Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Initial Fleece Pillows

Fleece is easy to work with because it cuts easily and doesn’t fray. K-2  kids can handle a needle and thread (really!) or work with supervision on a sewing machine. For this project, which is great for all ages, my After School Enrichment students pinned and sewed their letters onto the fronts, pinned and sewed the fronts and backs of the pillows together, added stuffing, and then sewed them shut. Voila! Soft, personalized pillows!

Party idea: These pillows are their own take party activity and take home “favor!” For a virtual party, drop off supplies at party-goer’s houses and then create activity via the internet. I just mailed supplies for Spring Bling Countertop Containers to my nieces and nephews and, after they arrive, we’ll set a Zoom date so we can create together. Fun!

Happy creating, hon!

Initial Fleece Pillows

Supplies:

–paper, pencil, ruler, scissors

–2 colors of fleece, one color for initial, contrasting color for pillow body, amount of fleece depends on finished size of pillow, Tip: Need fleece? Cut up an old blanket, jacket or shirt.

–needle and thread (if sewing by hand) or sewing machine

–straight pins

–stuffing

Directions:

  1. Draw paper patter for initial (or other shape). Draw paper pattern for outline of pillow, whatever size you choose, measuring to make sure sides are equal. {Top & bottom should measure the same and left & right sides should measure the same.}
  2. Cut out one fleece initial. Cut out two equal pieces for pillow body (front and back).
  3. Pin initial onto center of front and sew it on, either using whipstitch or straight stitch.
  4. Pin front and back pieces together. Sew all four sides, leaving about a 2″ opening. Tip: Seams were sewn about 1 1/2″ in from outer edges of fleece. Chalk or a light pencil mark can be used to draw seam lines to follow while sewing.
  5. In 2″ opening, insert stuffing. Tip: a chopstick or thin, long tool will aid in pushing stuffing into four corners. When pillow is as stuffed as you want, sew pillow closed.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Garden Snack

Ida Frosk’s pretty plate.
Ida Frosk’s adorable birds.
Garden Snack.

Fun With Food!

The last Food Art project my K-2 After School Enrichment students created was inspired by Ida Frosk’s pretty plate and adorable birds. So fun assembling Garden Snacks and then, of course, eating them!

Ingredients:
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • cucumbers
  • red and green peppers
  • sugar snap peas
  • cream cheese colored with green food coloring
  • any other fruit and veggies you want to add to your “garden”
Directions:
  1. Slice green peppers into stems, cut strawberries in half, and cut up red pepper into petals.
  2. Using cream cheese as “glue,” layer ladybugs and create a picture.
  3. Eat and enjoy!

Tips on Isolation from Astronaut Scott Kelly

Captain Scott Kelly
Captain Kelly being interviewed by The New York Times journalist, Jonathan Schwartz, on 10/17 at West Orange High School.

I’d pay attention to Scott Kelly even if I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting him with my daughter’s Space Exploration class! The students met him privately before attending his interview with journalist Jonathan Schwartz to discuss his memoir Endurance.

He published an excellent article in The New York Times“I Spent a Year in Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share, Take it from someone who couldn’t: Go outside.”

Favorite line: “I’ve found that most problems aren’t rocket science, but when they are rocket science, you should ask a rocket scientist

Take it from someone who couldn’t: Go outside.

By

Mr. Kelly is a retired NASA astronaut who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station.

Being stuck at home can be challenging. When I lived on the International Space Station for nearly a year, it wasn’t easy. When I went to sleep, I was at work. When I woke up, I was still at work. Flying in space is probably the only job you absolutely cannot quit.

But I learned some things during my time up there that I’d like to share — because they are about to come in handy again, as we all confine ourselves at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Here are a few tips on living in isolation, from someone who has been there.

Follow a schedule

On the space station, my time was scheduled tightly, from the moment I woke up to when I went to sleep. Sometimes this involved a spacewalk that could last up to eight hours; other times, it involved a five-minute task, like checking on the experimental flowers I was growing in space. You will find maintaining a plan will help you and your family adjust to a different work and home life environment. When I returned to Earth, I missed the structure it provided and found it hard to live without.

