Monday, January 31, 2011

Homemade Playdough

Here at our house, we still have our arts and crafts on.  Last week, Caitlyn got to try out watercolor paints for the first time.  She had a little trouble with the order - water...paint...paper...water...paint...paper...and consequently had some vibrantly colored water and some very wet, not very colored paper, but she loved it anyway.  She now asks to paint almost every day.  I really need to get some watercolor paper for her, because I'm still looking for my regular brushes and those teeny tiny little brushes that come with the paint sets will rip through a piece of regular paper in no time flat.

Yesterday, we made homemade playdough!  That's a brand new thing for Caitlyn - she's had bread dough to play with before, but never really figured out what to do with it, other than copying whatever I was doing.  But yesterday I was able to show her a few things.  We used a recipe from First Art, roughly equivalent to the "Nature's Playdough" recipe found here (I used food coloring but I like their ideas for natural dye!).  Caitlyn loved dumping the ingredients in the pan (helping me cook is one of her favorite activities), and then went off to play while I cooked it.  We made two batches, one green, and one blue, and cooking it took roughly 20 minutes from start to kneading.  It smelled pretty bad, so I kneaded in some lavender essential oil, which helped some.  Then we let it cool off for half an hour or so.

They were, in a word. vibrant.  I didn't measure the food coloring - I just dumped.  Wowza!

I gave her just a few tools to start out with - a rolling pin (aka a leftover piece of dowel from one of her daddy's projects), my garlic press, and a little spoon/knife combination (got it free when I bought kiwis one time - it's a nifty little tool).  She pretty much just stabbed it with the knife, until I showed her how to make "hair" with the garlic press.  Then it was on!

She happily made blue-green hair for about 45 minutes, which is something just short of a miracle for my busy girl.  The only other thing that holds her attention that long is the WonderPets...

I have a hunch this will become a regular plaything in my kitchen.  And I am perfectly fine with that!  Safe, fun, and easily replaced once it dries out.

My next acquisition will be a few yards of PUL to use as a drop cloth/table cover for messier projects, and I'm also on the hunt for a local source of powdered tempera paint.  I have a couple of art supply stores to call today.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Experimental Alphabet

Caitlyn is really starting to explore letters and numbers, so I decided it was time to get a magnetic alphabet set.  Unfortunately, I haven't found anything that meets my requirements yet (no batteries required, and good reviews on Amazon).  So, while I keep looking, I came up with a temporary solution.  And hey, if it's successful, it may just be a permanent solution!

Armed with my usual plethora of coupons, I headed to the fabric/craft store to see what I could find that might work.  In the art foam aisle, I found a huge box of letters and numbers of all different colors.  Then, I found a roll of self-adhesive magnet material, and I was good to go.

I simply picked out the letters and numbers I wanted, cut the magnet strip to fit on the back, stuck it all together, and it was done!  Easy as pie. 

Pardon my dirty door!

The whole thing cost me less than $10, and I have enough material to make several more sets as letters get lost.

Note:  This is not a good project if your little one likes to put things in their mouths.  The magnet pieces are very small and, while they have a good sticky back, they could still be peeled off.  We're fortunate that Caitlyn is very good about that. 

Friday, January 07, 2011

Kiddee Krafts #1

Ok, ok, I'm not really going to title this series "Kiddee Krafts".  Sheesh.  How cheesy is that???

My daughter and I did our first project today.  It didn't exactly turn out the way I planned.  See, I thought we were going to have pretty much the whole morning at our leisure, and we could hang out and make cotton ball collages.  Instead, we had to make a quick trip to the grocery store because we were out of milk.  Then, I realized it was almost 10:00, and that it was Friday, and that Preschool Storytime at the library (three blocks away) was about to start.  Normally, that's no big deal, because we usually go to Baby Storytime (Caitlyn is seriously not ready to actually sit through a book with the preschoolers), but Baby Storytime has been canceled since Thanksgiving, and won't start up again till February, and we hadn't been in the library since mid-November.  So I gave Caitlyn the choice - library or art project - and she enthusiastically picked the library.  Mainly because she loves the library and has made friends with all the staff (I swear she thinks she owns the place), and because she had NO idea what an art project is! 

So I figured, no problem, we'd just do the project tomorrow.  After all, it's a whole weekend with no plans, so we'll have lots of time.  But as soon as we got home, Caitlyn started asking about the project.  "Project Mommy, Project!  Do project!"  I looked at my watch.  11:00.  Hour till lunch time.  No problem.  Except...I still had to make dinner (I make dinner in the mornings and my husband puts it in the oven while I'm at work).  So, here we go again, together time that isn't "together". Ah, well, best laid plans, right?

I set her up next to me at the kitchen counter, with a paper bowl of glue, some cotton balls, and some paper.  I showed her how to dip the cotton in the glue and she took it from there - a natural. 

(Note to the concerned - don't freak out - she can't reach those knives.  I'm not sure what I'll do when she can, but we're all safe for the time being!) 

