Easy DIY Play Dough

This week at preschool, the theme is Senses. What better way for young children to engage with touch than playing with Play Dough? I’d never actually made Play Dough before, but it was easy! I added cinnamon to the recipe on The Best Ideas for Kids. We’re going to smell “spicy.” Fun!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • food coloring

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and cream of tartar. Mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, add food coloring to the water. Then add the colored water and vegetable oil to a large pot. Mix together.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to your pot and mix.
  4. Cook over low to medium heat until the dough starts to form and becomes drier, stirring often.
  5. Once the mixture starts to form a body and looks fully cooked, take it off the heat. (Tip: Spoon it onto a plate or surface to cool.) Let the dough cool first before touching. 
  6. Once cool, knead the dough for 5 minutes to make the dough soft. If your dough is not soft, continue kneading for another 5 minutes. If you find it is still too dry add a little bit more oil and knead in.

Tips from The Best Ideas for Kids:

How to Keep Playdough Soft

First wrap your playdough in saran wrap then store in an air-tight container. You’ll notice that playdough will go hard if left out – so the less air that can get to the playdough when storing, the longer it will last!

How Do I Make Playdough Soft Again?

If your playdough dries out and turns out to be a little dry after making it, try adding in a little more oil first. You can knead the oil in with your hands. You can also knead in a little bit of water.

Hamantashen–Easy Recipe

Raspberry, apricot and chocolate Hamantaschen

The Jewish holiday of Purim may have ended, but I’ve only just started baking Hamantaschen! It may seem surprising, but I am a Hamantaschen newbie and there are many more flavors I’d like to try. How do apple, lemon and Nutella filling sound? For the holiday, Oheb Shalom Congregation hosted an online baking class for the Hebrew School kids. I took the opportunity to clean off my counter, dust it with flour, and get rolling!

What’s your favorite filling?

Easy Hamantaschen

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature (Margarine may be substituted to make cookies parve.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons Orange juice (iIf you don’t have OJ, lemon juice will work.)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • any flavor of filling such as jelly or chocolate chips (Tip: pie filling may have a bit more body, but I haven’t tried it yet.)

Directions:

  1. With hand or stand mixer, mix together butter (or margarine), egg, sugar, vanilla, and orange juice (or lemon juice).
  2. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
  3. Roll out dough on a floured board to about ¼-inch thickness. Cut into circles. Fill the circle with approximately 1 teaspoon filling and pinch dough into triangles around the filling. Place on cooking sheet. (Tip: Collect extra dough and combine for more cookies.)
  4. Bake at 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. 

Yield: Depends on size of circles. I used a juice glass as a cookie cutter and made 30 cookies.

Love to Read? Share It With Kids on March 2: Read Across America

I’m on a big screen.

Full Circle Circle Time

Opportunity: Read to students as part of  LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day.

Problem: How to engage kids over Skype?

Solution: Check in with middle-grade author Darlene Beck-Johnson who shared tips from her own Skype visits.

Full Circle: Being interviewed by Marilyn Ostermiller for an article in honor of Read Across America to be posted on Darlene’s blog, GOLD FROM THE DUST: Bringing Stories to Life!

Thanks, Marilyn and Darlene!

“When people make the time to read with children, children get the message that reading is important.” NEA

Students, parents, teachers and people from many walks of life, will read to children March 2,  in recognition of “National Read Across America Day,” a program the National Education Association established 20 some years ago. 

Athletes and actors will issue reading challenges to young readers. Governors and other elected officials will recognize the role of reading with proclamations.

Naomi Gruer, a children’s writer and preschool teacher, participated in a remote event,   “World Read Aloud Day,” a few years ago.

“Reading to kids made me so happy because, in that moment, we explored the world inside the story together.”

To prepare the children for the online experience, Naomi asked them to listen for certain things as she read — a funny incident or a silly outcome or a character acting in a peculiar way. “The minute I was on Skype with the kids, everything else melted away. It was as if I was in the classroom with them,” she said.

Later, as a Microsoft Guest Educator, she was asked by several educators to read to their students. One request came from a teacher in Spain, who wanted English to be read to her classroom.

Naomi applied the same format to all her remote classroom sessions: an introduction, followed by reading (either chapters or picture books depending on the age of the students.)

“They listened actively and were ready to point out and discuss the humor. Introducing students to my dog was the ultimate ice breaker.” Naomi blogs at https://bmoreenergy.wordpress.com

What You Can Do:

There are many free and low cost ways to provide children with books in print, online, audio and video formats. For example, the “We Need Diverse Books” program provides free diverse books to schools serving low-income students around the country.

To learn more:

Visit https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america/support-your-readers/free-materials

How to help kids develop the reading habit:

Keep books everywhere you spend time. Put them in the car, in every room of the house and tuck them in backpacks and purses.

Visit the library often. Knowing how to use the library and learning the benefits of a library fosters a love of reading as well as a genuine respect for the services libraries provide.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist and voracious reader of  children’s books.

