Tag Archives: crafts

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day will be a little different for us. We usually celebrate it by making or preparing Valentines during the day, then surprising each other with them at suppertime. Our grandma comes over for a special meal, and we end the day with a lot of chocolate.

This year, however, my husband will be working late, so the kids and I have been wondering what to do. The consensus is that we’ll have a special Valentine’s Day snack instead of a supper during the few minutes in the afternoon he can come home so he won’t miss it. And we’ll still end the day with chocolate. 🙂

There are lots of ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Find picture books at the library about St. Valentine, or look up information about him online. Share his story with your children.
  • Spend some time baking together!  Make Valentine’s Day treats from scratch with your kids. You can find all sorts of recipes to try at KidsCookingActivities.com and Kaboose.com.
  • Decorate a room in your house – Cut out paper hearts and tape them around the room. Our favorite room is our kitchen, and the paper hearts are going up all over the windows. Have the kids write messages on the hearts or the names of the people they love.
  • Create homemade cards for grandparents or neighbors.
  • Make valentines to share with the residents of the local nursing home or for children in the hospital.
  • Write a letter to a friend you don’t see very often.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Late for Christmas?

I envisioned this December much differently. We would finish up with schoolwork early in the month, then sit back and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the holiday season. We’d spend a day baking cookies for a friend’s cookie swap party, work on Christmas crafts together, look at the  various holiday light shows, and make some handmade gifts. And I would actually get my Christmas cards out on time this year.

But like everything else lately, Christmas hasn’t come like I thought it would. Our tree still isn’t up. The house isn’t decorated. We haven’t been out to look at the lights. I didn’t make any gifts. And I can’t even seem to locate our advent calendar.

Just days after we arrived home from a Thanksgiving visit with family, my oldest daughter had to go into the hospital with a ruptured appendix. Though my husband was able to get time off so we could take turns sitting with her, things at home fell further behind. It’s as if I’ve spent the last week or so just trying to catch up — trying not to be late for Christmas.

But it’s never too late to consider the real meaning of Christmas. That amid the hustle and bustle of holiday “have-tos”, the reason for the celebration is still there — the birth of Jesus, God’s Son come to earth.

And while we can remind ourselves, we can remind our children, too. Snuggle on the couch and read a Christmas story book. Set up (and even play with) a nativity scene together. Help them wrap a gift for a needy child in your church or neighborhood.  Talk about what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men as your driving in the car.

So even if the mistletoe isn’t up, the stockings aren’t hung, and the lights aren’t blinking on the lawn, you’re not late for Christmas; any time we think about God’s wondrous gift is the right time.

Fun in the Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year, and it always goes by way too fast. If you’re like me, and the new school year of lessons, projects, and activities have kept you busy, here are a few ways you can take a moment (or a day) to step back and enjoy the season with your children:


My kids love crafts – and I do, too! While you may have thought of doing leaf rubbings, here are a few sites with even more ideas:

Family Fun – On this site, you’ll find thanksgiving cards, a leaf mobile, and more great ideas for fall.

Busy Bee Kids Crafts –  Crafts on this site include an autumn tree collage, pumpkin lollipops, a paper bag scarecrow, and apple stamping.

The Crafty Crow –  with links to other craft sites, at The Crafty Crwo you’ll find directions for creating a leaf picture alphabet, melted crayon autumn leaves, a plastic bottle owl, and marbled shaving cream autumn leaves.

At Danielle’s Place, you’ll find plenty of turkeys for Thanksgiving, including  several paper plate turkey and a turkey potholder.


Picture Books:

When the weather becomes a little cooler, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up together with a good picture book. Here are a few of our fall favorites:

Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming

Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

In November by Cynthia Rylant

Countdown to Fall by Fran Hawk


Our family also has a few favorite activities we love to do year after year. They include: pumpkin picking, apple picking, attending fall festivals, having backyard picnics, and flying kites. This fall, we’re also going to explore a corn maze and cook up some yummy desserts. What does  your family  do to celebrate fall?

A Picture is Worth…a Lot!

Today, we visited with some new friends from our co-op. And during that visit, I was encouraged to move our photos off of the hard drive to places where everyone could enjoy them.

The family we were with reminds me so much of my own — about five years ago. Their young children, ages 2 – 9,  are always running, shouting, and laughing; it was so much fun to watch. As my friend showed me around the house, I saw some of the neat ways they’ve commemorated holidays, trips, and  occasions with their photographs  — things similar to those I used to do before life became so hectic. So, if time seems to be flying by for you, too, take a day or two or three, and try creating some of these special reminders:

  •  Instead of  just saving your family photos on the computer, display them with a digital photo frame. Some frames have a place for a thumbdrive, so you can easily change out the photos you display. Our friends have separate thumb drives for Christmas pictures (displayed during the holidays), vacation pictures (displayed before they go on vacation again), birthday pictures (showing all the birthday parties of a particular child), etc.
  • Decorate a frame: Buy an inexpensive photo or collage frame for your favorite holiday or vacation pictures. If it’s not the color you want,  paint it with some inexpensive craft acrylic paints. Hot glue fun reminders to the frame: sea shells, ticket stubs, small ornaments, etc.
  • Create a photo book: You can arrange your digital prints in a photo book in which you can add your own captions and text. These are available online at sites such as Snapfish or Blurb, or at local drugstores as well. You’re book can focus on one event or a whole year of events. You could even create a book for your child of photos they took themselves.
  • Display a scrapbook page: If you’re like me, you love scrapbooking but don’t have much free time to do it. Instead, try arranging some photos on just one page, frame it, and hang it on the wall.
Sometimes, when I mention to the kids something that we did when they were little, they don’t remember. But with photos available for the viewing anytime, I know they won’t forget!

