Thursday, June 6, 2013

5 Easy and Green Projects to Help Kickstart Summer

What time is it? SUMMERTIME(for those who don't get the reference..AKA anyone under about 23 years of age:'m ashamed that I've seen this..and that I made the reference.)! I absolutely LOVE summer! Warmer weather, more time outdoors, and the end of another school year. Although "school vacation" doesn't mean much to most unschoolers, it does mean more playmates during the day! With more kiddos hanging out at your home, opportunities to flex your creative juices with your kids are abundant. Summer is a great time to try out new projects-if it's warm, you can move the project outside, and can use paint and other messy things with no clean up necessary! WOO! That's enough reason for me to break out the craft supplies and get creative! Here are 5 ideas of simple, fun projects to do with your kiddos (and their friends) to kickstart your creative ideas. A few are recycing/upcycling, and all of them use simple supplies that can be found around the house (because who wants to go and buy supplies? I know I don't). I've provided simple explanations, but I think the projects are fairly easy and self explanatory, so it should be good (I'm hoping?). If you see a project you'd like step by step instructions for, please leave me a comment and say which one you're interested in. Then, I can make a step by step guide to that particular project. I realize my instructions are kind of cryptic, so please, do not hesitate to ask questions if I've completely lost you. My instructions basically consist of an explanation of the craft and supplies, and then steps to put it together. It's pretty vague and unnumbered (PSHH, who needs numbers), so bear with me. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of many of the crafts, even though I've made them with so many different kids! I wish I had thought to take pictures (BRAIN FART). Any time I have them, I will include them.
1.Snow Globes
Snow globes are easy to create and use super simple supplies, and all the kiddos I've created it with love them. Grab a container-any kind can be used. I've had the best experience with jars- e.g baby food, olive, peanut butter/jelly, mayonnaise(does that even come a jar anymore..?), but in reality, any clear container will work-water bottles, juice/Gatorade bottles,shampoo bottles-as long as it is a clear contained with a lid, go for it! For the snow, I usually choose plastic beads, however, I'm sure you can use a ton of different sorts of objects. As long as it floats, you can stick it in there, and it should work. I like using beads, because I have a ton of them available (like I said, whatever is on hand!) and kids can choose their favorite beads, go by a color scheme, whatever. It allows for some extra creativity, which it nice. I think it would be fun to try with sequins or foam pieces, too. But, just a PSA-GLASS BEADS will not work as well . The beauty of the craft is the floating aspect, and they do not float. They tumble around, which I think is cool as well, but it's not exactly the effect produced by the plastic ones. I am, unfortunately, speaking from personal experience.
Have your kiddos put whatever sort of "snow" you are using into the jar. I can't easily give a specific amount, because it depends on the size of the container. Maybe fill it to about 1/8 full? Basically, just use your own judgement on what will work. It's pretty much impossible to mess up, so no worries. Extra snow will just make it extra cool.
When you are finished choosing the "snow", try fill the jar to the TIPPY TOP with water. If there is space without water, there will be a huge bubble when you turn the jar upside down, and that's somewhat disappointing. Then, put the top on, tape it to avoid leakage/opening, and VIOLA! You're done. Really, it's so simple. PUT STUFF IN JAR. ADD WATER. That's the basic gist.

