Monday, August 27, 2012

Wall Shutter

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Here's a pretty popular pinterest post that's been going around for a while:

You take shutters and hang them for an interesting display.

I found shutters at a garage sale for five dollars a pair and they were the exact shade of burgandy that I want to use in my living room. I was stoked!

It took me a couple months to stop dragging my feet and actually start to decorate this room of my house. I finally got around to it and here are my lovely shutters!

I made clothes pins to match the shutters. They are useful in helping smaller papers stay in the shutter slats without falling through. You just clip the clothes pins to the paper.
I used acrylic paint and Q-tips to give them a flower design


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Teacher Gift

Jade made these flower pots for her teachers as an end of the year gift.

I found the pots at Target in the dollar section and I HAD to buy them!

Then I made tracers out of cardstock for the three different parts of each flower. Jade traced them onto various colors of felt and I cut them out (the felt was too hard for her to cut)

Next she chose fancy buttons and arranged the flower stacks into piles. She and I sewed the buttons to the flower parts to hold the whole thing together.

On the weekend, Jade collected sticks that were about 1/2 inch around and long enough to poke out of the pots. She covered all nine of the sticks with green yarn by herself! I hot glued the yarn at the bottom and she wrapped and wrapped until it was totally covered then I hot glued the yarn again at the top.

I cut some leaves from green felt and added them to the sticks to give the flowers some dimension.

I took some old gum-ball-machine-style plastic rings and glued them to the top of each flower stem. If you don't have a collection of crappy plastic rings hanging around you can use buttons or even heavy cardboard squares. This part of the craft helps the flowers to point outward instead of drooping down. I glued the flowers to the gem part of the rings and they were all set.

The flowers didn't want to stand up on their own in their pots. I took some styrofoam, which I save when it comes in packaging, and cut it into circles that fit into the bottoms of the pots. I poked the sticks into the styrofoam and voila! The flowers stood up and the arrangements looked lovely.

Jade added her teachers' names (one for her teacher, one for the aide, and one for the school counselor that Jade sees) to each pot using foam sticker letters. These can be purchased from a craft store. However, I recommend buying them from Oriental Trading because you get a million of them for a great price. I bought them a few years ago and still have plenty left.

End of the year school project

Last year I interned in a first grade classroom. On my last day I had a craft and accompanying read-aloud ready to help the kids create a thank you for their awesome teacher! There was a substitute for half the day so it was a surprise for the teacher when she returned :)

The book is The Day They Smelled a Skunk at Peanut Butter Pond by Lael Littke

The Day They Smelled a Skunk at Peanut Butter Pond

The premise of the story:
A skunk wanted to go into town to eat his favorite ice cream. He tried to go to the ice cream shop but the people shooed him away because of his smell. He didn't realize he smelled bad and his forest friends have to break it to him nicely and tell him that they love him anyway. All his friends help him get to the ice cream shop by buying perfume and spraying the scent all over town while they walk to the shop. The people smell the skunk mixed with the perfume and, instead of being mad, the smells remind them of good times they had (camping, visiting grandma, etc.) They reminisce while the forest animals get their yummy ice cream.

Based on this read aloud, I created an art project for the first graders to share their sweet memories with their teacher. I printed large ice cream shapes.  Each child remembered a sweet memory they had with their teacher and wrote it down. After I helped them correct the basic spelling, they copied their memory onto their ice cream shape.  The children painted them using water color paints. I asked them to use light colors so the writing would show up, but they had a hard time remembering this. So, after the paint dried (only about 20 minutes), I traced over their writing with a fine-tipped sharpie.

Then I cut an ice cream cone from construction paper and created a title paper and hung it all up in the hallway. Here's how it came out:

The picture is a little fuzzy but the purple paper says "Sweet Memories with Miss Gregory"

I recommend this book for a similar craft activity or for a character-building lesson because it also has a message about embracing our differences.

Get ready for the...


We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you you?
During our last week of preschool we took all the children to the Ross Park Zoo. Before we took our trip, we did some fun zoo activities with the kids.

