Canvas Art – A Father’s Day Gift Idea

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Father’s Day is on Sunday. It’s getting down to the wire, MoMs! If you are running out of ideas (or cash) for a Fathers’ Day gift, here’s a quick and easy project everyone can do.

I wanted to have all four kids enjoy the craft and that’s tricky because of their age gap. My oldest is 17 with the twin “cabooses” at 4. I also wanted it to reflect their personalities.

I had originally thought we could all make our own card or picture, but those tend to get discarded over time. Everyone loves to paint so I went to my local craft store in search of cheap options.  I found an 16×20 canvas for under five dollars. The acrylic craft paint was also inexpensive.

I sectioned the canvas with painters tape and let the kids have at it. The only rules were: they had to fill their entire square and no “trespassing” into their sibling’s square. It couldn’t have turned out any better! Each square shows their personality and creativity.

Last minute family Father's Day gift - segmented canvas.

If your kids are too young to follow the trespassing rule, tape down paper to cover all but one of the openings, leaving that one section for one child to paint. When a work of art is dry, cover it and move onto the next child and next opening.

Best project yet!

A cute gift idea for #FathersDay. Give each child part of the canvas to decorate.

I’m thinking of using this same division of the canvas again. I think it would be great for collages, glue art, sand, or even photos. Happy Father’s Day!!

If you decide to try this, send us a picture!

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Felt for Projects

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We have turned the spare room into The Activity Room. In addition to the guest bed and some storage for guests, the room is filled with crafting supplies. We have glue, tape, kids’ scissors, sequins, stickers, paper of all sorts, crayons, markers, paint, knitting needles, yarn and sewing supplies. These include felt for projects. Lots and lots of felt.

Occasionally, I propose crafting projects to J and M. For the most part, I allow them to come up with their own projects ideas. In the last few weeks, M has been getting deeply into sewing. She’s been making small purses for her friends and clothes for her toys. She took some photos of her daughter Valentina modeling her latest creations and allowed me to share them with you.

9-year-old access to felt, needles and thread translate into clothing for stuffed toys.

Home sick today, J was also inspired to try her hand at sewing, although she’s usually a knitter. She decided that she wanted to make a doll. We found the perfect pattern, Mimi Kirchner’s Felt Doll, at The Purl Bee. She’s made some pretty impressive headway for someone who learned to backstitch and whipstitch today and has never handled fiberfill before.

Mimi Kirchner's simple felt doll pattern is a good one for the beginning seamstress, aged 8 and up.

Ages 8 and 9 are just wonderful when it comes to learning new skills. Children this age have a sudden increase in patience and are able to understand that hard work pays off. They’re willing to put the time in for a satisfactory outcome. They’re on the young side to have lost faith in their abilities, so they’re quite willing to try new things. They don’t yet have the critical eye to be thrown by most newbie mistakes. A few tears may be shed, but a hug from Mommy can still make it all better.

That said, my daughters aren’t quite up to hand hemming their creations yet. That’s why I wouldn’t do without felt squares in our Activity Room supplies. The beauty of felt, in contrast to other fabrics, is that it doesn’t fray, and therefore doesn’t require hemming. It cuts easily, so I don’t have to make my fabric shears available to the children. They can use their own scissors. It’s stiff enough to hold up to small fingers instead of draping over a child’s hand as he or she learns a new stitch.

Felt is the perfect fabric for children learning to sew.

I picked up our latest stash of felt at Jo-Ann Fabric. I’ve bought it at Michaels in the past, and I’ve found amazing prices online for other crafting supplies at Factory Direct Craft. When my daughters were smaller, I’d cut small figures out of felt, sometimes people, sometimes animals, and sometimes abstract shapes. Against a background of construction paper, we put on plays. Or the girls created shapes. Or they made piles.

Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday at hdydi.com: This week, the gogo Kidz Travelmate.Felt is extraordinarily versatile. If your kids are old enough to keep it out of their mouths, I’d recommend picking some up. You never know what creations your creative children will think up.

