One of our favorite autumn activities is to make leaf prints in clay. It’s easy, low-prep, and has gorgeous results. It’s a great activity for all ages.
This project could be done year-round with a variety of plants. For some reason it’s ended up being a fall tradition for us. We use acorns, evergreens, and other nature objects, but we mostly use leaves.
For this project you want leaves that are still somewhat soft. Crunchy, dry leaves will fall apart when you press them into the clay.
The “pendants” could be used on necklaces like we made here and they would make great additions to a nature mobile or wall hanging. I hope to make a wall hanging this year with clay prints made during all four seasons.
We used air-dry clay because I happened to have it on hand. You could use another clay if you like.
Air-dry clay is easy for preschoolers to work with. It’s also one of the options that can be painted, which is our daughter’s favorite step. Polymer clay may be too stiff for young children.
Our necklaces have held up shockingly well despite the fragility of air-dry clay. It all depends on who’s wearing them and how rowdy they are. I recommend using jewelry-grade polymer clay that you bake in the oven if you want to make pendants that will hold up well.
“Ok, I’ll see you back here again in 9 months! She’s doing great!”
Those are some of the most refreshing words I’ve heard.
We’ve been blessed with healthy kids, overall. Really, almost our whole family has been physically healthy if you look at the grand scheme of things.
Our oldest had some chronic ENT issues in his early years. Then there was literally a period of years that we had no doctor or hospital visits for illness or injury. Zero. None.
3 years ago, that began to change.
Thankfully, we have not faced a terminal illness. At that turning point 3 years ago, multiple family members began facing chronic or long-term health challenges. Then emergencies were thrown into the mix.
Clusters of doctor appointments led to recurring appointments with specialists. And more appointments for testing. Some of which required hospitalization. All of which led to medications, braces, and orthotics. Which led to medication side effects. And more follow-up appointments. And emergency room visits. And hospitalizations. And surgeries. And more appointments.
Every week it was something…
or a few somethings.
We found ourselves on a medical merry-go-round that sucked up huge portions of the rest of our lives like an industrial water pump in a $10 baby pool.
Those of you who face a terminal illness or lifelong condition, or care for someone who does:
I am in awe of your strength.
Our experiences were really, really hard. But although they were hard and they seemed long while walking through them, I can already look back and see that they were short.
I know I don’t have a clue how hard your experiences have been and will be. I don’t pretend to.
I share our experience to say I can sympathize a little.
I also share because I think I’ve started to see silver linings in those stormy clouds.
Looking for silver linings is one of the ways I cope.
I noticed many things through our medical merry-go-round journey.
And I wonder,
have you noticed them too?
At her appointment the other day my three-year-old ran gleefully into the waiting room of her Pediatric Orthopedist. The Children’s Hospital here has volunteers in the waiting room ready to do a craft, play with toys, or read a book. We go early just so my daughter can play. It’s one of her favorite outings.
So Little Miss Extrovert bounds into a group of kids who are busily working on a craft and starts chatting them up.
She introduces herself, asks their names, asks what they’re making, asks if she can try too, shows them her picture, asks if they play Toy Story or Princesses or Super Heroes, asks if they like snacks, on and on…until we’re called back for her appointment.
My eyes are moist with joy as I watch her.
She doesn’t notice the other stuff anymore.
She’s just a kid. Being friendly. Totally unfazed.
The medical merry-go-round has all kinds of inconveniences, stresses, heartaches, physical pain, and difficulty.
I suggest that it also has some amazing opportunities.
I think children in particular can receive surprising benefits from being at doctor’s offices and hospitals on a regular basis.
Our medical journey has exposed us to prosthetics, wheelchairs, braces, casts, eye patches, bald heads, ports, IV’s, EEG monitoring, and all kinds of tubes, wires, and other stuff from which kids often recoil.
“Children who are exposed to people with disabilities — either directly or indirectly — have more positive attitudes about those with special needs.”1Michelle Diament, disabilityscoop.com
The exposure is the opportunity.
How the adults involved respond and what they say (how we respond and what we say, mamas!) is key to helping your child benefit from the exposure.
Here’s a great article that gives very practical tips on teaching your child about peers with special needs.
And medical surroundings may not only build disability awareness!
We happen to live in a diverse, multicultural area. So we share medical space with people who have a spectrum of skin tones, speak unfamiliar languages, and wear clothing we wouldn’t usually see. (Everything from hijabs to Catholic habits to turn-of-the-century dressses and bonnets.)
