Category Archives: Crafts

Leprechaun Games – Day 2

On Day 2 of our Leprechaun Games (inspired by Fun at Home with Kids), Little Man awoke to find that the leprechauns had returned to continue the search for gold game (Read about Day 1 here).  This time he was met with a tray of “Magic Treasure Stones.”  We took the Treasure Stones to the table (with copious towels and clean water again) for him to “excavate.”

One Treasure Stone

The basis of the Treasure Stones is the awesome fizzy reaction that happens when you combine baking soda with vinegar.  It can make science fair volcanoes explode, and Magic Treasure Stones erode away to reveal hidden treasure.  For our purposes we repurposed an empty mustard container that I had set aside for future water table activities, and filled it full of plain, white vinegar.  This activity takes a good amount of vinegar, so you may need to stock up… I did.

Spraying the Treasure Stones with "magic water" aka white vinegar.

Spraying the Treasure Stones with “magic water” aka white vinegar.

Little Man squirted the Magic Treasure Stones with the vinegar (aka “cloud water”) and watched as they fizzed and foamed, slowly revealing their treasure.  Three of the stones contained “golden” coins, and two contained “sea gems” (aka glass blobs).  He had a great time smashing the partially eroded stones and rinsing the coins off in the water.  In fact, I think he would have been happy simply with the coins and the dish of water.  I’ll have to keep that in mind for future water table activities as the weather gets warmer…

Over the course of the rest of the day, he played with his “treasure” and we talked about leprechauns, rainbows and golden coins.  He went to bed after rereading his letter from the leprechauns, excited about the search for the last three coins, and what the leprechauns would give him when he completed their game.

Now we two leprechauns need to plot our last installment of the Leprechaun Games, as well as a delicious St. Patrick’s Day dinner.  After all, a good game needs a good dinner to pull it all together.

Here’s how I made the Magic Treasure Stones:

Equipment:
1 large glass baking dish, or clear plastic tub (like for sensory play)
1 box baking soda
Green glitter and shamrock confetti
Green Finger Paint (Color Safe)
3 “Golden” Coins
Assorted sensory fun like glass beads
2 tbsp. water, plus extra
2 cups white vinegar
Squeeze bottle

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl mix together the baking soda, green glitter and confetti, and a good squeeze of your color safe green finger paint.
    All the equipment needed.

    All the equipment needed.

    The "dry" ingredients.

    The “dry” ingredients.

    A good squirt of color safe finger paint.

    A good squirt of color safe finger paint.

  2. Drizzle the 2 tbsp. of water over the mixture and give it a good stir to evenly distribute the water.  Then add one more good squirt of the finger paint and stir again.  The mixture should look pretty dry.  This reminded me of making a pie crust or scone dough.  You don’t think it will hold together, but it will.  Test your mixture by grabbing a handful and forming it into a rough ball.  If it won’t hold its shape, then drizzle in a little more water until they just hold their shapes.
    The mixture will look very dry, like it won't hold together.  Just have faith.

    The mixture will look very dry, like it won’t hold together. Just have faith.

    A last dose of paint for a little more color.

    A last dose of paint for a little more color.

    The mixture will just hold together when formed into "magic balls."

    The mixture will just hold together when formed into “magic balls.”

  3. Finish your first “stone” by inserting one of the golden coins into the stone and forming it again.  Carefully set this stone aside in the glass baking dish.

    A Magic Treasure Ball.

    A Magic Treasure Ball.

  4. Divide the rest of the mixture into four portions in the bowl, and continue forming treasure stones and inserting the treasure until all five balls are completed.

    Set them aside into the same tray you will use to "excavate" them.

    Set them aside into the same tray you will use to “excavate” them.

  5. Set the stones aside some place safe and allow them to dry overnight.  You want the balls to be nice and dry for the best reaction with the vinegar.
  6. When you are ready to go, please the stones somewhere that your little one can find them.  I recommend leaving these in the baking dish rather than scattering them around.  They are fragile.

    We posed the Treasure Stones for Aiden on his little stool and with a rainbow that he'd made with his music teacher.

    We posed the Treasure Stones for Aiden on his little stool and with a rainbow that he’d made with his music teacher.

