Tag Archives: Crafts

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Happy Chinese New Year: Celebrate the Year of the Horse with Crafts, Recipes and Fun

Chinese New Year is celebrated on January 31 this year, and marks the beginning of the Chinese year 4712. The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar calendar, with the new year beginning on the darkest day of the month. New years celebrations often go as many as two weeks, until the next full moon. And a celebratory holiday it is, with red decorations, good-luck gifts of oranges and money, parades with dragon dances and firecrackers, and special foods.

This year is the Year of the Horse. See a Chinese zodiac calendar.  Try one of these fun Chinese New Year activities:

Year of the Horse paper cutting from Craftiments

chinese new year horse

Write and paint a Chinese horse character from Artchoo

chinese new year horse

Paper dragon from Teach Kids Art

chinese new year dragon

Paper Plate drums from Crafts and Art for Children

chinese new year craft

Homemade fortune cookies from The Spiffy Cookie

fortune cookie recipe

Felt fortune cookies from Martha Stewart

fortune cookie craft

Fruit roll-up fortune cookies from Recipe by Photo

fortune cookie project

Noisemakers from Slow Family Online

new years noisemaker

Make these easy paper lanterns

This is probably the classic Chinese New Year craft. It’s easy and satisfying. I made these as a kid and, of course, with my daughter.

You’ll need:

  1. Construction paper
  2. Scissors
  3. Tape
  4. Glitter or other decorations, as desired.

Fold a piece of paper in half length-wise.

Beginning at the fold, cut out approx. 4 very skinny triangles that go halfway up the folded section of paper.

Unfold the paper and curl together so that the two shortest ends of the paper meet and the cuts run vertically. (The cuts should now each result in a “diamond” shape.)

chinese lantern craft

The paper lantern activity is adapted from  Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ activities for family fun.

A version of this post originally appeared on Bookboard.

Lantern photo: Planetforward.ca

 

 

Tech/Life Balance? It’s Dot Complicated!

For all the ease and wonder that technology has granted us, how many times have you lamented that it’s also made life more complicated? We deal with tremendous amounts of email clutter to rival our closet clutter. We wonder if our kids are experiencing too much technology too soon, and at what expense. We find ourselves bleary-eyed and twitchy-fingered as we check various online news outlets and events one more time, for fear of missing something important. We reveal a little too much to our co-workers and about ourselves and our significant others.

For fleeting moments, the life of a few decades ago appears so much simpler. People had time to compose long letters at writing desks; to visit with friends, make lovely meals, and play simple games by a lake or a hearth. Of course, it’s easy to romanticize such a life as well. When so much of the world is literally at our fingertips, it can be tricky to choose which aspects of technology and modernity to embrace and which to let go of to make room for that which is simple, personal, tactile and ultimately leads to a fulfilling and connected life.

This is the spirit with which Randi Zuckerberg launched Dot Complicated, an online community that aims to help us explore and untangle our modern, wired lives — together. I had the great fortune of meeting Randi and a few like-minded fellow bloggers at a lovely luncheon, and then I got to return to the Zuckerberg Media Studios, to chat with Randi, Beth Blecherman of TechMamas, video blogger Lizzie Bermudez and Veena Goel Crownholm of Tiaras to Babies, The conversation was wonderful and warm, ranging from our attempts to unclutter and manage our lives and households to the ways in which we find happiness and take care of ourselves.

Beth, Me, Randi, Lizzie, Veena

You can see our four video segments.

I also had a short session with Randi, in which I shared How to Make a Paper Boat, one of the 300+ projects in Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World which are designed to give families ideas and instructions for simple activities, many of which can be done spontaneously and with little equipment on a free afternoon or during a low-key gathering. The paper boat was one of our favorite things to make as a family and sail, either in a local creek or a bathtub. I recently got to share origami boat making with a younger generation of boat-makers, which was delightful, and which I recounted for Randi.

Watch the video here:

Often us parents think we have to plan unusual, elaborate or expensive activities for our kids. Many of us would be surprised at the simple activities and small moments that instead become our children’s fondest memories. Sailing paper boats is one such example for us. Others include picking fruit on long summer days and coming home and making jam, mixing a bucket of bubble solution and enjoying giant bubbles for days, playing tag in the park, making and eating homemade soft pretzels, keeping a moon diary, and watching the night sky for meteors.

I believe that the more technological our lives become, the more we yearn for tactile activities like crafts and cooking, as well as activities that help us gather in families and communities to experience the wonder of the seasons and the natural world and to bond through important play time, down time and family time.