I got inspired by these animal themed crafts on pinterest and we did a few in our preschool classrooms.

I made animal foot prints out of Styrofoam and the kids made paint prints.

We also made animal cages and created a classroom zoo board:

Pictures were printed and I cut grass pieces for the kids to add. Then they sewed the yarn through holes I had punched in the foam trays. Sewing is a new skill and this activity was good practice. In the future I would like to use magazine cut-outs, particularly from National Geographic magazine, instead of wasting ink printing the pictures. Older children could draw pictures instead.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gravel Sensory Box

The Possibilities for Gravel are endless!

Here's a great Dino gravel box from

Where to get the gravel:
I purchased mine at a pet store in a mass quantity. You can also purchase this at some outdoor stores like Agway. It's not particularly cheap but it can be cleaned which means you can use it over and over again!

Related Thematic Units:
  • Dinosaurs
    • In this box: plastic dinos, bigger rocks, bowls (maybe fill one with water), trees or real leaves, plastic bones... try adding these awesome baked cotton balls:

  • Construction or vehicles
    • In this box: vehicles, wooden signs, scoops and bowls
  • Halloween
    • In this box: black and orange gravel (purchased from the fish dept of my local pet store), spiders, tomb stones, halloween characters (garage sale time!), and maybe a couple flashlights to make creepy shadows

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  • Any other holiday can be created using the appropriate colored gravel and festive items
  • Add water to your gravel table for an aquatic unit like turtles, frogs, even mermaids!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fabric Scraps Sensory Box

Fun with Fabrics! 
When I mentioned this sensory box idea to a coworker at the preschool she said she didn't think the kids would like it much. I disagree, my own kids love it and I bet the preschoolers will love it too. One benefit of this sensory box is it's age friendliness. This can be used with children starting at age 9 months because you can cut the fabric large enough that it's not a choking hazard, then cut it smaller after your baby is done mouthing everything.

Where to get the materials:
Start by saving all your fabric scraps from sewing (or ask your friends if you don't sew) You may have enough just by keeping your scraps but chances are you'll want to add some mew textures to your sensory table too.

Head to the fabric store and raid the remnants rack. Remnants are portions of fabric that are less than one yard in length. At my local Jo Ann's, they're half off the price of the original fabric so I usually pay less than 2 dollars for each piece.

Types of fabric to consider adding to your table:
fancy prom-dress fabrics that have beads built in
table-cloth material (shiny vinyl)
faux fur
cotton with bold prints

Other things to add to this box: 
 Ribbon scraps, buttons, large plastic tweezers, pom poms, I would consider hanging a clothes line above or behind the sensory box and including clothes pins in the box for kids to hang up fabric scraps (great fine-motor development activity), Velcro strips, zippers, cups to fill with fabric, toilet paper rolls (stuff the fabric inside, pull out the other side)

Anything related to sewing or how-it's-made. The sensory box pictured was created in a home for a child's birthday celebration.

Cotton Ball Sensory Table

Cotton ball ideas for your sensory table

Where to purchase:
This is one item that you'll have to flat-out buy. Luckily, they're not too expensive and they are available at the dollar store, WalMart, and pretty much any general merchandise store

Related Thematic Units:
Winter- when snow isn't available or you've already used  snow in your sensory table, cotton balls are a fun alternative. The box shown on the right seems to have a penguin theme (found on Pinterest)
 Included in this box: winter animals like penguins and polar bears, ice cream scoops, pails, mittens, tongs/large tweezers, and ice cube trays.

Polar Express- If your class is reading this book or watching the movie, they may enjoy a polar express train sensory box.
In this box: pails and shovels, trains and train tracks, bells, and small teddy bears, possibly xmas stockings if you celebrate Christmas.  

Construction Sensory Box

Nuts and Bolts construction box

What's included: 
Screws with flat ends (nothing sharp), bolts, nuts, plastic wire caps, metal strips with holes in it (like these)

Other additional objects: allen wrench, wrench, pliers, screwdrivers, toy construction vehicles especially diggers and dump trucks, wooden construction signs, and maybe even a few big magnets.

