Category Archives: Crafts and Creations

Bathtub Painting Session

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Today was a success!  I went into it with a plan – always a great start.  This morning Noah and I went out and picked up all of our new activity goodies and got it all set up, ready for play.  After Noah’s nap we dove right into the fun.

We had a blast with the bathtub painting session!  I found it on one of the websites mentioned yesterday, Growing a Jeweled Rose.

Setup for this is quick and easy.  I put four colors of washable paint in a muffin tin (When I purchased the paint I chose three big bottles of the primary colors because it’s less expensive than the stuff marketed for little kids.  I figured I can just mix my own colors right now).  I cleared the bathtub of all excess toys and bottles, put Noah in a swimmer diaper (lucky for me he still fits the ones from last year), and let him explore bathtub painting.

It was the perfect setup for controlled sensory chaos.  A particularly amazing setup when you have a busy, curious toddler stuck inside for most of the winter.

Muffin tins are a GREAT way to separate paint and make it accessible to young kids.

Muffin tins are a GREAT way to separate paint and make it accessible to young kids.

At first Noah could have cared less about the paint and I thought my idea was all for naught.  He was simply excited to be in the tub and wanted to try and play with the faucet.  After a couple minutes, though, he started catching on as I demonstrated for him how to put the paint on the bathtub walls.  Soon he was busy using the brushes and dipping his fingers in the gooey paint.

Working on getting paint onto the brush - it's a big deal.

Working on getting paint onto the brush – it’s a big deal.

This activity is fabulous for toddlers because they get to discover colors, feel paint, work on fine motor skills while using the paintbrush, and they have unlimited opportunity to make a mess wherever they wish.  It’s also fabulous for Mommas because it’s super-easy cleanup!  Ta-da!  And you thought the two would never meet.

SO Fun!

SO Fun!

After we were finished playing we cleaned up – and kept on playing.  It was great because since the paint is washable everything, including Noah, stayed in the tub as I simply used water to wipe down the walls, tub, tin, brushes, and baby.  Noah was perfectly happy to play with the colored water as I cleaned which made the whole task as simple as water down the drain.

If you have a chance to try this I promise you will be so pleased with yourself – as will your child(ren).  What wonderful discovery play!  I can already imagine the artwork that will grace our tub in the years to come.

We have plenty more activities to try out in the next couple weeks.  As we explore them I’ll post our experiences and reviews for you to consider for your family.  I can’t wait to get our hands on them!

In the meantime, Happy Painting!

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Create Some Fun!

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The first few hours of the day are simple in our home.  There’s breakfast, bathtime, playtime in the playroom (since everything is fresh for the morning), maybe play outside, and naptime.  The following hours are a bit more complicated.  I try to make sure we have some fun discovery, craft, or imagination time somewhere in the day.  Lately though, I feel like a rusty pipe in the idea department.  It seems that everything I create in my mind is just a little too old for Noah (like the fort I had planned last week, which royally flopped).  I want something exciting to engage Noah’s heart and mind, as well as to allow us to laugh together.

Tonight I decided to look online for some fresh toddler ideas.  I was a bit skeptical because there just don’t seem to be a whole lot of resources for those under three.  Well let me tell you, I was super-pleasantly surprised!  I found all sorts of fun ideas!  As we try them out I’ll be sure to post the good ones for you to dig your hands into.

While I was looking at all of these ideas and sites I started to try to catalog them in a Word document, along with all of the supplies we’ll need to buy – Pretty much typical child-play items (say, pipe cleaners) that we haven’t had to purchase yet.  I like to keep my kiddo ideas in a binder that I have stored next to all of my recipe books.  It’s my little black-book for motherhood.  Well, I decided to create a document (based off of a great menu document I found on Pinterest) that I could use to catalog all of our play ideas, items needed to complete the activity, and the source I used to find the activity (you never know when you’ll want to go back and check your work).  I’m very pleased with the end-result and wanted to share it with you to use for your family!  So without further ado, here it is: Kids Activity Log.