2.Find It
This is also very simple, and is created in a similar manner to the snow globe. A find it is basically a large, clear bottle filled with sand and special objects. The child moves the bottle, therefore moving the sand and objects, to try and find each special object located inside. It's great for a busy bag activity, and it's nice, because kids can help make it, and then play with it, too! Win-win, right? Once again, commandeer a clear container with a lid-I recommend a shampoo bottle or disposable water bottle, but any clear container will work. Grab a filling(this can be pretty much anything. I usually use steel oats, however regular oatmeal works, and I think sand would be perfect, as well) and special objects. Unlike the snow globe, the objects don't have to be able to float, and they can be pretty much anything;it just has to be able to fit through the top of the container! I usually use gemstones, beads, foam shapes, unneeded board game pieces, small toys, etc. Seriously, guys, anything that fits will entertain the kiddos.
Asisst your kids in choosing some find-it pieces (a good amount-maybe 1/2 inch?) and place them into each child's respective containers.
Pour in about 2 inches worth of the filling. Replace the top and shake, shake, shake, until the special pieces are mixed throughout. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until the container is filled to very close to the top. After you finish one layer, I suggest adding the new find-it pieces and new filling, shaking it again, and so on. This will ensure that the pieces are strewn throughout, otherwise, you may end up with a ton of special things at the bottom, and only sand at the top, which is pretty disappointing.
Avoid filling it to the very top;if you do this, it will be difficult to shake it.
If you leave a small amount of space, it's easier to shift the contents and find the special things.
That's basically it! You can vary it however you see fit (the beauty of simplicity, I tell you).
3.DIY Coloring Pages
 The other day, I founds a website that transforms your photographs into coloring pages online, and I'm kind of in love with it. It's fantastic for when you would like a coloring page of a particular image or idea, but can't find a coloring page online, and it's insanely easy. Just select the photo, and VIOLA! It turns your picture into a coloring page in about 10 seconds. Then, you can choose to color it online, or print it and color it with art supplies. I think it's super useful, and in my experience, my kiddos have enjoyed seeing the picture turn into the coloring page. I'm super excited to use it with Adora, because she LOVES this kind of thing.
Also, I think it would be great for when you have a craft for which your kids need a picture of themselves, but you don't want to give them a real, printed out photograph, lest it be butchered with scissors, or for which you need a picture of your kids for a craft, but don't want to print a legit one out (am I the only person this cheap? Printed ink is expensive!). This is the site:
This is one of myself and Rory..they can't all be perfect. However, they did get my stripey socks, and the wording on Rory's sweatshirt, which is interesting.

4. Edible Play Dough
Play Dough you're supposed to eat? It's every little person's dream! And apparently some older people, too-a few years ago, I made this play dough to bring to a homeschooling co-op for which I was providing childcare, and I think the eleven and twelve year olds got more enjoyment out of it than then preschoolers did! It's fairly simple, and tasty, too:
Honey (YUM <3 Vegan friends can try Suzanne’s Specialities’ Just Like Honey Rice Nectar if still interested in the recipe-or another kind of honey substitute? I have no idea if this stuff is any good-I legitimately just googled "vegan honey" and found this).
Flour (I think almond flour, or any flour substitute, should work the same way, for anyone going gluten free)
Peanut butter (I think sunbutter should be fine, if you are peanut free).
Mix together.
That's basically it. But just FYI, I recommend keeping the flour out while mixing the play dough together, because although it calls for equal parts, I usually use twice the flour it calls for, or it becomes too messy and sticky. And also, when mixing, your hands will get messy and sticky, as well, so I would just be prepared for that. VERY MESSY, but fun!
5.Nature crown
I really enjoy this craft in the fall, but I think it will be great for now, because summer is just beginning, and flowers are abundant!
This is Adora's take on it-we make this a few Falls ago, and she wore it for Halloween, and loved it. Basically, just collect leaves and flowers, then glue or tape them to a crown (made of heavily folded tinfoil). This is nice for families working on the whole "living simply" thing, because the crown will only last a few weeks, then the flowers will pass away, and you can recycle the materials. If you feel your kids would get upset about that, you can press the flowers or leaves beforehand, and then they are able to last much longer. However, they may be a little more fragile, so that would be a drawback. Pluses and minuses, I tell you.  The crown part is super simple-just take a sheet of tinfoil, size it to your child's head, and fold it! If you feel that's not strong enough, you can add extra layers.

There they are! I hope these ideas get the creative juices flowing  as you and your family look for activities to try together. If you are confused about my somewhat less than eloquent directions, please do not hesitate to leave me a question in the comments! Also, if there is a craft you would be interested in seeing step by step instructions for, please let me know. I can post a more detailed explanation with photos. Enjoy getting crafty with your kiddos! If you decide to create any of the crafts, I would love to see your photos! Link me to some in the comments, or email me! Thanks.
What are some of your family's favorite crafts? Do you have any tips for getting crafty during the summer?

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