But pace yourself

When you are living and working in the same place for days on end, work can have a way of taking over everything if you let it. Living in space, I deliberately paced myself because I knew I was in it for the long haul — just like we all are today. Take time for fun activities: I met up with crewmates for movie nights, complete with snacks, and binge-watched all of “Game of Thrones” — twice.

And don’t forget to include in your schedule a consistent bedtime. NASA scientists closely study astronauts’ sleep when we are in space, and they have found that quality of sleep relates to cognition, mood, and interpersonal relations — all essential to getting through a mission in space or a quarantine at home.

You can also practice an instrument (I just bought a digital guitar trainer online), try a craft, or make some art. Astronauts take time for all of these while in space. (Remember Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s famous cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity?)

Keep a journal

NASA has been studying the effects of isolation on humans for decades, and one surprising finding they have made is the value of keeping a journal. Throughout my yearlong mission, I took the time to write about my experiences almost every day. If you find yourself just chronicling the days’ events (which, under the circumstances, might get repetitive) instead try describing what you are experiencing through your five senses or write about memories. Even if you don’t wind up writing a book based on your journal like I did, writing about your days will help put your experiences in perspective and let you look back later on what this unique time in history has meant.

Take time to connect

Even with all the responsibilities of serving as commander of a space station, I never missed the chance to have a videoconference with family and friends. Scientists have found that isolation is damaging not only to our mental health, but to our physical health as well, especially our immune systems. Technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch, so it’s worth making time to connect with someone every day — it might actually help you fight off viruses.

Listen to experts

I’ve found that most problems aren’t rocket science, but when they are rocket science, you should ask a rocket scientist. Living in space taught me a lot about the importance of trusting the advice of people who knew more than I did about their subjects, whether it was science, engineering, medicine, or the design of the incredibly complex space station that was keeping me alive.

Especially in a challenging moment like the one we are living through now, we have to seek out knowledge from those who know the most about it and listen to them. Social media and other poorly vetted sources can be transmitters of misinformation just as handshakes transmit viruses, so we have to make a point of seeking out reputable sources of facts, like the World Health Organization and the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

We are all connected

Seen from space, the Earth has no borders. The spread of the coronavirus is showing us that what we share is much more powerful than what keeps us apart, for better or for worse. All people are inescapably interconnected, and the more we can come together to solve our problems, the better off we will all be.

One of the side effects of seeing Earth from the perspective of space, at least for me, is feeling more compassion for others. As helpless as we may feel stuck inside our homes, there are always things we can do — I’ve seen people reading to children via videoconference, donating their time and dollars to charities online, and running errands for elderly or immuno-compromised neighbors. The benefits for the volunteer are just as great as for those helped.

Go outside

One of the things I missed most while living in space was being able to go outside and experience nature. After being confined to a small space for months, I actually started to crave nature — the color green, the smell of fresh dirt, and the feel of warm sun on my face. That flower experiment became more important to me than I could have ever imagined. My colleagues liked to play a recording of Earth sounds, like birds and rustling trees, and even mosquitoes, over and over. It brought me back to earth. (Although occasionally I found myself swatting my ears at the mosquitoes. )

For an astronaut, going outside is a dangerous undertaking that requires days of preparation, so I appreciate that in our current predicament, I can step outside any time I want for a walk or a hike — no spacesuit needed. Research has shown that spending time in nature is beneficial for our mental and physical health, as is exercise. You don’t need to work out two and a half hours a day, as astronauts on the space station do, but getting moving once a day should be part of your quarantine schedule (just stay at least six feet away from others).

You need a hobby

When you are confined in a small space you need an outlet that isn’t work or maintaining your environment.

Some people are surprised to learn I brought books with me to space. The quiet and absorption you can find in a physical book — one that doesn’t ping you with notifications or tempt you to open a new tab — is priceless. Many small bookstores are currently offering curbside pickup or home delivery service, which means you can support a local business while also cultivating some much-needed unplugged time.

I’ve seen humans work together to prevail over some of the toughest challenges imaginable, and I know we can prevail over this one if we all do our part and work together as a team.

Oh, and wash your hands — often.

Scott Kelly is a retired NASA astronaut who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station.

 

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Picasso Inspired Food Art

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937
The Art Toast Project by Ida Frosk.

