It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Fabulous Fake Tie-Dye for Tots

I found this craft online — the Internet Knows All — and knew I had to try it with the kids. Witness the creation of one of Jazz’s going-away gifts! The children all helped make this (including Jazz, who had no idea it was to be hers). I’m so devious…

Materials required:
a clean, pale t-shirt, washed and dried
permanent markers (doesn’t have to be Sharpies; I used Tul and they worked just fine)
rubbing alcohol (mine was 99%)
cup or cookie cutters
small bowl or cup for the alcohol

The original blogger slipped a cup under the t-shirt and held it in place with an elastic as she made the dots. The tots didn’t really have the coordination to dot on something so flexible, so I used cookie cutters to delineate the space. The firmness of the table under the fabric made it much easier for them. If you wanted, you could put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent the ink from bleeding through to the back. We didn’t, and the effect was actually rather pretty!


To ensure pretty circles instead of Circle of Mud, I had the children choose one colour, and then I chose one or two more that would work with that colour.

Then I slipped the cookie cutter underneath the dots, aligning it as best I could with its original position, and secured it with the elastic.


Then the magic starts! Fill the eye-dropped with rubbing alcohol, and drop into the centre of the circle. Watch it spread!

The more alcohol you add, the further and more quickly it spreads. It also gets fainter, but you’d have to pour a lot of alcohol on to erase the colour altogether. Certainly, we never managed that!


(How much input did the kids have at this point? Mostly just watching and “ooo-ing”, but I did go hand-over-hand with the older children a couple of times.)

A finished circle!

A shirt of circles!

And then, because Mary is a curious and experimental sort, she began to wonder what would happen if you didn’t use the circle templates. What if you just went free-form?

I made vertical lines in several shades of green, yellow, and blue in a very haphazard way along the bottom of the shirt. Some long, some short, just to give the overall impression of grass, I guess. Then I dropped alcohol on it.

I love the effect!

Isn’t it adorable?
And so eeeeeasy!


Apparently, you heat-set the colours by tossing it in a dryer for 30 minutes. Now, I’ve done that to this shirt, but then I gave it away and have yet to hear how effective that was. My own tendency would be to wash it with dark colours, on cold, at least once, to see how secure the colours are.

But CUTE! I love this craft!

August 8, 2013 Posted by | crafts, daycare | , , , | 3 Comments

Sunshine Girls

Some yellow and red tempera paint, a couple of potatoes cut into odd shapes, circles of cream construction paper and a heap of triangles of orange, yellow, and red card stock. Et voila!


Sunshine Jazz:
Sunshine Girl
Sunshine Poppy:
Sunshine Grace:
Wall of sunshine!
sunshine craft

August 7, 2013 Posted by | crafts | , , , | 1 Comment

We call them Tulips

1. Paint a child’s palm with tempera paint.
2. Press palm into glass several times, until all paint is gone.
3. Wash hand.
4. I you feel particularly creative, you can add grass.

Voila! Instant spring flower garden!

(These pictures are a few weeks old. The snow you see there is entirely gone now.)

(These pictures are a few weeks old. The snow you see there is entirely gone now.)



May 1, 2013 Posted by | crafts | , , , , | 6 Comments

Me, sentimental?

I am not a sentimental person. I don’t save many mementos and souvenirs. I don’t have overflowing folders of my children’s art work cluttering up my home. (And that’s a telling word, isn’t it? “Cluttering”, rather than, oh, “enriching”, or “filling me with happy memories of wonderful ages and stages”.) I rarely get weepy when a daycare child moves on.

But once in a while, I understand the urge. I get what drives it. Or perhaps this is only my version of the sentimental drive, I couldn’t say.

Exhibit One:

AKA “Fatfish”, the name carefully inscribed on the bottom of this little gem. What is it? Well, it’s a fat fish. A fat ceramic fish, made at a lovely local DIY ceramic place. What does it do? Collects dust, mostly. It’s hollow, and so too light to be a paperweight. What is it for?

GOD ONLY KNOWS. It’s a fat fish, people. Just a fat fish.

And it sits in a place of honour in my kitchen, because … because it was made for me, by one of my children. And I keep it because …

Not because it reminds me of her when she was a sweet and lovable 7-year-old. (Much like the charming and affectionate 19-y-o she now is.)

