Fun and Simple Winter Crafts

Winter has nearly gone in many places, but I know that for those family members of mine in Wisconsin and Idaho, hot chocolate still sounds great any time of day.  Here in Pasadena, we have not had a single flake of snow, of course, but that has not stopped us from at least trying to be a bit festive.  Here are some of the Winter crafts that we enjoy.  (See descriptions below)

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1. Dixie Cup Igloo (Dixi cup, glue, scissors, and marshmallows)                                   2.Snow/Paper Snowflakes (either hung or taped to windows) Tip: run them through the sewing machine on a long and loose stitch, leaving a few stitches in between to string them up with a floating effect. (Paper, scissors) You can also string cotton balls on fishing line or thread to make “snow”.  Click here for PDF Instructions on cutting out Snow Stars  SnowStar                                                                                                                                3. Paper Plate Snowman with letters of child’s name (plates, construction paper, glue)      4. Picasso Style Snowman (Melted Snowman Picture construction paper, scissors, glue)    5. Melted Snowman Sugar Cookies and Snowman Ice cream Cones for those of us wearing t-shirts in 75 degree weather this winter.

DIY: Parent and Me Music Class

Music Classes have become all the rage with the latest generation of parents.  Living in Brooklyn it seemed like everyone had their kids in structured music classes and going to arts and crafts classes. This is a fantastic craze, but also completely possible to do on your own.  I participated in a DIY mommy and me music class with a fun group of moms and babes in Brooklyn, and now I am glad to be continuing this great activity here in Pasadena with Pre-K and K/1 aged children.  So here are a few tips to get one going:

1. You need music!  You need to download and/or learn age-appropriate songs both instrumental and with lyrics, and some finger/hand action songs are good for toddlers and young children. Some of our favorites are by Raffi, songs from Music Together, and different instrumental tracks from a variety of world music to do movement to. Banging out rhythms seems to be a really beneficial part of using drumsticks or noise-makers, so be sure to share that important activity.

2. Props.  Props are so fun for the kids. They love using finger puppets, banging sticks, rattling noisemakers, swaying with scarfs, parachutes, and whatever else you can think of to go along with the music. Much of this could be purchased from a learning resource store or bought on Amazon.  It is really not necessary to buy these things though, as there are plenty of household items that would easily substitute for any of these things, such as pots and spoons, blocks, dried beans or rice inside a sealed container to shake, scarfs or fabric fragments, a sheet, and many other things. There are YouTube videos of children’s music classes you can browse to gather inspiration.

3. People for your class.  Gather members for your co-op class from play-groups, friends, neighbors, relatives, people from your church, or even strike out on your own and start up a group on meetup.com. Babies enjoy doing this right along with older kids, and I actually think a mixed age group is best.

4. Regular time and local.  This can be done in any space large enough to move about such as a large living room, yard, gymnasium or anyplace that works for your group.  Sending an evite or requesting an RSVP may be helpful in keeping the momentum going.

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Lastly, don’t wait for a large group or class to get going!  Start doing this at home with your tots and be enthusiastic, not forceful.  This could be a fun activity for one of those rainy or snowy indoor days ahead.

Clean Up, Clean up, Everybody Do Their Share

Today is just one of those days.  As I type sprawled out on the floor Nora is rocking back and forth on my back ordering me to “neiiiigh!” as she says, “Giddy-up horsey!”  Although I had a fun pumpkin activity planned, the alarming amount of housework  that needed to be done took over my limited amount of free time (I am still nursing an eight month old baby).  So as I tried to clean my dining room and finish putting up painting tape, which Nora also “helped” with,  I felt a little bad that we did not get to our planned activity.  Then, as I was vacuuming, Nora got her toy popper vacuum and happily joined in the tidying up.  This cheered me up a bit and I smiled as I watched her pretend to vacuum. I noticed my eight month old sitting in the corner watching us with a worried but brave expression (motor noises worry her).  When we finished Nora leaned her toy vacuum up against the wall next to my vacuum, and seeing our vacuums together against the wall made me feel great. This really got me thinking about how little I actually include her in housework, and what a huge mistake this probably is. A friend of mine once told me that she had taught her two- year-old to fold washcloths and hand towels, and I thought, “Yes, that’s important!”  Admittedly, I have been bad at this.  In cruising the blogosphere I found this post on the importance of including young children in housework and I thought it was excellent common sense. The message I came away with was that there is a developmental reason that young children want to help with chores, and that if we rob them of this opportunity to form good habits they may not be as tidy and organized as they could be later in life.