Make-It Monday: Father’s Day Gifts from the Kiddos

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Father’s Day is fast approaching, and I’m sharing a couple of the ways we’ve made Daddy feel the love on his special day.
I wish I’d had the wherewithal to do this the girls’ first Father’s Day…but, just shy of 6 months old…I think I was still in somewhat of a haze.  Since the girls’ second Father’s Day, though, we’ve been carrying out the traditional of our “Top 10 List”, complete with hand prints, and — since the girls were three — signatures, too.
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On the center card: “The Top 10 Reasons We Think You’re the Best Daddy in the World”, on which I list some of the fun things the girls love to do with their daddy.  I try to come up with things that represent what the girls are doing at that given age/stage.
This picture is from our 2011 list when the girls were two, and it includes cuteness along the lines of:
  • You help us build the best “structures” with our blocks, and the tallest towers.
  • You never tire of sampling our tea and lemonade, and all our culinary creations.
  • You show us how to be super sweet to our furry sister Sasha.
  • Two words…tickle time!!!
  • You sing “Found a Peanut” every night, even though we know it’s not your favorite song, and you make up all sorts of silly lyrics to “Baa-Baa Black Sheep” at our requests.
  • You give us nose kisses the first thing when you come home from work, and you talk to us through the window in the backyard when you cut the grass.

And every list ends with, #10. You’re ours.

Last year, we added a fun new twist to our Father’s Day celebration, and our girls thought it was so much fun.  I drew conversation bubbles and the girls wrote a Father’s Day message.

HDYDI-fd1This year, I plan to have the girls hold the letters D-A-D-D-Y for a picture.  I’m sure that will incite plenty of giggles, too.

Some hand print art and pictures of his girlies…what more could a daddy want?  And I love getting the girls involved in the gift-giving.  That’s what it’s all about!

Do you have any Father’s Day traditions?  We’d love to hear your ideas!

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Make It Monday: Spring-Inspired Craft

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Before my twin girls started kindergarten last fall (sniff, sniff!), I loved nothing more than an excuse for a themed playdate.  A craft and a snack to match?  Sign me up!

With our busy schedules these days, we don’t get together with our twinkie BFFs nearly as much as we’d like to.  I ran across this picture of a playdate from last March, and it just warmed my heart.

A fun Easter project for little ones: Paper plate chicks!While I try not to be a hoarder, I still have these little chickies hanging around…they are just so stinkin’ cute!

We started with a white paper plate (I love the cheap-y kind for crafts).  The kiddos colored their plates yellow, and then they glued googly eyes and a triangle beak on for the face.

For the wings, the kiddos traced their hands.  Depending on their scissor-skill-level, some of them cut out their handprints, and the MoMs did the handprints for the others.

It was a challenge for our 4 1/2- and 5-year olds to accordion fold the legs, but they had fun trying.  :)

There are all sorts of variations you can do, depending on the skill of your crafters-in-training.  If you’re brave enough to break out the paints, you could even do some handprint chicks on canvas.  (There are a million cute inspirational ideas on Pinterest!)  However you do it, I think it’s a great way to {finally!} welcome spring!

Happy Crafting!!!

MandyE is mom to six-year-old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

 

Make-It Monday: A Token of Thanks

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I had great intentions of doing something nice for our mail carrier and sanitation crews over the holidays.  With the girlies in kindergarten and me being back at work full-time, though, my intentions these days don’t always make it into actions.

We’ve had a crazy amount of snow over the past three weeks (relative to our area, anyway), and I thought this would be a great time to say “thank you” to the folks who’ve continued to work, oftentimes much later hours than they normally would, to keep things rolling during this weather.

kitkat1The last trip we made to the grocery store, I picked up packages of snack-size Kit-Kat bars.  I wrote a little note, and the girls were thrilled to add some handmade touches.

They were giddy to leave this in the mailbox on Saturday morning.  And they were ecstatic to get a thank-you note in return from the mail carrier, saying we’d made her day.

Later in the week, we’ll tape a little package (wrapped in a zip-seal bag) to the top of the garbage can, and we’ll try to catch the recycling crew early Friday morning.