  7. When you are ready to excavate, fill your squeeze bottle with the vinegar and show your little one how to spray the treasure stones.  The stones will fizz and slowly erode to reveal the treasure within.  Your kids will likely enjoy smashing the opened, softened stones, so be sure to have towels and clean water handy.
    Spraying the Treasure Stones with "magic water" aka white vinegar.

    Spraying the Treasure Stones with “magic water” aka white vinegar.

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    Squashing eroded Treasure Stones.

    Squashing eroded Treasure Stones.

    Retrieving the treasure.

    Retrieving the treasure.

    Treasure in the sludge.

    Treasure in the sludge.

  8. Rinse off your treasure and the three additional golden coins.  Have fun!

Click here for a printable version of the Magic Treasure Stones “recipe.”

Rinsing off the treasure was more fun than finding it in the first place.

Rinsing off the treasure was more fun than finding it in the first place.

Leprechaun Games

There is something about St. Patrick’s Day that a lot of us want to celebrate, but we somehow feel slightly embarrassed to do so.  I’ve read post after post of people apologizing for getting into the spirit, and now I’m adding myself to the list.  St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have the same gravitas as Easter, it certainly isn’t as mainstream as Christmas or birthdays, but it has its own quirky fun and falls at a time when many of us are starving for springtime and a bit of color (or at least some Guinness).

In upstate New York we lived just down the street from a little Irish pub, and every year for St. Patrick’s Day we would walk down the street with friends for some corned beef and cabbage… and Guinness.  This usually meant trudging through a couple of feet of snow to get down the avenue, but it was worth it for the food, Guinness and companionship that this holiday meant.  One year this also included me wearing an entire tray of Guinness pints spilled by a frazzled server.  The walk home that year was a cold one, but we laughed for most of it as the fumes of freezing Guinness wafted off of my jeans as we snow plowed home.  I looked forward to this tradition (not the wearing Guinness part) every year, and it is still at this time of year especially that I think of those friends in NY now with their own small family too.

This year, I wanted to find a way to make St. Patrick’s Day fun for Little Man.  I know that by the time I post these ideas the holiday will be here, so it makes it hard to plan any of these activities in advance.  If you want to try any of these, just think of it as stretching the holiday over the course of the week (or beyond).  I don’t know about you all, but I’m in the mood for a party.

In my quest for Little Man-geared St. Patrick’s Day activities, I came across an idea from Fun at Home with Kids.  In her post, Asia shared a great idea for a series of activities for kids building off a letter from a leprechaun inviting her daughter to search for leprechaun gold.  This was just the sort of thing I was looking for, and I’ve followed a couple of Asia’s ideas here and added a few of my own.  Please check out her excellent post for more details and other ideas too.

We started our adventure today, two days before St. Patrick’s Day to get into the mood.  To start, when Little Man came to the breakfast table today he was greeted by a rolled up letter from leprechauns (Dave didn’t want to be left out) inviting him to join in a game of searching for gold.  Click here for a “recipe” for this letter and to start the Leprechaun Games.  The leprechauns write that for three days they will hide three gold coins for Little Man to find.  At the end of the three days (we’ll see how this part goes…) Little Man is to wrap all nine coins up in the leprechauns’ letter and leave it for them while he naps (they won’t come if you are looking for them).  When he wakes up, the leprechauns will have left him a special surprise.  You’ll have to keep following these leprechaun posts to see what this is…  🙂

Start the letter with "Dear (Name):" and proceed with the idea below, or use your own flare.

Start the letter with “Dear (Name):” and proceed with the idea below, or use your own flare.

Then after breakfast Little Man found a tray of Leprechaun Clouds on his stool ready for him to explore.  We brought the tray of clouds back to the dining room table (well protected now with towels..,. lots of towels…) and the adventure began.

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LOTS of towels and water...

LOTS of towels and water…

At first Little Man wasn’t sure about this crazy Leprechaun Cloud.  He isn’t the kind of kid who loves messy things with his hands, and it took a bit of coaxing from Dave to get him to dive in to search for treasure.  Once Little Man got used to the squishy foam, he had a blast and even after the activity was done and cleaned up, kept coming back to the table and asking for more clouds.  He ended up calling the little bowl of water for washing his treasure “cloud water.”  This was definitely a success.