For more simple, fun and memorable things to do with your kids this summer (and a couple of attitudinal changes that might help make summer go more smoothly and joyfully) see my Dot Complicated blog, 7 Secrets to Make Summer Last Longer.

Looking for still more simple, even retro, family fun? See 8 Fun Things to Do While it’s Still Summer.

Thanks again to Randi and everyone at Dot Complicated for being such an important voice for simplifying our lives and for bringing together so many wise and passionate people who desire the same thing.

Beth Blecherman, Hillary Frank and Veena Crownholm on the set

Lovely fellow bloggers and Dot Complicated staff

 

 

Have a Summer Nature Camp at Home

For many summers, my family divided the season into summer camps, vacation travel, and down-time at home, during what we called Camp MommyAnna. It seemed important to enjoy some of summer’s long days with adventures in our local nature and area and no set schedule. So I’m very excited to participate in The At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum, which offers tons of ideas to help you create your own at-home summer camp experience.

The At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum, from A Natural Nester, contains creative and easy-to-follow ways to keep kids engaged throughout the summer and to make the most of family time together.

The Curriculum includes 8 weeks of kid-friendly lessons, outdoor activities, indoor projects, crafts, recipes, field trip ideas, children’s book suggestions, and more in a full-color PDF you can read on your computer screen or tablet, or print out. The program is designed to be flexible and fit with your family’s schedule and surroundings, so you can incorporate the ideas any time it works for you.

Fun weekly themes to help kids discover and enjoy the natural world include:

An Edible Garden ~ The Night Sky ~ At the Beach 
 A Spot in the Shade ~ Ponds & Frogs
Rain, Rain ~ Wildflowers & Bees ~ Sun Fun

While designed primarily for children ages 5-11, the ideas are fun and adaptable for all ages.

These are the talented and inspirational camp counselors:

Sarah of Imagine Childhood ~ Kara of Simple Kids
Valarie of Jump Into a Book ~ Heather of Shivaya Naturals
Cerys of Nature and Play ~ Linda of Natural Suburbia
Leah of Skill It ~ Amy of Mama Scout
Erin of Exhale. Return to Center and More!
The eCurriculum will be available May 20, but you can pre-order a copy now.

I can’t wait for summer!

At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum

12 Fun Family Activities for Screen Free Week

When I speak to families about slowing down and enjoying family time, one of the things that comes up over and over is screen time. Screens dominate many of our lives, often to a greater degree than we wish. While many of us parents can attest to the addictive nature of technology, we struggle with ways to reduce it in our children’s lives.

It is perhaps a bonus, then, that the wonderful Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has proclaimed April 29 – May 5 to be Screen-Free Week. Sometimes this kind of added incentive is all we need to inspire us to action. More than once, parents have told me that their children’s favorite memories include episodes of family game nights by fire- or candlelight during power outages. You can create your own “power outage” by participating in Screen-Free Week. And, even if you don’t go completely screen-free, you might want to pledge an hour or so a day or night to have some good screen-free fun. Who knows? That fun might just become a habit or your own favorite family memory.

Here are 12 ways to celebrate Screen Free Week:

Make a Paper Boat and sail it in a creek, pond or bathtub.

Make a Bird Feeder. Our local birds have gone nuts for ours and we plan to make more.

Make easy Wreaths, Crowns and Baskets to celebrate May Day.

Enjoy Loom and Finger Weaving. You can do this anywhere!

Keep a Moon Diary as a way of observing the night sky.

Slow your pace and have a Cloud Race.

Get a jump on summer by making S’Mores. Camp under the stars if it’s warm enough.

Start a Backyard Garden.

Bake your own Soft Pretzels. These are really easy and fun.

Play a different fun board game every night. We like Boggle, Sorry, Taboo, Pictionary, Scrabble, Mancala, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Hi-Ho Cherry O.

Discover The Joy of Quiet.

And, if you’re really missing your screen? Make your own Shoebox TV!

You’ll need:

Shoebox or a square-shaped box and lid
Cardboard tubes, from paper towels, foil or plastic wrap, or wooden dowels
4-10 pieces of printer paper (8 ½ x 11”)
Drawing materials
Scissors, craft knife and tape

Cut a large opening for the TV screen into the bottom of the box, leaving an even border of 1” or more all around.

Holding the box horizontally, cut two holes on the top, each about 2” the side and 2” back from the cut-out section. Your dowels or cardboard tubes should fit into the holes.

Cut two bottom holes that line up with the top ones.

Cut the cardboard tubes, if necessary, so that about ½ “ sticks out on the bottom and 1-2” on top.

Decide on a story you want to tell that primarily uses pictures.