I love seeing the girls excited about doing something for someone else, and I was reminded it doesn’t take much to make someone else’s day.

kitkat2

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Are My Children UNDER-Scheduled?

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My girls just turned six.  To cruise around my friends’ pictures on Facebook, those who have similar-age children (or younger), I have to question if my kiddos are missing out on something.

I see pictures from dance recitals, piano lessons, gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer, and basketball.  And my mouth is watering these days at all the pictures of kiddos selling Girl Scout cookies.

Our girls have experienced very little of that.

They’ve taken swim lessons the past three summers.  The first summer they didn’t exactly love it, but they’ve had a great time the past two years.  And the summer when they were four, they took a two-month tumbling class and had a great time.

It’s certainly not that I’m opposed to them participating in activities, but, as I’ve stepped back to assess our history to date, I feel fiercely protective of their time, and of our time as a family.

The girls are now in kindergarten, and our Monday-Friday are jam-packed.  Their daddy is a teacher, so they come home with him after school.  After a snack and a little play time with the kitties, they’re often just finishing up “homework” when I come home around 5:30.  I rush to get supper on the table, and we are usually finishing our meal shortly after 6:00.  If we’re lucky, we have time for a game or a book or two before we begin our bedtime routine at 6:30.

(Yes, our girls are in bed by 7:00!  They seem to require 11 1/2 – 12 hours of sleep!)

On the weekends, I try to balance getting family errands done (groceries and laundry and cooking ahead) with hanging out with the girls.  If the weather is nice, we love to go to the park.  We try to head to the zoo or children’s museum every 6 weeks or so.  And I block off plenty of time for unstructured play at home, and crafting, and reading, and snuggles.

Newly working mom wonders whether her kindergartners are under-scheduled as she protects family time.

These days, I just don’t see where we’d put a practice or two a week and games/events on the weekends.

I think our girls’ schedules are plenty packed as they are, and I have strongly mixed feelings about introducing anything else into the mix.  Still, I can’t help but question if I’m providing them with appropriate access to trying different activities.

HELP!!!  Are my kiddos “missing out” at this age?  Does this get easier as kiddos get older (and don’t go to bed so early)?  How does your family prioritize activities?

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Make-It Monday: Valentine’s Countdown Treasure Box

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(Yes, today is Sunday, not Monday.  Sorry to give any sleep-deprived mamas out there another reason to doubt their sanity.  [Been there!]  I would like to say that I was *ahead* of the game…but that’s just not the case.  I wish I’d done my crafting a week ago…but I didn’t.  So I’m posting this hot off the press…on Sunday, not Monday.)

For the last several years, my girlies have had SO much fun with their Advent calendars, counting down to Christmas.  I had visions of doing something fun for Valentine’s Day…but with my girls’ birthday immediately following Christmas (the first week of January), I just didn’t have it in me for another big project.

Vday1I happened upon some Pinterest inspiration, and I decided I was up for a week of counting down.  And I can’t wait to see my girls’ faces when they see this little surprise!

I bought a $1 pill box for each of them (check the dollar store or Walmart).  I am glad I found an extra-large one…it will be easier to fit tiny treasures.

I cut paper to cover each of the days, stamped out a little message, and Viola! this Valentine’s Day countdown was born.

I put in a Hershey’s Kiss for today.

Vday2

The balance of the week I plan to fill with some tiny treats (conversation hearts, M&Ms).  I also plan to put in a couple of activities…I’ll write something like “Make Valentine’s Chex Mix“…to mix things up a bit.

I love sharing holidays with my girlies!  What fun things do you have planned this week?  We’d love to see your ideas!

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Make-It Monday: Involving Your Children in Holiday Giving

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We try to keep holidays sweet and simple at our house, and I’m doing my best to impart the joy of giving of ourselves in my twin girls, who are now almost six.

I love to think of opportunities to involve the girls in the process of making handmade gifts, at least in some small way.  Approaching six years of age, there are lots of things the girls can do, especially when it comes to making holiday goodies with me in the kitchen.  I had to be much more creative when they were smaller…the idea of four little hands in the flour was not one I wanted to tackle with twin toddlers!

