DIY Kid Craft: Circle Punch Artwork

Circle Punch Crafts
I love any activity I can create for my four-year-old son that doubles as artwork for his room when he’s done. Actually, I have a shelf in his toy room where I display continuously rotating artwork.

These circle punch activities help develop hand-eye coordination while working on color sorting and counting. All you need is a ton of paint swatches (from Home Depot, Lowes, etc.), a craft paper punch — I used a 1″ circle punch — and some glue. Punching out all the swatches is the most time-consuming (and painful) part of this activity. I punched out stacks and stacks of swatches and put all the circles in a ziploc bag.

Then, I created some layouts in InDesign — there’s a rainbow, some just for shapes, and some that are a bit more complicated. There’s even one where I put the first letter of the color you’re supposed to use in the circle. CLICK HERE to download the templates I made for my son. (For the page with flowers, I used flower shape punches just to fancy it up a little. But use your imagination!!) Remember, for my templates, you’ll need to use a 1″ circle punch, but you can use anything you’d like if you make your own designs. If you use my templates, I recommend printing them on cardstock and dotting glue in the circles. Then, let your kids go to town!

Once everything had dried, we selected our favorites and framed them for the shelves in my son’s toy room. He had a lot of fun with these activities and I hope your little ones do as well.

DIY Home: Train Table Redo

Train Table Redo
Have an old train table in your house that barely gets any play time? We did! So how about a redo for less than $10? Let me tell you how I did this at my house last weekend.

My son has a KidKraft train table that came with a whole set of tracks. He loved it for about a year, but recently has not played with it so much because he’d rather build his own tracks on the ground than use the pre-made set. So, I was left with this big table taking up space in his toy room for nothing. But the thing he really did like playing with was his airport sets (he has two). The airport sets are rather large, so they used to stay in the closet until requested.

Last weekend I thought about how I could create more space in my son’s toy room to leave the airport sets out (since he plays with them so much). It dawned on me that the top of the train table, while having a specific scene painted on it (see BEFORE picture), is a completely open canvas if you turn the table top over. I went to Home Depot and bought a roll of black “faux leather” contact paper for $8. I know it’s supposed to look like leather, but to me it looked like black pavement, which is exactly the backdrop I needed to create an airport.

I just took the top of the train table off, flipped it over, and covered it completely in the contact paper. Then I put the table top back on, layed down the airport runway poster that came with one of the airports, and put both airport playsets on top. It’s perfect! I think you could also use it as a race track, if you’re confident in your drawing skills (chalk would probably work). Or you could make a racetrack out of yellow Duck Tape. And the best part (besides it costing less than $10) is that it’s still totally usable as the original train table with just a simple flip of the top.

DIY Kid Craft: St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow

St Patty Day

I was trying to come up with a craft for my 4-year-old son (whose name is Patrick, coincidentally) for St. Patrick’s Day. Something that would be colorful and educational. As with most crafts I blog about, it’s easy enough for a toddler to do with minimal supervision and you may even already have all the supplies you need.

One of my favorite tricks of the trade is to use paint sample swatches from the home improvement store for crafts. The colors are beautiful and vibrant, and the paper is nice and heavyweight–great for cutting and gluing. Whenever I’m in Home Depot or Lowe’s, I pick up an assortment of these paper samples in whatever colors attract my eye.

In one of my previous blog posts (CLICK HERE TO READ), I shared my idea of always having some pre-cut 5″x7″ and 8″x10″ pieces of background paper cut and available to your kids. This way, if the create something amazing, it’s already sized for framing.

Here is your supply list:

  • Thick paper cut to 8″x10″
  • Black construction paper
  • Gold glitter glue pen
  • Paint swatch sample cards in the colors of a rainbow
  • Paper punches (I used a 1″ circle punch and 1.25″ flower punch)
  • Gluestick or glue

I cut out a pot and a leprechaun hat from black construction paper and glued them to the page first. It helped my son for me to draw the basic shape of a rainbow on the page. Then, I swiped the glue over the first arch, and he grabbed the yellow punchouts and stuck them on the paper, following the curve (great for color sorting and hand-eye coordination practice). We repeated for each color of the rainbow. He didn’t get the colors in the correct order, but that wasn’t the point–I wanted him to work on sorting colors and following directions. To make the gold coins in the pot, we used gold glitter glue sticks on top of little yellow circles cut from the paint swatch samples. Once the artwork was dry, I framed it and hung it up with my son’s other masterpieces.