Place the paper horizontally (cutting, if necessary, to fit the tube length) and draw one picture on each page, adding words, if desired. Leave at least 1” on each paper edge and at least 2” on the left edge of the first picture and the right edge of the last picture.

Lay the pictures out, left to right, in the order they will appear. Turn them over and, keeping the order, run a piece of tape down each back seam where two pictures come together.

Tape each end of the paper story scroll around a tube or dowel and roll  on the back sides of the scroll, so that the paper image is at the front of the tubes and the paper is tight and sized to the box.

Place the tubes into the holes and place the lid on the back. Decorate the front of the TV, if desired.

Gently turn the tubes to make the pictures move.

Slow Tip: You can also use images from magazines or comic-books to create your story.

You can make multiple story scrolls and change them through the back of the box. In doing so, you’ll join nearly every ancient civilization in telling stories using scrolls, starting with the Egyptians, who created them on papyrus.

The Shoebox TV craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more ways to enjoy screen-free family fun.

 Related posts from Slow Family Online:

Eight Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Six Fun Family Activities to Enjoy This Weekend

Hooray for Low-Tech Toys

Graphic: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

BabbaBox Provides Fun, Easy Activities to Engage Kids

In the course of speaking to people about my book, Fed Up with Frenzy, I’ve met many parents who want to do more fun things with their kids, but don’t know how to get started. Some don’t know the rules to playground and other games and some are intimidated by gardening or crafts. While my book contains hundreds of simple activities that families can do right away and either require no materials or basic items that they probably have around the house, some people would still like a little more help, particularly when it comes to crafting.

That’s where BabbaBox comes in. BabbaBox makes it convenient to start spending quality time with your kids because all the materials and content for a variety of activities are included in each box. Boxes can be purchased individually or by a monthly subscription that provides a different themed box each month.

These are some of the upcoming monthly themes: Royal Kingdom,
Rainforest, Recycling, Awesome Artist, and Gratitude.

Each BabbaBox includes four major components centered around the ways kids engage and learn: Create, Explore, Story Tell and Connect. Children create through two or more projects they make themselves.  A thought-provoking activity helps them explore.  Also included in the box are a book that presents the monthly theme, and links to digital downloads.

 

This is included in the Gratitude Box:

CREATE: Materials to make three projects, including a serving tray, thank you cards and a hot pad to gift.

EXPLORE: A disposable camera and photo album to make a gratitude journal.

STORY TELL: Giving Thanks, an illustrated book about a father-son nature walk.

CONNECT: Gratitude app downloads that helps kids bake their own cookies to virtually gift.

Click to watch a video preview of another wonderful box, the Awesome Artist box.

With the holidays coming, BabbaBox, at $24.99 a month, makes a reasonably priced gift that provides more long-lasting, quality play than a lot of other toys.

Would you like to win a free annual BabbaBox membership, $1500 in cash, or gift cards from Starbucks, Target, Diapers.com, or others?  Enter the BabbaCo Holiday Sweepstakes.

Have fun engaging with your family.

Photos: BabbaCo

This post is sponsored by BabbaCo. The opinions expressed are my own.

Honor Your Family With Fun Gratitude Crafts

When many of us count our blessings, we often start with our own families. After all, those in our immediate and extended family are usually the people we are with the most, through small moments and larger triumphs, and those who mean the most to us. Celebrating family with fun crafts allows us to find expression for our gratitude and can allow family members to feel uniquely appreciated. These crafts can also be a way to pass on family lore, while providing children with a fuller sense of who they are and their place in their family and in the global community.

Create an Appreciation “Recipe” for a Mom or Another Special Person

I got this lovely idea from my Anna’s  4th grade teacher, D. J. Mitchell. It’s very easy and fun to do, and it conveys a special relationship and feelings that may be otherwise hard to articulate. Help your child create a recipe for a “marvelous mom” or a “delightful dad” or a “fabulous friend” or any other combination using an adjective and the person’s name or role.

You’ll need:
• Piece of construction paper or poster board
• Markers and crayons or colored pencils
• Ruler

Think about the attributes of the recipient that make him or her special.

Write a heading on the paper: Recipe for a (fabulous friend or other).

Using a ruler, draw six or more lines on which to write your various ingredients.

Write the “ingredients” for the person, in recipe terms, such as “6 cups kindness,” “5 tablespoons love,” or whatever else you can think of.

Leave space at the bottom to write out your instructions, also using recipe terms, like mix, add, fold, blend, and so on.

Decorate the rest of the paper, as desired.

