Tag Archives: crafts

Writing Camp

A couple of weeks ago, a friend approached me about putting together a writing camp for the homeschoolers in our area. I was able to get in touch with another friend, author Pam Zollman, who has taught writing classes for years. This week we met to decide the details, and I think the camp is going to be really good.

Pam has written over 40 books for children, and she also worked as an editor at Highlights Magazine. As I listened to her talk during our planning meeting, I could tell she has a knack for getting the information to across to students.

During the camp, we’ll follow a similar schedule each day. To begin, we’ll read a favorite picture book, then together the class with discuss the story elements found in the picture book: characters, setting, and plot. This camp will focus on illustration, too, so we’ll look at the pictures to determine the medium used and the mood created.

Then Pam will start with the writing instruction, and the kids will work on their own original stories. Next, I’ll give the children some drawing tips so they can develop illustrations to go along with their books. Throughout the camp, Pam and I will be available to help them out as they work on their projects.

One of the best things about this camp is the educational experience it affords — and during the summer, too! Kids will spend five days learning, reading, writing, drawing, and putting their own book together. It can certainly be counted as school time, even if the children are having too much fun to realize it!

Do you have a friend who likes to write? Does she enjoy teaching as well? If so, encourage her to set up a class for the homeschoolers in your area. It doesn’t have to last all week — even one or two classes can inspire a young writer to start creating.

Free Things to Do in the Summer

Our lazy days of summer haven’t been too lazy yet. We’ve had family visit, spent a week with art camp, and worked on math. There’s so much we can do, and even for those (like us) who are on a tighter budget this summer, much of it is free.

If you’re looking for things to do as a family, check into some of these:

Library Programs:  Many times libraries will bring in presenters for programs. They might be magicians, animal handlers, scientists, musicians, or puppeteers, and the hour-long program can be a lot of fun. Some libraries also offer free craft classes for kids.

Kids’ Movies: Check with your local movie theater to see if any free movies are being offered. Our area has three theaters that offer free movies in the summer, usually once or twice a week. One of our local universities is even offering free kids’ movies in the evening.

Concerts: Often, community bands will offer free concerts in the summer. Check the Sunday paper or your city’s website for more information.

Festivals: Our state has festivals going on all through the summer, from the Peach Festival to the Watermelon Festival to Fourth of July Festivals. Take along some extra water and enjoy the arts, crafts, and music.   

Parks: Enjoy the outdoors with your family with a picnic at a city park. Pack your food in a cooler, take along a Frisbee or football, and enjoy!

Zoos and Museums: Depending on where you live, entrance into the local zoo and museums may be free as well. Check your city’s website or visitor’s guide for more information. You might even want to get a group of friends together and make it a field trip!

Whatever your family does this summer, be sure to slow down and enjoy it!

Beautiful Covers

This week, I worked at a local art camp teaching a writing class and helping with the crafts. Because we were working on stories in the writing class, the children spent time making books during art. These were conventional-looking books — with very unconventional covers.

The books themselves were small, about 4″ x 5″, though you could make them any size. The covers were made out of pieces of mat board, and for this project, a light color would work best — either white or cream. After cutting the paper to size, the art teacher then place a cover on either end of the paper stack and drilled two holes all the way through using a small bit. String was then threaded through the holes to hold the pieces together.

What made the covers so pretty, however, was the way in which the kids decorated them using tissue paper. We did this before putting the books together.

First, we mixed up a small amount of white glue with water. Each child then took a paintbrush and “painted” the mat board cover of their book with the mixture. Next, they chose from the colorful scraps of tissue paper we had on hand and placed them on the now sticky surface of their covers. They went over the tissue paper again with a little more of the glue/water mixture, making sure the tissue paper was lying flat. Overlapping the paper was fine — it created even more colors.

The mat board worked really well with this technique, as it was strong enough not to bend or warp when the glue mixture was applied. If you don’t have a drill, however, you can still use this technique to make an accordion-style book that you just put together with glue instead of string. To do this, have your child fold the paper like a fan, then glue each end to a rectangular piece of mat board that the child has decorated.

Whatever method you use, try making one of these beautiful books this summer. It will be a keepsake to last a lifetime!

Shaving Cream Art

As we wind down with another school year of art classes (I teach in my home), I like to surprise the students with a different type of art project for the final session. Last year they created some abstract art by spattering paint using several different methods; this year, we’re making marbled paper using…shaving cream!