I don’t have the data to back it up, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and hypothesize that the same principle of exposure + adult responses apply to any other kind of people we encounter who are different that us, whether in appearance, ability, or culture.
“As a mom, one of my main goals is to make sure I raise a child who grows up to understand that the world is filled with a variety of unique people who are all deserving of respect and understanding.”2Priscilla Blossom, Romper.com
Yes. Yes. Yes.
And this first opportunity doesn’t depend on the medical merry-go-round.
In or out of the doctor’s office, we can take action to intentionally teach our kids that people are people. Unique people worthy of love and respect because they’re created in the image of God.
There are lots of resources out there to help us teach our kids about disabilities as well as other issues.
One unexpected benefit of our medical merry-go-round was repeated exposure to a wide spectrum of abilities and people that served as an ideal training ground for our kids.
One of our adult sons has only seen a doctor the bare minimum of times. Regular well check-ups faded out once he started school. He didn’t play sports, so he didn’t need sports physicals. He’s never broken a bone or needed stitches. (Which is impressive given the level of risk he’s always taken and the number of falls he’s had!) I don’t think he’s ever seen the inside of the Emergency Room. I’m pretty sure he’s never had blood drawn. It wasn’t until high school that he needed a little bit of testing done for a potential stomach issue.
This guy’s anxiety about medical experiences is ridiculous.
He gets queasy when he sees an IV in someone else’s arm. Everything in the medical realm is unfamiliar. This element of the unknown and unfamiliar absolutely drives him up the wall sometimes.
On the flip side, our other adult son rode the medical merry-go-round from age 4 months through about age 7, and our other two children have been on it for the last 3 years.
Yes, those three had plenty of fear in the beginning. (I still cringe when I think about that adult son’s fearful breakdowns as a little child! He was convinced that nurses were some kind of ultra villian.)
Now, though, the settings are familiar. The tools are familiar. Many questions have been answered. They’re comfortable enough to ask questions when they come up. They know that doctors are there to try to help.
The older ones also know that doctors aren’t perfect, and they know how to do things like advocate for themselves and ask for a second opinion.
And when they visit loved ones in the hospital, they’re unfazed.
All my kids are now eager to sympathize, encourage, and help.
They have an appreciation for doctors, nurses, and support staff.
Things they would have a hard time learning outside of the medical setting.
Like #1, this opportunity is also found outside the perpetual doctor’s visits.
When we interact with people who suffer, and especially when we actively seek to help and encourage them, we develop a broader perspective of the world. This clearer understanding of reality can curb our children’s sense of entitlement and nurture their gratitude.
My three-year-old can see children who require more orthotics or other physical support than she does. She can be thankful that she no longer has to wear restrictive braces, and that even with her braces she could run around much more freely than many of her counterparts at the orthopedist.
My son has now met many other teenagers who suffer(ed) as bad or worse than he did. He used to believe that his childhood was terrible and oppressive, but now he has heard story after story after story of real oppression and abuse. He used to perceive that all the other teenagers in the world were as confident as they try to project walking down the school hallway. Now he knows that far more are hiding deep struggles – physical, medical, emotional, other, or all of the above. This completely changed his perspective on life.
For every patient who undergoes emergency surgery and lives, like I did, how many more don’t make it?
How many patients in the Emergency Department (or the specialist’s office, treatment center, radiology center, epilepsy monitoring unit, hospital room, etc…) are there for something much more severe? What are their stories?
How many are getting the care and services they need? The follow-up they need? How many will be financially crippled under the incoming pile of bills?
The medical merry-go-round hold a wealth of opportunities to discuss the less fortunate with our children. Not only does this give us the opportunity to show them a broader picture of reality and cultivate gratitude for their blessings, it also gives us –
When your kids learn to see and treat people like people (#1) and are exposed to the reality of the less fortunate (#3) parents have a perfect opportunity to instill some deep empathy and compassion.
Imagining ourselves in others’ shoes, discovering what can be helpful, and purposefully pursuing ways to be helpful is so easy to incorporate into our medical journeys. I know of multiple close-knit communities built among families who frequent the same offices and wards.
Non-profits and support groups are birthed from empathy and compassion – often from someone who once walked right where the beneficiaries now walk.
The rest of life is full of opportunities to build empathy and compassion in children. The medical merry-go-round just happens to be one of the big ones.