Today I’m sharing a some of the things we’ve done over the past few years, going back to when our girlies were approaching two.

Gift tags.  It’s become a tradition that our girls make gift tags to adorn the presents and goodies we give to our friends and families.  (I love that a few family members save the tags and use them as ornaments!)  The first year, I let the girls go to town with green finger paint on white card stock.

Xmas4I used a scallop punch to cut out 2″ ‘wreaths’, and I punched holes to show through to a red paper circle of berries.  I applied glue to the ‘wreaths’ and let the girls put the two pieces together.  Here’s the finished product:

Xmas3Another year I let the girls loose with a ‘present’ stamp, which they then colored.  (I had visions of checkered red and green packages…but they had other ideas, using almost every color in the crayon box.)

Xmas6And my favorite to date the girls did last year.  Xmas8At almost-five, they were able to complete these all by themselves, but these could be done with younger kiddos with some supervision.  We used washable brown ink to make thumb prints, and the tip of their index fingers in washable red ink made the nose.  The girls used markers to draw the eyes and antlers.  I love all the personality these little reindeer have!

Gift bags.  The girls had such fun making these bags when they were near-three.  I let them pick out button eyes, and I assembled the other pieces from card stock, felt, and sequins.  I applied glue to the pieces, and they put them in place.  XMas1

Cards.  I LOVE making cards  with the girls.  XMas2These were some of our earliest holiday creations.  At not-quite-two, I had the girls scribble with green crayons.  I cut out their scribbles in the shape of a tree, and I glued them to a blank card.  I let them decorate the tree with stickers, a favorite pastime at that age.

 

Charitable giving.  The last couple of years, the girls have had so much fun shopping for the food bank…it’s the one time of year I let them drive the miniature shopping carts at the grocery store, and they so look forward to it.  And of course we have to decorate bags to carry our goodies.

Tidings of Cheer.  The girls always go with me to deliver goodies to our neighbors.

Xmas9Since they were tiny, I’ve worked with them on a holiday message.  The first year they were able to participate, just shy of two years old, it was a simple, “Merry Christmas!”  We worked up to them singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” when they were almost three.  The last couple of years, they’ve sung an abridged version of Jingle Bells as we passed out our goodies.  (Reindeer antlers add to the fun!)

Holidays seem infinitely more fun with littles in tow, and I love involving my girlies in all the festivities.  It’s something pretty special to see the light in their eyes when they share their own creations with our friends and families.

How do you involve your kiddos in the holiday season?

MandyE is mom to almost-six-year-old twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Toddler Thursday: More on Gardening

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Our garden has been in the ground for more than a month now, which gives me some fodder for a follow-up and more pretty pictures. Some of my original plants haven’t thrived as well as I’ve hoped, so we’ve made a few updates and generally expanded. As I’ve been working in the dirt and using trial and error to make progress, I’ve had some time to think of more tips that I might want to pass along to others who might like to try gardening with their toddlers or preschoolers. So here are a few.

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Start small. My recent gardening has been largely limited to a flowerbed that has existed since before we even bought our house seven years ago. It had become overgrown the past several years, so I’ve been slowly digging the saplings and weeds out of the bed and expanding my planting space. The goal is not to grow so quickly that I can’t maintain what I’ve done. And allowing my garden to expand as I clear the space gives me some motivation to keep up with the less interesting part of gardening.

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Give your kids a job. Last weekend, we went to the nursery and I assigned my kids to choose four plants each from the annuals table. It allowed them an opportunity to practice their counting and color-identifying skills, and they got to make choices about what we’d add to our garden. Then at home, they each had a trowel, and I had them dig holes for our new plants. Full disclosure: they lost interest long before everything was planted, but that gave me an opportunity to fix plant spacing and group things in ways that I found aesthetically appealing.

A wheelbarrow full of green shiny rocks.

 

Leave room for walking through your garden. Kids never use stepping stones. Ever. So leave them some room to step between plants. And as corollary: Don’t worry too much if things get squished. Most plants will bounce back.