I was making tuna casserole for dinner, so I had to open the cupboard in front of her to get the noodles out.  I have lots of jars of noodles up there, all different shapes and colors.  She started reaching for the macaroni, so I got it down and let her have some of that, too.  Voila - mixed media!

She ended up just basically laying the macaroni out without any glue, so I glued it all down for her when she was done.  I wasn't sure how much she enjoyed it, but when I got home from work, she grabbed the cotton balls and begged me to do another one with her.  We had a little time before dinner, so I obliged.  She wanted me to do this one, though, so I dipped everything in the glue and let her show me where to put it.  Finally, the "together" time I intended!  

When we were done, we took this morning's creation into her room, and I let her pick out a place of honor on her wall.  She wanted to put it right under her bookshelves, where she can see it from wherever she is in the room.  I think it's the perfect place.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Activities for the toddler set

Now that my daughter is two, she's definitely showing signs that she's ready to start taking on some new activities.  In the house, she's frequently coloring, or "cooking dinner" (which is cheese crackers, 99% of the time) in her play kitchen.  Outside, she's constantly playing in our gravel pathway, picking out specific rocks and excitedly bringing them to me to show me how beautiful they are.

At the same time that she's making new discoveries, I'm feeling like the time we spend together isn't "together" enough.  So often she's playing while I'm making dinner, checking email, folding laundry, and doing countless other tasks that keep the household running.  It's really starting to bug me, so I've decided that, starting this week, I'm going to do something about it. 

I recently bought a couple of great books full of ideas for activities - The Toddler Busy Book has a TON of great ideas for all different kinds of activities - crafts, songs, things to do in the car, it's a real gem.  First Art:  Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos has a wonderful array of art projects, most of which use simple items easily found at home or in grocery or craft stores.  I've been spending my evenings reading through them, picking out some things that I think we'll enjoy doing together.

So, starting tomorrow, my daughter and I are going to take time out at least twice a week and do some kind of activity together.  If it's on a weekend, I'll do everything in my power to get my husband to join in (not always easy - he's not really a joiner).  It may be an art project.  We may cook something together.  Maybe we'll discover a new song.  If it's not raining, we can go on a walk in our neighborhood.  If I can figure out how to adjust her tricycle to fit her, she can go on a ride.  Simple stuff.  We'll just do it together.

Tomorrow, we're going to make cotton ball collages.  I picked up some scrapbook paper at the craft store today - I'm planning to hang it on her wall when we're done, so I wanted something a little more decorative than the traditional construction paper.  I think she'll really enjoy playing with the glue - especially when she discovers you can peel it off your hands once it dries!

I already told her we'd make cheese crackers from scratch this weekend.  She's been talking about it all day!

I'll be posting here about our activities from time to time, so I have a record for my memory, which certainly isn't what it used to be.  I'm looking forward to fun and adventures!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Six things

Just saw a great idea on Nailing Jello to a Tree's facebook page:  make a list of six things to do today.  Just six.  Then do them.  Sounds simple enough to me!  Here are mine:

1.  Take the cat to the vet for his checkup - done!
2.  Scan recipes from three cookbooks
3.  Take the "giveaway" boxes to Goodwill - done!
4.  Put gas in the car - done!
5.  Fold at least two basket's worth of laundry - done AND put away!
6.  Update my daughter's blog - I'm woefully behind. - done!

I'll check back and let you know how I did!

Sunday, January 02, 2011


And so another year has come and gone...Happy New Year!

I looked back at last year's resolutions - in a nutshell, I resolved to read the entire Bible, menu plan each week, and get my compost pile in operational order.  I finished the first, made a good effort at the second, and gave up on the third - we ended up dumping the whole pile out at my father-in-law's property and started over. 

This year, instead of a resolution, I've decided on a theme - USE IT UP. 

I spent a good chunk of my afternoon today cleaning out my bathroom closet.  The closet holds a series of small storage boxes, each with a different type of item.  Things like medication, first aid supplies. tooth care, lotions, soap and bath gel, etc.  Well, these boxes are FULL.  I threw out all the old, expired, nasty stuff, and we are starting over fresh (and yes, even after that, the boxes are still full). 

I also did a lot of laundry today, and noticed how much detergent, soap, and general cleaning supplies I have out there. 

My pantry is in a similar state - lots of odd little ingredients that sounded good at the time, but I never used. 

Basically, I get bored easily and like to try new stuff.  Lots of times I get things for free or at an ultra discount, so I figure "what the heck?  It's not costing me much/anything."  And then the stuff sits around and never gets used. 

So this year, I will be making a concerted effort to use that stuff.  All those little sample packages/hotel bottles of shampoo and hand lotion.  The seven different kinds of laundry detergent that is currently living in my laundry room.  All that shaving gel.

Also, this year, when I go shopping, I will ask myself three questions:

1.  Do I need it?
2.  Will I use it soon?
3.  Can I make it at home for less money?

Hopefully if I am honest with myself, I will be bringing home a lot less STUFF in 2011.  This will help with both the clutter and the budget, as we're looking ahead to major financial upheaval. 

Happy 2011, everyone - hope it's a good one!