans, tape, and craft sticks. “How would you make these into a maraca?” I asked him.

“Let’s add beans first,” he decided right away.

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He began dropping in the beans one-by-one. When I added a few faster to a second bottle, he admonished, “No, copy the way I do!” My teacher for the day!

Next, he needed to figure out how to use the craft sticks. He requested a piece of tape and soon had a handle.

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Then he decided a double-handle in the shape of an X was sturdier.

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Finally, the caps were reattached, and we could shake up a storm! I loved watching him puzzle through this challenge. What does your child’s maraca look like? Please share in the comments!

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Gallant Challenge: Bugged

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Last month, Travis took on his first Gallant Challenge from Highlights magazine: to spread kindness to neighbors!

This month’s column was about a girl who loved bugs but was bullied by friends at school about her interest. After her mom wrote of her plight, entomologists from all over reached out and encouraged her not to give up her dream of working with bugs.

This article was a great jumping-off point to talk about bullying. I asked Travis if he ever saw similar behavior at his school, to which he (thankfully!) replied now. But we talked about what to do if anyone ever bullies him or he witnesses bullying. Highlights encouraged kids to write in their own stories of being bugged about an interest, but we left that bit to older readers!

And then to make the lesson fun, we headed off to see just how cool bugs were, in support of the girl in the article.

A museum near us has a fantastic bug exhibit, and we spent the whole afternoon marveling.

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This was the biggest cricket we’d ever seen!

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We got to marvel at butterflies just emerging from the chrysalis.

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This rhinoceros beetle was almost as big as Travis’s arm!

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Travis introduced the little toy centipede he bought in the gift shop to a real centipede.

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Exposing your child to something new or different can be a great way to combat bullying, or following along a crowd that bullies another child; after all, so much of bullying stems from ignorance or not understanding another person’s viewpoint. Needless to say, Travis was captivated by bugs the entire outing. Hey, these ants seem to have the right message!

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Teach Your Cat to High-Five

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Here is an adorable challenge from Travis’s Highlights magazine: Can you teach your cat a trick? Travis was gamely up for trying, and although we didn’t exactly succeed, our cat was an eager participant! It was a great way to engage my son with our companion animal in a new way – cat and boy both enjoyed it!

The goal was to teach our cat, Krishna, to high-five with his paw touching our hand.

Hold a cat treat in your right hand.

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Hold your left hand up just slightly above the cat’s head, as if you’re waiting for a high-five. Now hover the hand with the treat in front of that. The cat will (hopefully) paw for the treat.

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We gave praise, and then tried again, over the course of a few days!

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Okay, so we never got a paw to palm, since Krishna wanted to go in each time with his nose. But it was fun to have his nose nuzzle up to the palm.

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In sum, what great inter-species play! Has your child ever taught the family dog or cat a trick? Please share in the comments.

Upside-Down and Backward Fun

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We started the day with candy for breakfast (it is Easter, after all!) which had us thinking about all the other silly ways we could have an upside-down or backward day. Here are a few ideas we managed to sneak in throughout the morning!

First, I challenged Travis to turn five things in his room upside down. Admittedly he was a little simplistic about it, but it was adorable to round the corner and find this!

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Then he closed his eyes while I turned five things upside down.

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He was gleeful finding the silly things I’d turned over.

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Next we tried drawing upside down portraits of ourselves. Travis had to think hard about which way his smile should face.

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Next up was a round of backwards hopscotch. Kids can count the numbers backwards (great math practice!) or jump backwards, or both!

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What other ways can you think of to have a backwards day? Backwards secret messages perhaps? Whatever it is, please share in the comments!

Critter Catchall

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Travis always seems to have dozens of tiny knickknacks lying around: favors from birthday parties, tokens from restaurants or museums we’ve been too, and various other miscellany. We needed a catchall to corral all these items, and this cute critter version from Highlights was perfect. Plus it’s a great way to upcycle an empty yogurt container.

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We wanted to make a fox, which meant orange paint, but realized we didn’t have any. Thinking quickly, the project turned into a color lesson, with Travis stirring up red and yellow until we had a nice orange.

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Paint the yogurt cups inside and out, and let dry.

I cut pieces of felt for him to make all our fox parts – faces, tails, eyes, noses, and paws. Older kids can do this themselves, but the shapes were too complicated forr Travis.

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If you use tacky glue, kids can attach everything on; however, I like to use hot glue to ensure that felt projects stay put, so Travis loved watching!

Once the glue dried, it was time to fill the little fox. Travis spread out all his treasures.

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He loved finding the littlest ones that fit best in the fox!

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Now everything is in one place, and it looks cute on his shelf to boot.

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Penny-Eating Monster

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Roar! This terrifying monster craft is a blast to put together, and then the game you can play with it is great for hand/eye coordination.

First, we needed a tissue box. Ours had a few tissues left in it, but I let Travis go to town ripping them out (and making them part of a super hero game), so already the craft was a hit.

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Next, he decided what color our monster should be.

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Travis dabbled in silvers and yellows, before declaring it was a wood monster. So mostly brown it was! Let dry.

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Then it was time to put his scissor skills to the test. He helped cut out triangles for the teeth, while I made shapes for spikes and eyes.

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Glue on all your monster’s decorations.

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Now gather some pennies, and stand back! Because this monster wants to gobble them up.

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The goal is to work as a team, and toss in as many pennies as you can from a few feet back.

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If more pennies land inside the mouth than outside, you all win!

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Travis loved the game, and we had to fill the monster’s belly and empty it over and over. It was also great for counting practice, since he made sure he and I started with the same number of pennies each time.

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All in all, frightfully good fun.