http://motherbynature.ca/2008/12/toddlers-and-housework-part-of-the-action/

I am sure the day is not far off when Nora will be trying to get out of her chores. Of course this is my big chance!  She wants to help me now, and so the time to teach her is now. This week I have a renewed resolve to make a cheerful event out of the laundry, dishes, picking up, and taking the time to include Nora in all of this.

Mind Your Manners

My three-year-old Nora loves to have tea parties, and this morning we were practicing good manners. She chose Momma and Baby Kangaroo along with Owl for her “lovely guests”.  She later relented and included her Dad, who turned out to be a very naughty guest when he ate Owl’s macaroon.  We practiced being a hostess, welcoming guests, thanking guests, telling our guests that they were lovely, serving/pouring, and trying to hold our tea cups properly which we were all a bit awkward at, especially Owl, whom Nora pointed out does not have any arms. When Nora started to eat Mamma Kangaroo’s cookie, she explained that she was “sharing” with Momma Kangaroo and that was good manners..hmm, her explanations can be quite charming.

As usual we will read some books that teach about manners to go along with our tea party. I found a few books on manners at the library, which teach about please and thank you..the basics.  I will be looking for something a bit better tomorrow when we return to the library, as we do each Wednesday for story and craft time.  I think we will try out some of the Fancy Nancy books. We also talked about being a “bad guest” and used Winnie the Pooh and Mr. Jackson (Beatrix Potter) as examples, discussing why they did not have good manners.  (See clip below for Mr. Jackson, the impolite and unwanted guest).

Kids and Photoshop

Remember when you first tried using Photoshop?  Maybe it was recently or in college.  If you are still a spring chicken, it might have been in a class in High School.  I am married to a Designer, so my daughter started scribbling with a wacom pen (see image below) when she was 18 months old. A wacom pad is super fun for kids, but quite expensive. 

 My sister Deborah, who is a veteran home-schooler, taught her kids to use a computer as pre-schoolers and they enjoyed using educational software, such as Reader Rabbit.  In order to join the ranks of computer savvy tots learning with software and using key-commands like pros, my 3-year-old girl will need to learn how to use a mouse. (I know, touch-pads and touch screen technology is quickly taking over the tech scene, but I will stick with a mouse for now..)  We experimented with this a couple of times, and she just wiggled the mouse back and forth on the pad, unable to see how it related to the little arrow on the screen.  I then thought of pulling up Photoshop and using the paintbrush tool to try to show her that when she moved the mouse, the paintbrush would also move, and paint on the screen.  She was really digging this and wanted to do it all morning. She was slowly learning how to draw circles, and learning how to “click and drag” in order to paint digitally. You can adjust the size of the brush, so that they can see a nice large circle on the screen to follow, instead of the tiny arrow you usually see with a mouse.  We also adjusted the brush texture, so it looked like a little grey cloud of dots swishing around on the screen, and she called this her “bumblebees”, and would say, “My bumblebees are coloring.”   I know that there is a lot more she can learn and gain from playing in Photoshop, and I will continue to post about her adventures in Digital Art.

If you are new to Photoshop, you can download a 30-day free trial from Adobe to check it out!  Then view the video below for a handy YouTube tutorial in trying out the different brushes in Photoshop.