Not because I remember how she gave it to me, her blue eyes wide with love and excitement. Because I don’t remember, not at all. When did she give this to me? Was there an occasion? Was this a birthday gift? A Mother’s Day offering? Christmas? I have no idea.

No, I keep it because when I consider throwing it out … It’s as if that 7-year-old is standing right in front of me. I could no more toss this odd, sorta ugly, utterly useless fat fish than I could tear up a crayon scribble in front of the toddler who lovingly gave it to me. (Would I sneak their artwork into the recycling bin when they’re not looking? Absolutely. I do it every day, pretty near. Without a second’s hesitation, without a particle of remorse. Because I’m not sentimental.)


Throw out fatfish? It would hurt her feelings!

It wouldn’t, you know. My kids are about as sentimental as I am. “That weird old thing? You don’t need to keep it for my sake!” Because, see, she isn’t that 7-year-old any more. She doesn’t remember that seven-year-old, at least, not nearly as well as I do. She doesn’t feel the need to protect that little girl, because, for her, that little girl is ancient history. No longer exists, really.

Factually, that’s true, of course. But in my heart, that seven-year-old is alive and well … and gave me this beautifully hand-crafted piece of, er, art with all the love in her little-girl heart.

Looks like I’m stuck with the damned thing.

I couldn’t be happier.

How about you? Are you sentimental? Even if you’re not, is there a particular thing or two you couldn’t part with?

September 20, 2012 Posted by | crafts, my kids | , , | 6 Comments

Mother’s Day Card-Hug

When you’re working with toddlers, this will probably take two adults. Toddlers are wriggly, and they keep trying to sit up so as to see what you’re doing over there!! But with a bit of restraint cooperation and another set of hands, you can whip up a card that will bring a warm rush to whichever much-loved person receives it. Mothers, today, but the dads will be getting one next month for Father’s Day. We’ll probably make some for grandparents somewhere along the line…

A hand-crafted tin of home-made cookies, wrapped in a hug. Does it get any better?

I think not!

Happy early Mother’s Day!

May 11, 2012 Posted by | crafts | , , , | 2 Comments

Rainy Day Craft, with Potatoes

Yesterday was a very rainy day. Had everyone come equipped for it, we might have gone outside, but instead we indulged in a little rainy crafting. Some turquoise paint splooshed into a foam tray, some umbrella-shaped pieces of scrap paper, and a few potato stamps…

a few toddlers…

and ta-dah! A wall full of umbrellas!

The potato stamps were a bit fiddly to cut out. Normally I use a cookie cutter to get the shape on the potato, but lacking raindrop-shaped cutters, I had to do it with a paring knife. The results were a tad primitive, but given that none of the children has the coordination to make a nice, clean print anyway, the results are always a bit primitive…

April 7, 2011 Posted by | crafts | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Leaf Crafting

I found a cute fall craft here at Lovely Nest. If you want complete instructions, follow that link. Here I’ll just describe the few tweaks I added to make the craft a little more toddler-friendly.

I gathered paper plates, each marked with a scribble of a fall colour to help with the colour-sorting.

Not all toddlers can tear. I know, I know, it’s weird. They’ve been ripping pages out of library books since the day they figured out they had hands, and yet making a deliberate tear can be a challenge. A largish piece of paper with little ‘starter tears’ at intervals makes it a whole lot easier.

Just-turned-three Tyler needed instruction from there. “Pull one hand forward, and the other backward.” He was slow and careful on the first few, but soon became an old pro. He never did learn to make the tear without the starter tear, though. Perhaps this is a good thing?

Glue the sorted colours onto squares of paper, cut out your leaf shape, and make the veins. We used glitter glue for ours. The two brown leaves’ veins were made by the just-three, with some hand-over-hand help from me. The yellow and orange were made by the 4.5-year-old, All By Herself.


November 19, 2010 Posted by | crafts | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Autumn Colour Leaf Books

Lookit all the fall leaves!! Aren’t they pretty???

This is a craft I’ve meant to do every fall for the last five years at least. I’ve even gotten so far as to press the leaves once or twice, but never seemed to manage to follow through… This year was going to be different!!!

We gathered the leaves:

We spent a lot of time talking about the colours we would find, and tracking the colours we did find. We brought them home and counted and sorted. Fun, fun, fun! (This counts not only as science and art, but math, too!)