Mars: Top Ten Fun Facts


One of the first images taken by Perseverance on Mars!

Do you remember when I had the good fortune of chaperoning Team Mercury to the Kennedy Space Center? My daughter, along with her team of high school Space Exploration students and their teacher John Yi, took a trip to the KSC when they won NASA’s App Development Challenge. We watched the launch of a rocket, NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort-2, toured the building where rockets are built, the Vehicle Assembly Building, built our own rockets, stood under the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and learned about NASA’s work to get Perseverance to Mars through lectures and participation in the Mars Experience.

On February, 18, 2021, Perseverance landed on Jezero Crater on Mars, and the excitement of the engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab was palpable. Perseverance, which launched from Earth on July 30, 2020, will stay on Mars at lease one Mars year (657 Earth days) with a goal of seeking “signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.” Hon, did you watch the landing? Want to view raw images from Mars? Click here.

Top Ten Fun Facts About Mars

  1. Mars is named after the Roman God of war.
  2. Mars is red because of rusty iron in the ground.
  3. The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  4. There are signs of ancient floods on Mars, but now water mostly exists in icy dirt and thin clouds.
  5. A day on Mars is 24 hours and 37 minutes.
  6. A year on Mars is 687 Earth days because it takes a lot longer than Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun.
  7. Mars has two moons. Their names are Phobos and Deimos.
  8. Based on the make-up of the planet and atmosphere (iron, magnesium, sulfur, acids and CO2), researchers have concluded that Mars smells like rotten eggs.
  9. Mars is home to the highest mountain in our solar system, a volcano called Olympus Mons, which is about three times the height of Mount Everest.
  10. The first spacecrafts to land on Mars were the Viking Landers, which touched down on the surface in 1976.

Sources: NASA Science Space Place, Australian Academy of Science, National Geographic Kids

Cool Craft for Kids & Teens, Shrinky Dinks Animal Key Chains

Animal Lovers Kids and Teen Craft

Here’s another take on Shrinky Dinks crafts. Supplies and steps for these horse key chains are the same as the fashion key chains. I taught After School Enrichment classes for several years, and often had repeat students so, though projects may have used similar mediums and supplies, I varied content. Some kids traced patterns from scrapbooking paper while others made up their own designs. They used jump rings to attach pieces and Wikki Stix to create manes. Horses are just the start; templates for any animal can be created.

Shrinky Dinks Animal Key Chains

Supplies:

Steps:

  1. Draw an animal and parts on a piece of paper and add small circles where the pieces will join. Add a small circle to the place where the key ring will later be attached. (On the horse, the key ring hangs from the middle of the back.) Trace outline of body and body parts on Shrinky Dinks sheets. All tracing and coloring should be on “rough” side of SD sheets.
  2. Using colored pencils, color patterns and designs and add animal’s facial features.
  3. Punch holes where small circles are drawn. Be careful to leave space between holes and edges so edges don’t split.
  4. Cut out animal parts.
  5. Follow Shrinky Dinks instructions to bake cut-outs.
  6. After baking, gently flatten pieces that curl up.
  7. Join pieces using jump rings.
  8. Create manes or fur with yarn or Wikki Stix. Feed Wikki Stix through holes and twist to secure. OR feed yarn through holes and knot and trim.
  9. Find the opening where the key ring is to be attached and feed a jump ring through that hole. Attach the key ring to that jump ring.

Tip: Shrinky Dinks shrink A LOT! Keep this in mind and trace a template large enough that when parts are baked and shrink, the key chain isn’t the size of a peanut! Please keep this in mind when drawing circles that will be punched out. You don’t want the holes to be so small, a jump ring won’t fit.

Cool Kids & Teen Craft, Shrinky Dinks Fashion Key Chains

Another Snow Day Kids and Teen Craft

Did you create key chains, jewelry and keepsakes with Shrinky Dinks when you were a kid? I did and my kids did, too. So, when discussing ideas for After School Enrichment classes with a camp art director, she suggested this cool craft. The 2nd – 5th graders in my ASE class loved tracing patterns from wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, and fashion magazines onto their own templates. They colored patterns, added facial features, cut out body parts, and punched holes so the baked pieces could be assembled with jump rings. They added Wikki Stix hair and a key ring and–voila–they had their own Shrinky Dinks Fashion key chains. More template ideas: kids playing sports, dancers, and superheroes. Be creative!

Shrinky Dinks Fashion Key Chains

Supplies:

Steps:

  1. Draw a body and parts on a piece of paper and add small circles where the pieces will join. Trace outline of body and body parts on Shrinky Dinks sheets. All tracing and coloring should be on “rough” side of SD sheets.
  2. Using colored pencils, color clothing patterns and add facial features.
  3. Punch holes where circles are indicated, being careful to leave space between holes and edges so edges don’t split.
  4. Cut out body parts.
  5. Follow Shrinky Dinks instructions to bake cut-outs.
  6. After baking, gently flatten pieces that curl up.
  7. Join pieces using jump rings.
  8. Create hair with yarn or Wikki Stix. Feed Wikki Stix through holes on top of head and twist to secure. OR feed yarn through holes and knot and trim.
  9. Feed a jump ring into middle hole on top of head and then feed key chain ring into that jump ring.