I’m a home educator. I love interest-driven education. I can’t help but to get a little nerdy about this!
The medical merry-go-round is an amazing opportunity for learning about specific aspects of the human body and practice of medicine. We can answer our kids’ questions and build on them with library books, online videos, articles, and more.
My three-year-old probably wouldn’t care less about otoscopes, ophthalmoscopes, IV’s, x-rays, or ultrasounds if it weren’t for so much time spent in doctor’s offices and hospitals. Now her vocabulary includes those terms and many, many more. She knows the basic differences between a surgeon, pediatrician, orthopedist, and nurse. She knows about body systems and has some real-life framework to hook new information on. She listens attentively to non-fiction kids books on those topics – books that really aren’t that engaging or well-written. The information means something to her.
Some kids might be so sick of the experiences that they want to avoid the topics. I don’t suggest pushing that kind of learning unless the child is actually interested.
But for the child that becomes fascinated with the surroundings and how and why everything works, why not jump on that opportunity and let them learn all about it while the interest is there?
Can you relate?
Have you ever been on the medical merry-go-round?
What silver linings or opportunities did I miss?
I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment below!
If you’re wondering how you can support a friend who is living on the medical merry-go-round, check out this post.
1Diament, Michelle. “Kids’ Attitudes About Disabilities Improve With Exposure.” Disability Scoop, 22 Nov. 2013, https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2013/08/30/kids-attitudes-disabilities/18615/.
2Blossom, Priscilla. “How To Teach A Child About Disabilities, According To Moms & Kids With Disabilities.” Romper, 16 Aug. 2018, https://www.romper.com/p/how-to-teach-a-child-about-disabilities-according-to-moms-kids-with-disabilities-9920750.
I’ve homeschooled for 10 years.
That’s kind of amazing to me, since I once vowed I’d never homeschool my kids and felt pressured to start on a year-by-year basis out of necessity (one son’s special needs)…I’d have never believed you if you’d told me before then that I’d go on to do that! But I digress…
Our oldest two children have graduated. Our third child is now finishing his last two years of high school in a traditional school setting.
With the 13 year gap between our third-born and our youngest, this is the first summer in over a decade that I did not spend planning for the upcoming school year.
It feels SO weird!
Even though my “hardcore” homeschooling decade has passed, I have been doing an informal morning basket time with my youngest for the last year.
She turned three this spring, and I am putting together a plan for her first year of preschool-at-home, starting this week!
I really enjoy the opportunity to approach this planning with way more wisdom and knowledge than when I first began homeschooling.
One of the many benefits is I’ve been able to boil down which supplies we used the most and which were the most helpful.
Doing preschool at home doesn’t have to be hard.
It also doesn’t require a bunch of fancy supplies.
(Though they are so, SO fun to browse and buy!)
No stress here, ok? I use the term “plan” loosely.
For preschool, you don’t actually need to make full-out lesson plans for each school day.
(If that’s fun for you, then by all means, go ahead and plan away!)
All you really need are three lists to use as guidelines:
Preferably a white board that’s also magnetic, like this one.
This will probably be THE open-ended tool you use all the way through high school.
You want one that’s at least 24″ x 36″.
Some still use CD players. (My daughter has this one on her dresser for quiet time audiobooks.)
For school I now use my smartphone and a bluetooth speaker. We use it for sing-along songs, playing the composer of the month in the background, streaming audio books, and more. So many possibilities!
Whether you use a library card, Amazon Prime, used book sites, or swaps with other homeschool moms, you’ll want a steady stream of fresh, living books and stories, field guides, chants/songs, and poetry.
Check out my preschool booklist on Amazon.
We have this one, designed for a classroom.
By doing a simple “calendar time” most mornings, many preschoolers will quickly learn the days of the week, months of the year, and basics of reading a calendar.
We had ours laminated and I use dry erase markers to write on special activities and events.
We use the included weather and seasons charts as well.
I didn’t consider this essential with our older kids. We did lots of work at the kitchen table, around the coffee table, sprawled on the floor, on sofas or beds, etc…
But I started homeschooling them when they were already in elementary school.
There’s something really helpful about a sturdy table that fits a little one. She can sit comfortably with her feet touching the floor. She can stand and fidget and easily reach all the materials.
