Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Mini Torahs for Simchat Torah

Chag Sameach! (Happy Holiday)

Simchat Torah (Rejoicing with the Torah) marks the end of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings and the beginning of the new cycle. It is a joyous holiday that celebrates the Jewish love of Torah and study. Simchat Torah is celebrated by taking all the Torah scrolls out of the ark in synagogue and spending the evening dancing, singing, and rejoicing.” (https://toriavey.com/what-is-simchat-torah/)

The 2 year-olds in my preschool class made their own mini Torahs and flags. For the flags, they decorated paper with stickers and then glued the paper onto popsicle sticks. For the Torahs, they finger-painted thin strips of paper. After the paint dried, I hot-glued each end to wrapping paper rolls cut into small tubes. The ends were rolled up and their Torahs were closed with pipe cleaners. They loved waving their flags and showing off their Torahs to the cantor, rabbi and other classes. Fun!

Wrapping paper tubes were cut into 3 inch pieces.
After finger-painting thin strips of finger-paint paper, I hot-glued each end to the small tubes.
Each end of the mini Torahs was rolled toward the center and held together with a pipe cleaner.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Blocks or Bricks Bookends

When an editor requested a book proposal for Back-to-School crafts for a range of ages, I submitted a 33-page proposal that included 75 ideas. The editor passed on the submission– “Sales is now saying they don’t need a back-to-school crafts book (which is not what they were saying when I was searching for a book months ago).”–but, do you know what that left me with? Cool ideas for kids or anyone organizing a desk, office, bookshelf or work area! (And a proposal that may be submitted elsewhere.)

Here’s one of the ideas:

DIY Bookends
Supplies:
  • blocks or bricks
  • paint, 2 colors (I used leftover samples of wall paint for the main color and a small bottle of silver for the contrasting color.)
  • paint brush
  • blue tape or masking tape
  • cardstock
  • ruler, pencil, scissors
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks
Steps:
  1. Set up work area.
  2. Paint blocks or bricks. Let dry. Apply second coat. Let dry.
  3. Once paint has dried, apply tape to create a design.
  4. Paint taped section in contrasting color. Let dry
  5. Measure bottom of blocks or bricks. Using that measurement, cut pieces out of cardstock. (If the bottoms are smooth, this step might not be necessary. My bricks had rough bottoms. Lining them with cardstock means they won’t scratch the shelves.
  6. Glue cardstock to bottom of blocks or bricks.

Tips:

–Imperfect bricks/blocks might be more visually interesting than perfect ones. If there are any sharp edges on wooden blocks, sand first.

–I made three sets of bookends, using different paints for each set, so I marked the paint name on the cardstock in case I need to touch them up.

–Consider the bookends’ weight when determining how many books they will support. For example, lightweight blocks might only support slim books.

DIY Cabinet Makeover

Before.

After.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re at it again!

Hubby and I are shuffling rooms, something we’ve been doing ever since we moved in. When I had a home-based crafts business, a bedroom became my workspace. Fast forward to triplet toddlers, and the dining room transformed into a playroom. (I definitely wasn’t entertaining!) When those same toddlers woke up every day at the crack of dawn, our “sitting room,” a small room between our bedroom and theirs, was fitted with a couch, VCR, mini fridge, and individual containers of cereal. Guess who learned how to pop in Sesame Street and get themselves drinks and snacks? (I call it promoting independence!)

Shared bedrooms gave way to individual bedrooms and back to shared when our fourth child was born. A finished attic, which had been a guest room, became our son’s room when WWIII broke out every morning. The reason?  Triplet tweens fighting over bathroom access before school! (Hubby may or may not have turned the hot water off when certain people hogged the shower!) Tween girls sharing a room argued over bedtime routines and privacy, so we somehow squeezed a twin bed and night table into the “sitting room.”

The basement has been a playroom, party room, craft room, tween and teen hangout area, American Doll sanctuary and, during quarantine, Hubby’s temporary office. Time to switch again! My office is becoming Hubby’s and the “sitting room” is becoming mine. That leads me to my newest project…re-painting an office cabinet. Just like the desk refinished recently, I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, a quick drying paint that covers furniture without priming or sanding, and Clear Chalk Paint Wax, which seals the paint. They’re the same products used to turn three different colored wood dressers and a night table in a matching set.

Refinishing furniture isn’t just relaxing, fun, and satisfying for adults; why not pick a project that kids can work on? For an Easy DIY Kids Craft, let kids choose a piece of furniture (chair, night table, step stool, side table…there are so many possibilities) and paint color. This paint has minimal fumes, goes on smoothly, and washes out with water. It’s a win-win.

Happy DIY’ing, Hon!

Taping edges.

Painting on the porch.

 

Easy DIY Kids Crafts & Recipes: Popovers

The only question I had when serving these light, airy delicious popovers was…Why didn’t I make them earlier? At some point, I’d kept this kid-friendly recipe from a Nick Jr. Family magazine, but had never tried it. Then, when I wanted to make corn bread to accompany Turkey Chili, but had no cornmeal in the house, I came across this recipe. The popovers were a hit!