Another Food Art project for my K-2 After School Enrichment students was inspired by Ida Frosk’s The Art Toast Project and her interpretation of Picasso’s cubism. I love how the kids used the ingredients to make their own cubist portraits of a woman.

Ingredients:
  • bread
  • butter or cream cheese
  • cheese slices
  • raisins
  • yellow pepper
  • roasted red pepper
  • lettuce or parsley
  • black licorice string
Directions:
  1. Discuss Picasso and cubism.
  2. Using butter and/or cream cheese as “glue,” create a cubist portrait.
  3. Eat and enjoy!

Easy DIY Kids Craft: Mondrian Inspired Food Art

Piet Mondrian, Composition A, 1923
Painterly Plate

One of the After School Enrichment classes for K-2 that I taught focused on food: a combination of easy recipes and “food art” inspired by blogger, Ida Frosk. I became enamored of “The Art Toast Project” which consisted of “edible remakes of major works by famous artists, using a piece of toast as the canvas. The idea was based on the literal interpretation of ‘food art’ and the desire to make art more accessible.” Frosk said the main purpose of the project was “spreading the love of art.”Another cool source of inspiration is Laleh Mohmedi as seen on My Modern Met.

Though my students made dessert versions of “Mondrian Inspired Food Art,” healthier versions can be constructed. Use your imagination to include whatever combination of sweet, salty and healthy ingredients you want. Rather than making these “pictures” on toast, my kids spread icing on wax paper, but toast would give the food art a natural border.

Happy creating, hon!

Mondrian Inspired Food Art

Ingredients:

  • white icing (or cream cheese)
  • Life cereal (Chex cereal, graham crackers, small crackers)
  • Starburst (colorful sliced carrots or peppers cut into squares)
  • Air Heads Extremes (string cheese, linguini noodles cooked, celery, cucumbers or zucchini sliced into thin strips, pretzels)
  • sour candy belts (peppers, tomatoes, or strawberries cut into squares or rectangles)
  • wax paper or toast depending on chosen “canvas”
  • knife for spreading

Directions:

  1. Discuss Mondrian.
  2. Cut candy or veggies into shapes and lengths so that they’re ready to be assembled.
  3. Spread icing or cream cheese on wax paper or toast.
  4. Apply pieces of food into an abstract, graphic piece of “art.”
  5. Eat and enjoy!

 

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Felt Owls

What’s your project’s name? That’s the question SCBWI, the professional Kidlit organization I belong to, asked writers and illustrators who are offering tools, resources, and ideas for kids during the quarantine. I’m calling the collection of posts in the next few weeks (months?) EASY DIY KIDS CRAFTS (including kid-centric recipes, of course). Here’s one I haven’t posted before.

The story behind these adorable felt owls? My youngest daughter and I were visiting friends in Nashville (shout out to Laura) and, while window shopping, saw a basket of oh-so-cute owls. I couldn’t wait to share the idea with my grades 3-5 After School Enrichment class, so I stored an image of the owls and figured out how to make them.

Happy crafting, hon!

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Supplies:

  • paper
  • pencil
  • small glass, cup or circle cookie cutter
  • scissors (fabric scissors that can cut felt or scissors sharp enough)
  • felt, various colors
  • tapestry needle and thick thread
  • straight pins
  • 2 buttons
  • stuffing

Directions:

  1. On paper, draw outline of an owl along with a pocket-shape for front, beak, feet, eyes (trace around glass, cup or circle cookie cutter for eyes).
  2. Cut out paper patterns.
  3. Using paper patterns on top of felt, outline 2 owl bodies (front and back), 1 pocket-shape, 1 beak, 2 large circles, 2 smaller circles for eyes, 2 feet.
  4. Stitch a button onto each small circle (for eyes).
  5. Pin pocket-shaped piece of felt onto front of owl’s body and then whipstitch it on.
  6. Sew eyes front of owl.
  7. Sew beak to front of owl.
  8. Sew feet to bottom of front of owl.
  9. Pin front and back pieces together and then sew them together, leaving about a 1 1/2″ – 2″ opening unsewn. (I taught my students how to sew the pieces together using a sewing machine, but the front and back can just as easily be hand sewn together, using a whipstitch.  Tip: When you get to the feet, sew front and back pieces together with a regular stitch and resume whipstitch around the rest of the body.
  10. Push stuffing through unsewn opening. Tip: A long, skinny tool such as a chopstick or long pen will help move stuffing into ears and fill body.
  11. Sew opening closed.