Tip: Shrinky Dinks shrink A LOT! Keep this in mind and trace a template large enough that when parts are baked and shrink, the key chain isn’t the size of a peanut! Please keep this in mind when drawing circles that will be punched out. You don’t want the holes to be so small, a jump ring won’t fit.

Easy DIY Winter Kids Craft, Felt Mitten Bookmarks

Snow Day Activity

I’m re-posting this Easy DIY Winter Kids Craft because it’s quick and creative. Though my K-2 After School Enrichment students enjoyed making their own Felt Mitten Bookmarks, pre-schoolers can also assemble them (Supplies for my Two’s are portioned out in our “Virtual Learning Bin.”) Don’t have suggested supplies? Use what you have. Set up a workstation, fill bowls with decorations, and invite kids to assemble, glue and decorate. Fun and done!

Gather supplies.

Measure ribbon and cut out mitten shapes.

Sandwich ribbon between back and front mittens. Decorate. Let dry.

Felt Mitten Bookmarks
Supplies:  
  • felt (or a thick fabric), small pieces will do
  • fabric glue
  • grosgrain ribbon (or satin ribbon), about 14 inches per bookmark
  • tiny pom-poms
  • small googly eyes
  • any other things to use for decorating such as glitter glue, thin ribbon, foam shapes, sparkly stars
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • marker
  • craft stick (or cotton swabs)
  • newspaper, wax paper, tin foil, or cloth (whatever you don’t mind getting glue-y)
Steps:
  1. Set up craft area with newspaper, wax paper, etc.
  2. What size book is the bookmark being made for? A picture book? A chapter book? Measure the book, then add 6 inches to that measurement, which will allow ribbon to stick out of the top and bottom of the book and to be sandwiched between the felt. For example, if a book measures 8 inches, I’d add 6 inches and cut a 14 inch piece of ribbon
  3. Draw mittens on the felt. Cut 4 mittens out of the felt, making sure they are the same shape so that when they’re glued together, they match up.
  4. Match up the felt mittens, figuring out which will be the fronts and which will be backs. Using craft sticks (or cotton swabs), spread fabric glue on the insides of the mitten. Sandwich 1 inch of the ribbon between the fronts and backs. Press to help glue adhere.
  5. Decorate mittens, either one side of each mitten or both, there’s no right or wrong.Let dry.

Tips:  Trim excess felt. Check seams for gaps and, using craft stick (or cotton swab), add extra fabric glue where needed.

Easy Kids Craft: Shaving Cream Snowmen

Shaving cream/glue snowmen made by a Three’s class.

SNOW FUN!

Creating snowmen or other snowy scenes using a shaving cream/glue combo is snow fun because it engages several senses. The kids smell the shaving cream, listen to the can, feel the texture, and see the color. What ratio of shaving cream to glue to use? According to KiwiCo Corner, “Mix one part shaving cream with one part glue. The mixture ends up thick and goopy–and dries up puffy, like snow!” The “snow paint” can be applied with paintbrushes, sponges, spoons or hands. (Two year-olds like to use their hands. LOL!)

As recommended by a Three’s teacher, I outlined snowmen, glopped “snow paint” onto the snowmen sections, and handed out spoons. Each child picked buttons and a construction paper hat, scarf, eyes, and carrot nose. Fun!

Next multi-media and textured project: Winter scenes of green, felt trees on black construction paper, snow made with both silver glitter and Q-tips dotted white paint. Winter spirit!

Sorbet for the Soul, Hope

HOPE sculpture in Manhattan by Robert Indiana

This is the last of the “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” at least for now. I hope to get back to the MOMA, the MET or any other place where creativity, inspiration and peace of mind resides. Shout out to Lyn Sirota who shared a September 13, 2019 program on TED Radio Hour NPR called “How Art Changes Us.”

Marc Chagall, The Lovers, Oil on canvas.

Gustav Klimt, Hope II, Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar and Clarinet on a Mantelpiece, Oil, sand, and paper on canvas.

Sorbet for the Soul, Modern Art

Big Blue Man statue by French artist Xavier Veilhan.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done was volunteer to teach Art Appreciation in my children’s elementary school. Before I entered kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms, I thoroughly researched artists. I learned so much about Modern Art, and came to appreciate work I hadn’t understood before. The students and I discussed artists, examined paintings and sculptures, and worked on related projects. Fun? Being called “The Art Lady.” Fantastic? Getting a call from a mom who said that when her family visited a Chicago museum, her son remembered learning about Rene Magritte from an Art Appreciation class.

Stanley Whitney, Fly the Wild, Oil on linen canvas

Helen Frankenthaler, Western Dream, Oil on canvas

Piet Mondrian, Composition, Oil on canvas