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Fiesta Napkin Rings

July 30, 2015

What You Need:

  • White tissue paper
  • Red and green craft foam
  • Green ribbon
  • Paper towel tube
  • Pencil
  • Picture of a chili pepper
  • Piece of blank paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Ruler

What You Do:

  1. An adult should do the first step: Mark the paper towel tube at 2-inch increments to divide the tube into four smaller tubes, and discard whatever remains. Cut the tube into four equal-sized mini tubes.
  2. Help your child draw a picture of a chili pepper on the paper and ask her to cut it out carefully. This will be her stencil.
  3. Take a piece of red craft foam and trace the chili pepper around the stencil. Draw one chili pepper per napkin ring.
  4. Take a piece of green craft foam and trace the upper stem portion of the chili pepper using the stencil. Again, you need one per napkin ring.
  5. Have your child carefully cut the chili peppers and stems out of the craft foam.
  6. Glue the green stems onto the red chili peppers. Set aside to dry.
  7. Help your child measure four strips of white tissue paper that are roughly 19” x 9”.
  8. Fold the tissue paper to form a crease where the tissue paper should be cut.
  9. Hold the tissue paper so that it’s taut between your hands and ask your child to cut four strips.
  10. Help your child roll tissue paper strips around the tubes.
  11. Tuck both ends of the tissue paper into the inside of the tubes and press the tissue paper flat.
  12. Help your child cut pieces of ribbon that are long enough to wrap around the tubes, with about an extra inch overlapping.
  13. Have your child apply glue to the pieces of ribbon and wrap them around the tubes.
  14. When the glue is dry, give your child the napkins you are going to use for your party. Show her how to slide the napkin through one of the holders and let her do the rest.

Making Candles from Old Candles

July 28, 2015

What You Need:

  • Candle stubs (they can be any colors, just be sure there’s no glitter or pressed flowers, etc. in them)
  • Hammer
  • Metal can such as a pineapple or coffee can
  • Large saucepan
  • Wicks or kitchen twine (available at craft stores)
  • Pencil
  • Molds (like glass jars, little glass cups, old tea cups, tin cans, etc.)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Dye and/or scents for candle making (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Use the hammer to break the candle stubs into smaller pieces. Fish out any old wicks, burned bits and debris. Watch out for tiny fingers!
  2. Invite your child to plop the pieces of wax into the metal can.
  3. Fill the saucepan halfway with water and place it on the stove.
  4. Put the can into the saucepan and melt the wax over low heat. Do NOT try to melt the wax in the microwave or over direct heat! This is unsafe and the wax could get too hot and burst into flames.
  5. Have your child pick a mold and help her cut a stretch of twine. It should be long enough to reach the bottom of the mold with at least one extra inch. Tie one end to the pencil and knot it tightly. When the pencil is lain horizontally across the rim of the jar or can, it will keep the wick in place as the wax cools.
  6. If you want to add a fragrance or dye to the wax, do it now!
  7. You don’t have to spray the molds with cooking oil, but it will make it easier to remove the finished candles. Carefully pour the melted wax into your mold. Be careful because melted wax is very hot! Make sure the pencil holding the wick is in place and doesn’t get bumped and roll off.
  8. Let it cool thoroughly at room temperature. Leave it in the mold, or flip it over and tap it out! You’ve got instant mood lighting and you didn’t have to pay a thing!

Play Snakes and Dots

July 27, 2015

What You Need:

  • Paper
  • 2 pencils
  • Markers

What You Do:

  1. Help your child create a game board by using a marker to create a grid of dots on the paper. You can make the game board as big as you like! Our grid contained 15 dots.
  2. Ask your child to choose an area between four of the dots to draw and color in a small snake.
  3. Play roshambo to decide who goes first. Have players use their pencils to draw lines connecting two dots. Dots can only be connected through vertical or horizontal lines.
  4. Players should take turns connecting the dots until there’s nowhere left to go and one of the players is forced to draw the line that encloses the snake in a box.