 

Extra Info:

–The top of the pocket-shaped piece of felt can be left open to make an actual pocket.

–Fabric, other than felt, can be used for the eyes and pocket-shaped piece.

–Love a different animal? The same directions apply for any animal. Outline it and other animals parts such as ears and a tail.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: DIY Stress Ball

DIY Stress Balls
DIY Stress Balls

Ease the Stress Stress Balls

(Kids craft that’s not just for kids!)

My daughter made a Stress Ball at camp and, since I liked it so much, she taught me how to make my own. It’s sooo fun to squish! It relieves stress! It’s easy to make!

When my daughter was helping me fill the balloon, I said, “Wow, I didn’t think it could fit that much flour.” My teen daughter replied (visualize an eye roll and sarcastic voice), “Mom, it’s a balloon.”

Point taken.

Warning: Flour will floof onto the floor as you fill the balloon.

Supplies: a balloon, flour, spoon, permanent markers, pom-pom optional
Supplies: a balloon, flour, spoon, permanent markers, pom-pom optional
1. Fill balloon with flour.
1. Fill balloon with flour.
2. Knot balloon closed. Draw on face. Tie pom pom to balloon under the knot.
2. Knot balloon closed. Draw face. Tie pom-pom to balloon under the knot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Stress Ball Supplies:

–balloon

–flour

–spoon

–permanent markers

–pom-pom, optional

Stress Ball Directions:

  1. Two people are needed.  One person holds the balloon open and one spoons in the flour. Flour will get everywhere, so fill over a bowl or plate. We used a lot of flour, filling until the balloon reached a squishiness we liked.
  2. Knot the balloon closed.  Draw a face.  Tie a pom-pom around the balloon knot, making sure the pom-pom knot is secured under the balloon knot.

Pom-Pom Supplies:

–yarn or string, same or different colors

–cardboard (we used an old cereal box)

–scissors

Pom-Pom Directions:

  1. Fold a piece of cardboard in half.  Trace a circle around a glass.  Draw another circle inside, about 1 to 11/2 inches from first circle. Cut out circles.
  2. Starting with about 2 arm spans of yarn, wrap yarn around doubled cardboard circles. If you run out of yarn and/or want to change colors, attach a new piece of yarn to old one and continue wrapping.
  3. When yarn has been wrapped around cardboard circles several times, slip a scissors between the circles.  Cut the outer perimeter of yarn.
  4. Slip a separate piece of yarn between the cardboard circles. Keeping that piece of yarn taught, draw it to the center of circles.
  5. Hold pom-pom yarn still while bringing taught yarn ends completely around circles. Tie tightly and knot. Remove pom-pom from cardboard.
  6. Keep ends of knotted yarn hanging out. They will be used to secure the pom-pom to the balloon Stress Ball.

 

1. Fold a piece of cardboard in half. Trace a circle within a circle. Cut out circles.
1. Fold a piece of cardboard in half. Trace a circle within a circle, about 1 to 1/2 ” from 1st circle. Cut out circles.
2. Wrap yarn around doubled cardboard circles.
2. Wrap yarn around doubled cardboard circles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3. Slip scissors between cardboard and cut around perimeter of outer circles.
3. Slip scissors between cardboard and cut around perimeter of outer circles.
4. Slip a separate piece of between the cardboard circles and draw to center.
4. Slip a separate piece of yarn between the cardboard circles. Keeping that piece of yarn taught, draw it to the center of circles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5. Cinch separate piece of yarn tight. Knot that yarn, securing the cut yarn in the middle. Remove pom-pom from cardboard.
5. Hold pom-pom yarn still while bringing taught yarn ends completely around circles. Tie tightly and knot. Remove pom-pom from cardboard.
6. Keep end of knotted yarn hanging out. They will be used to secure the pom-pom to the balloon.
6. Keep ends of knotted yarn hanging out. They will be used to secure the pom-pom to the balloon Stress Ball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stress Balls hanging out.
Stress Balls hanging out.
Stress Balls with personalities.
Stress Balls with personalities.