Category Archives: children’s activities

This, that, and snow

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towel

It still feels like spring is a long way off here in Kentucky. We’re under a foot of snow now, and my cuted-up basement playroom is (big sigh) leaking again. But aside from the basement issue, I might be the only person in Kentucky not complaining about the weather. I like emphatic weather. It feels weird when a winter is just sort of damp and mild. Winter with actual snow and freezing temperatures feels like a very decisive, black check in the “winter” box, so that when spring actually comes it’ll feel more right too. I also just don’t mind the cold and snow. After a decade of living north I’m not afraid of driving in it, and it’s pretty and fun for the kids to play in. I don’t mean I won’t be glad to be skipping outside in flip-flops as soon as that can happen, but I’m willing to be totally present in this snow right now. Warm, beautiful knitted things, a fire in the fireplace, hot tea, and snug wool socks–it’s all good.

I’ve completed a handful of small life-improvement projects while we’ve been holed up inside. One of them is that I took my cheap IKEA dishtowels, which are soft and absorbent and generally a good buy, and put our name on them. It only took a few minutes and was totally unnecessary, but it just makes them feel more nice now. Like I’m a hotel chef instead of dishing up cheese enchiladas to picky kids.
snowflakes

This is a picture of a snow project my kids did. (The little one did not participate in the craft but insisted on being included in the picture.) They cut snowflakes out of freezer paper, then I ironed their favorite snowflakes onto canvas boards, then they covered the boards and snowflakes with a blend of blue paints. When the paint was dry we peeled off the snowflakes. This was a nice project because it turned out equally well for both eight-year-old and five-year-old.yeti3

 

And this is just a cute photo of Daphne experiencing her first snow play. She’s all bundled up and wearing mama-made hat and mittens. She could barely walk with her too-big snow bibs on, but she enjoyed bumbling through the snow and, of course, tasting it!

An activity bag for the car

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activity-bag-outsideI’ve had this project in my head for years but finally took the time to make it up this weekend. This is a sturdy canvas bag to keep in the back of my car. It’s filled with items to keep my kids occupied in waiting rooms, at a sibling’s soccer practice, during a long restaurant wait, or similar. It contains a set of high-quality wax crayons, a full set of colored pens, pretty coloring books (we like many of the Dover ones, including this one), learn-to-draw books, and blank book, and a book of games and puzzles. We don’t actually call our homeschool “DeWees Academy,” but it seemed like a cute thing to put on the outside of the bag.

activity-bag-inside

I put in a zipper closure so all the crayons don’t fall out.

pencil-case

This little pencil case goes inside and holds the writing tools.

diaper-bag

This is another bag I made at the same sitting. I don’t carry a diaper bag for Daphne, but have a large zippered pouch in my purse that holds all her necessary items. My previous pouch was unlined to keep the bulk in my purse to a minimum, but unfortunately that also made it flimsy, and it was falling apart. This new one is made from home dec scraps from another project and lined with a thrift-store sheet. Ever since I bought an assortment of colorful zippers from Amazon.com I make a lot more pouches! But new, handy little bags are always helpful. This one already has been.

 

My daughter’s room

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bench

Dorothy has been living in filth. She’s a hoarder by nature, tucking baggies of rocks and shells and old toilet roll tubes away like squirrels do nuts for the winter. The difference is that squirrels eat all their nuts in the winter, but Dorothy’s room just gets more and more crowded with junk. Telling her to clean her room didn’t even help, because she wasn’t sure where to put baggies of rocks and old toilet paper tubes. I drove to IKEA right after Christmas to pick up some storage furniture to replace daintier but less useful pieces and enlisted  her help getting organized. Fortunately, she got tired of helping after the first hour or so, so I got to spend all my “free” time for the better part of two weeks putting together furniture and throwing stuff away without her there to witness it. I’m sharing my after photos. She’s now one very organized 8-year-old, and my hope is that the new system will help her keep it that way. I bought 3-inch foam to make a seat on top of the shelf under her window. All her doll accessories are now tidily at hand. Don’t notice my measuring “oops” on the side of the seat cover! After spending that much time sorting through 3rd grade ephemera I apparently lost the ability to do simple math.chair

This chair was in her room before, but it got a coat of white paint and a new seat cover. On the wall behind her is a pouch she sewed herself to hold keepsake letters.cubes