We have this coffee table set up as our daughter’s “kitchen” and this child’s table and chairs for seated activities. They’re both inexpensive and have held up well (with one child — I can’t vouch for how they’d do with multiple children!), and they’re cheap enough that I’ll have zero guilt tossing them when she’s outgrown them.
Drawing, coloring, painting, stickers, writing, and tracing can all be done on open-ended, blank paper.
I prefer using spiral bound sketch books so we can turn the pages completely around.
I have one for myself that I use for “anchor charts” and illustrations, and my daughter has several. She has one for each place she might want one – by her table, in her nature backpack, in her church bag, in the car, and in her meeting bag.
You can often find these at Dollar Tree or in dollar bins at other stores. There’s no need to get artist-quality paper, unless you really want to and/or you’re going to let your child explore with a specific medium, like watercolor.
It literally does not matter what type you use.
A dollar sketch book and a one of the free pens your insurance guy gave you will work just fine.
Ok, I have to tell myself that sometimes. Because I’m an artsy-fartsy gal who loves having a huge spectrum of writing utensils and other stuff to spread on paper in its glorious color.
Which is cool, too.
Just don’t think you have to have it all. Or have the best.
It’s fun, but you don’t need it.
That said, my favorite writing utensils for preschool include Crayola Twistable Crayons, Crayola Pip Squeaks Markers (I love this caddy they come with!), Gel Crayons, and No-Drip Paintbrush Pens.
There are so, so, so many quick, simple activities you can do with these “in passing” that will teach your child all kinds of pre-reading skills.
Simply Charlotte Mason incorporates at least magnet activity in their preschool materials. It teaches letter recognition and letter sounds.
I think the DVD I own from SCM may no longer be available (I’m having trouble finding it on their website) but this post has all kinds of resources, including their Delightful Reading Kit.
If I can’t find the SCM resource I’ll follow up on this post with instructions on alphabet magnet activities.
It took a little set up and getting used to, but it’s been so wonderful using the Simply Charlotte Mason Memory System.
It’s presented as a way to memorize Bible verses, but don’t limit memory work to just that (or don’t think the system won’t work for you if you don’t have religious texts you want to help your kids memorize).
In our homeschool we’ve added to our memory box poems, rhymes, days of the week, months of the year, Q&A for various subjects, catechism questions, bits of famous speeches, the US Presidents in order (check out the memory rhymes by Carol Barnier!!), States and Capitals, and other short or short-ish memory-worthy things from all our subjects.
And, no, you don’t have to hand write all your cards out. Many of ours I typed on the computer, printed, cut out, and then pasted to index cards.
Besides, you only need to make them as you go. There’s no need to make a whole bunch at once.
To set up the memory box system you just need an index card box (a locking one like this helps prevent accidental dump incidents!), index cards, and index card dividers. Simply Charlotte Mason has full instructions in print and video on their website.
Even if you don’t use the memory box system, index cards are super handy for making flash cards, puzzles, matching cards, and all kinds of other teaching tools.
This could mean actual math manipulatives or fancy math rods, or something as simple as small toys, craft do-dads, rocks, or dry beans.
Just some kind of visual, tactile item your child can count, gather, and sort. Nothing too big or too small. Something between the size of a kidney bean and a match box car.
We’re bombarded with reports and articles about how important recess is and how healthy it is for kids to spend time outdoors.
If you’re following a Charlotte Mason or Waldorf approach, or another that emphasizes time outdoors, you’re going to try to spend time outside every day.
This will be so much easier if you have at least 2 outdoor places you enjoy spending time on a regular basis.
I say at least 2 because (a) that allows you to offer your little one the option of Place 1 or Place 2 when they’re reluctant, and (b) it gives you a little variety.
It doesn’t matter whether you prefer your backyard, a park, a trail, or a playground. Just having a place to go without having to figure out where to go can enable you to actually get out there.
Unschoolers might hate me for this, but I think it’s essential to prioritize a minimum of 1 hour every day that you’ll spend 100% focused on your preschooler(s). A half hour outside and a half hour inside.
They can be all in a one-hour chunk or broken into two or more smaller chunks.
Work them into your routine in such a way that you can make sure they happen just about any ordinary day.
These are the times you’ll do your morning basket, memory box, games, activities, read-alouds, and/or just hang out with your child(ren) without distractions.
That means no phone, no screens, and no chores.
Keep this time light and low-pressure. Enjoy your child. Let him/her show you what they’re doing and exploring.