Then we prepared to press them.

First you lay them out on a few layers of newspaper…

and cover them with a few more.

(I lay my newspapers on a sturdy piece of board, because I knew I would need to move the stack of leaves before they were finished drying.) Because I was drying so very many leaves — enough for six of these books — I ended up with a layered tower: a board, a pad of newspapers/leaves, another board, more newspaper…

And when my tower was done, on went the pile of Weighty Tomes. (I am a dog-loving English major. Does it show?)

And that was that, for a couple of days. The stack of leaves/newspaper/boards was ferried about a bit as we needed the table for eating, or the kitchen counter for cooking, or the floor for playing. A bit cumbersome, but this is, as I have said many times in the past, a small house.

While the leaves are drying, you gather your other supplies, notably the cardboard for the pages. All my wonderful, helpful parents came through with a goodly stock of boxes of one sort or another.

Here are the supplies: cardboard, scissors, hole punch, loose leaf rings, cup of tea … wait, that’s not all of them.

Cardboard (now trimmed to tidy rectangles), scissors, hole punch, loose leaf rings, glue stick, duct tape, white scrap paper, cup of tea. And, damnit, I forgot the Con-tact paper. Yeesh. We also used clear Con-tact paper.

I used a quick and easy swiped ‘X’ on the white paper to stick it to the cardboard, both sides. No, the paper doesn’t match the cardboard exactly. It doesn’t matter. As long as the gap isn’t enormous, the edges will be covered with duct tape before you’re done, anyway.

Take a few leaves of each colour, and place them on the pages. The leaves do fade a bit as they dry, but the colours are more vibrant in the books than they’re appearing on my monitor right now. If you’re about ready to decide that Mary is clearly colour-blind, it’s probably just your monitor. (It could be that my poor middle-aged eyes are losing their grip… but I think it’s your monitor. Yup.)

Lightly secure the leaves in place with a dab of gluestick, then cover each page with Con-tact paper. Again, it doesn’t matter if the Con-tact paper matches your page exactly. The duct tape binding will hold it all together.

(Why the binding? I have made these sorts of books before, and Con-tact paper by itself does not grip well enough. (That’s not what it’s designed to do: as shelf paper, you want to be able to peel it up later. For a page laminate, however, peel-ability is not so much of a virtue.))

This page is pre-rub. After you’ve put on the shelf paper, you’ll need to rub it thoroughly to squoosh out the air bubbles.

Now for the cover. I sketched a very basic tree shape, then dotted a teeny bit of red and yellow finger paint across the top of it. The kids smeared it around to get the nebulous autumnal form, but I confess that they were hovered over guided a great deal more than normal, because I wanted the finished product to, you know, actually look like a tree. This level of concern with the product (rather than our normal focus on the process) meant that I also WHIPPED those suckers away when they were “done”.

Artus interruptus. I know, I know. I don’t often do that, but sometimes… sometimes a caregiver does what a caregiver’s got to do.

While the covers were drying, we finished the rest of the pages. I was going to give each book two binder rings, but I soon discovered that my new hole punch really, really, REALLY didn’t like going through cardboard.

Not even lightweight cereal-box cardboard. Yeesh.

I managed to manhandle the wimpy thing through the requisite pages once, at the end of which process the dents in my hands were almost as marked as the dents in the cardboard. I decided one hole would be quite sufficient.

See how wobbly and undisciplined the “yellow”s are? That’s the result of my my poor hands suffering from PHPTS. (Post hole punch trauma syndrome.) Mary of the shaky hands, that’s me.

And then, if you are an impatient person like me, you put the Con-tact on the front cover before the paint has completely dried, because you have spent quite enough time on this already, and you JUST WANT THIS THING DONE NOW, DAMMIT!

And then you stand back and feel very, very proud, because after five years, you finally got those things MADE! 🙂

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Canada, commemoration, crafts | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Canada Day Craft

It’s Canada Day on Thursday! A day off for me, a day spent meandering downtown for my teenager. (Teenager. Singular. I’m down to ONE teenager these days.) She is very much looking forward to taking her boyfriend, who has never “done” Canada Day in Ottawa, to all the sights — the Market, Major’s Hill Park, the sights, the sounds, the buskers, the fun, and of course, ending it all up with the fireworks on Parliament Hill. This is the capital city of the country, after all! Where would any good Canadian rather be?