Where to get this stuff:
I save all the pieces that come with furniture-in-a-box because they usually include extra screws and a "disposable" allen wrench. I also accumulated some of this "junk" while my grandmother was moving out of her home. This is one of the items on my list of things I save.

If you don't have a stock pile of nuts and bolts, I'd recommend starting by calling a local hardware store and asking if they could donate any of these materials to your school. You never know! You could also put an ad on the wanted section of Craigs List; I have obtained large quantities of strange materials like glass jars and egg cartons via CL.

Thematic Units:
Construction (obviously):
This unit may occur because the class or children are particularly interested in construction. This may be especially pertinent when there is construction occurring close to the school or your home or if a parent visits who is a construction worker.

This may also be a larger part of a vehicles/transportation unit or a How-It's-Made unit

No image yet because I have yet to create this sensory box but I will be doing this soon!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mega List of Sensory Table Ideas

Today was my last day student teaching in preschool. I loved preschool so much that I wanted to create a list of sensory table ideas for preschool educators everywhere!

Not Just Cute, a blog about holistic child development, has a really compelling write up about sensory table benefits here. Check it out!

 Do you have a sensory table in your classroom or home? I think they are  great for children of all ages and can certainly be implemented in a room even without having a fancy sensory table. Buy a long, low under-the-bed storage bin with a lid at a hardware store or WalMart and put it on a classroom table for a sensory station or open it during morning arrival/end of the day departure.

Working in a school that serves many families living under the poverty level, I needed to be conscious of doing any art activities that use food. There is a possibility that we have children in our room who do not have enough to eat at home; using food for frivolous things is cruel to children who are constantly hungry. Therefore, I have assembled the list so that all the non-food ideas are at the top and a few food related ideas are at the bottom. Personally, I will never use the food ideas in a classroom but I may use them in my home.

Many of the ideas are linked to another post discussing the idea and its classroom implementations. I have included in the links ideas for the matching thematic unit of study, items to include with the sensory materials, and where to find these materials without spending a fortune. (Please be patient while I finish all the links)

Pom Poms
Cotton balls
Fabric scraps
Bird seed
Wood chips
Pine needles
Xmas balls
Egg Shucks
Cupcake wrappers
Snaps, Zippers, Shoe Laces
Toilet Paper on the roll
Spider webbing
Plastic silverware and wooden spoons, tongs
Small tiles
Bubble wrap
Colored, plastic coated wire
clothes pins
Rubber bands
Tape on rolls
Spools of thread
Rough cuts of wood and various sand papers
Screws, nuts and bolts, electrical caps
Phone book pages or newspaper
Mesh and string
Dental floss
Tin foil
Pipe Cleaners
Foam letters/ shapes
Hole-Punched paper circles
Scrabble tiles
Paint swatches
Mr. Potato head parts
Coconut bark
Keyboard Keys
Puzzle pieces
Various chains
Rubber bits
Packing peanuts
Shaving Cream
Gravel, pebbles, sand, clay
Sumac plants
Native nuts and pine cones
Fish tank gravel
Nautical rope, fishing line
cocktail umbrellas
Crepe paper
Shredded paper
Easter grass

Unpopped popcorn
Kidney beans or mixed beans soup mix
Split peas
Sunflower Seeds
Whole peanuts
Indian Corn
Pumpkin chunks or seeds
Coffee grounds or beans

Snow Sensory Box

Ideas for your snow sensory box:

Where to get it:
Well, snow comes from the ground in the winter. Hehe. Once a day, go outside and grab a few buckets of snow. The kids will like to play with it even while it's mostly water and once it totally melts you either have a water table or the sensory table is closed for the morning.

Need fake snow? You can use white dove soap and shave it with a fine cheese grater or microwave it, following the directions here.  There are also fake snow products that can be purchased if you'd like to spend some money (I don't want to!)