Here are a few of the websites I found that I’m pretty sure have hidden jewels.  You may want to check them out for your little ones – it’s all about sharing the wealth here!

I hope you find great use for this in your home.  Meanwhile, I can’t wait for tomorrow morning to try a few of our new experiments in creativity!

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Making Creation Boxes

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There is something absolutely wonderful about doing crafts and activities with your child.  It’s even better when you can use it as a teaching experience.  Even better still?  When you can use the craft as a fun opportunity to instruct them on Scripture!

A few weeks ago I saw these great things on Pinterest called “Creation Blocks.”  I decided I wanted to make one for Noah (and let him help, of course).  While I was at Hobby Lobby getting the supplies, though, I let my imagination get away with me.  We created a Creation Box instead.  Noah couldn’t do too much to help with this craft because he’s still a little young, however I think that a child closer to two would definitely be able to help.  It would be especially great with a preschool/kindergarten child or older because they could probably do it all on their own!  In the meantime it’s still a lot of fun to play with and talk about together.

Here’s our “how-to:”

1. Gather the Supplies.  All you need is a paper mache box, paint, paint brushes, shellac (optional), and whatever you plan to use to represent the six days of creation.  We got everything at Hobby Lobby.  I’m still missing day two because I couldn’t find a cloud; I’ll have to make that one on my own. 

As a note, I did not make the animated blocks – I purchased them too (they’re in the craft section).  You could always do plastic toys or another figurines to play the Creation story part.  The fun thing is that you can customize the figures for either a boy or a girl.

2. Paint the Box whatever color you prefer.  I did a dark blue for the box and an aqua for the numbers, which I like because the numbers stand out so well.

3.  Paint the numbers on a box.  I used a dice and followed the pattern on Noah’s box.  I also drew my numbers out with pencil first so I knew they would turn out alright.  There is a six on the bottom too.

Once everything is just how you like it, you simply have to shellac it – if you want to.  I wasn’t planning on it, but Chris thought it would be a good idea.  Being the great husband he is, he picked some up for me at the hardware store.  I thought it was a little much at first, but after I used it I was so happy he had thought of it.  It made the box look truly finished.  It’s all glossy and more wear-and-tear resistant.

And you’re set!  Just fill the box with the figures and you have a fun surprise and teaching time at your fingertips!  I plan to print up a little paper with the days of creation in order and glue it on the inside bottom of the lid.

What is wonderful about this activity is that while your child is very young (like Noah) you can talk about the Creation Story, how it happened, and what the figures represent, pretty generally.  Also, you have all of the numbers on the box, so you can work on those as well.  Later on I plan to use the box to play with the figures and have him put them in order and tell me the Creation story.  Hopefully it will be a fun, interactive time for both of us.  In the meantime, it’s simply fun to open the box, lay the pieces out, and put them back inside the box.  And then put the lid back on, of course.  Then repeat.
I hope you thoroughly enjoy this with your kids!  I know that Noah and I have lots of fun times ahead.  And I’m already planning more boxes for our future… Perhaps about different insects, putting lots of squishy and hard bugs inside with their names outside.  Or other Bible stories that we can use as cues.  The possibilities are endless.

Shaker Fun

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Spokane has become a gorgeous winter wonderland!  I am feeling oh-so-cozy and full of excitement for the coming holidays as I look out on the beautiful snowflakes gently falling down, enjoy Christmas music, and have candles lit all over the house.

After much preparation, Noah and I ventured outside to play in the snow.  He loved sitting and eating the white, tasty goodness.  He was enamored with walking as the snow crunched under his feet.  We had a great time watching the flakes fall from the sky.  And, of course, it lasted about ten minutes.  After falling many times in the cold, wet snow, Noah decided it was time to return to our warm home.