061You can hide any sort of object in the Leprechaun Cloud as you like.  I wanted to keep this as a fun, but inexpensive activity so I only bought a few things from my local arts and craft store.  Little Man searched for and found 3 “gold” coins, two plastic “crystal” butterflies, and a handful of little glass blobs.  Other options that you could use include pretty much anything from  sensory play ideas, like pom poms, plastic flowers, beads, and the list goes on.  The little glass “blobs” and plastic butterflies that we used here were from the mega sale bins and were a total hit.  While he likes the butterflies, the glass blobs became “sea gems” and “pearls,” and he ran around all day and evening with his “treasure.”  He hid them from himself in the couch, in his plastic food bins, and in his teddy bears. I love it when the cheapest things become the most fun.

The "treasure" as it emerges from the cloud and gets washed off.

The “treasure” as it emerges from the cloud and gets washed off.

Now Little Man is completely excited about what adventure the leprechauns will have for him tomorrow when he gets to search for three more coins.  As you’ll see in the next post (and as Asia examples on her blog) the next adventure will be in “excavating” through homemade Treasure Stones.  I made the stones once he went to bed so that they’ll have time to set up overnight and he’ll get them in the morning.  We’re looking forward to more leprechaun fun… and LOTS more towels.

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Here is how I made the Leprechaun Clouds

Leprechaun Clouds
Equipment
1 large glass baking dish, or clear plastic tub (like for sensory play)
1 can shaving cream
Green Finger Paint (Color Safe)
3 “Golden” Coins
Assorted sensory fun, such as glass beads, pom poms, etc.
Green embellishments like glitter and shamrock confetti

Directions

  1. Place your “Golden Coins” and other sensory items in the bottom of your baking pan or plastic tub.

    This is supposed to be a fun, but inexpensive activity so don't break the bank buying fancy swag for your cloud.  These glass beads and plastic butterflies were in the mega sale bin at our local craft store.

    This is supposed to be a fun, but inexpensive activity so don’t break the bank buying fancy swag for your cloud. These glass beads and plastic butterflies were in the mega sale bin at our local craft store.

  2. Spray the shaving cream over your buried treasure in two layers.  Save the rest of the can for other activities… or for shaving.
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  3. Drizzle the green finger paint over the shaving cream and swirl it together lightly with your finger.
  4. Embellish the Leprechaun Cloud with green glitter and shamrock confetti.
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  5. Place this somewhere for your little one to find.
  6. Make sure to have towels to clean and dry little (and big) hands, as well as clear bowls of water to wash off the treasure.

    LOTS of towels and water...

    LOTS of towels and water…

Click here for a printable version of the Leprechaun Games or Leprechaun Clouds activities.

Eureka!

Eureka!

Party Animals: A Child’s Animal-Themed Birthday

As mentioned in a recent post (Birthday Party Food for Kiddos…), Little Man has finally reached the stage where he can understand that a party is being thrown for him, and he can have a blast celebrating with his friends. He will “remember” the event through the stories he is told and the pictures he sees, but not likely through any true, long term memories.  So we wanted to throw him a fun party, but not one that would hurt (or even dent) our bank accounts.

After trolling various internet sites and Pintrest boards, I knew what I didn’t want.  I didn’t want something based on television, movie or comic book characters.  Little Man has his favorites, but none that are really shared with his friends and we wanted this to be fun for all not just for those “in the know.”  Then my list of “do not want” started to grow…  No guns or camo, not based on cars or construction since I wanted all his friends (boys and girls alike) to have fun, nothing based on junk food (see the Birthday Party Food for Kiddos post), and the list went on.  I started to get nervous that I was being too picky.

Then I started to see a number of posts and websites focusing on animal-themed birthday parties.  Within the broader animal theme some parties focused on woodland animals, barnyard animals, wild animals or zoos.  We decided to keep the party focused on favorite animals, so that I could personalize the party to Little Man’s guests, as well as to him.  This would not have been possible if the party had been a large one, but our goal was to keep the number of kids close to 4… then we couldn’t resist expanding for a few more good friends and ended up with a total of 6 buddies for Little Man at his party.

