Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Crafts

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to post some of the fast, fun and just about free crafts that I've done with, or for, my grand kiddos this year~

Craft 1: Happy Halloween Collage 

All you need for this craft is a piece of paper or cardboard any size you want, scissors, glue and a lot of Halloween newspaper or magazine ads that you would normally throw away. (Packaging tape and index cards and pens are optional.) 

When you have some time or are watching a TV show, you can sit and snip out pictures. Glue them randomly on the paper (or cardboard). You can't make a mistake. If you don't like one thing you glued in place, glue another thing over it. Glue lots of fun stuff all over the paper. To make this collage sturdier, use strips of clear packaging tape taped to the collage face. Lastly, I like to then add an index card that challenges the recipient to find specific items I've glue in place. (I lightly tape the card to the edge of the collage so that it can be easily removed. Since I'm sending these to several children at a time I want the card to be with the collage--at least when it first arrives.) Note: If you're making a collage for a very young child, you may want to outline on the back where the specific "hide and seek" items can be found. These challenges can easily be adapted to fit the age of the recipient. 

I've made these for my grand kiddos and they've made their own and challenged me! They also like to ask me to find additional things in the collages I've made for them. 

Craft 2:  Dryer Sheet Ghostie

While folding laundry recently I began to throw away a spent dryer sheet. I thought, "This would make a good ghost!" 
Cotton ball, yarn, spent dryer sheet
All you need is a spent dryer sheet, a cotton ball and a scrap piece of yarn long enough to tie and hang. (glue, "eyes" and a marker are optional.)
Tie the cotton ball in place

Place the cotton ball "head" in the middle of the dryer sheet and tie in place with the yarn making sure to allow one length of the yarn long enough for your ghostie to hang. Voila! You have a ghost! 

I decided to embellish my ghostie by gluing a few bright hole punch dots in place and then adding some expression with a magic marker dot to the center of each eye. 

Eyes optional 
Florescent green eyes are good.

Craft 3: Make Your Own Jack-o-lantern Card

Instead of purchased Halloween cards this year, I found some autumn, plain pumpkin cards in a craft bin and thought they'd be great for making Jack-o-lanterns. This way, I could write a note inside, but each child could design his/her own Jack-o-lantern. I found a sheet of adhesive-backed, black, glitter paper and cut it into several mailable pieces. In each envelope I enclosed a message in the pumpkin and the piece of glitter paper. On the white side of the glitter paper, each child can trace eyes, a nose and a mouth and cut them out. This way, their own pumpkins turn into their own Jack-o-lanterns. Can't wait to see what the kiddos come up with!
Purchased pumpkin--or make your own.

If you need to, simply cut an orange piece of paper in the shape of a pumpkin. I just happened to find these cards and it saved me one step and all four of the kiddos would have the same pumpkin shape with which to start. Loved the fact that yellow envelopes were provided too. Even if all the cards go in one larger envelope to be assured they all arrive on the same day, it is still nice to have a separate envelope for each kiddo to open. 
A personal note goes inside.

Everyone can create his/her own Jack-o-lantern with the adhesive backed glitter  paper. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Critters are Cool

Critters are Cool is my new book of poetry for kids. (But adults will love it too!) It joins the other "Celebrating Poetry that Fits in Your Pocket" books: When Magic Helps Us Steer and Happy Birthday, Florida!

Five-lined Skink
Critters are Cool features all sorts of animals--some unusual and some well-known--presented in poetry form. Kiddos can learn a lot about these special animals while enjoying the word play and black and white illustrations. This book will make it fun to learn about animals and will encourage additional exploration.

From aardvarks and blue-footed boobies to zebroids--there's a lot to learn about in the animal kingdom.

April is National Poetry Month, but poetry is fun all year long. In the back of this book there is a pocket pattern to encourage children to copy and share a poem they love.

Happy reading!

Blue-footed boobies

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Reusing Seed Catalogs---Making Matches

Time to recycle the old seed catalogs. But before throwing them out, consider turning some of the pictures into a matching game for the kiddos. In these catalogs there will be a lot of similar pictures and each is bright and a good representation of the fruit or veggie. In the first picture, I've simply cut out  two pictures each for each fruit and vegetable used. I glued the pictures in place. Something on the right side matches another picture on the left side. The first line is dotted for the child to trace. Then, the child matches the other pictures in a similar way. (This is a good activity for starting a discussion on good eating habits too.)

Matching Game 1
More. . .
Matching Game 2 (Veggies)

This matching game requires putting a larger picture down one side of the page and then cutting out smaller pictures of the same fruit or veggie. I glued the first pictures in place and then glued the smaller pictures onto sticky tabs. The child can see the picture and read the word. Then, peeling off the backing, the child can match the words with the larger pictures and stick each one in the space provide.
Matching Game 2 (Fruits)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


The hummingbirds are zipping through the yard and I'm working on my new book, Critters are Cool. Of course, that inspired me and I've put a hummingbird poem in the book too. I sent a video of the birds at the feeders to the kiddos in TX and thought that perhaps they'd like hummers of their own so I immediately had the theme for my letter. I based the bird on bilateral symmetry cutting out several plain white ones at a time. I'm sure they'll make them colorful on their own. The letter suggests that they hold the tails and move the birds up and down quickly in order to have the critters "fly."