In bed, frankly. By the time the fireworks light up Parliament Hill, this Canadian will be asleep. I may stir to hear the thunder of the explosions, but ten pm is past my bedtime. I am truly grateful that my youngest is now old enough to manage the festivities on her own!

I will, however, get downtown at some point during the day. The happy crowds, resplendent in their red and white (I am planning a white skirt with a red tank top), many of the kids wearing flags (Emma has a 5-foot flag all ready for her BF to wear as a cape – his first time!)… it’s fun.

And of course, Events and Celebrations mean CRAFTS at Mary’s house. Every year for ages we have made Canadian flags this way, with their little handprints in place of the Canada Leaf. I fully intended to do those for this year, too, until I saw some Canada Day bunting in the most recent Canadian Living magazine.

It didn’t take a craft genius to see the connection. Ladies and gentlemen, I show you:

Canada Day bunting, Toddler-style!

Each triangle is a sheet of 8×11 paper. Fold it in half along the 11″ side, put your scissors at the fold and aim for the far corner. Ta-dah! Perfect triangle.

A strip of red paint down each side. Paint the small palm, press it to the paper (a bit of a trick with 12-month-olds, who tend to curl their surprised fingers into a paint-smeary fist, but it can be done!)

Tape the triangles to a piece of ribbon. (Tip: Wrap the tape right around the back of the triangle, and lap the ends of the tape over each other in behind, otherwise the tape will pull off the paint.)


Happy Canada Day!

And, for the child who is Canadian by birth but with American parents, we tweaked the design:

With Canada Day on Thursday and the Fourth on Sunday, they can have a whole weekend of celebrating! Cute, huh?

June 29, 2010 Posted by | Canada, commemoration, crafts, my kids | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beach Party!

A rainy day requires a craft. This, part of a wonderful craft supplies package put together AND MAILED TO ME by my thoughtful eldest, was our inspiration:

What do they look like? Why, beach umbrellas, of course. And if you have a beach umbrella, you’ll need a beach…

You’ll also need to reinforce your beach, so you’d better tape some cardboard to the back of it.

You’ll need a heap of sand to stick your umbrella into… (Yes, that is playdough. Yes, a truly unfortunate colour. That’s what happens when you let toddlers tell you which bottles of food colouring to put in, and how many drops. You get murk. Could be worse, though. Could be poo-coloured. Or, worse yet, mold-coloured… because it had genuine mold in it. Mmm-hmm. I’ll take a little harmless murk any day.)

Now you need sand, and what could be sandier-looking than yellow cornmeal?? (Well, yes, real sand would work, too, but recall that today was rainy. The only sand out there today is mud.)

Sprinkle some onto the mound, and gently pat in on…

TA-DAH!!! Beach umbrella in heap of sand!!

Now for the rest of the picture. Swish some podgey all over the “sand” part of your picture. (My podgey is homemade: one part white school glue with one part water, or maybe two parts glue to one part water, I can’t remember. It’s been a while. It doesn’t matter: if you want to make your own start with two parts glue to one part water, and then slowly add more water till it looks right to you. Oh, and there was some glitter in there, too. Did I put that in, or did it just find its own way in? Again, I can’t remember — but glitter is never a bad thing!!!)

Sprinkle cornmeal into the wet podgy. More is better. If you get too much, tip the paper and gently tap one edge to shake off the loose stuff. This is a good idea in any case, because there is ALWAYS loose stuff.

Next (and I forgot to take a picture of this, but I’m sure you can figure it out) you paint the water with podgy and sprinkle glitter on it — so it sparkles like water in the sun!

Every trip to the beach needs a beach towel. I let Emily browse my stash of used wrapping paper and old magazines to find the PERFECT beach towel. Then you cut it out. (Don’t you just adore the cuddly awkwardness of those dimpled fingers in the scissors??)

Stick the blanket on the beach — we used glue, but a staple would’ve held better, if I’d had one available, instead of in a bedroom with a sleeping baby — and TA-DAH!!! —

A beautiful beach. And a very proud little girl! A very proud little girl who was even happier to help Noah and Tyler make theirs, when they woke from their naps.

June 1, 2010 Posted by | crafts | , , , , , | 3 Comments