Related thematic units:
  • Welcome to Winter!The first real snow of the season has fallen
    • shovels and buckets, snowman building items (twigs, black buttons, tiny scarf, hat)
  • Snowing in July (or whatever non-winter month)
    • For this sensory table, you'll obviously be using fake snow. This may be used with cotton balls also. 
Related concepts:
I recently heard this science and sensory idea in a teacher-education course in my graduate school program: take a wading pool outside and have the children help build a snowman. Measure his height, diameter of each circle, etc. the age level of the children will dictate how much measuring and data collecting you will do. Then, bring the snowman inside and let him melt into the wadding pool. You can chart his shrinking by measuring him every 20 minutes, and, if you're tech-savvy you can take photos and create a time-elapsed clip of him melting away. Measure the water left over at the very end.

Pom Pom Sensory Box

Pom Pom sensory box ideas:

Where to purchase them: 
I usually turn to Oriental Trading for this material, right now they have 500 pom poms for $6.25

You can also make your own pom poms to mix in a larger size with the store bought ones. Here's a tutorial, it even has a template for the cardboard piece you'll need. Pretty easy!

Related thematic units:
  • Ice cream- Maybe you're studying ice cream before you visit an ice cream factory, or maybe you'll be having an ice cream party at the end of the week. 

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    • Inside this box: ice cream scoop, empty ice cream tubs, plastic spoons, ice cube tray
    • I found most of these extra items at garage sales or salvation army
  •  Circus- studying the animals, the performers, or preparing for a trip to see the circus live. The bright colors of the pom poms are circus-y to me!
    • Inside this box: plastic animals (elephant, tiger, camel, dog, horse), solid plastic bracelets (like mini hula hoops), popcorn boxes

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sensory box for babies

Are you familiar with remnants at your local fabric store? I bet your store has them just like our Jo Ann Fabrics. Remnants are little pieces of fabric left over when the bolt is nearly empty. They're less than a yard. They come in little bundles and, at our store at least, they're half off the price of the fabric. If the fabric is on sale, they're half off the sale price. I am drawn to this bin because the prices are so cheap. I bought 3/4 of a yard of felt for 75 cents! However, it bothers me slightly to buy all these little pieces without a use for them.

On pinterest (of course!) I saw this idea for a sensory box for babies. Developmentally speaking, babies are ALL about senses but many sensory activities are a bit too advanced for "mouthers" like mine (sand, rice, oobleck, etc.) Well this sensory box is all fabric so it's perfect for my little 1-year-old

Here's the box:

It's a wipes tub! I bought a fancy one just for this and put the wipes into my boring white one but if you have one lying around, decorate it with contact paper instead of buying one. I didn't have any spares. 

Inside the box is a long chain of fabrics. I sewed them together. Yep, this one requires you to sew. I know that in the past if I'd read that I'd likely walk away right now. Forget it, sewing is a pain. No! Wait! Stay with me here... it's not that bad!

Actually, this is a great project for novice sewers or if you just bought a new machine and you want to try out all the features. Just sew together lots of strips of fabric! That's it! When you're dealing with tulle and silky materials you need to use a zig-zag stitch to make sure the fabric stays. When you're dealing with cotton you have a choice if you'd prefer a zig-zag or straight stitch and when you're working with really thick fabric you need to use a straight stitch, preferably one with a bit of space between each stitch, so your machine doesn't get bogged down.

I hemmed the rectangles inside out, leaving a little space, flipped them then sewed on top to close the hole. Then I sewed them end-to-end. Here are the fabrics I chose (pardon the poor photography, it's dark and I'm too lazy to move to a well-lit room)

This is a gold linen material with a bit of black tulle sewn on the center:

 Next is cotton black and white polka dots. I chose this pattern because experts say that high contrast black-and-white is more visually appealing to babies.