Following his nap, I thought it would be fun for us to create a couple homemade shakers.  It’s a great way to talk about shapes, sounds, colors, and to do some counting!  After doing this, I think that perhaps it is best suited for those a couple months older than Noah – probably around 18 months to three years, for attention’s sake.  As a Mommy, you learn to be flexible…  Instead of just making the shakers, Noah had a great time transferring the items from one bowl to another and checking them out.  We still had a wonderful time together and spent time learning, we just had to modify a bit to suit Noah’s level.

Supplies Needed:

  • A couple empty milk cartons or juice containers with handles, washed out (or as many as you want to make)
  • bowls to hold the shaking materials
  • Shaking materials – I used items I had around the house: silver coins (quarters, dimes, nickels), orange pumpkin/squash decorations, and almonds.  Any small items that are consistently the same size, color, or texture would work great.   I definitely have marbles on my wish list of small nick-knacks for future projects.

And you’re set!

First, I put the shaking materials in separate bowls (I used small amounts so it wouldn’t be overwhelming).  I put all of the items on a tray and set it in our “discovery circle,” aka: the wading pool.
Now you’re ready to make your shakers!  I would choose to put all of the same item in each of the containers.  You can discuss the colors of each of the items and their texture as your child picks them up.  Then you can count each one placed in the container.
Once everything is put inside of the “shaker” all you have to do is put the cap on top.  As your child has fun shaking the new toy you can discuss the different sounds that each one makes (such as, “do you hear the ‘clang’ of the coins?” or “the almonds make a ‘thunk’ noise”).  I ended up filling our containers myself and then letting Noah play with the shakers.  Perfect fun for a wintry day.

Faux Indoor Sandbox

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Playgrounds are one of Noah’s absolute most favorite places.  It is the one place where he will play for literal hours without distraction.  As much as he loves to climb the big-toys and go down slides, every time we visit the park we inevitably end up spending a big chunk of our play time sitting in the dirt or sand.  Or whatever compost the park has available around the toys.  The local park, which I regularly run to when it’s nice outside, has a dirt/pebble mixture.  Noah could probably spend his entire afternoon just sitting in the dirt, grabbing clumps and pouring it over his legs, head, hands, or whatever body part happens to be without clothing.  He also gets down on his belly and army crawls around in the dirt.  My son finds pure joy immersing himself in the dirt and grime.  We’ve got a true boy on our hands here.

Unfortunately, the near-snow weather we’re supposed to have by the end of the week is not conducive to park play and rolling around in dirt.  So yesterday I decided to pull out the little wading pool we use in the summer and give Noah a faux sandbox.  It’s simple to set up and fairly easy cleanup.  Did I mention that Noah spent at least thirty minutes of undivided time in there?  Thirty minutes spent on anything is a pretty big deal in our home.

I placed the pool in the kitchen so I could easily sweep up any mess that was thrown out during play.  Then I poured about three or four cups of oatmeal into the pool area.  It wasn’t a lot, but it was plenty for entertainment.  If you don’t have oatmeal on hand lentils or beans would work great too.  I’m thinking about putting some in next time for variety in color and texture.  We added a few play cars, two plastic people, a spatula, a couple bowls for pouring, and we were set. 
I took Noah’s pants off to minimize cleanup and avoid getting oat flour all over the place.  I also didn’t have to worry about losing it up his pants.  I was a little concerned he would end up with an oatmeal diaper, but I figured since oatmeal is so good for the skin it wouldn’t be a big deal.  After playtime it wasn’t an issue at all. Just like at the playground, Noah’s favorite activity was picking up handfuls of oatmeal and pouring it everywhere.  There seems to be something especially fabulous about the sensation of dirt/oatmeal/whatever flowing down his head and face.  We’re talking squeals of joy fabulous.  Silly boy!

In an act of frugality, I poured the oatmeal back into a plastic container and stored it in a bin with his other activity materials for later use.  Easy peasy.