This IKEA shelving unit got a little dressed up with pretty glass knobs on the cabinets and drawers. She painted the ruby slipper canvas at an art camp last summer.
earringsI found this earring tree on Amazon.com to keep all her ear candy organized. She had earrings crammed in boxes and baggies all over her room. We put some other pairs in ice cube trays in her top drawer.
labels

I made labels with a craft punch for all her bins. We use a velcro label system for toy bins all over our house. I staple hook tape to the bin, and glue the loop tape to the back of our labels. I keep a jar of the extra labels on hand for when we want to repurpose a bin. The bins can be exchanged for others in our playroom and in Worth and Daphne’s room when they want to rotate playthings.lamp

I bought a wall-mount lamp at IKEA and spray-painted it to match the room. Putting the lamp on the wall helped free up space on her desk and alleviated my long-standing worry that she’d knock it off and break it. Dorothy made the name banner hanging over her bed.
window-seatHere’s a final view of her new window seat. I left her doll-clothes storage system of a ribbon strung in her window intact because it’s pretty and functional. I think I’ve blogged about her quilt and curtains before. When we moved into this old house, Dorothy fell in love with the bedroom she now occupies and the specific wallpaper hanging on the walls. I removed wallpaper and repainted every other room in our house, but we’ve honored her wish to keep her vintage wallpaper. I collected old bedsheets in similar colors from thrift stores and made her quilt and curtains out of them. It’s made a sweet little-girl room, with a nice blend of old and new. I’ll probably flip out in a few weeks when she lets it get messy again, but I’m enjoying the view from the doorway in the meantime! Because of course, as soon as I was done with the job and turned the room back over to her all sparkly and clean, she shut the door and hasn’t welcomed any other family members in since. C’est la vie.

Christmas goodies

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mittens

It’s looking like full-time crafty Christmas around here! Baby Daphne has started removing tags from gifts and either eating the tags or sticking them to the hardwood floor. Not helpful. Let’s just hope that if any of the gifts end up with the wrong recipients, they aren’t awkward and can be easily switched back! For example, anyone over two would surely be disappointed to receive these tiny mittens I knitted.snowflakes

My kids made snowflake ornaments out of craft sticks to give as teacher/leader/coach gifts. Using glitter with children is something I try to avoid on principle, but it went pretty well and I self-medicated with cookies after it was over.
soapThis is the annual batch of homemade unscented soap for my brother, and another scented batch I made for myself and to share. I used cold process recipes from the book The Everything Soapmaking Book. I like to try different recipes every year, which is really completely useless unless I make a batch for myself because I’m sure my brother has no notion or opinion about the benefits of tropical oils versus olive oil, lard, or soybean shortening, though I think he appreciates the soap. This year’s batch is a blend of four different oils with some castor oil stirred in at the end for extra moisture, and mostly lavender scent in mine. Now it is curing in the basement playroom and makes the whole space smell nice!

 

Early snow

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snowWe had our first snow day of the year! We take the day off school if our neighbors do, because it just doesn’t seem fair not to. I think I’m going to like snow days this year because all children old enough to want to play in the snow are old enough to play in the snow by themselves while I sip coffee and watch over the toddler inside the warm house. It seemed a little odd to be hauling out the snow gear in November (this is Kentucky, not Vermont!), but at least last year’s sturdy boots still fit.

car

After my rosy-cheeked big kids finished their snow man and their hot chocolate, they turned a big box into a car. How is that a big box can be more fun than any toy?

10687065_10205313835111208_1337218845321174890_nAnd a little homeschool funny. Dorothy was asked to think about a time she’d been given a chance, or if she couldn’t think of one, to write a note to her teacher about a chance she’d like to be given. Apparently she couldn’t think of an opportunity she’d already had (really?!), so she wrote this to me: “Dear Mommy, I would like to not have so much school work or I want a coupple [sic] days off once in a while. I would also appreciate it if I could do more reading than school work each day. I would totaly [sic] like it if we could do more science and more work-book stuff than curriculum stuff. I love you and hope all of these changes will happen. Sincerely, Dorothy.” She giggled like a fiend while I read it, which meant that it was ok for me to laugh too. Imp! She basically is saying, “I’d like you to leave me alone to read my own books, or for school I’d like to do just the parts where I read, you read to me, or we do review. I don’t want to answer questions about the reading or learn mathematics.” Nice. And if you’re laughing now too, you’re welcome. 🙂