Spend the time bonding, with a little learning worked into the time together.
This right here has made the biggest difference in my relationship with my kids and in their love for learning.
Let’s talk about book lists.
I plan out monthly themes.
I carefully pick out books ahead of time.
We attempt a beautifully curated basket time.
I intend to share those lists here on the blog.
But one of the most beautiful things to me is how each child has always picked books they personally enjoy and read those books over and over for a season.
It’s really fun to see each child’s interests and personality blossom and evolve.
We see this in many areas of their lives. One of those areas is the books they favor.
My three-year-old has been asking us to read the following list of books on repeat all summer. (Some of them have been her favorites for over a year.)
Have you read these?
by John Klassen
I don’t know exactly why, but we are really amused by this book. It’s also been a great tool for teaching about “tricky people” and truthfulness. The ending definitely doesn’t teach a positive moral, but it makes a great conversation starter.
In this story, a bear searches for his hat and all the animals he asks can’t help him find it. Suddenly he realizes that the rabbit was actually wearing his hat at the time they spoke and had stolen his hat and lied about it. The bear runs back, confronts the rabbit, and takes his hat back. It’s then implied by the bear’s denial that he ate the rabbit. So the bear took justice into his own hands and then proved he is just as unjust as the rabbit.
It’s a fun, short read with vibrant illustrations and a lighthearted take on untruthfulness that can be used as a springboard for all kinds of great conversations.
by Emma Yarlett
This book is just downright adorable!
Nibbles, the cute, yellow book monster, escapes from his own story and chews his way into classic fairy tales, rewriting the stories and causing all sorts of problems along the way. You and your child “chase” Nibbles as you read the book so you can catch him. Just don’t look away! Not for one second!
The story is even more fun if your child is familiar with some version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk.
(Note: Nibbles is available from Usborne books. If you have an Usborne rep, be sure to support him/her!)
by Melissa Long and David Shannon
Grandpa (my dad) builds boats and speaks fluent pirate. He gave our older kids this book and its prequel, How I Became A Pirate. Our 18-year-old son has delighted in reading them to our youngest, and she is equally delighted. I recommend reading both books. Pirates Don’t Change Diapers just happens to be our daughter’s favorite of the two.
In this story, the pirates return to the boy’s home to retrieve their treasure, which he helped them bury in his yard in the previous book. But the boy is supposed to keep an ear out for his baby sister while his dad is napping, so the pirates have to help him so they can have the chance to go outside and dig. You can probably imagine how funny things turn out!
by Adam Rubin
Are you getting the feeling our daughter likes comedy? Here is another funny book.
The narrator guides a little boy through the process of throwing a taco party for dragons, with very specific guidelines. It seems to go off without a hitch until he realizes that he didn’t read the fine print on the “mild” salsa. Oops!
The text is fun to read and the instructional style is a nice change from a typical narrative.
by Shirley Hughes
This is one of the many gems from Shirley Hughes. She’s probably most famous for her books about a boy named Alfie.
This story follows a beloved stuffed toy dog that is lost, accidentally bought at a rummage sale by another child, and then bought back by a heroic big sister.
Hughes’ writing captivates both me and my daughter. I recommend all of her books. My daughter gets all caught up in the real-life drama. The tension, the emotions, and the resolution. All the conflicts are very relatable for small children, and the resolutions are realistic and non-cutesy.
by Will Hillenbrand
We fell in love with this book’s characters, Mole and Bear, in another book called Spring is Here. When we saw the cover of Kite Day displayed at the library we had to give it a try! With simple language and repetition, both books are very accessible to toddlers and preschoolers (and probably twaddly for older kids).
One warm, breezy day, Bear realizes it is perfect weather for flying a kite. He and Mole plan and construct a kite, then fly it. A storm rolls in and the hard winds break the string. The friends pursue their kite, but when they find it they see it’s now being put to even better use.
by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
Full disclosure: I find this book tedious to read. Our daughter loves it, though. She asks me to read it at least once a day, so it had to make this list!
This book follows a ladybug on her pre-winter journey. You learn all sorts of things about ladybugs along the way.
The illustrations are beautiful. The information is great. The story is…a little hard to get through at times.
by Margaret Wise Brown
I didn’t expect this book to become a favorite, but I am so thankful it has! I bought it about three weeks ago, because manners are something we need to address with Miss Three.