I also wanted to post my son’s Turkey Chili recipe but was asked not to because, in the event that he enters a Chili Cook-off one day, he doesn’t want his secret ingredients exposed! LOL!

Happy baking, hon!

Popovers
Ingredients:
  • Cooking spray or butter for greasing muffin cups
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk (I used almond milk to make this non-dairy.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease 12 regular-size muffin cups. Grease around the top of the muffin cups to prevent the batter from sticking when the popovers rise.
  2. Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl o high for about 30 to 40 seconds. Set aside.
  3. Crack eggs into a large bowl and mix them with a whisk or wooden spoon.
  4. Mix in the milk, salt, and butter. Add the flour, whisk until batter is very smooth, getting out all of the lumps.
  5. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters full.
  6. Bake 15 minutes, then turn down heat to 35o degrees F. Tip: Look through oven window but DO NOT open oven door or the popovers won’t “pop.” Bake another 18 to 20 minutes, until popovers are puffed up and golden brown.
  7. Tip muffin tin over to release popovers. Serve hot or warm with butter or jam.

Yield: 12 popovers

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Father’s Day Gift, Map Paper Weight

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I was searching for a quick, easy and useful DIY Father’s Day gift idea and came across “Paperweight Pebbles” from Steller.co. Thanks to Steller.co for the photos, instructions, and wish-we-could-travel-right-now gift. The site says, “Be prepared to get very messy, sticky hands… You have to smooth the map over the pebble when it’s covered in glue,” so fair warning, hon.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the wonderful dads out there!

Here’s the How-To:
Supplies:
  • maps
  • rocks (squarer rocks recommended)
  • scissors
  • glue (Elmer’s, white glue, Mod Podge)
Steps:
  1. Cut out section of map, estimating how much is needed to cover rock.
  2. Cover rock with glue.
  3. Wrap rock with map, pressing map into crevices and smoothing seams.
  4. Trim excess map.
  5. Glue any seams that are sticking up.
  6. Let dry.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Decoupage Pet Picture Frame

When I worked at Magic Windows, a high-end children’s boutique in Manhattan, the store’s owner added a tween section. She was game enough to sell my tie-dyed tee-shirts and decoupaged picture frames. First I painted them, then I added  inspirational words and gems and–guess what–they sold!

Fast forward to an After School Enrichment K-2 class that focused on pets. The kids loved making their own pet picture frames with magazines cut outs. Mod Podge is my go-to decoupage medium because it’s all you need to glue, seal and finish this project that’s, seriously, fun for any age kid!

Happy creating, hon!

Supplies:

  • wooden picture frame with flat surface
  • magazine cut-outs, photos, hand-drawn pictures
  • gems or beads, optional
  • Mod Podge
  • foam paint brush (preferred) or paint brush
  • cup off water for cleaning brushes, paper towel or rag for blotting

Instructions:

  1. Glue cut-outs, pics, etc to frame.
  2. Glue gems or beads.
  3. Brush Mod Podge over entire frame surface. Let dry about 15 minutes.
  4. Brush on three to four more layers, letting each layer dry about 15 minutes before reapplying.

Sources:  local craft stores such as A Paper Hat Art + Design Supply, national craft store chains such as such as Michael’s.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Tug-of-War Dog Toy

Lucy loves playing tug-of war.

Therapy Dog

In normal times, I pet and scratch Lucy for my own comfort as well as hers. These aren’t normal times. Everyone in our full house gives Lucy extra hugs and kisses since she’s our very own in-house therapy dog. She has a heart of gold (unless you’re a groundhog), a sweet nature (unless you’re the mailman), and is well trained  (unless you’re eating something she wants).

I was teaching After School Enrichment classes when we adopted Lucy, a Border Collie/Chocolate Lab mixed breed, so I was inspired to teach a Dog Craft Class. One of our projects was this  Tug-of-War Dog Toy. Lucy loved it!

There are two ways to get a similar Tug-of-War Dog Toy. I suspect the second way is a bit sturdier since the ends are braided together.

Version 1 (project for K-2 ASE students)

Supplies:

  • fleece, 3 strips (approximately 4-5 inches by 36 inches) in 3 colors if desired
  • masking tape

Instructions:

  1. Knot 3 strips of fleece together.
  2. Tape to a surface for resistance.
  3. Braid fleece. Knot other end.
  4. Fold braided rope in half. Feed one end of braid in and out of other side, starting in middle of folded rope until two knotted ends meet.
  5. Re-knot ends together and take out separate knots.
Version 2 (Steps and Photos Source-Raising Your Pets Naturally, craft by Tonya Wilhelm)

Supplies:

  • fleece, 3 strips (approximately 4-5 inches by 36 inches) in 3 colors if desired
  • masking tape

Instructions:

  1. Tape three strips of fleece to a surface for resistance but do not knot the end.
  2. “Start your braid from the CENTER of your fabric and braid about 5″ to each side of the center.”
  3. “After you get the center braided (the handle), bring the ends together (3 from one side, 3 from the other) and combine them in pairs so you have 3 doubled parts to continue your braid. Braid the parts together (remember to make each braid taut).”
  4. Knot the end.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts & Recipes: Gluten-Free Mandarin & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not Cardboard!