I have three classes that meet every other week — one of the classes finished up a week ago, while the others will conclude on Wednesday. I tried the project with the first class, made up of boys ages 9 – 13, and it went great!  I figured it would, though; after all, we were using shaving cream.

There are some good sites online explaining the history of marbling, which we talked about before getting to work. Here’s how we did it:


  • Cardstock
  • Shaving Cream
  • 9″ x 13″ Pan
  • Tempra paints or food coloring
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpicks, combs, skewers

 To prepare, I purchased one can of shaving cream and a disposable 9″ x 13″ foil pan for each student. After reading more about it online, I probably had way too much shaving cream. One teacher recommended using only a few cans for a class of 20. I saved our extra for my next class, though.

 Then I had each student squirt out a layer of shaving cream about one inch thick in the bottom of their pan (Fun!).

 Next, the students painted the top of the shaving cream with tempra paints. Food coloring worked just as well but was more expensive. We also tried watercolors, but the finished pieces didn’t seem as bright as those with the tempra paints. Craft acrylics didn’t work at all.

 Before painting, we added water to the paints to make them more fluid. As the students painted, they tried to cover most of the surface of the shaving cream with color. This usually results in a more interesting final product.

Using a toothpick, comb, or skewer,  the students  then ran the object through the color, creating swirls and other patterns in the shaving cream.

Next, they carefully placed the paper directly on top of the shaving cream. We patted it down gently so that the entire sheet came in contact with the shaving cream. Then we pulled it up gently again.

I wiped off the paper using a paper towel (a bit of a mess). Even though the shaving cream surface was smudged, the design had transferred nicely to the paper.

 We then set the paper aside to dry, and the students tried again. To do so, we simply mixed the used paint into the shaving cream until there was a “clean” surface again.  We were able to use the same shaving cream for all of their projects that day — about four to five pieces of art each.

Balancing Craft

butterfly 1This was my last week doing crafts with the kindergarten/first grade class at our co-op. It was bittersweet — while it was a bit of work planning and preparing the crafts, it was fun to watch the children work on them, and it was so good to see my son Luke enjoy making them and showing them off to his siblings.

For this last formal class, we read the picture book Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully. The story takes place in France in the late nineteenth century. Mirette’s mother, a widow, rents out the rooms in her home to traveling performers. One of the performers who comes to stay is the Great Bellini, a tightrope walker. Mirette wants to learn to walk on a rope, too, and Bellini finally agrees to teach her.

Our craft for this story was the Balancing Butterfly craft found on EnchantedLearning.com. Here’s how we did it:


  • Cardboard butterflies
  • Sculpey clay
  • Pencils
  • Pennies
  • Tape
  • Markers

To prepare, I made a butterfly pattern with a piece of cardstock. I found that a butterfly with a wingspan of about 3 inches worked well.

Next, I traced the pattern and pre-cut the butterflies for the students using thin cardboard I had on hand. EnchantedLearning recommends using old cereal boxes.

The students then…

1. Decorated their butterflies with markers. We talked about patterns again, and how they could make patterns on their butterflies.

2. I also provided each student with some sculpey clay. They worked the clay with their hands to soften it before rolling it into a ball. Then they flattened one side on the surface of the table to make it stand evenly.

3. I then let them choose a pencil, and they stuck the unsharpened end down into the clay so the pencil was standing upright.

4. Next, they tried to balanbutterfly2ce their butterflies on the eraser end of the pencils. They could balance them if they placed the center of the butterfly on the eraser.

5. Then we added pennies to the wings. We taped one penny near the top of each wing. This changed the center of gravity to a point closer to the head of the butterfly. The butterfly would tip, but it still balanced on the pencil.

This simple craft was a hit!  They played with them that morning, and then my son played with his some more when we got home. My daughter Lillie then made one for herself, and she plans on making more with her cousins this weekend. Give this project a try, and watch the butterflies soar!

Nuts and Bolts

This week, our Five in a Row story for the K-5/First Graders at co-op was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. It was a little harder coming up with a craft to go along with the story, but with the help of my oldest son, John, we came up with one that was a big hit.