The oatmeal sandbox was a great success.  We will definitely be using this a lot throughout the fall and winter months for some warm, entertaining play.  I’m excited to try some of the new “fillers” and see how Noah likes them.

I have to say, I think this pool is going to be an overall lifesaver this winter.  Noah loves to just jump in it and… sit there.  He’s such a funny guy.  I’ve found that it’s a great way to contain legos and keep him entertained and focused.  There’s something about him being in his own space.  Perhaps the pool will become our “discovery circle.”  I’m looking forward to implementing it more into our daily life and letting the fun play out.

We wish you happiest discoveries for your day!

Nicole and Noah

The Invitation

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I hate to admit it, but sometimes I base my participation in any particular event on the invitation.  Whatever fun times may be had, I am much more enticed when there is something exciting or lovely to attract my senses.  It’s likely you feel the same way, and frankly I don’t blame you one bit.  We’re that way with everything – decorating our homes, getting ready in the morning, dressing our children, even worship at church.  We use these preparation times to give a warm, welcome invitation to what we are about to encounter.

Our children are no different.  Especially when they are approached with a new experience.  As moms, dads, or caregivers, we know that playing with play dough or getting messy with finger paints is amazing fun for a young child.  But our children don’t know it.  And they are skeptical.  They’re likely thinking, “What in the world is this goopy, slimy, substance you want me to put my hands in?  Are you crazy?!”  And we smile and stick their hands right into the middle of it, telling them how much fun they’re having.  All the while your baby is crying, pulling his hands away and holding them up in the air, unsure of how to handle the assault.  This may sound a bit dramatic but it’s pretty much EXACTLY what happened in our home last Friday while introducing Noah to finger painting. 

I was tired after being in the hospital and decided something new and fun for Noah to try would be the perfect way to cheer up our day.  And I thought Chris would loved to be surprised with a brand-spankin’-new, first-time-ever, paint hand print by our cutie pie.  So I set the table up with a big sheet of white paper, taped it down, got the paints set up, and pulled the highchair to the table.  I stripped Noah down to his diaper for easy clean-up.  Perfect.  Noah LOVES getting messy and touching different textures.  I pride myself on letting him discover uninhibited and knew that this new activity would be a hit.  Or so it could have been.  But being an over-excited and over-zealous mom, I thought I would do the hand prints first and then let Noah go wild.  So I took his little hands and put them palm-down directly in the paint and mushed it all around for full coverage.  Then I brought them to the paper and held them down against his will to make sure we got a full hand print.  That was the moment of “what are you doing to me, crazy lady?!”  Noah pulled his hands up, looked at them and was at a complete loss.  He had absolutely no interest in playing with more paint, no-matter how many times I tried putting a single finger in the paint to encourage him.  He grabbed his highchair, trying to get out of the torture trap, leaving messy blue and green paint all over the place.  As quickly as I could I got him cleaned up enough to give him the freedom he was desperately desiring.  My all-time fun plan bombed.  Miserably.  I didn’t save the paper with the first painting because, really, it wasn’t his first painting.  It was me forcing his hands all over the place, all the while smiling, telling him about the textures and trying to convince him that this was the best thing ever.

I didn’t consider the invitation.  The way you entice your child to want to delve into a new, wonderful adventure.  After I finished cleaning the dining area up, all I could think was that I’m sure if I had just placed the paints in front of him, Noah would have tentatively stuck a finger in the paint, looked at it for a while, then he would have tried it again.  And again and again.  And he probably would have touched the paper and through self-discovery realized that he could leave fun marks and colors all over the place.  Joy would have been ours.

“Play at Home Mom,” a blog with TONS of great, creative ideas for sensory exploration, uses the term “invitation” all of the time when introducing the new fun time they are going to have with their kids.  I never truly considered this term or its implications until our finger painting ordeal.  Until it made sense.  This whole amazing world is a completely new experience to our children and we need to give them the opportunity to discover on their own and to encourage them to keep discovering.  By setting a play time up with an attractive invitation we are telling our kids that they are safe and free to learn uninhibited.  What a beautiful concept.