Here is Anna’s “recipe”:

Make a Personal or Family Crest or Coat of Arms

Since the seventh century in Japan and the twelfth century in Europe, families, individuals, countries, states, schools, knights, clergy, and others have used decorative and distinctive coats of arms, or family crests, to identify themselves or their clans. It’s a wonderful tradition that can be adapted in a lighthearted way to proclaim or discover individual or family identities and interests.

You’ll need:
• Paper
• Colored pencils, crayons, markers, paints, or other drawing
implements
• Ribbons, scrap paper and fabric, glitter, and other decorative
items, as desired
• School or craft glue
• Frame, optional

Draw the outline of a shield shape, which resembles a pointed shovel.

Draw lines inside of the shield to divide it into various regions. It is common for crests to have 4-6 sections. You may want to give each family member a section.

Inside each section, draw or write the name of one or more things that you enjoy doing or that you like about yourself or your family. If you’d like, leave a space inside the crest, or below it, to write the family name.

Color and decorate the items and the background of the crest. Most crests are elaborate, with lots of decorative items and flourishes.

Frame or display your unique crest.

If you’d like, try this coat of arms template.

 

You might also like:
Make an Altar to Honor Ancestors for Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead

Giving Thanks: Express Gratitude with Crafts, Food, Fun and Contemplation

Rhythm of the Home: The Blessings of a Slow Family

I am thrilled and honored to have a piece, The Blessings of a Slow Family, in the Autumn edition of Rhythm of the Home. I have been a fan of this beautiful magazine since its inception. (I have a piece in the Autumn 2010 Rhythm of the Home on Making a Fall Leaf Placemat.) It never fails to fill me with inspiration and beauty — photos are stunning, projects and tips are inspiring, and the contributors are uniformly engaging, wise and warm.

This is a hint of my story, which outlines many of the ways my family has found to honor the changing seasons, the rhythms of each day, and the community around us, through ritual, craft, nature and more.

When my family made a conscious choice to slow down, and reduce modern life’s typical pace, what we really did was get better in touch with rhythms and practices that have more in common with the turning wheel of the day and the year than with the artificial markers of the typical school and social year, not to mention the standard expectations about children’s development that don’t always fit our own children.

Because our modern culture can be poor at creating space for and then honoring life events and the movement of time, we have to create those rituals and activities for ourselves. Fortunately, my family found many ways to do that.

You can continue reading The Blessings of a Slow Family.

There are far too many delightful pieces in the Autumn Rhythm of the Home to list. I hope you will explore the issue for yourself. As for me:

I can’t wait to make these Reusable Sandwich Bags. I also love the Autumn Watercolor Crafts. And this is a very easy and original idea for a Shadow Puppet Show.

I am also eager to Have a Butterfly Celebration when the Monarchs return to their winter home.

This Autumn Pizza with Roasted Fig and Apples looks fantastic, and I’ve long wanted to try making Homemade Ricotta Cheese. I also really appreciate and believe in Using the Kitchen as a Place to Bond.

I am deeply inspired by The Story of an Apple, Nature Lovers, Four Fall Simplicity Seeds, 10 Steps Toward Getting the Break you Need, and A Season of Rebirth.

I am always moved by Erin Goodman and her thoughtful work and am thrilled that the issue features an Interview with Erin Barrette Goodman.

Even with all that, I have only hinted at the goodness in this issue of Rhythm of the Home. Do yourself a favor: Brew your favorite cup of tea, settle into a cozy spot and see for yourself.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Book Provides Inspiration for Halloween Fun

As an unabashed enthusiast for all things Halloween, I loved Maggie da Silva‘s very charming and thorough ebook, Real Family Halloween Fun. Maggie is also the author of The Real Family Camping Cookbook, and her flair for providing complete information in a fun and accessible way is again evidenced here.

Maggie provides everything you need for a memorable and fun Halloween. There are ideas for lots of different costumes, including last-minute ones, from unicorn to superhero. Thorough guidelines take the reader through every step of throwing a Halloween party, including themed decorations and music, invitation text, traditional and obscure games ranging from fortune telling to Halloween hunts, and fun and unique treats like Witches’ Fingers and Mummy Mealoaf. As a pumpkin lover, I’m “dying” to try the pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Maggie’s holiday spirit is completely infectious. I especially enjoyed her forays into Halloween history and her section on old-fashioned and forgotten Halloween fare, such as Barnbrack and Colcannon from Ireland, and Boxty and Soul Cakes from the U.K. Real Family Halloween Fun is rounded out with crafts, lore and even poetry, which succeeds in putting the reader in the Halloween mood while taking much of the guesswork out of bewitching celebrations of any scale.

For more information on downloading, see Real Family Time.