Surprisingly, she fell in love with the book. And, thankfully, it’s working! She is learning from it and putting those lessons into practice.
In this book, different situations are presented with “a way to do xyz” and “a way not to do xyz”. Cute illustrations make the points clear. The text is short and simple.
Sometimes we discuss the illustrations. Sometimes we just read straight through.
I appreciate how the text in this book models full sentences that are good to be repeated. I and my daughter find ourselves quoting this book frequently as we apply the principles to life in real time. It’s been a very helpful tool for us!
Drop them in the comments below! I’m always looking for new ideas. #bibliophileprobs
What exactly do I mean when I refer to “mama rhythm”?
Well, there is a long answer and a short answer to those questions.
Let’s start with the short answer.
Mama rhythm is the vibe, feeling, or atmosphere a mother sends out through her words, attitude, and actions. It’s the ongoing, evolving expression of who a woman is, particularly as a mom.
It involves a mama’s character and personality, values and beliefs, habits and responses.
It involves priorities, purpose, and identity.
Your mama rhythm will probably have similarities to other moms’ – maybe even a lot of similarities – but it is still distinct for each mother.
A mother’s mama rhythm is separate from her circumstances, although her circumstances will both influence and reveal it.
It’s not dependent on where she lives, how nice her home is, or how much money the family has.
It is influenced by her background and cultural heritage, but not determined by them.
It’s not about whether she works outside the home or is a full time homemaker, about what kind of education her kids receive, about whether she breast or bottle feeds, or any other mommy-war kind of decisions.
Mama rhythm is more about our attitudes about those things.
A mama’s responses to her kids, circumstances, and other people. Includes her reactions and temperament as well as her more thoughtful, intentional responses.
What a mama habitually says, thinks, and/or does. Includes her daily routines, self-care, and sleep schedule, as well as verbal habits, non-verbal habits, work habits, thought habits, relational habits, and habits of rest.
What a mama really wants. Includes expectations of children and spouse, preferences about the home and family, and desires for a wide range of things.
How open a mama is to learning and growing.
What a mama hopes for and what a mama hopes in. Includes her aspirations and dreams, and what/whom she trusts for security, stability, peace, and happiness.
A mama’s attitude, outlook, and mentality. Includes her mental health, self-image, identity, perspective, values, beliefs, assumptions, priorities, and overall spirit.
Together these 6 areas form a mama’s rhythm. Her ethos.
They create an atmosphere around her that is felt by her children and other people with whom she comes in contact.
Each area overlaps with the others. Each area affects the others.
Each area can have a profound affect on a mama’s children, relationships, and life.
Each mama is on a unique journey, and her mama rhythm develops and changes over time. It’s part of the wild, breathtaking, heart-rending, delightful adventure.
We’re each unique and spread out on diverse paths, and yet we can be in this thing together, ready to lock arms or lend a hand along the way.
On each of the next several Mondays we will go into more depth about what mama rhythm is, how to discern yours, and how to both celebrate your strengths and grow in areas you feel like you could improve.
My hope is that Mama Rhythm Monday will become an ongoing conversation around which we will build a supportive community as we each morph and grow as mothers.
Use the hashtag #mamarhythmmonday or #mamarhythm to join the conversation on instagram. Tag me @mamarhythm and introduce yourself, and tell me what you love about your mama rhythm!
I might feature you in my stories or feed.
Guess what? You don’t need a Dremel tool or etching machine to etch glass!
You know those super cute custom-etched canning jars, glasses, and glass baking dishes on pinterest and etsy?
Many of them were probably made with etching cream.
I love this stuff, you guys! Your imagination is the limit with it! You can go any direction: classy, quirky, fun, elegant, or something else entirely.
Etched glasses make awesome DIY gifts.
You can personalize a glass or set of glasses for your favorite teacher to celebrate the end of the school year.
You can make a one-of-a-kind Father’s Day gift for your husband or dad. Maybe some custom designed etched bar glasses?
I really want to use etching cream to monogram the bottom of my glass baking dishes! So many possibilities!
The very first project I made with etching cream was a variety of custom drinking glasses to give extended family for Christmas – and all the designs were drawn by my kids. The project turned out so much better than I expected, and we had a great time.
(Warning: Etching cream will burn skin. Do not allow children to use the etching cream, and do not leave the project to rest in reach of young children. When you use the etching cream wear gloves and take care to keep it off your skin and off surfaces others may touch.)