Variation: Erase the lines, or make a new board and try changing the rules. The player who captures the snake first wins!

Fish Me a Word

July 25, 2015

What You Need:

  • List of sight words (see below)
  • Construction paper
  • Piece of string or yarn
  • Large wooden spoon (for fishing rod)
  • 12 paper clips
  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape
  • Magnet (a small refrigerator one works great)

Sight words:

ate be black brown
but came did do
eat four get good


What You Do:

  1. Cut 12 fish shapes out of the construction paper. Using the list of sight words provided, either write one word on each fish, or cut the word out and paste in onto the fish. Let your child decorate the fish with markers or crayons.
  2. Attach a paper clip to the tip of each fish.
  3. Tie the yarn or string to the wooden spoon. Tie the magnet to the other end of the string.
  4. Spread all of the fish out on the floor, or on a table.
  5. Give your child the fishing rod and tell them it’s time to go fishing! Each time you call out a word, she should look for the word you’ve said, and then try to catch it with her rod.
  6. Each time she catches the correct fish, ask your child to shout out the letters—spelling the name of the word aloud. This helps with reinforcement.
  7. Once your child gets the hang of it, make more fish. Here are a few more sight words to try: all, am, are, the, and, to, he, a, I, you, it, of, was, she, said, his, her, that, for, on, but, had, they, now, out, on, that, there, this, too

Heart Brooch

July 24, 2015

What You Need:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • food coloring
  • 1 package of pin backs (available at any craft store)
  • watercolor or tempera paint and small paintbrushes

What You Do:

  1. Mix together the flour, water, salt, cream of tartar, oil, and food coloring. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan and knead until blended smooth.
  2. When mixture is cool, place in a plastic sandwich bag or airtight container. To make the brooch(s), shape the dough into hearts. Before they’re totally dry, press pin backs into the backs of each of the hearts.
  3. When the hearts are totally dry, have the kids paint them with their favorite colors. Voila! Instant jewelry, either to give someone special, or for your kids themselves!

Make Noodle Necklaces!

July 23, 2015

What You Need:

  • Uncooked pasta in assorted shapes, all with holes in the middle for stringing. Wagon wheels, ziti, and other wide, tubular pasta shapes are perfect.
  • Sturdy string, such as fishing line or bead string available in craft stores.  Simple kitchen twine will work as well, but limp string can be harder for little hands to manipulate.
  • Scissors
  • Markers (optional)

What You Do:

  1. If you want colored pasta, let your child color the noodles with markers and let them dry before she starts stringing (or you can simply buy colored pasta available in most grocery stores).  Note: If your child decides to color the beads, the ink may run onto clothing or skin even after the noodles have dried.
  2. Cut the string to the right size for a necklace, leaving extra length to tie a knot. Make sure to size it generously so your child will be able to easily remove it if it should get caught on something. Do not tie the ends together. Tie one end to a piece of starter pasta. We used a wagon wheel.
  3. Use the other end as the “needle” to thread the rest of the pasta. Encourage your child to make patterns. For example, two ziti noodles followed by one wagon wheel.
  4. When the necklace is finished, cut off any extra string and tie the other end to the piece of starter pasta.

Now your child a cheap and chic accessory she can present to a loved one or wear herself!

Lace the ABCs!