I’ve found a gluten-free cookie recipe which yields cookies that don’t taste like cardboard. Hallelujah! I’m not a fan of several recipes from Gluten Free Baking by  Michael McCamley,  but I liked this one. The cookies have an all-over chocolate taste with a hint of citrus that complements the chocolate chips.

Happy baking, hon! 

Gluten-Free Mandarin & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces gluten-free semisweet dark chocolate (or gluten-free chocolate chips)
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing (I used margarine.)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 cups gluten-free, wheat-free all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 Tablespoon gluten-free unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free baking soda
  • juice of 1/2 mandarin orange
  • zest of 2 mandarin oranges

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  2. Break or chop chocolate into small chunks and set aside one-quarter of the chunks to top the cookies. (I used chocolate chips so I didn’t break anything up.)
  3. Cream together the sugars and butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg. Add flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda, chocolate chunks, and the orange juice and zest.
  4. Bring the mixture together by hand, forming a ball, and invert onto a floured surface. Divide into 8-10 circles, using about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough per ball. Tip: The mixture is dry and messy, so I add small amounts of warm water until the batter is mixable. Then, grease hands with vegetable oil, combine ingredients, and pinch out batter to make individual cookies.
  5. Place circles on baking sheet, allowing space in between for each cookie to spread. Flatten each cookie slightly and sprinkle with reserved chocolate chunks or chips.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until just firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool o a wire rack.

Yield:  10 cookies

Easy DIY Kids Crafts & Recipes: Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_3194
Perfect for a Picnic
In anticipation of a social distance get together, Hannah and I searched for a cookie recipe that was low in sugar and dairy-free. We came across these “Ultimate Healthy Soft Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies” on Amy’s Healthy Baking and switched out the raisins (picky eaters) for chocolate chips. The result? Yummy guilt-free cookies!
Happy baking, hon!
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup (100g) instant oats (measured correctly & gluten-free if necessary)
  • ¾ cup (90g) whole wheat or gluten-free* flour (measured correctly)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons (28g) coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (I used margarine.)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120mL) honey or agave
  • ¼ cup (40g) raisins (I used chocolate chips.)
Directions:
  1. Whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the agave. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Fold in the raisins (or choc.chips). Chill the cookie dough for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  3. Drop the cookie dough into 15 rounded scoops onto the prepared sheet, and flatten slightly. Bake at 325°F for 11-14 minutes. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

According to Amy’s Healthy Baking,

It’s extremely important to measure both the oats and flour correctly using the spoon-and-level method or a kitchen scale. Too much of either will dry out the cookies and leave them crumbly instead of chewy.

Instant oats are also known as quick-cooking or minute oats. They come in large canisters, just like old-fashioned oats. They are not the ones in the small flavored packets of oatmeal. To make your own, add the same amount of old-fashioned oats to a food processor, and pulse 10-12 times.

For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free instant oats and a gluten-free flour blend. I recommend the following blend: ½ cup (60g) millet flour, 2 tablespoons (15g) tapioca flour, 2 tablespoons (17g) brown rice flour, and ½ teaspoon xanthan gum.

If you prefer, pure maple syrup may be substituted in place of the honey or agave. You may also substitute ½ cup (106g) brown sugar plus ¼ cup (60mL) of milk. Any milk will work.

For the best results, use fresh raisins. Older raisins will be drier, so I recommend hydrating them first. Add the raisins to a microwave-safe bowl, cover them completely with water, and top with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH for 45-60 seconds. Let the raisins sit and absorb moisture until you’re ready to add them to the dough. Drain them thoroughly before folding in.

Yield: 15 cookies

IMG_3193

Easy DIY Kids Activities: Paper Plate Crafts

Source: I Heart Craft Things

When I was an assistant pre-school teacher for the Transitional Two’s at HGEEC, the kids made lots of paper plate creations. I Heart Craft Things’ “Paper Plate Fluttering Butterfly Craft,” pictured above, would have gone great with the two, three and four year-old’s butterfly units.  Butterfly habitats were ordered, and the children watched caterpillars eat, form chrysalises, and transform into butterflies. Then they set them free.

Best kid quote: Upon seeing a butterfly open and close its wings, a two-year old girl said, “The butterfly is clapping!” How cute is that?!

Want 8 more imaginative paper plate crafts for kids?

Quill.com’s  Tiffany Jersey said,

If you’ve only used paper plates to simplify the clean-up process after a barbecue, prepare to discover a whole new world. Because they’re plentiful and inexpensive, paper plates make for a fantastic children’s craft supply. When it comes to paper plate crafts, the themes available are nearly endless, from animals and masks to flowers and holiday décor. We’ve rounded up eight creative paper plate craft ideas for kids (although you might find that the whole family wants to get in on the fun).

Note: In addition to scissors and paint or markers, many of the crafts require a few additional supplies. Always supervise little ones as needed.

Click here to find out how to create a paper plate Jellyfish, Fox, Puppy, Hedgehog, Pumpkin, Christmas Trees, Wings and Shaker. 

Happy creating, hon!