Note: If you have a Silhouette or other craft cutter you could use that to cut designs from vinyl and use the reverse for this project, instead of fooling with the contact paper. I think it was worth it to use the contact paper and transfer the boys’ drawings.
I assigned recipients to the boys and told the boys to draw a picture, artistically write each person’s name, or create some other image or pattern that would represent the recipient well.
1) Draw your image(s). Use thick, dark lines for best results. Permanent marker works great. If you don’t have a copier or scanner, then draw your images on tracing paper. (I like a heavier tracing paper like this.)
2) To make your life much easier, use a copier or scanner to print mirror images of the drawings. Make extra photocopies of the drawings in case you mess up and need to start over.
If you don’t have access to a copier or scanner, then hopefully your drawing is on tracing paper. Carefully fill in the drawing on the backside of the paper as needed until the mirror image is clear.
3) Cut a piece of contact paper and a piece of carbon paper, each slightly larger than your image. Lay the contact paper face down on the counter. Lay the carbon paper on the backing of the contact paper. Lay your image on top of the carbon paper. Secure the layers with masking tape
4) Use a pencil or chopstick to trace the image, pressing firmly to transfer the image to the contact paper backing.
5) Once the drawing is transfered, use your Exact-o knife to cut out the areas you want to etch.
6) Set aside all your stencils
1) Protect your work area with paper or another covering. Get out all your materials.
2) Put a little rubbing alcohol on the corner of a folded paper towel and use that to wipe down the outside of the clean glasses you plan to etch. Set the glasses aside to dry thoroughly, and be careful not to get fingerprints on them.
1) Working with one stencil and one glass at a time, carefully remove the contact paper from areas of the drawing that you wanted to be etched, and then apply the remaining Contact paper to the glass. Use a chopstick and/or your fingers to press down all the cut edges tightly to the glass.
2) Put on your gloves. (Etching cream burns are no joke! Don’t let the kiddos mess with it.) Use the paintbrush to apply etching cream liberally over the opening of the stencils.
3) Allow the etching cream to set for 15 minutes, or according to the instructions on the package of your particular brand of etching cream.
4) After the setting period, (with your gloves on!), rinse the etching cream off the stencils/glasses under running water. Remove the Contact paper, and rinse the glasses completely. Set them all aside to dry.
It was sure difficult to photograph the finished product! We all love how they turned out!
To wrap these, I inserted Christmas tissue paper in each glass along with a slip we typed up in Publisher which gave the Artist’s name and care instructions.
I then wrapped each glass in tissue paper with the “floof” at the top and a gift tag tied on with a ribbon.
Etched glasses are a simple, fun homemade gift idea. They make a practical gift with a sentimental touch.
Here is a simple, quick, and adorable DIY Mother’s Day gift idea that works great in a small classroom setting: Custom decorated flower pots, personalized with photos.
Aren’t they adorable?
It might be a bit much to try with a large class, but with some prepping ahead it worked out perfectly for our small preschool Children’s Church class.
This project is a throwback to when our oldest three children were in elementary school!
(Awwwww! My mama heart!)
The church we attended at the time had a Mother’s Day tradition we haven’t encountered anywhere else. In that church, women typically taught Children’s Church and worked in the nursery. (Nothing against men doing so, it’s just the way things worked out there at the time.)
However, on Mother’s day each year, men volunteered to serve in Children’s Church and the nursery so all of the women could be in the main service.
This particular year, my husband taught Children’s Church. He thought it would be nice to do a craft with the kids that would double as a Mother’s Day gift. After some brainstorming, this is what we came up with.*
He did most of the prep work the day before so that what actually had to be done in the short time with the kids was manageable.
This lower level of involvement was about perfect for preschoolers. If you did this at home, or with older children, you could include the children in more of the process.
Some version of these would be a cute birthday gift, teacher appreciation gift, or any number of other variations.
You could decorate any flower pot, empty or full. My husband chose these hanging pots because we thought it would be nice to give a plant the mothers could enjoy through the summer.
Less than 10 mothers were represented by our small class, so that route wasn’t too expensive. For a larger class you might pick up empty pots from Dollar Tree. This project can accommodate a wide range of budgets and needs.
1) If desired, paint the exterior of the flower pots using acrylic paint of leftover house or wall paint. We used leftover interior latex.