Read, Write, and Learn…With DevoKids!

About a year ago, I first found out about DevoKids.com, a fun and safe site for students. Part of Christian Devotions Ministries, DevoKids’ mission is to entertain children while sharing with them the love of Christ. There’s so much for kids to read and learn about — and they can even contribute, too!

Devotionals are posted weekly on the site, and each one is based on a particular scripture or passage. The link “Music Dudes and Divas” contains articles about different types of music and various musicians.  In “DaVinci’s Playground,” kids will find ideas for crafts and experiments. There are also links for puzzles and games, cooking ideas, nature and history articles, and money tips.

And there’s more! You’ll find two writing sections to the website, “The Write Buzz” and “Write Now!” In “The Write Buzz”, award-winning author and teacher Christopher Maselli answers questions about writing, while the “Write Now!” column features tips for kids by published authors such as Margot Finke, Carol Baldwin, Donna Shepherd, and Patti Shene.

One of my favorite features of DevoKids is that the site is open to submissions from students, too! What can kids send in? They may choose to write devotions, or they can give directions for making their favorite recipes. If they’ve found a good way to earn money, they can send that in, too. DevoKids is also looking for students with stories about saving, tithing, investing, and giving. Or, if your child has an idea that would fit in the music column, he can submit that as well.

DevoKids is constantly adding new articles, so it’s a site to return to again and again. And because it has so many opportunities for children to learn, create, and grow, you’ll want to do just that.

Creative Collages

This year in our co-op classes, I have been teaching a senior high art class. We’ve worked on some interesting and challenging projects, but as the year comes to a close, I wanted to do some things that would be a little less time-consuming and really fun. One of those projects was creating collages.

The best part about collages is that children (and adults!) of any age can do it. Here’s what you’ll need to make your own:

  • Canvas (we used stretched canvases, 11″ x 14″)
  • Acrylic Paint (we used craft acrylics)
  • Paint Brushes
  • Sponge Brush
  • Cup with Water to clean brushes
  • Paper Towels for clean up
  • Newspaper for covering the table
  • Modge Podge (found at craft stores)
  • Items for a Collage: old game pieces or playing cards, coins, beads, dried or pressed flowers, fabric or lace scraps, old CD’s, words cut from magazines or newspapers, magazine or calendar pictures, old photos, silk flowers or leaves, broken crayons or pencils, dry pasta or rice, flower seeds, twigs, feathers, etc.

To create the collage:

1. Make a plan!  Help your child decide on a “theme” for his collage. The theme could be anything: animals, dogs, cats, space, nature, holidays, music, scouting, etc.  For example, one of my students created a collage with a meadow theme using dried flowers; another did a Biblical theme using a favorite scripture.

2. Paint the Canvas — Using the acrylic paints and paintbrushes, give your collage some background color. You can also paint the edges of the canvas for a finished look.

3. When the paint is dry (you can use a hairdryer to speed up this process), arrange the items you’re using for the collage on the canvas. Decide where each one will go.

4. With your sponge brush, dip into the jar of Modge Podge. This product works both as a glue and a varnish. Put some on the underside of your item and place it on the canvas (for larger, 3-dimensional items, you will need to use more). Then add more to the top, especially items that are very thin, such as pressed flowers or paper. Although the Modge Podge will appear white or cloudy, it will dry clear.

5. Go over the rest of your canvas with the Modge Podge for a uniform, glossy look.

That’s it!  Let it dry for a day or so (depending on how much Modge Podge you used), hang it on the wall, and enjoy!

Time to Sleep

When my oldest son was very young, I discovered the picture book Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming at the library. It was such a fun book that we purchased our own copy and used it every year.

Time to Sleep follows a number of animals as they realize that winter is coming.  The leaves are falling and the days are shorter, so Bear decides he must tell Snail that it’s time to hibernate. Snail, then, must tell Skunk, who in turn must tell Turtle, and so on until Ladybug hears the news. The story comes full circle as Ladybug goes to Bear’s cave and wakes him up to tell him… it’s time to sleep.

We made the story even more fun by creating a craft to go along with it. Here’s what we did:

Using felt squares found at the craft store, I made each of the animals depicted in the story. I cut out two pieces of the basic shape of each animal and sewed the sides together (leaving a small opening). My son then stuffed them with fiberfill, and I sewed them shut. We added googly eyes and noses to the animals that needed them.

Next, we found a cardboard box about 12″ deep. I turned it upside down and cut a hole in the bottom of it.