The story is about Mike Mulligan and his out-dated steam shovel, Mary Ann. In the story, they take on one last job, digging the cellar of the new town hall in Popperville. As we read the book, we talked about the different machines depicted, and how Mike Mulligan used his machine Mary Ann to dig faster and better.

The project? The children had to think up and sketch their own time-saving machines.


  • 1/2 sheet of posterboard (one per student)
  • Pencils
  • Markers, crayons, and/or colored pencils
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue
  • Collection of misc. nails, screws, nuts, washers, bolts, etc.

Each student was given 1/2 sheet of posterboard and a pencil and instructed to spend a few minutes thinking about the kind of machine they would design. What would their machine do? How would it be helpful? What would it need to do the job?

Next, the children drew their machines on the posterboard. After they were satisfied with it, they colored them in with crayons, colored pencils, or markers.
While they were working, we plugged in a couple of low-temp mini-glue guns.  When the students had finished their drawings, they were given a handful of various nuts, nails, screws, bolts, etc. to choose from. They would then place them on their pictures where they thought they should go. We then used hot glue (a lot for the heavier items) to affix them to the “machine.”

The children really enjoyed it — and they enjoyed telling about their machines, too! Later that day, they stood up one by one with the drawings of their machines and explained just what their machines were supposed to do. They were all so proud of their ideas — and I was too!

Okay, Kids – Express Yourself!

img-0136A couple of months ago, we rearranged almost all of the rooms in our house, changing two of our upstairs rooms into bedrooms. My husband no longer has a study (he’s okay with that — he doesn’t bring much work home with him), and each child now has their own room to clean, maintain, and house their treasures.

As soon as she moved in, my 9-year-old, Lillie, loved her new room, and she had some big plans. The room (my husband’s former study) was a neutral beige color with white trim. “Can we paint some shapes on the walls?”

We looked up some ideas online, and we decided large geometric shapes would look really good on those walls. Plus, I wouldn’t have to paint the entire wall again. “Okay,” I said, “but we’ll have to wait until we have a free day.” After spending a couple of weeks on the house, I had a lot of catching up to do on other things.

“Can I do it?” she asked. I thought for a moment. Why not? After all, it would save me some time. We’ve painted enough together that she knew just what to do. And it was just paint — we could repaint the walls again whenever she was ready.

“Sure,” I said. “Use the craft acrylics, and clean up when you’re done.”

Later that day, she called me upstairs to see her masterpiece. But instead of the large geometric shapes I had envisioned, the walls were covered in red, green, yellow, blue, and purple 1″-3″ polka dots. And Lillie couldn’t have been more proud.

“There are a couple of hidden shapes,” she said. “Can you find them? A purple triangle, a green triangle, a blue square…” Her bedroom walls were not only much more lively, but they were a puzzle she could share with friends as well.

As we raise our kids, we’ll probably question a lot of our decisions (I do!). But letting Lillie paint her own room is one I’m glad I made — the results have only been positive. She has a room she enjoys, and she built up her self-confidence in the process. What’s more, she inspired her younger brother who also moved into his own room — now his walls showcase stick figures having adventures! 🙂

The Little Red Lighthouse Craft

alighthouseThis week, our kindergarteners and first graders at co-op read The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge by Hildegard Swift and Lynd Ward. The craft we did with this book took a little while to prepare, but it was a lot of fun that provided some good practice for their fine motor skills.

For the activity, the children created their own lighthouses using popsicle sticks. If you’d like to make a lighthouse with your child, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 40 popsicle sticks cut in half, or 80 half-size sticks
  • Red acrylic craft paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Paper towels
  • Container with water (to clean the brushes)
  • Newspaper
  • White school glue
  • Cardstock
  • Something round (about 2 ” in diameter) to use as a pattern, such as jar lid
  • Hot glue gun and glue stick
  • Yellow paper or foam
  • Scissors

If you are working with a lot of students (we have 11 in our class), you may want to do the first few steps yourself to save time. However, if you’re working with only your own children, you can show them how to complete each step themselves.

1. First, cover your table top or work area with newspaper.

2. Lay out the sticks on the paper. Using the red craft acrylics, paint one side of each popsicle sticks red. Allow the paint to dry (acrylic paints dry quickly, so if the paint isn’t very thick, a few minutes should be enough. You can also speed up the drying process by using a hair dryer).