From now on I will do the same work to set up a fun learning environment, however I will also be more conscious to allow Noah to discover on his own, at his own pace.  As he becomes comfortable with our new-found creations I will have the opportunity to come alongside and coach him on all of the wonderful things he is experiencing.  Colors.  Textures.  Scents.  Wonderful, new adventures.  So similar to how the Lord invites us to discover His Word and as we do so, His Spirit teaches us discernment, wisdom, and allows us access to direction for our lives.  As penned by Paul in Colossians 2:2-5, “My purpose is that they [the church] may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge… I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are an how firm your faith in Christ is.”  Just as we delight to see our children recognize and discover the lovely world around them, growing and maturing, so the Lord delights to have us discover Him, becoming mature and grounded.  I want to give Noah the same loving guidance and direction that my Father gives me.

Life With a Toddler, Beyond Routine

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Autumn is easily my favorite season – everything about it…  The gorgeous palette of the changing trees.  The scents of pumpkin, cinnamon, and apple spice.  The crisp air that permeates sweaters worn without coats.  Baking delicious, savory treats.  The perfect legging-running weather, where you start out thinking you need a coat and feel perfect by the finish.  I relish every single ounce of autumn.

But now I am Mommy to an extremely active and curious 15-month-old boy, and suddenly, as fall has come upon us, I have found myself at a loss.  Summer was perfect for active discovery.  We went outside every day to check out the garden, take long stroller runs, play in the wading pool, climb park big toys, and experience all of the fun textures available in dirt, bark, and grass.  And prep time was simple.  It was an ideal world of ease and exploration.

Fall is a completely different story.  Cold, rainy days keep us cooped up inside with few options for climbing.  Playing with the same toys, doing the same things, become boring and less than stimulating.  For both of us.  I found Noah becoming antsy more quickly (or maybe that was me) and myself complaining more and more to Chris that I needed to get out and do something.  Chris’ life was looking glamorous with student lunches, meetings, and deadlines.  Oh, my!

I realized that we needed more diversity in our life; we needed to think outside the box of what had become routine-driven days.  I started searching blogs and websites to expand our little world of discovery.  And I am excited to say that we’re having some fun here in the Pope home!  We’re learning, discovering, and trying more in new, creative ways.  We’ve had some fabulous success and some unexpected breakdowns.  Noah certainly isn’t the only one learning here.  I’m figuring out how to prepare and present our discovery times, as well as how to more effectively execute them.  It’s wonderful to have stimulating endeavors for both us.  Noah is growing and (I hope) learning more about the world around him, while I’m rediscovering and exercising my creativity muscles.

I can’t wait to show you some of our adventures.  We’ve had fun, and there is a whole lot more excitement to be had!  I’m hoping you may find our experiences inspiring for your own little troopers.  I’m also hoping you may share more ideas that I would never consider.  I think we’re going to have a great time together!

One of our first expeditions was with bath time, which was perfect because it also happens to be a regular highlight of Noah’s day.  So how did we make something fabulous even better?  With color, of course!

As I filled the tub with water I added my color dye of choice.  In this case, blue.  Although I’m sure there are better options, I had food dye on hand, and so that is what I used.  I added just enough to tint the water, but not so much that I thought his skin would stain.  I didn’t really want a resident smurf.  After filling the tub I took all of his blue bath toys and tossed them in.  I also added a blue plastic plate and bowl to pour and play with the water (these were a big hit).   At the end we topped it off by scrubbing down with a blue washcloth.

Noah having fun playing “the blues”

There were so many fun opportunities to play with different shades of blue and talk about the various textures of toys.  It was like opening up a color-themed book and letting him actually experience it.  What a great time!