Attached is hot pink felt (my super cheap find of the day in the remnant bins)

 This picture really doesn't show you how cool this next fabric is, unfortunately. The gold fabric is silky polyester that feels very soft. The white-ish one is a thicker tulle material with tiny rhinestones and silver beads attached. I tried, using my teeth and fingers, to remove the beads and they wouldn't budge. Also, they are smaller than the head of a pin so even if they were to come off they're not a choking hazard because they'd be swallowed without a problem. This material reminds me of a high school prom dress. The beads feel bumpy. Addison was playing with the remnant while we shopped and she kept running her hand up it to feel the texture.

Here is a piece of the same felt but this time I added pompom yarn. This yarn has pompoms attached! I pinned the yarn on the felt then sewed 4 straight lines down the fabric, hitting the yarn vertically.

 I sewed about 8 layers of pink tulle together for a light layer. The tulle was only about 89 cents, by the way. I got 5 colors!

Last, I found this red printed material that is canvas, I think it's intended for outdoor furniture. It's really thick and coarse feeling.

After all the fabrics are sewn together in a long strip, kind of like the handkerchiefs a magician pulls from his sleeve, you just accordion-fold them and stuff them into the empty wipes tub. I pulled one end out a little bit to catch my baby's attention. The fabrics come out of the wipe dispenser easily.

The whole project only cost me about 8 dollars, but you could do it with scraps you have at home and it would be very inexpensive or free if you have a variety of material in your sewing stuff. It was so easy too! Dust off you sewing machine (or get it out of the box if you're new!) and craft today!

Pictures to come of miss Addi playing with her new toy, I finished it after she was in bed

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Organization for our kitchen

Our trash area in the kitchen recently had to expand. Why? Because of my UNpaper towels. I needed a place to stash them after they're used before they make it to the wash. So I got creative and bought a bicycle basket for this purpose. It's flat on one side and it's handles can be used to attach it to the wall (if you're handier than I am) Here's the basket attached to the wall:

I used nails and forced them through the wicker. It's not 100% attached. Jason was like "oh what is this basket?" and he grabbed it and it came off but I stuck it back on and scolded him. We'll see if it stays or if I have to have help attaching it legitimately.

The weird writing next to it says "washables". Let me explain... First of all, people are always throwing garbage toward the can. Sometimes they make a shot that is "all net", as in, it lands right in the can. Most of the time they use the backboard to score; the backboard is the wall. The wall was always streaked with food and questionable muck. I cleaned it so much that the paint was starting to come off. So I needed to do something.

What I decided to do was cover the wall with clear contact paper. I can wipe it off easily and it will come off of the wall without ruining the paint. Then I decided to label all the parts of our garbage area... for fun! I used my collection of magazine letters to create little labels. I taped them to the wall then covered it all with contact paper. Here's how it looks:

The categories are: washables (UNpaper towels, bibs, washcloths, and someday cloth tissues- stay tuned), recycle, garbage, and deposit $
You can't even see the contact paper but it's there! I think this is a great system for our garbage enter. Soon I will have to make a change though because I will be composting this summer to make a home for earthworms for bail. Jade's a big fisherkid :)

Chalkboard paint!

Pinterest has been buzzing with chalkboard paint recipes so I had to jump on the bandwagon. I started with the door panels on the inside of the basement door. I want to use this space to keep track of my 8-year-olds toys that are stored in the basement as well as the dates when she brought each set up. This organizational method helps us make sure she's playing with all her toys (and if there's something that she no longer wants because she's outgrown it, I can move it to storage).

So chalkboard paint is made by mixing about 1 cup of paint (any paint, any color) with 2 tbsp of unsanded grout.

I found the grout at Home Depot, in a 5 lb box for 11 dollars.
It's going to take a LOT of paint to use up this box;
I'll probably have it for the rest of my life.
The paint mixture is chunky at first but as you stir it,
 it smooths out. Some little chunks are ok,
they will smooth out as you paint.

This is how it looks going on the door. I'm not sure if you can tell but there are tiny white spots in the paint which left as I painted over and over the same spots. It was basically like painting with regular paint, it's just a little thicker.

I used this blue paint because we bought a whole thing of it (you know, a can. What is that? A gallon?) and only used it on 1/2 the walls in our bedroom so there was a lot left over.

