Take the Mess out of Messy Play

My toddler and I love messy play, but I want to minimize clean up as much as possible. The less time I spend mopping (yes, let’s all pretend I mop), the more time we can play!

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We love playing with slime, play dough, oobleck, play snow, paints, and plain old mud.

  1. Keep it contained.Put the kiddo in a bathtub indoors, or a kiddie pool outside. Or just be outside where a mess won’t matter.

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  2. Use washable container for the mess. I use random plastic containers that are dishwasher safe, like my deviled egg carrier I have never once used. I empty out our play material as much as possible, then toss it into the dishwasher. Tupperware lids, cookie sheets, and large reusable containers are all helpful. Even catering dishes.

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  3. Put something on the floor to catch the mess, preferably something machine washable. I use really old sheets, or cheap shower curtain liners to catch the mess. For something like oobleck, I let it dry on the sheet, then shake it out into the trash before throwing it in the wash. Shower curtain liners are machine washable too! I use one for finger painting, then throw it in the wash on gentle with 2-3 towels. This is a great way to reuse a shower curtain liner that isn’t gross, but you’re replacing for aesthetic reasons, or because those stupid little holes at the top keep tearing for no reason and now it won’t stay up!

    A few other tips for messy play:
    1. If you have pets, try to use materials that are safe for them to eat. I doubt it’s a great idea for a dog to have a cornstarch feast, but at least you don’t have to worry if they snack on a bit.
    2. If I ask my toddler if he wants to play with slime or something, he invariably says no, because that’s a toddler’s favorite word. I’ve had way more success laying out an activity, then just letting him dig in.
    3. To extend play, bring out additional play items as the kiddo’s interest fades. For example, if you’ve got plain old play dough out, and your kid starts to wander off, lay some plastic straws or chopsticks down with it. After another 20 minutes or so, some zoo animals make an appearance, etc. Nacho and I played with play dough for 2 hours yesterday, using this method.
    4. Some messy items can be reused! If you let oobleck dry out, you can just add water again next time you need to use it (let it dry thoroughly to avoid mold). I make homemade play dough and store it in the fridge for months at a time. Homemade gak can last a couple days in the fridge as well. Mud is eternal, and there’s an endless supply right off my back porch.

    Messy play is so entertaining for kids, and my son has been a fan since we introduced it. There are so many variations, and recipes available, you can be creative and use what you have available. This is also some of the cheapest entertainment available, so you know that makes me happy!

June 1, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Kid Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. 1 comment.

Creative Coloring

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My son tends to not want to color much himself. It got better when we moved from crayons to markers, but he still mostly wants to direct me or Hubby, and tell us what to draw. I don’t know if he gets frustrated, or is unhappy with his results, but we keep trying to get him more involved.

Around Christmas I was digging through stuff (endless amounts of stuff everywhere, always), and I found an old bingo stamp! I figured I’d see if he liked it. I started with a drawing of a Christmas tree for him to decorate, and that was a hit. Then I drew a house, which was okay, then he requested a dinosaur. That was super popular as well. Keep in mind, I think these things are permanent, so take mess precautions, and DO NOT leave those things where a kid can reach.

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I did these around Christmas, but since it’s now summer time, I figured I’d make some basic free printables for anyone who wants them. If you’re reading this around winter, I have some done for that also. These are super basic, just to give you a jumping off point. The dots one can be used for pompom sorting as well. Feel free to give your kid blank paper, poster board, wrapping paper, or cardboard to draw on. My son has a giant box he uses as a fort, and we let him color the inside of that as well.

March 7, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Kid Stuff, Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Pompom Sorting

I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest, the same way most people do. I love getting ideas for new activities with my kid, but some of those blog posts have to be built on a house of LIES. There is no way your 18 month old built a Christmas tree out of playdough and wrapped garlands around it like that, Smothery Mothering!! THERE’S NO WAY. So take Pinterest with an enormous grain of artisan, organic, hand-harvested, pink Himalayan sea salt. OK, rant over. (maybe).