July 22, 2015

What You Need:

  • 26 colored foam sheets (you can get this at any craft store, but in a pinch you can use cardboard)
  • Safety scissors
  • Lots of shoe strings (or yarn lengths, taped at the ends)
  • Hole puncher
  • Pencil
  • Lined paper

What You Do:

  1. Make the letters. Take out the first foam sheets and ask your child to use the pencil to write the letter “A” on it. Continue, using one piece of craft foam for each letter of the alphabet. As she finishes each letter, look over her work and if you see any letters written incorrectly, coach her on how to write them, using the lined paper. Once she’s gotten the hang of it, you can flip over the foam and write the letter correctly on the other side. When all the letters are written she should carefully cut them out using her safety scissors.
  2. Connect the dots. Have your child draw dots along the strokes of each letter, as if she were making a “connect the dots” alphabet. Then, punch a hole in each dot, using the hole puncher. Be careful not to punch too close to the edges of the letters.
  3. Ready to lace! Help your child string each letter using the shoelaces or yarn—and don’t forget to do it in the direction she’d write. For example, for the letter A, start at the top middle, where the letter comes to a point, and lace down the left side. Then go up the back of the foam and begin at the top again so you can lace down the right side. Then string through the middle, moving left to right.

Build Writing Muscles with a Water Relay

July 21, 2015

What You Need:

  • 2 medium sized plastic containers similar in size
  • 2 sponges
  • Pitcher of water

What You Do:

  1. Set Up Outside: Each player needs a plastic container and a sponge. Place a pitcher full of water between the two players. You can use regular tap water, or add a few drops of food coloring, for a splash of color.
  2. Demonstrate: Show your child how to immerse the sponge in the pitcher of water, then run to his container, place the sponge over it, and squeeze until all the water is out. Explain that the point of the game is to run back and forth between pitcher and container, filling up the sponge and then squeezing it out, so you can fill your container to the top before your opponent does.
  3. Go! It’s time to play. Get all players to their marks and shout for them to begin. The person who fills their container first is the winner!

Play with Pasta…and Learn to Write

July 20, 2015

What You Need:

  • Penne (straight) pasta
  • Elbow or macaroni (curved) pasta
  • Construction paper
  • White glue (not a glue stick)

What You Do:

  1. Write your child’s name on a piece of construction paper. The first letter should be capitalized and the others lowercase. The letters should be at least 3 inches high and have about ½ an inch of space between them, to avoid crowding once your child glues down the pasta.
  2. As you point to each letter in your child’s name, ask him if the letter is formed with straight lines, curved lines, or both. For instance, a capital N is made up of straight lines. However a capital D is made with a straight line and a curved line. Show your child how to use penne pasta for the straight lines, and elbow pasta for the curved lines. Using our examples again, he needs just penne for the N, but both penne and elbow pasta to make a D.
  3. Hand over the glue (kids need to practice this too!) and have your child use it to trace over the first letter in his name. Once the glue is down, he should place the straight pasta on the straight lines and the curved pasta on the curved lines until his entire name is covered in pasta.

Once it’s dry, give your child’s masterpiece a prominent place on the fridge. All that glue and pasta has given him some insight into how letters are formed, and letter formation is an important tool as your child becomes a writer.

Trace Letters on Rice

July 17, 2015

What You Need:

  • 1 large baking sheet
  • 1-2 cups uncooked rice
  • Pencil
  • Lined paper

What You Do:

  1. Sit your child down at a table with a large baking sheet with 1-2 cups of uncooked rice spread evenly across it
  2. Draw a line across the top of the rice, and one across the bottom. Then, using the pointer finger of the dominant hand, show your child how to draw the following handwriting strokes, which are the building blocks for most letters of the alphabet:
    • Straight line: begin at the top, and draw straight to the bottom
    • Straight line: begin at the left, and draw straight to the right
    • "Slant left": begin at the top, and draw a diagonal line left, eventually connecting to the base line
    • "Slant right": begin at the top, and draw a diagonal line right, eventually connecting to the base line
    • Circle- draw an “o”
    • Half circle: show your child how to draw one to the right, and one to the left (as in d and b)
  3. Once he’s practiced a few times in the rice, ask your child to write the same strokes on the lined paper.
  4. When the strokes themselves become easy, it’s time to move on to the ABC’s. Slide out that baking sheet and ask your child to write each letter in both its capital and lowercase form. As he finishes writing in the rice, have him write the letter on the paper as well, to reinforce things.

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