Here is the finished door:

I only needed one coat, but I can imagine that some colors would need multiple coats (like red, yellow maybe)

Then I put a nail in the door... well actually I tried to put a nail in the cellar-way under that railing you can see in the picture. While nailing (I am not good at this kind of thing) I  hit the wall instead of the nail and made a big hole in the drywall. Don't tell my husband, he hasn't seen that blunder yet. So then I put a nail in the door, instead. On the nail I hung this cute basket that I had lying around from a garage sale. I filled it with some chalk so that Jade can write on the bottom section of the door.

Don't worry, you can sit in the hall and write on the door- I'm not locking her in the basement or anything. Plus I didn't want to try this project anywhere else in the house in case it failed. It didn't! The chalkboard erases with a cloth and a little water and it writes nicely. White, yellow, and green show up the best on the blue paint.
 Here's a close-up:

I would recommend this project! It was easy. Next, I am making boards to hang in the basement above the cans where we sort deposit bottles. That way we can tally how many boards of how many cans and bottles we put in the bags. We'll know when we have 100 and we'll tie up the bag and get a new one. We use a redemption center that wants cans and bottles separated and counted (but they pay 6 1/2  cents and pick up from our house!) so this will stream-line the process. Yay chalkboard paint!

Friday, April 6, 2012

UNpaper towels

Ok, I am not a "green" person. I get it, we need to save the environment, yadda, yadda... I care but it's not my calling. What IS my calling is saving money. We're on a cheap, tiny budget. Couponing, to me, is more than clipping coupons and taking them to the store. It also encompasses finding frugal living solutions. UNpaper towels are my first major household change toward spending less money on products that we can do without.

I found an excellent tutorial on this blog.... Cotton Tail Babies ... She tells you all the details so I recommend reading that tutorial before getting started.

You'll need some fleece and some terry cloth, one for the cute side and the other for the absorbent side. If you have some old terry cloth towels or a robe that you can slice up, I'd recommend using that because this material was 9.99/yard at our local fabric store. Yikes!

1 yard of fabric yeilds 9 towels. This is what I made to start. I'll let you know if I feel like this is enough or not once we've really gotten used to using them for everything.

Here's my towel during the sewing process:
I don't like sewing, in particular. I am a lazy crafter. I don't like to pin, I didn't like that the tutorial said to sew the pieces together then sew on the outside again.. sounded like a lot of work. BUT! It wasn't so bad! The second set of sewing, on the top-side of the fabric is really necessary so they lay flat and look nice.

I purchased plastic snaps at the fabric store, in the cloth diaper section. Check out all the colors available!
They were super easy to attach and I found a color that matched my pattern perfectly! The metal snaps are easier to find (available at Walmart) but I wanted to be able to microwave these UNpaper towels if need be- like when covering a dish of beets, lest it explode all over my microwave. And they'll probably lay around all wet and soggy for a while until I wash them. Metal would rust under the care that I'll likely provide.

Here's my final product, I am so happy with the outcome!

I took an old paper towel roll, covered it with a scrap of my flannel using hot glue, then added 2 snaps to that roll. This provided the stability they needed to stand up well on the counter.

These would make an excellent gift or craft fair item!

The last thing I need to do is mount a basket on the wall above the garbage where soiled towels can be tossed.

Starting up a craft blog!

There was a time that I thought I was too busy to craft or cook, and I even gave up on couponing. Thanks to Pinterest, this dark, boring, time in my life is coming to a close. I LOVE pinterest (if you don't know what I am talking about, message me and I'll send you an invite, it's the greatest thing I've seen online in a long time) and I have been inspired to get back to the things I really enjoy doing.

It's easier to say I have no time. I have 2 kids and a husband, I'm a full-time graduate students, studying to be a teacher, I substitute teach (usually every day of the week) and I'm often asked to help my husband with his small business- I'm busy! But I'm no longer making excuses that keep me from doing things I enjoy!

Ready, set, craft!