The continuing evolution of our playroom and studio

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playroom-w-curtains

This room has appeared on my blog a few times in the almost four years since we moved here. There was the time I made the futon and pillow covers, and the time I painted the sun on the floor (now painted over, due to water damage). We don’t use this basement space as our primary homeschool spot anymore. It has evolved and changed, and I work on it periodically–sometimes because I want to and sometimes because it floods (or did? Supposedly that’s fixed now). This summer I made some more changes to it to continue to meet our studio and play space needs. It’s just a basement room with a low ceiling and a concrete floor; it’s never destined for Better Homes and Gardens or to be the room we spend the most time in, but it is good space. It’s a place to put the bulky things that aren’t in the kids’ rooms or our shared living space. It’s the kids’ art spot, the dress-up spot, the home for games and toys. It’s the only spot in our home with a television. It’s the room where my fabric is stored, and is a cool place in summer and made cozy in winter with a fire in the fireplace. Some day it’s going to get a chair that doesn’t have an arm that falls off occasionally, a bigger and better rug, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve in other ways, but here are some scenes from this creative space right now. This summer I bought new storage furniture so the kids can easily access all the treasures.

craft-area

I set up a desk area dedicated to their crafty needs. Colored paper, art books, clay, melt beads, yarn and assorted other supplies are organized and at the ready. The labels are serving the dual purpose of reminding my little artists to clean up after themselves and helping Worth learn to read.

paint-bottles

I saved coffee syrup bottles, washed them out, and filled them with tempera paints. A color-mixing chart hung over the supply table helps the small artists mix their choice of hues. There is a bin under the table with clean, empty yogurt and applesauce containers we save. The older kids know how to wash the brushes out themselves so they are able to paint independently, without me dragging out supplies or cleaning up their messes. I hope to fill two more bottles with black and white paint, but first I have to drink more vanilla lattes.

easel

This is the easel, a half-turn from the paint-mixing spot. Bright oilcloth protects the floor, the canvas aprons protect the kids, and just out of the scope of the photo is a cord with clips for the kids to hang their masterpieces when they are done.

ribbons

My crafty storage area got a few upgrades too. I’m not very handy with tools but I knew just enough to drill holes in an old scrap board, insert some dowels, apply some paint, and enjoy my much-needed new ribbon organizer. For several years I’ve been buying ribbon every time I see it on sale because I can never find it when I need it. Now I see clearly that the problem was my storage method–not my lack of ribbon!

jars

And I used a Pinterest idea to transform some recycled glass jars into cute, quirky storage with the addition of one tube of little plastic animals and some spray paint. The work table beneath this supply counter is covered with the same apple oilcloth that is under the easel for an easy-clean, cheerful work surface. I sew upstairs in our living room, but this table houses all projects involving glue, paper, glitter, or general happy mess. (It is also housing me at my laptop right now, while my kids play in the room behind me!)

My kids’ recent projects

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cape

Dorothy sews a lot these days. And by a lot, I mean I sometimes wish I’d never taught her and had not ceded a part of our family room and my fabric storage area to her needs. (Honesty!) But in the bigger picture, I’m very glad she enjoys it, is creative with it, and can envision and execute a project in ways that will serve her even better than the basics of hemming and button sewing. She likes to get ideas from two books I got her, Sewing School and Sewing School 2, both of which I heartily recommend. The instructions and patterns in the book are clear enough that she can trace, cut out, and follow them without my help. My favorites among her projects, however, are the ones she dreams up on her own. Like a cape for her baby sister!

snowmanOr an Olaf (snowman) costume for her brother. Seeing this project spread out on her sewing table before she put the carrot nose on DID give me pause, but then I recalled that she was sewing costumes for a theatrical production of the movie Frozen she, her brother, and their cousins had in the works. She’s very results-oriented in that she prefers to complete a project in one sitting than to bother with niceties of hemming or facings, but who can blame her?

painting

Both big kids recently rediscovered the swirl-and-spin art kit. I loved seeing the line of brightly-colored squares waiting to dry, so I…

posterswirlart

made them into a poster using Publisher and had it printed at Costco. We gave copies to both the grandfathers for Father’s Day and they were big hits.

on-the-mantle

I never got a great picture of the printed posters, but you can see it on the mantle behind my father-in-law in this snapshot. Both grandfathers were told the prints were for the garage (how much wall space does one have to spare, anyway?) but both chose to frame and hang them inside, making my little artists beam with pride.