3. If you are using whole sticks, you’ll need to cut them in half. Do this yourself, as it’s a difficult task for children. You can cut them in half with a large pair of scissors. Some of the sticks might split a little, but they can still be used.

4. Now, show your child how to “build” the lighthouse by placing two sticks parallel to each other on the paper, adding a drop of glue to each one, and then placing two more parallel sticks on the glue going in the opposite direction. Continue gluing and alternating the pairs until all of the sticks have been used.

5. To make the top of the lighthouse, draw a circle on the cardstock. Use the jar lid as a guide and trace around it. Cut out the circle. Then, cut one slit in the circle, going from the edge of the circle to the center. Stop cutting at the center of the circle.

6. At the slit, pull one of the straight edges you just cut under the other, forming a cone shape. Glue the edges with hot glue so that the glue dries quickly and the shape holds. Using the hot glue again, glue the edges of the cone to the top of the lighthouse.

7. To complete the lighthouse, cut a small circle from yellow cardstock or foam and glue it onto one side of the lighthouse as a “light.”

Springtime and Flower Pots

aflowerOur part of the country (the southeast) has had an unusually cold winter this year. Temperatures have dipped below the normal range almost every week since the first of January; we’ve had three snow/ice storms in the past two months when we usually only see one during the season. Is it any wonder that everyone in our home is looking forward to spring?

This past week we did a fun activity that helped put us in the mood even more. This simple craft is great for all ages, even moms.

Painted Flower Pots

What you’ll need:

  • Small clay pots
  • Potting soil
  • Acrylic Craft Paints
  • Smocks or Paint shirts
  • Containers filled with water
  • Paint Brushes
  • Styrofoam plates
  • Paper Towels
  • Newspaper
  • Seeds

Before you begin, cover your table top or painting area with newspaper, allowing for easy clean up. Have each student put on a paint smock or shirt; acrylic paints usually don’t come out of clothing.

Provide each student with a pot, a Styrofoam plate to use as a palette, paintbrushes, a container of water to clean the brushes, and a paper towel to dab the brushes on after they’ve been cleaned.

Tell the students that they will be painting their own designs on the pots. Before beginning, though, have them think about what they want to paint. Do they want to paint spots and stripes? Butterflies? Rainbows? Geometric shapes? Solid colors?

Now instruct the children to begin painting. Have them wash their brushes out when changing colors.

After the students have finished decorating the pots, allow the pots to dry for a few minutes. These acrylic paints dry quickly, so they won’t have to wait too long.

When the pots are dry, show the children how to fill them with potting soil. Provide them with two or three seeds (we used sunflower seeds), and show them how to plant them. A perfect opportunity to learn about the life cycle of plants!

Now add a little water and place the pot in a sunny location. Watch for the new life to push through — and enjoy the first signs of spring!

Stuffed Owl Craft

owlThis week, our first grade class read the story Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Beautiful, rhythmic text describes a young girl’s night time adventure as she goes owling with her father. To go along with the story, we made our own owls using a few easy-to-find supplies.

To make this stuffed owl, you’ll need:

  • Poly fiberfill
  • A grey or brown tube sock
  • Yellow felt
  • Black felt
  • Brown or tan felt
  • Scissors
  • Rubber band
  • White glue or hot glue gun

To begin, cut off most of the ribbed portion of the sock, leaving about 1 – 1 1/2 inches.

Next, stuff the sock with the fiberfill. The heel of the sock will be the front of the owl, so make sure you stuff it full enough. Stop stuffing when you reach the remaining ribbed portion of the sock.

Now, tie off the sock by twisting the rubber band around it. The ribbed portion is the owl’s tail.

Next, take the ribbed top portion of the sock that you cut off. Cut it in half so you have two equal pieces. Glue one piece to each side of the owl with the ribbed side facing outward. These are the owl’s wings.

To create the owl’s face, cut a large bean-shaped piece from the brown or tan felt (use a different color than the sock). Glue it onto the stuffed toe of the sock, or the owl’s head.

Next, cut out two small circles from the back felt and two larger circles from the yellow. Glue one black circle onto each yellow circle, forming the eyes. Glue these onto the brown or tan face.

Finally, cut a small triangle from the yellow felt. Center this below the eyes and glue it to the face with one point going downward. This is the owl’s beak.

Give the glue plenty of time to dry — you can do this by telling your young student that it’s daytime, and the owl needs to sleep. 😉