Hope you and your kids enjoy this craft as much as we did!

DIY Kid Craft: Traffic Sign Mania


My four-year-old son is crazy about traffic signs. I think he has as least five sets of them, and yet it’s never enough. So I came up with this idea: I’ll make my own traffic signs in InDesign, print them out in duplicate (one for the front and one for the back), and attach them to popsicle sticks. Easy, inexpensive, and I already have everything I need. Plus, your child can be a helper. He or she can cut out the signs (if old enough) and/or help glue them together onto the popsicle stick. My son took particular joy in telling me in which order he’d like the signs cut out. Who knew that would be such an exciting part of the process for him?

Here are my instructions. You’ll need a couple sheets of cardstock, a color printer, popsicle sticks, and a glue stick (or double-sided tape). I realize that not everyone has the ability (or, let’s be realistic, the time) to create their own traffic signs, so you can download my template HERE.

Instructions:

  1. Print out two color copies of the template on cardstock.
  2. Cut out all signs.
  3. Sandwich together matching signs on either side of a popsicle stick. (I put a little double stick tape on each side at the top of the popsicle stick and then used a glue stick on the paper, but whatever technique works for you is fine.)
  4. Voila! Let the traffic sign mania begin!

DIY Kid Craft: A New Kind of Tissue Paper Flower


Who remembers making tissue paper flowers? Folding strips of different colored paper into an accordion, tying the center, then opening up the whole thing for fiesta day at school? That’s what I think of when someone mentions tissue paper flowers. But here’s a new (at least to me) twist on these classics, and you probably have everything you need already.

Below are my instructions (all you need is tissue paper, glue, construction paper, a popsicle stick or a green pipe cleaner, and a willing participant). If you’d like, you can download my template in a variety of sizes HERE, but you can just as easily freehand it. No artistic background required!

A special thanks to my 4-year-old son for completing this sample project. Those are his cute little hands in the photos.

Instructions:

  1. Cut a piece of construction paper to the desired size to serve as the background. (If you read MY LAST BLOG POST, you already know my tip about starting with pre-cut paper the size of a frames you have on hand so that you can display the artwork immediately–and, you don’t risk needing to cut the artwork just to fit it into a frame.)
  2. Use a pencil to draw a simple flower (or many flowers, depending on how large your paper is). Just a stem, two leaves on the stem, a circle, and some petals. Don’t spend too much time on this…it’s going to get covered up anyway.
  3. I recommend gluing the stem down first and, while that’s drying, you can prep all the other pieces. Use either a green pipe cleaner or break a popsicle stick into long, thin pieces and use one of those. Glue to paper and set aside to dry.
  4. Prep the tissue paper for the petals first, as this is a job your child can do while you’re using scissors to prep the remaining pieces. All you need to do is tear lots of different colored tissue paper into pieces about the size of your child’s hand (he or she can help with this step, too). After you have a big stack, ask your child to crumple each piece into a tiny ball.
  5. While he or she is working on that, you can prep the leaves and the grass for a finishing touch. Cut two leaves approximately the shape of what you drew. Use green construction or even green foam sheets if you happen to have any. For the grass, cut a few sheets of green tissue paper as wide as your background paper and a few inches high. Stack them, then make vertical cuts, leaving about half an inch between the bottom of your cut and the bottom of the tissue paper. See the photo if that’s confusing. We’re making stems of grass by using this technique.
  6. Now it’s time for gluing! This is where your child can take complete control. Trace and fill in the petals with glue and then allow your child to add the tiny balls of tissue paper, creating whatever color combination he or she would like! If you’re feeling really fancy, you could use a yellow pom pom for the center of the flower.
  7. Once the petals are all done, your child can glue on the green leaves to the stem. I recommend that you glue the grass on as a finishing touch.

Voila!! A work of art has been created! Allow to dry thoroughly and then frame.