I saw this idea for sorting Pompoms by color as an activity for 2 year olds. Well, I just happen to have one of those at my house, so I thought, why not entertain him? I used construction paper, and plastic cups I had laying around as the basis for this project. Look at all the random junk you’ve accumulated since having a child (I mean, who has time to take out the recycling any more?!?!) and find a few containers that are roughly the same size. You’ll also need scissors, tape, and a pencil. You could probably paint the bottoms of the containers instead of using construction paper if you’d like. I’m not your boss. (But if I am, GET BACK TO WORK, GAYLE!)

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Trace the bottom of the container onto the paper. I cut one out, and tested it in the cup until it fit, then used that as my template for the others.

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Tape the circles into the bottom.

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Boom! Ready to play! This only took me 10 minutes or so.

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I was making this in the bathroom while my son was in the tub. You guys got to see my counters while they were clean! Oh, I mean, they’re always clean. I’m like, Martha Stewart mixed with June Cleaver, but super hot and witty like Tina Fey, all in one.

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For younger kids, or when just starting to learn colors,use fewer containers and colors. I would also start with colors that are distinctly different from each other, like red and green, or yellow and blue. Orange and red can be a pain to differentiate, so start out simply.

“Why are there no pictures of this mystery toddler playing with this toy his mother so lovingly crafted?” you’re asking. Well, because he immediately wanted to play with the circles in the bottoms of the cups, and cried until I pulled them all out for him. Then he shoved each one into my dresser through a tiny gap in the drawer. Maybe I should have just made that the game? Now I have a new idea…

But you can see why I have a vendetta against Pinterest. It would have been so easy for me to snap a picture of the back of baby Nacho’s head “playing” with this toy while he desperately tried to pull the circles out of the bottom. So don’t feel bad if you make something, and it doesn’t go as planned. All kids are different, and all kids are weird. I try to pay attention and participate in the way he plays with something, rather than trying to guide how he’s “supposed” to play with something. Above all, have fun!

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March 4, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Kid Stuff. Leave a comment.

DIY Toddler Sewing

As I said in a recent post, we’re planning to travel with my 2 year old for the holidays! I know, it’s completely nuts, but I’m preparing as best I can. So here we have one of my solutions: DIY toddler sewing projects! You will need markers, some kind of tough card stock (I reused old manila folders), a hole punch, and shoes laces or ribbon.

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I drew some simple pictures on the manila folder with sharpies, and colored them in.

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The I cut them out and punched holes around the edge:

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It’s surprisingly simple. If you need something more durable you can color on and cut out plastic from milk jugs, or laundry detergent. Since we’re traveling for Christmas, I made a Christmas tree complete with tinsel:


It’s so cute I amaze myself sometimes! Now we’ll see if Nacho enjoys them at all. I hope so, because I made four total.

December 17, 2015. Tags: , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Kid Stuff, Uncategorized. 2 comments.

DIY Ball Drop

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Rainy days, blah blah, kids trapped in the house, yadda yadda, mom’s out of booze, we need an activity. My son can’t get enough of playing with balls, so I thought I’d look at the resources I had on hand to craft an activity for him.

What does every crafty mom having laying around? Cardboard tubes! Whether from paper towels or toilet paper, we know there MUST be a use for them, and we hoard them like canned goods in a bomb shelter. I have these things falling out of cabinets when I attempt to put dishes away, so I figured it was about time to use a few up.

You will need: paper towel tubes, a cardboard box, strong tape, scissors, balls.


I had this Costco yogurt box laying around, and it is the perfect size for this. You can use something bigger or smaller, it’s up to you. I’m going to show you the basics of how I made mine, then you can adjust according to the materials you have on hand.

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I started out laying the cardboard tubes in the box to measure how many I would need. I cut the tops off, long ways, just using scissors. I didn’t cut them directly in half, but if you have a shortage of paper towel tubes (Ha! Yeah, right) then you can do that and use each half.

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I used pieces of toilet paper roll to add extra support to the paper towel tubes, with double stick tape. Important note: make sure the balls you’re going to use for this will fit through with those supports on there. Mine did not. I used whiffle golf balls and had to remove my beautiful supports.

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I used big loops of masking tape to stick the tubes into the box. You can also use duct tape, or whatever you have laying around that’s fairly tacky. Again, test this thing before you hand it to your toddler so you don’t have to frantically rip pieces off while they run off to play with power outlets.

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Success! He played with it!

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Disclaimer: it does not work with kangaroos. I apologize for this huge oversight.