2) On the cardstock, print out or draw templates for three different flowers with 4″ diameter, and one or more flowers with 2″ diameter. Also make a template for a 2.5″ circle.
3) Using your flower templates, trace and cut out flowers. For each pot, you’ll need three 4″ flowers and five or six 2″ flowers.
The children will decorate the 4″ flowers, so a plain color is probably best for them. The 2″ flowers look nice cut from plain or patterned paper.
4) Using your circle templates, trace and cut out circles of photos of each child. Also trace and cut out circles in a contrasting paper color for flowers that won’t have a photo.
5) Lay out a zip-close baggie for each child. Write the child’s name on it with a permanent marker. In each bag, place three 4″ flowers and three 2.5″ circles (either from that child’s photo or from paper). We made 2 extra baggies with plain paper circles in case visitors attended that day.
6) If you want to include a message, quote, or greeting on your gift, you could either type it up or handwrite it on pretty paper.
We typed up Proverbs 31:28 and printed several copies on little ovals. We glued these to slightly larger ovals cut from contrasting scrapbook paper.
You could use any number of quotes and messages. For Mother’s Day, something about blooming under mother’s care would be cute with the flowers.
7) Once the paint on the flower pots has dried, use a permanent marker (or paint pen) to draw stems and leaves around the perimeter of the pot. Draw three stems for the three 4″ flowers, and five or six stems for the 2″ flowers.
Leave room for the message or quote you created in step 6, if you’re take that route!
8) Use a hot glue gun to attach the message and the 2″ flowers.
1) Have the children sit at a table or desk.
2) Give each child the 4″ flowers from their baggie and crayons or markers. Allow the children to decorate their flowers however they please.
3) Assist or supervise each child in gluing the photo and/or plain circles to the centers of their flowers. Set aside to dry.
4) While one teacher engages with the children, the other can use the hot glue gun to attach the three flowers to the flower pots.
The children were so proud to hand the big, beautiful gifts to their mothers!
Note: If you were able to keep these overnight or if you were making them with your children at home, you could finish them with a couple coats of Mod Podge to help them to last longer in the humidity outside.
*Side note: If you do this in a classroom for Mother’s Day, please be sensitive to the particular households who will be receiving these. Thankfully we had two-parent stable homes to work with, but that is not always the case. Just be aware and make adjustments accordingly – some families find Mothers Day and other holidays to be very painful.
One thing I try to prioritize when deciding what crafts to do with my children is the usefulness of the craft.
As cute and easy as little foam shapes are, adorned with pom-poms, glitter, and sequins, they often end up adding more to our clutter problem than to our life.
So when the time comes to create something for ourselves or for someone, I always try to make sure the end result will be useful in some way.
This winter, Bear was part of a weekly outdoor parent-child toddler class. (Which was amazing, by the way. Loved it so much!) The final winter class landed on Valentine’s Day and we ended with a celebration and gift exchange.
We were asked to bring homemade gifts that did not feature commercial characters. Examples of past gifts included everything from greeting cards to candles.
I thought about just making some kind of card. There are so many creative options to go with there.
Then the idea for hand-warmers hit me.
You know, the kind you warm up in the microwave and stick in your pockets or gloves to keep your hands toasty. (What some of us wished we had a few of the more frigid January class sessions!)
And, of course, for Valentine’s Day, we’d make them heart-shaped!
There were only 5 children enrolled in the class, so it wouldn’t be an unrealistically long project. We also already had almost everything we needed on hand.
To include Bear (who won’t be 3 until April) in the pouch-filling I put more rice than we needed into a little bin, and supplied her with measuring spoons and a little pitcher. (I would have offered her our chocolate funnel if could have found it.) I then showed her how to spoon rice into each heart pouch. She spent a long time happily filling the heart pouches and playing with the rice while I adjusted the amount of filling and sewed them shut.
This is as close to a sensory bin as I’ll get. There’s no way two of her older brothers would have ever sat and filled those pouches at her age. At least, not without pelting someone with rice or shoving rice up their noses or something. Gauge your child’s level of involvement based on your child’s particular strengths, abilities, interests, and needs.
Once the pouches were sewn, we packaged 2 per child in sandwich bags with little printouts of instructions for use.
We were told to only make tags say “from:” and not “to:” to make distribution easier.
This is brilliant, y’all. Definitely a trick I’m going to remember.
Whether they use them as hand warmers or bean bags, these are a quick, fun project that the kids really seemed to enjoy.