Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Scrap that project.

Kidlings have lots of fun with cameras. I have never heard a complaint of boredom from a child who has one in hand.

Don't let the end of the photo shoot be the end of the entertainment; taking pictures is only half of it! There's a story to be told....

Making a scrapbook is an attractive way to display their photos to share with friends and family. It doesn't have to be fancy, and you don't have to run out and buy hundred of dollars' worth of tools and supplies. You can find an album for around $10 at a local hobby store; or thrift stores and garage sales can be a wonderful resource.

As an added bonus, scrapbooking is a non-intimidating chance to get those kids to write! Encourage them to write a few simple sentences to tell:

  • what is happening...
  • who is in the photo (or behind the scenes!)
  • when and where the photos were taken
  • why they chose to snap a particular shot 
You can also add details that the album's viewer would find interesting. Remind them that their children and grandchildren may be enjoying their album someday!

Here is a sample page from my nephew's scrapbook. His mom took the pictures, but he helped put the story together.

What stories will your kids tell?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Suggestions for family reading

Reading is great for minds.

Reading together is great for families!

So here are a few suggestions for great family reads.

THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, by Kate DiCamillo, is a wonderful little fairy tale story about a mouse who longs for adventure and ends up helping to rescue a human princess. But don't let the mention of the princess scare off the boys. This story is full of heroic deeds, dastardly rats, dark dungeons and, oh yes, SOUP!


The LITTLE HOUSE Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Who can forget these classics? Filled with adventure and family drama, these books are perfect for the family who wants to blend a good story with learning about life as a settler.

Some other series suggestions are THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, by C.S. Lewis; JUNIE B. JONES, by Barbara Park (for younger kids); PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson; and THE LORD OF THE RINGS, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Are you looking to generate some deep thinking or engaging discussion? THE GIVER, by Lois Lowry, is sure to give your kiddos' brains something to ponder. Set in a future dystopian society, THE GIVER is about a young boy who learns how much his society has given up in order to obtain equality and peace. But was it worth the sacrifice? You'll have to read it to find out!

Other thought-provoking and discussion-generating reads are THE CITY OF EMBER, by Jeanne DuPrau; ROAD TO PARIS, by Nikki Grimes; OUT OF MY MIND, by Sharon Draper; and SURVIVING THE APPLEWHITES, by Stephanie S. Tolan.

Of course, there are so many more wonderful books out there just waiting to be picked up and read by you and your kids. So, what are you waiting for? Grab one of these books and get reading!

Do you have a favorite book that deserves to be on this list? Let us know!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Paper mache pinata

Warning: this one is MESSY.

Have you ever tried to make a pinata? It's actually really easy. It's just a little time-consuming, and as previously mentioned.... messy.

To make your own paper mache paste, simply mix equal parts flour and water, and then add water gradually, until your paste is about split-pea-soup consistency:

Hang a balloon in an area where 1) it's okay if it gets messy, and 2) the project will hang out of the way for a few days while it dries between layers.

I recommend covering the floor with newspaper :)

Tear newspaper into strips, soak them in paste, and gently squeeze off the excess between two fingers.

 Start  placing strips on the balloon, leaving the very top empty for filling later. It really does not matter how you configure the strips, but make sure the whole thing gets covered, and that the strips overlap.

Hopefully it's hanging in a safe place, and you can leave it to dry. My experience is that it takes 12-24 hours, depending on the thickness of the paste and the enthusiasm of the pasters. (Ours got pretty well slathered!)

Once it's dry, you'll want to add another layer or two. The number of layers you add will also depend on your paste and your pasters, but three should be plenty. Much more, and you'll have trouble breaking it later!

Once the last layer is dry, choose one lucky kid to POP! the balloon, and you'll have this lovely little shell to fill with (lightweight) treats and confetti.

Tape your hanger (a piece of twine works fine) to a crumpled ball of newspaper and paper mache it over the top to seal it and let it dry. You may need another layer here, as well.

Paint and decorate as desired!

We made one for a Lord of the Rings party:

                                                   and here's a pirate
                                (he took a hit before I remembered the camera): 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Leaf Prints -- a simple project for creatively hesitant kids

Sometimes the best way to encourage creativity in our children is to give them a project that doesn't require too much creativity.

That doesn't seem to make sense, does it?

Let's face it. Some kids (and adults) are hesitant about getting creative. If you give a hesitant child a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, he might give up before he even starts. The pressure of having to think of something on his own might stress him out.

In my opinion, the best thing to do in that situation is to ease the child into creativity one step at a time. Begin with "art" projects that have very specific instructions and predictable outcomes.

One such project is the leaf print, like this one:

This leaf print was done with radish leaves, but you can use any leaves you find growing outside. You will also need paper, poster paint and paint brushes. Here's what you do:
  • Pick the leaves right before you do this project, so that they are fresh and not dry or wilted. Maple or oak leaves work very well.
  • Use a paintbrush to lightly paint the back of the leaf (the veiny side). 
  • Set the leaf paint-side down on the paper and gently press the leaf against the paper. 
  • Lift the leaf off the paper to reveal a lovely leaf print that any child would be proud of. 
The coolest thing about projects like these is that there is always room for kids to be creative, but without feeling like they have to be creative. Encourage your children to try different colors, different shaped leaves, etc. Ask questions to get them thinking of variations for this project, or other things to make prints with.  If they are having fun, and not feeling pressured, creativity just might sneak up on them. 

And remember: kids love it when parents do this stuff with them rather than just telling them what to do. So make sure you have your own paper and paintbrush handy!

Have you done leaf prints or similar projects with your kids? We'd love to hear about them!