Then, we read the story again. As each animal went to “sleep,” my son put them in the hole in the box. The last one to go in was the ladybug. Not only did we have a good time reading the book and making the craft, but my son learned about hibernation and had hands-on reinforcement each time we read the story. We actually used the same book, box, and animals with all of my children (I don’t know how they lasted so long), and it was fun to reminisce each time we got them out.

For us, Time to Sleep was really time for fun!

Why Take an Art Class?

This past week, we started back with our co-op classes. Instead of teaching the younger elementary students, though, I’m teaching classes to middle school and high school students, and one of those classes is Sr. High Art. As I introduced the course, I asked the students why learning how to create art is important.

At first no one answered my question — I wasn’t sure if they were just shy, or if they just didn’t know. Finally, someone said, “Because it’s fun.” And that’s a great reason. For many people, creating art — whether they are working on a two- dimensional piece such as drawing or painting, or whether they’re making a three-dimensional carving or sculpture — is very enjoyable. It can be a way to escape the stresses of the day and concentrate on something else for a while.

And there are other reasons. Art encourages children to use their imaginations — to do more than sit and watch a television show or video game. Also, the arts often help children develop a their self-confidence and self-esteem, as students can look with a sense of pride at something they created themselves.

Since our co-op is a Christian co-op, I shared with my students yet another reason for taking the class: sometimes the arts can reach people with the message of the Gospel when logic and reasoning cannot. Half of the people in the world out there are  logical thinkers, who want to hear something that’s black-and-white, cut-and-dried. The other half, however, — those creative-type thinkers, may identify more with the images and emotions conveyed through the arts. I can remember so many times I have been moved by a painting, a song, or a melody.

God, as the Creator, is the greatest artist of all — and he’s created us with an appreciation for beauty along with the desire to create beautiful things. And we can do that for His glory — what better reason could there be for taking an art class?

Photo by mindexpansion

Finishing Those Unfinished Projects

Today was the last day of our writing camp. It began on Monday and ran for two hours each day. By the end, every child had a completed story in a folder, with the folders acting as the cover of their books. They had designed and colored a picture for the front of the folder, as well as created a title page, a dedication page, and an author page. We also included an author photo. They had completed two author’s bookmarks and a painted picture frame which contained a photo of the child holding his or her book.

While most of the children finished everything, a few didn’t complete all of the illustrations for their books. Two of my children who were at the camp ran out of time, and one of them was quite upset. “Don’t worry, ” I told her, “We can finish at home.”

Now comes the tricky part — setting aside time in the very near future to get those books completed all the way, especially during the summer when there are a lot of other things going on. I have a shelf full of my children’s unfinished art pieces, so I know it’s going to be a challenge. If you’re like me and want to help your children finish those unfinished projects, here are some ideas for you (and me!) to try:

  • Get back to the project right away! The longer it goes unfinished, the less likely your child (or you) will want to work on it again.
  • Set aside a particular time — a day, a morning, an afternoon — to work only on the project. Don’t worry about other schoolwork you may have had planned; finishing a project is a lesson in itself.
  • If your student is reluctant to finish it, give him smaller intervals of time to work on it, such as 20 or 30 minutes. Provide him with a timer, so he can see just how much time he has left. Challenge him to get a certain amount completed before the timer goes off.
  • Create a place for your student to work on the project and ONLY that project, such as an extra desk or worktable. That way, if it’s still not completed in one sitting, your child can return to it and easily pick up again where he left off.
  • Provide a reward! When the project’s completed, celebrate by showing it off to family and friends or sharing a special dessert or treat.

Now go get started…and get finished!

Photo by JDurham

Celebrating the Fourth

This summer is passing so quickly — it’s hard to believe it’s almost the 4th of July. Not only is Independence Day a great time to celebrate, but it’s a great teaching time, too. If you’re family is anything like mine, though, a lesson during a summer holiday isn’t always fully appreciated by younger students. Here are some ideas for slipping some learning opportunities into your 4th of July fun:

Bake some holiday treats together — The magazine racks in grocery stores are full of periodicals and recipe books featuring red, white, and blue desserts for the holidays. You can also find plenty of recipes online at sites such as AllRecipes.com and CookEatShare.com. Look through the recipes with your child and pick out one or two favorites.

Plan a picnic — If you’re going to celebrate with a feast outdoors, have your child help plan it. Sit down together to figure out a menu, then look through the sales fliers to figure out the approximate cost of the food. When you go to the grocery store, have your child help you find all of the items you need.

Work on crafts — You can find great 4th of July craft ideas in family magazines and online. Try looking through sites such as FamilyFun.com, EnchantedLearning.com, and MarthaStewart.com.

Attend a concert — Many cities offer outdoor concerts for the 4th; is there one in your area? Use the concert as an opportunity to introduce your child to the different musical instruments and what they sound like.

Learn patriotic songs — Whether or not you’re attending a concert, you can still use the 4th as a time to teach your children songs about America. Some songs to sing together include You’re a Grand Old Flag, America the Beautiful, God Bless America, This Land is Your Land, and The Star Spangles Banner.

However you celebrate the 4th with your children, enjoy the time together. Just like the summer, these schooling years will pass by so quickly!