The decorations were from a dollar store, the food was all home made, but the special part about Little Man’s party were the animal masks.

What does the Little Man Fox say?  More Cheezies, please...

What does the Little Man Fox say? More Cheezies, please…

A very happy Red Fox with his very cool Blue Cat cousin.

A very happy Red Fox with his very cool Blue Cat cousin.

Each mask was personalized for a specific friend based on her/his favorite animal.

Each mask was personalized for a specific friend based on her/his favorite animal.

These masks were very simple to make and the cost is quite low; just the felt and embroidery floss needed.  I don’t have a working sewing machine, so everything was done by hand.  If you have a sewing machine this can go much faster, but just like making bread you don’t need the fancy machine to make these.

Red Fox mask

Red Fox mask

I don’t have any patterns to upload since I basically free-handed the shapes, but I can share the pictures with you and let you know what I did.  Then if you want to try your hand on the masks, just keep the ideas that you like, and improvise where you think I went astray… and I’m sure there are many places where that happened.  🙂

Blue Cat mask

Blue Cat mask

In the evite we sent out for Little Man’s party, I asked that in the response parents specify a favorite animal for their child.  Then I did a Google image search for children’s masks of that animal and basically picked and chose my favorite ideas and features from multiple images to create the look that I wanted. The basic shape of each mask is the same,with the more or less bean-shaped profile that covers the child’s forehead and stops just above the nose.  Then it’s just a matter of tweaking small features to make one animal unique from another.  For example the cat and dog masks are actually quite similar in shape, but the cat has a little “fluff” accent to the sides and the dog’s ears droop.  It is amazing how these slight adjustments can make very different animals apparent in your masks.

Brown Bear mask

Brown Bear mask

The body of each mask is comprised of two complementary colors of felt, one cut slightly larger than the other.  The background color then peeks out around the edges of the mask, adding a little more color fun.  The stitching around the eyes was done with a blanket stitch, and then the edges were done with a simple running stitch, as were the various felt embellishments.  There are a number of great websites out there with instructions for how to do these different stitches.

Green Lizard mask

Green Lizard mask

For each mask I started by stitching the felt embellishments, like the insides of the ears or the noses, to the front piece of mask felt.  For instance with the Green Lizard mask, I first stitched the light green ovals where the eyes would be, as well as the rectangular shapes down the nose, to the dark green front piece of the mask.  Once those were in place, I pinned the two pieces of the mask together and then cut the eye holes through both pieces of felt.  In the first two masks I made the mistake of trying to “eye ball” the eye openings.  I eventually came up with the idea (slow to the uptake) of cutting an eye hole stencil out of stiff paper, then using that to cut out the holes for the remaining masks.

Pink Elephant mask

Pink Elephant mask

Once the eye holes were cut, I then blanket stitched to fix the front and back pieces together.  Then I used a running stitch around the outer edges of the front and back pieces to fix them together, and the masks were complete.

Grey and Pink Dog mask

Grey and Pink Dog mask

The last thing I did was to stitch either elastic or ribbons to the back side of the masks to allow them to be worn.  My planning was off here, and I did not have enough elastic for all of the masks.  For those masks without elastic, I took lengths of red ribbon and attached them to the back of the mask so that it could be tied on.  For the most part the two ribbons worked well, but there was the added issue long hair getting stuck in the tied ribbons.  Sorry girls!

Yellow and Brown Giraffe mask

Yellow and Brown Giraffe mask

The party started with letting the kids play and the parents chat.  Then we ate.  Once the little bodies were full of Mac n Cheese, we were ready for the dance party.  Before the dancing started, Little Man gave each of his friends the animal mask that had been made especially for him or her.  Then they all donned their masks and danced away with DJ Daddy to a few of Little Man’s favorite Imagination Movers songs.

All in all the masks were a great hit, and I have to say I’ve felt a little bereft since the masks have been completed and my hands have been idle for the last couple of evenings.  But now that I’ve had a bit of a break from the masks, there are a couple of other projects that I need to finish up so that I can share them here too.  Who knew that felt could be so cool, or that I’d love being  crafty?

The animal masks on a tray of Goodie Bag items including personalized bags and homemade cookies.

The animal masks on a tray of Goodie Bag items including personalized bags and homemade cookies.