July 7, 2015. Tags: , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Eco Stuff, Kid Stuff. Leave a comment.

HALLOWEEN ALREADY

If your local stores are anything like mine, they’ve had Halloween candy out since April. You may have become so inured to the sight that you’ve forgotten Halloween is actually happening, and SOON. You have to start getting your costume together NOW. Fortunately, I’m a huge fan of Halloween, so I’ve built a huge collection of useful info for you!

Thrifty Halloween Costumes!

Bloody Halloween Decorations on the Cheap!

Steal my friends costume ideas!

Costume ideas!

More costume ideas!

Additional costume ideas!

Other cheap decorations!

Apocalyptic costumes!

Baby costumes!

More post-apocalyptic costumes!

Post-apocalyptic accessories!

Need more simple costume ideas? How about:

Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Cast of Scooby Doo

The Cast of Scooby Doo

 

The cast of Archer

The cast of Archer

Doctor Who and River Song (I have friends who did this last year and it was awesome)

Doctor Who and River Song (I have friends who did this last year and it was awesome)

Lydia from Beeltejuice

Lydia from Beeltejuice

There are so many options that don’t require you to go get a plastic costume from one of those Halloween stores. Just your natural assets and some random thrift store finds are all it takes for a unique costume. As you can see, I really just freaking love Halloween. It’s the greatest holiday ever! It’s all fun and creativity, with no obligations. It’s creepy and dark and wonderful.

 

 

 

October 13, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Nerd Stuff. Leave a comment.

DIY Onesie Extender

On my previous post about altering baby clothes, the most common comment I got was “You know there are these things called onesie extenders, right?” Yes, yes I do. Remember how I told you to keep your onesie scraps for a mystery project? Well here it is! DIY onesie extender!

 

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Take the scraps from your onesie-turned-t-shirt, and pin them together. Make sure you pin it so the snap parts are facing the right direction, and will actually snap onto a onesie.

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I simply trimmed off a little extra, folded the raw edges under, and sewed it together. It’s a little wide, and round, but it doesn’t really matter. I made another one later that came out much nicer, now I have two!

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As you can see, my son is now enjoying an outfit he’d grown out of! He looks terrified, but that’s because the camera makes crazy lights and noises he can’t understand, yet.

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So with these two tiny sewing projects, you gain another baby t-shirt, and a way to make several outfits last longer. Pretty damn clever, if I do say so myself!

October 5, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Baby Stuff. 2 comments.

Altering Baby Clothes

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Kids have an annoying tendency to grow out of things before they wear them out. My sweet baby Nacho is no different. He had these two adorable pirate onesies:

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And of course he outgrew them. But they’re so cute! So we’re going to alter one of these into a t-shirt! I opted to use the longer one for this, so there’s enough fabric to roll up and hem.

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Cut the onesie as low as you can, as shown above. Retain the pieces for an upcoming mystery project! Now roll the extra fabric up as little as possible so you can hem it. You want to leave as much fabric as possible for the t-shirt, but you need to cover up that raw edge so it doesn’t unravel.

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Once you have everything pinned in place, just sew the hem down. I did it by hand since my sewing machine has forsaken me, and it didn’t take much time at all.

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And now your little rugrat can look awesome for another few weeks, until his next growth spurt!

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October 3, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Baby Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. 3 comments.

Just in time for fall

I finished a couple crochet projects, and I just want to brag and show them off. The thing is, I finished them both literally just in time for summer, and just now uploaded the pictures. I guess having a kid kind of fire bombs the blogging schedule…

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Here we have a little scarf I made for my BFF. I started it AGES ago, before either of us had kids. I hoped to finish it for her last Christmas, but failed. I DID, however, finish it in time for her birthday this year! But then didn’t see her for a couple of months…and then gave it to her on a blazing hot summer day. Great. Hopefully, Kay enjoys it this winter!

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And for myself, I finally completed my hoodie scarf! It’s a scarf with the hood built in! When I was modeling it for pictures, though, I guess it didn’t occur to me that my jammies would be visible. Here, let me fix that real quick…

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There, now I’m a princess! My awesome hoodie scarf is covering my crown. And you’ll just have to ignore the dirty mirror. MS Paint can’t do anything about that. I’m not posting a pattern for the hoodie scarf because A) I want to have the only one, and I know how ya’ll copy me, and B) I just made it up as I went along. I don’t know if I could ever recreate this, even if my life depended on it. But I make a dazzling princess, right?

