Easy DIY Kids Activity: Ice Painting

Winter Lessons, Exploring Ice

Both my two year-old class and not-quite-two kiddos loved exploring ice. Some were tentative about touching it and some reached right in. Each child had his/her own tray of ice in addition to the large tray. What does it feel like? What does it do when it’s being held? What’s dripping on the floor? Is it hard or soft? And what sound does it make when you shake the tray? So fun!

Directly related to exploring ice is Ice Painting. Though Ice Painting may seem like a winter-only Easy DIY Kids Activity, it’s a great science-related lesson any time of year–think water/ice, liquid/solid, and hot/cold. Here’s what you need:

Supplies:

  • ice tray
  • craft sticks
  • water
  • watercolor paints or food coloring
  • paper

Directions:

  1. Add either watercolor paint or food coloring to water and stir.
  2. Pour colored water into ice tray. Set craft sticks in ice tray sections. Freeze.
  3. Pop sections out of ice tray and paint with “ice paint.”

Note: Ice paint will melt as it’s being used which adds to the experience. Partly used sections may be re-frozen and used again.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” and Kindness

Image source, BBSMI
Flags fly at Liberty State Park.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Kindness is the theme at preschool. Kindness is taught all year, but this week it’s emphasized with child-led acts of kindness. What can young children do?

This poem by Edgar Albert Guest is thought-provoking and meaningful. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech is timeless and needs to be read, repeated, studied and proclaimed now more than ever.

Transcript of speech by 
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
August 28, 1963. Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. 

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. 

Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. 

But one hundred years later the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. 

One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. 

One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the comers of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. 

We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God’s children. 

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted citizenship rights. 

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. 

And the marvelous new militarism which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize that their destiny is part of our destiny. 

So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.” 

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood. 

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. 

I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 

I have a dream today. 

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. 

I have a dream today. 

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and before the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. 

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the mount with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, )mowing that we will be free one day. 

And I say to you today my friends, let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! 

Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado! 

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California! 

But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia! 

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee! 

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. 

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”

Easy and Important Kids Activity: Sensory Play

Sensory table.

Some preschoolers don’t mind getting their hands sticky, gluey, and dirty, while others pull their hands back when introduced to unfamiliar textures. Example: glueing feathers to outlined hands to create turkeys. Observation: some kids spread their fingers to be outlined and some have to be prodded. Most kids didn’t mind sticking feathers to a gluey surface, but others will only touch the surface lightly and then hold up fingers in a way that says, “I don’t liking this feeling.”

Despite the different tolerance levels, all the kids love playing in the water table. They enjoyed the floating pumpkin pieces and, similarly, the water-table-as-a-giant-sensory-bin is a hit! It’s filled with pinecones, colorful blocks, gear-like connecting pieces, and measuring cups and shovels. I can’t wait to create different texture combinations using pasta, snow, ice, and assorted found objects.

According to Amanda Morin for verywellfamily, “Sensory play has an important role in development.” She also says,

Playing with different types of textures, tastes, and objects help your child build new ways of talking about the world. Suddenly, the tree is more than a tree, it’s a sapling with smooth bark, or it’s a pine tree with rough bark and a sharp pine scent. Water isn’t just wet, it can be rough (waves), slippery with bubbles, or cold and translucent when frozen. Fine motor skills are those that require the ability to use and coordinate small muscle groups and are important for writing, shoe-tying, buttoning, and zipping, among other things. Sensory play often involves using and building fine motor skills by exploring things using pinching, pouring, and lacing movements.

Happy hands-on learning–always!

Post Halloween Easy Kids Activity, Pumpkin Pieces Float

Halloween may be over, but the pumpkins still have a purpose. Before you throw away your jack-o-lantern, here’s an idea–cut it up into pieces. One of the directors at my preschool suggested this easy, fun and educational kids activity, and the kiddos loved it.

My co-teacher and I cut up our classes’ pumpkins and placed the pieces in a water table. Don’t have a water table? A big plastic bin, large sink or even a bathtub will work.

Our two-year olds had a blast scooping, filling, pouring and experimenting. The blog Miss Ashlee’s Class suggests ways to enhance the activity. Older kids could discuss the parts of a pumpkin, hypothesize whether they think the pieces will float or not, learn about density, and record observations.

Happy hands-on learning–always!

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.

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.

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.