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Use what you have on hand. I’ve got several animal-shaped planters and pieces of yard art. It made a lot of sense to bring them all over to the kids’ garden, where they could add a bit of whimsy.

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Happy Gardening!

Toddler Thursday: Gardening with Twins

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Fall has finally arrived here in Central Texas, though you’d hardly know it by the hot, dry weather we’ve had lately.  Still, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as we approach the middle of October. My twins turn three this month, and they are very interested in playing outside and being involved in everything I’m doing. It’s put me in the mindset of starting a garden with my kids this fall – a goal I’ve had since before I even had kids. (In the northern climes, most gardening happens in the spring, but here in Texas, where are summers are far more extreme than our winters, the best gardening happens in October and November.)

Gardening is a great activity to do with toddlers as they start to develop their gross motor skills. It allows them to get fresh air and some sunshine, it’s physical, and, with a bit of luck, they can watch their work blossom into fruition! (See what I did there?)

It’s a good idea to consider a plan for your garden before you break ground. First, it might be helpful to choose a theme that appeals to you and your kids. You could choose edible plants, like herbs and veggies, to encourage your kids to try new flavors and eat more plant-based foods. You could decide on a garden full of plants that attract beautiful butterflies or hummingbirds. You could choose all the purple plants you can lay your hands on.  In our case, the garden we’ve been working on is inspired by the sense of touch – plants with interesting textures, herbs that emit lovely smells when the leaves are rubbed, and generally anything that allows kids to get hands-on with the garden.

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)
Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)

You’ll also need to think about the conditions of the area in which you’re planting. We’re working in an existing bed which happens to be located in a shady part of my yard. I’ve done some research to determine which plants with interesting textures would grow well in that environment in my region, and when I went shopping, I took a list with me. Herbs are great for a touch garden, but most herbs require lots of sun, so I had to adjust my list accordingly. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantia) is a great choice, and one that I have experience growing. It has thick, velvety leaves and spreads into an attractive ground cover. It even has a pretty purple bloom! I also chose Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), which blooms feather-soft in the fall,  globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa), which has a bright papery bloom, and a few mint plants, which give off a lovely smell and flavor when touched. (Note: mint is inclined to go wild under favorable conditions. I planted mine in a pot which I submerged in the ground to reduce those tendencies.) Leave a little room open in the budget for getting new ideas once you get to the nursery, and consider a few inexpensive annuals to fill out your garden with colorful blooms. Your kids can help you pick out some plants that they find interesting, as well – however, you’ll want to be mindful not to buy anything overly toxic. This is often noted on the plant’s information tag.

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)
Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)

Plants grow best in soil that has organic matter mixed in. The easiest way to achieve this is to dig your bed and mix the dirt with compost. Your children can help by using a scoop or a pot to pour compost onto the dirt as you turn it, or by using a trowel or small shovel to turn one corner of the bed. Once your dirt is prepared, you and your kids can dig holes for the new plants, pre-watering the holes, spreading the roots a bit as you pull them out of the pot, and depositing them in their new homes. Watering in the plants is also, not surprisingly, a very popular pastime in my garden.

fairy furniture
Fairies throw parties in our little garden every night after bedtime.

If you have some space and are interested in adding a visual element to your garden, you might consider adding a fairy garden. I found a local nursery that sells inexpensive fairy furniture, but you and your kids can make your own fairy decorations, as well. Consider painting a rock or a pinecone and leaving it as art for your garden’s faeries to enjoy! Place a marble in the ground as a gazing ball. If you have older kids, they might enjoy building and painting small wooden structures (like you might find at a craft store), or even making their own with twigs and bark. You’re limited only by your imagination!

Keep your plan a little flexible. Let your kids have as much control as is feasible over the placement of items in your new garden, even if it doesn’t match your mental image. With my three year olds, their attention span runs low before the work runs out, so I can do a little bit of editing to their work, but this is a shared space for us, and I want the final product to reflect that. Ultimately, if you’re gardening with kids, the final garden is secondary to the process of creating it.

Garden in progress.
Our work in progress.