I also cut out some small pictures of hummingbirds from the purchased hummingbird feeder food carton. (I purchased it once just to get the container that I could continue to refill with my homemade food.)

The grandkiddos who live locally put out feeders too and now call their big classroom window--bird TV.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Countdown to a Visit

The last time I went to visit the grand-kiddos I estimated the number of days between when they'd get the letter I was sending and my arrival date. Then, I lightly glued little planes (cut from credit card promotional materials) to represent the days. (I made sure to have a few extra planes at the front end so that when the kiddos got the letter they could already remove, or X-out, a few of the planes.)

The children took turns taking off, or X-ing out, a plane. It was like a "count down to Christmas" only this time the countdown was a "count down to Mom-Mom" coming to visit.

The children love getting different and unusual letters each week in the mail.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Labeling Fun

Helicopters and Planes to Label
The grandkids in TX love to get letters in the mail. Even with all the electronic connections, the good old-fashion mailbox holds a special place in their hearts. I send a letter each week. Sometimes it's difficult to come up with so many ideas each year, but thus far, I've managed. Some of the ideas overlap. I might send a collage for each season and have the children get out magnifying glasses (I provided inexpensive plastic ones on one trip--anticipation for an upcoming letter) to study the collage and find things, but even those will be of different themes.

Labeling is always fun and I was able to find brochures that had cool pictures of things of interest to the children. The helicopters and biplanes even had the "word cards" easily trimmed from the brochure.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bubble Names

Each week I send a letter to TX to keep in "physical contact" with the grandkids who live over 1,000 miles away. FaceTime and Skype are great, but a physical letter still is met with much anticipation. Since the little ones know a letter comes each week, they really do connect with the grandparents who live so far away. I try to make the correspondence into various games and activities that are simple and don't usually require the parent's assistance. It takes a bit of ingenuity to come up with things that fit into a regular sized envelope, are fun and don't require a lot of work on my part or on the part of the kiddos. Sending the little ones their names as bubble letters was a big hit. It didn't matter that the younger ones only scribbled on their name cards-and that the baby tried to eat hers-the idea was that each child received a written gift in the mail from many miles away--and it was something they could decorate. I drew a few items around each name--things that are of interest to that particular kiddo. Of course, instead of drawings, it would be fun to add stickers to the envelope to aid in personalizing. Either way, this was a big hit and something I'll use again in a slightly different form.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Clean-Up Fun

Empty box-scissors, tape
(Markers, stickers, etc. as desired)
If you want your little ones to think that clean up is fun, all you have to do is turn an empty tissue box into a loud-mouthed monster who likes to eat trash! They will be eager to "feed the monster!"

Simply flatten the box by carefully tearing it open where it is glued. It is easier to decorate a flat surface. Also, this shows how it can be stored and stacked with your construction paper to be used again later.

You can make your monster any way you like, but I think it is especially cute to give a monster some funny hair that sticks straight up. I simply cut strips down on the flap that is above the "face" portion of the box. This can be curled, colored, beribboned, etc. to make your monster unique. If you are using a large, rectangular box without this "hair flap," you may want to add yarn hair, an antenna, a hat or something you think is funny. ANY tissue box will work with a little adaptation as long as the opening is the mouth.

Cut down on one flap to make "hair."
Add some facial features to you trash monster. 
I like to add funny eyes.  Plastic google-like eyes can be added, but a simple sticker-magic marker drawn eye will suffice. Let children be creative in making their monsters--the trash eating monster can be an arts and crafts activity in and of itself--and it's reusable.

Reshape the box and tape the side (which is now the bottom) so that it stays closed and sits on the craft area to "gobble up the trash" from an arts/crafts activity. Children love to take their monster to the trash can and empty out his mouth (or shake trash out of is head!). This activity makes clean up a fun activity.

Once the trash is emptied into the real trash can, the tape can be removed and the monster can be folded flat to be stored with other craft items. It can be used again and again.
Once the monster is done, it will be fun to feed it trash! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Swords and Shields

      It was wonderful having the entire family here for Christmas. Once Christmas was over and all the decorations were put away, it was time for me to get "back in the groove" and start sending my weekly fun letters to the "long-distance" grands who had returned to Texas. I knew they'd enjoy this activity.
      When everyone was here we had a lot of vegetables and that meant opening some canned good. Since I buy a lot of groceries in bulk, the cans come in 6 or 8-pks and there is a nice curved-rectangular piece of cardboard at the bottom holding the cans. I put a stack of the cardboards aside just for this activity.

Cardboard from canned good.
For the sword, fold a piece of paper (approximately as long and wide as the cardboard) and cut out one-half of a sword shape, open the shape and trace the entire outline onto one of the cardboard pieces. Cut the sword out with a craft knife or scissors. (An adult should do the cutting.)
Make one-half the shape.

Trace the sword shape onto one cardboard.

Make one for everybody! 

Mark and cut two "straps" on the second cardboard.
Make a shield with a second cardboard. A child's small arm will easily slip into the two  "straps" so the child can hold the sword in one hand and the shield in the other.
I like to put the child's name or initial on the shield. They like to color and decorate the sword and shield.
Remind the little ones that these are for playing and dress-up and not for being too rough!