Thursday, October 25, 2012

What do you see?

A heart
It's fun to look for patterns in nature. We may see elephants in the clouds, dragons in a fallen log, or shapes in clusters of leaves.

The next time you and your kiddos are out walking in the park, take a closer look at the things around you. What patterns do you and your children see?

Who knows? Maybe there is a goblin in a tree stump just waiting to be discovered!

A dragon or sea serpent?
Add to this creative endeavor by turning your discovery walk into a scrapbooking or journaling project. Your kiddos might enjoy creating captions for the photos you snapped while you explored.

What do you see?

Thursday, October 11, 2012


My birthday was a few weeks ago. It just so happened that my birthday was during one of my most hectic weeks in recent history, so when festive little children asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, I wasn't sure what to say. Children cannot even fathom letting a birthday pass un-celebrated.

After thinking for a while, I told them I wanted a party, for just our family. (There are enough of us to make an instant party.)

But there were two rules:
A perfectly set, confetti-splashed pizza dinner!

1. The children had to do all the planning.
2. They had to use things we already had. No $400 trip to the party-outlet store.

They were divided into three committees (6 children, 2 per committee): food, decorations/invitations, and games.

And I turned them loose. Their dad was available to offer technical help, and to do things that kids can't do.... like drive for pizza.
Handmade birthday banner

They worked very diligently for a week, and our basement was Top-Secret and off-limits to me. On the big day, I left the house for a short time so they could set up, and when I got home, I was astounded. They had stayed true to the rules, and they went all out for Mom!

The food committee had a wonderful spread of pizza and chips, and even a few treats.

The games crew had us playing hot potato and musical chairs. I won at hot potato. I think the little person who was stopping the music was peeking and giving me an unfair advantage :)
Streamers and balloons

And the decorations crew really outdid themselves with banners, confetti, and streamers. They also made an extra invitation for my scrapbook. They've seen me do that for baby shower moms. Sweet!

I loved it. We had a great family time!

One of the coolest things the kids did? They made mailboxes for everyone's bedroom door, for invitations and RSVPs to be exchanged. Those mailboxes are still hanging today, and are a rather fun source of household communication: notes, letters, pictures, cards, small gifts, etc. I think we're going to keep them up for a while (as long as they'll hold up!)

Mailbox, fashioned from whatever cardboard could be found :)
Complete with a flag to be raised when mail is delivered.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Print-making Made Easy

Helping your kids make their own prints or stamps can be fun and practical. When finished, the stamps can be used over and over again to make personalized cards, gift bags, or even art prints to frame and hang on the wall (or give away as gifts).

There are a couple of different methods you can use to create the prints. One involves using sharp carving tools and a special stamp-making block that you can purchase at a local arts and craft store. The other method, which is safe enough even for the pre-schoolers, involves using a pencil and a piece of styrofoam from the grocery store (like the kind you find veggies packed on in the produce aisle). No matter which method you choose, you will end up with a darling kid-crafted work of art that you can duplicate over and over.

First, the tot (and budget) friendly method:

You will need paper, pencils, sheets of styrofoam trimmed to about 4x6 inches, tape, poster paint or block printing ink, and a paint brush or ink roller.

1. Have your child draw a simple design on a 4x6 section of paper. Don't let him get too detailed because small details will not show up well in the finished product.

2. When satisfied with the design, help your child to transfer the image to the styrofoam by taping the drawing to the foam and drawing over it. Be sure to press into the foam as you draw. 

3. Remove the paper from the foam and inspect it to make sure the design is transferred properly. If the design is not pressed sufficiently into the foam, trace over it again, making sure to press into the foam, leaving deep grooves.

4. With a paintbrush or roller, apply the poster paint or ink to the entire surface of the newly made "stamp." Be careful not to let the paint fill the grooves you just made (this is easier to avoid when using a roller rather than a paint brush). 
*Note: If you use a roller and ink, simply put the desired amount of ink onto a paper plate and roll the roller over it until it covers the roller surface. Then use the roller to roll the ink onto the stamp.
5. Get stamping! Press the image onto a clean sheet of paper, being sure to put even pressure of the entire surface. 

If it didn't turn out exactly like you expected, tweak it a bit. If the design doesn't show up quite right, it may be that the grooves weren't deep enough. If the ink doesn't transfer completely, it may be that you didn't use quite enough ink. But remember: small imperfections in the finished print make each one that much more unique, so don't be too picky!

Clean-up is easy. Simply rinse the stamp and roller in cool water and let them dry!

Now, the traditional method:

You will need to purchase a set or two of linoleum block cutters. They can be ordered online or found at a local arts and crafts store. 

You will also need some speedy-cut carving blocks, also available for purchase online or at a local arts and crafts store. These come in a variety of sizes, are soft and pliable and very easy to cut into. 

Other supplies you will need are paper, pencils, ball point pen, carbon paper (or alternative -- see instructions), roller, and block printing ink. 

1. The first thing your artist needs to do is draw a design, using a section of paper the same size as the block to be used. The design should be fairly simple, but there is more room for detail in this method than when using styrofoam. Keep in mind that the more detailed the design is, the trickier it will be to carve into the block.

2. Transfer the image using carbon paper. Alternatively, you can use a soft lead pencil (such as a 6B art pencil) to shade in the back side of the paper with the design on it. Place the paper shaded side down onto the carving block, then trace using a ball point pen. 
*Note: Another option is to draw the design directly onto the block itself.
3. It's a good idea to trace over the design on the block with ball paint pen. This will help ensure that the image is sharp and clear and won't get rubbed off.

4. Time to carve! Your artist will carve out whatever she wants to remain white (or the color of the paper) in the finished print. Be careful not to carve out something that is meant to be printed!
*Note on safety: Always supervise your child when he or she is using sharp tools. When carving, be sure that the sharp edge of the cutting tool is facing away from you at all times. Use a non-skid surface to keep the block from slipping, such as a piece of a non-slip rug pad or similar product.
5. Using the method described above, use the roller to spread ink onto the surface of the block. Be sure to cover the entire surface evenly.

6. Use gentle, even pressure to print the design onto a sheet of paper. Inspect the print to be sure that you didn't forget to carve out any part of the design. Then you can repeat the process to make framable art, note cards, or custom gift bags!

Clean up by rinsing the block and roller in cool water.

Questions or comments? We'd love to hear from you. In the mean time, have fun printing!