Make Stuff Together: A Book to Inspire Family Crafting and a Giveaway

I was drawn to Bernadette Noll, co-author with Kathie Sever of Make Stuff Together, 24 Simple Projects to Create as a Family, the first time I saw her online. Now, it could be that she co-produces Slow Family Living, and here I am at Slow Family Online. Or that she was so friendly when we initially chatted about supporting each other’s efforts. It could also just be — and I suspect this is true for people who know her in person, too — that she exudes creativity and deep connection in everything she does, whether it’s sharing a tutorial on her Future Craft Collective blog, which she created with her Make Stuff Together co-author, the equally compelling Kathie Sever, or candidly revealing lessons learned along her and her family’s journey on her more personal blog, Just a Minute.

That same spirit I initially saw is evident on every page of Make Stuff Together. Bernadette and Kathie put much of themselves into this book, which is as much about creating a joyous and expressive family life as it is about creating objects — though of course the objects are delightful, too. It was on Future Craft Collective that I first read about “upcycling”, and many of the projects in Make Stuff Together feature clever re-use of such items as bird-seed bags, inner tubes, billboards, neoprene and fabric samples, as well as ideas about where to find such things. Fittingly, the authors note that their sense of community deepened during their search for materials — they met and befriended people they wouldn’t have otherwise, and their kids benefited from that experience.

Make Stuff Together also has wonderful information about working with kids on sewing and other crafting projects. I find these deeply helpful and comradely. Among the suggestions, which the authors expand upon:

Let go of expectations
Honor process over project
Decide what your boundaries are, in terms of space, chaos, and materials
It’s okay to help when necessary
Not everything is sacred — sometimes re-doing, un-doing, or starting over is just the right act
Slow down, connect, and enjoy!

Of course, the meat of the book is its projects, and each is delightful, with colorful, inspiring photography and easy-to-follow instructions and patterns. My family and I are especially drawn to the Family Flags and Appreciation Banners the Game Board and Caddy, and the Napkins and Napkin Rings, which are shown in vintage fabrics and buttons.

Many of the projects are as useful as they are lovely, such as the Water-Bottle Holster, Tool Roll and Nature Pouch, Armchair Caddy, and Birthday Crown. There are games to make, items to grace a table, and fun, quick projects that would make wonderful gifts or keepsakes.

Make Stuff Together makes me want to grab my daughter, dust off the sewing machine, dig out our scrap fabric and start creating together.

To celebrate Make Stuff Together I am giving away a copy to a lucky reader. To enter to win, simply leave a comment below by Midnight, U.S. Eastern, Friday, July 1 and tell me your favorite thing to craft or something you’d like to make this summer.

Photos courtesy of Bernadette Noll.

How to Make: Fun and Easy Homemade Valentines

Since Roman times, people have celebrated a mid-February festival — once called Lupercalia and celebrating fertility, the holiday was changed by Pope Gelasius in 496 A.D. into a Christian feast day in honor of the Roman martyr Saint Valentine. Today, 25% of all cards sent in the U.S. per year are valentines.

And why not? In addition to proclaiming love, valentines can be lovely, bright, traditional, and endless in variety. As such, they make a wonderful craft for children, who can easily decorate large paper hearts with simple things found in grocery and craft stores and around your house.

You’ll need:

Construction paper in classic Valentine colors (red, pink, purple) — or not!

At least one good heart-shaped template, made of cardboard, that you can trace around to make valentine hearts. (Sometimes these can be found in craft stores.)

Scissors, regular and/or pinking edged

Glue, traditional and stick

Paper doilies that are slightly larger than the heart-shape

 

To decorate your valentine hearts, choose from:

Smaller doilies, either whole or cut
Commercial valentines, either whole or cut
Stickers (old-fashioned valentine or floral themes, or any of your choosing)
Small pom poms
Ribbon pieces
Small paper cups for candies or baked goods (available at specialty or grocery stores)
Small paper hearts
Feathers
Buttons
Beads
Tissue paper shreds
Crinkle cut paper
Pipe cleaners
Party napkins, whole or cut up
Felt hearts
Foam hearts and other shapes
Fabric scraps
Crepe paper pieces
Glitter
Markers, to write messages
Paint

The list is endless! We collect valentine items from year to year and store them away when not in use. Most of these things are available in craft and similar stores. Younger children, especially, seem to like the really tactile items like pom poms, feathers and candy cups.

It’s easy to host a small or large group to make valentines. Try putting each item in its own small bowl. Or have guests dress up or wear hats for a Valentines Tea that includes mini sandwiches and juice or tea in teacups. (Second-hand stores are a good source of old teacups.)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

Host a Valentine Tea Party

Mixed Reviews for New Necco Sweetheart Flavors

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