September 25, 2014. Tags: , , , . Arts and Crafts. 2 comments.

Dog Toy Repair

Our corgi, Flapjack, has been a bit neglected since my son, Nacho, was born. Neglected as in “no longer receiving endless attention”. To remedy this, his Aunt Lis brought him a new toy! Star Wars themed, no less! Unfortunately, Boba Fett is strong enough to withstand the Great Pit of Carkoon, but not the Mighty Jaws of Corgi. But Flapjack still loved his busted bounty hunter, even bringing him up to bed each night. I had to perform some armor repair.

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You can see I very crudely wrapped denim around the torso, and sewed it shut. The denim is way tougher than the initial material, and has not lost a single thread yet. So maybe Boba Fett seems to be wearing a bath towel…and one arm is still attached a bit tenuously. Flapjack is happy, and Boba’s guts are protected.

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I basically wrapped the fabric around, tucked the raw edges under, and whip stitched the whole thing. I mean, this is going in my dog’s mouth. I love him, but not enough to hand him a work of art.

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See? He doesn’t care. He’s just happy to have Boba back where he belongs: begging for mercy from a giant beast.

September 24, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Nerd Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. Leave a comment.

Crafty Painting

 

 

 

Sometimes a well-meaning friend or family member will get you a gift of some kind that really doesn’t reflect your aesthetic ideals. But maybe you still want to keep said item around for when this person stops by. There are ways to alter the item in question so that it fits into your decor, but it still recognizable by the Gifter. For example, if someone gives you a hideous throw pillow, you can simply recover it, and remove the cover when the Gifter comes to visit.

Here we have a painting:

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It obviously took a lot of skill to create this, but since I’m going for more of a pirate/pin up/Bohemian look in my house, it really doesn’t match. This particular piece was not a gift, it was thrifted, but I’m just using it as an example.

Step 1: Turn it over and screw in picture hooks:

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I have no idea what these are called. They came in a “picture hanging kit” I have. They’re little squares with a short screw shaft. I just screwed them in by hand, no drilling or anything.

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Step 2: I then painted the whole thing black. It’s best to do a uniform color as the background so that you don’t have any weird shapes or colors showing through the front painting. If you’re worried about the colors showing through, coat it with white first and let that dry.

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Step 3: While that was drying, I sketched out what I wanted to paint (and took a blurry photo of it). If you’re a great artist you can probably skip this step, but there’s a reason I didn’t complete a degree in art.

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Step 4: Cut out the main shape and use it as a stencil. Mine was very simple, but you can see a more complex stencil here. Trace it in pencil.

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Step 5: I filled in the whole thing with white. I’ll be painting the other colors on top of this, so the white underneath them will really make them pop, as opposed to painting directly on the black. I tried to free-hand my little scroll at the bottom, and you can see that didn’t work out great. I was able to fix it, however.

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Step 6: And you’re done! Just kidding, I hate it when “how to” shows do that. They show the first, easy steps in minute detail, then the host says “next you simple recreate the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1/8 size on the wall, and you’re done!” And you think “I hate that lady, but now I’m compelled to do this!”

I used my original drawing to sketch pencil guides onto my big white blob, then painted that. I used shirt paint for the eye lashes and script, because I find it much easier to use for fine lines than paint brushes. It’s just my personal preference. I use Liquitex paints, but again, that’s just a personal preference. They come in all kinds of colors, or you can get the basics and mix your own. They aren’t paying me or anything, but I would TOTALLY take it if they would.

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A couple things to remember about painting: acrylic paint dries slightly darker than when you mix it, so if the shade is really important, mix some, let it dry, then see if it’s what you want before you use it on the final product. Also, I used glitter nail polish on the lips, but nail polish WILL melt acrylic paint if you aren’t careful. Dab it on, don’t run it around, and DON’T touch it once it’s in place. Let it dry for a disgusting amount of time.

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I added some fake flowers I had laying around, and then added this to our wall of artwork. If this were an actual gift, I could just flip it over on the hook when the Gifter stopped by. This was a fun project that only took a few hours (with drying time) to complete.

March 3, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. Leave a comment.

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