Encouraging and Preserving Your Child’s Masterpieces

If your child is anything like mine, you accumulate handmade artwork at an alarming rate. Personally, I love it, and I think each piece is wonderful in its own way. And I think we can all agree that creative time is great for hand-eye coordination and for imagination. But let’s be honest, some masterpieces are truly worth framing, and others are more suited for the “save” bin.

I’ve divided this post into two categories: Encouraging and Preserving.

Encouraging: I have a couple tips to share about giving your child all the tools he or she needs to be able to create art freely.

  1. Be prepared. I’m sure you already have the obligatory arts and crafts bin and the smocks to go with it. I do, too. In addition to that, I also purchased a huge roll of brown paper at Home Depot. I found it in the section with all the painter’s tape, it’s about 3 feet tall, and who knows how many feet long. It looks like standard brown craft paper, but is much thicker. To be honest, it was so long ago that I don’t even remember how much it cost (I think it was $10 or $12), but that just proves how long it will last. I cut a big piece of that paper off and lay it across the floor, table, or whatever surface my son is using at the time. Then he can paint, glue, whatever on his smaller paper on top, and when arts and crafts time is over, I just roll up the large sheet, crumpling it in to itself, and toss it. No mess!!
  2. Plan ahead. I go to the craft store at least once a week. My favorite is Michael’s, but I’m sure this would work for any craft store, or even Target or Walmart. I buy a value pack of a certain size frame. For me, I prefer black 5×7 frames, and I can buy a package of 10 for less than $10. Then, I pre-cut my son’s standard white art paper (and some black construction paper, too) that he uses as the background for almost all projects into 5×7 sheets. Now, he has a stack of paper just begging to be turned into art and I have frames at the ready. And more importantly, if he creates something gorgeous, it’s already the right size for a frame.
  3. Let your child be free. Ok, so maybe I’m the only one who needs to follow this advice. My perfectionist/OCD tendencies sometimes make it difficult to just allow my little one to create whatever he wants, how ever he wants. I do catch myself giving my son advice on where to stick the tissue paper, or telling him that area of the picture has enough blue and that maybe he should try some yellow. But the look on his face reminds me that such comments are not necessary. He has much more fun when I keep my recommendations to myself and tell him that everything is beautiful. He’s only 4. I think he deserves that consideration.

Preserving: Here’s what I’ve learned about saving artwork from my experience so far.

  1. Keep artwork protected and dry. I have a plastic bin with a lid where I save all non-frame-worthy artwork. I keep it in a closet and occasionally slip parchment paper between pieces if I’m worried about glitter or something sticking to other paper. This works great for me, but I make sure to leave all artwork out 24 hours to completely dry before I put it in the sealed bin. I know that seems like an obvious step, but the last thing you’d want is to put something in a sealed container that was still wet with glue.
  2. Devote a wall. Something else I’ve learned is that my son gets a real kick out of getting his artwork displayed. (Bonus: If you purchase multiple of the same frame, anything you put in there will automatically look like a collection when hung on the wall together.) We happen to have a rather large laundry room with a door that serves as a secondary entrance to our house. I’ve devoted one wall in the laundry room to my son’s artwork. It’s perfect because it’s kind of out of the way, but everyone who comes in that door of the house walks right by it. There’s limited space, though, so let’s say I can fit 11 frames on the wall. If he creates a 12th piece of artwork, it replaces one that’s already up there and then the old one goes into the “save” bin. Those are the rules (and my son can choose which one goes). And speaking of rules, don’t think you have to hang everything in a straight line. Mix it up and have some fun. (Helpful tip: collections usually look better when using an odd number, so having 7 frames will look more balanced and interesting than having 6 frames. Plus, having 7 gives you the opportunity to hang a row of 3 on top of a row of 4, or if you have a narrow wall, a row of 2, a row of 3, and another row of 2.)
  3. Other ideas for preserving masterpieces. If your child tends to create large art that can’t be framed, lots of online stores sell kids art portfolios (they look like giant expandable file folders). Or how about this one? If you really have no space and/or are emotionally ready to part with some older artwork, take hi-res photos of each piece and turn the photos into a coffee table book! Shutterfly, Lulu, and Walmart have terrific options. They’d also make fantastic holiday gifts for grandparents.

I’d love to hear what your tips are. Please comment on this post to share with me and with other readers!