MAKE A TWIG BASKET FOR SPRING PLANTS

It’s spring! Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and Arbor Day is the 27th. Here’s a fun family craft that combines all three. It gets you outside, with your eye on nature’s beauty for collecting and crafting a simple twig basket.

Head out into a park, or your own block or backyard with your kids on a windy day or after a rainstorm, and collect the sticks and twigs you find here and there on the ground. You might think of this activity as nature’s game of “pick-up sticks.”

When you get home with your preschoolers and school-age kids, sort through the collection, and turn the straightest sticks that are a quarter-inch or so wide into a lovely, earthy basket to hold a potted indoor plant or succulent. The attractive natural container also might be handy to hold fresh fruit on your kitchen counter or table.

Here’s the stuff you need for a twig basket that holds a 4-inch planting pot:

  • 33 sticks, 7 inches long, about 1/4 inch thick (to cut sticks into equal lengths, score with scissors, then snap off excess. Trim any pointy ends with pruning shears)
  • 1 18-inch-long thin, pliable stick for the handle
  • Twine
  • Nontoxic wood glue or a low-temp glue gun

Here’s the fun:

 

Construct the base: Arrange four sticks into a square on a newspaper-covered table or counter, with a 1-inch overlap at each corner. Dab nontoxic wood glue or glue from a glue gun at each corner.

Tie each corner with a 4-foot piece of twine. Knot it in the middle and let the long ends dangle.
To make the bottom of the basket, glue three twigs in a row 1 inch apart to the square base.

Secure each twig to the base with a 1-foot twine piece. Trim excess.

Make the sides: Dab glue on the twine at each corner. Lay four sticks in a square, log-cabin style, then tie corners as before. Continue layering and tying until you’ve used all of the 7-inch sticks.

Set your favorite growing plant inside.

 

 

 

 

MAKE EASY BUNNY BALLOONS FOR EASTER AND SPRING


What is the difference between a bunny and a rabbit? And, just as perplexing, what is a bunny rabbit?
To California artist Ivy Chew, whether you call them “bunnies,” “rabbits” or “bunny rabbits, they’re the inspiration for her charming “Rabbit Run” series of archival ink and colored pencil art where her imagination takes us into the clever details of a bunny’s day of activity, from gardening to folding an origami boat to playing solitaire.

I happened by her art opening at Agency in Santa Cruz, California, where she was gleefully blowing up animal balloons with a simple hand pump and twisting them with a flick of her wrist into eye-catching bunny-ear balloons in multiple shades of lime, yellow, orange and red. Playfully displayed here and there around the exhibit, they invited guests in to participate in the artful event.

They caught my eye! Ivy’s bunny balloons were my inspiration for this Easter’s creative family activity idea with older kids. They are simple to create with a few inexpensive supplies.

Here’s the fun:
You’ll need a small balloon pump or a pump used for inflating sports or exercise balls, and long, skinny balloons for balloon animals (available online, at toy stores or party supply stores).

Inflate a balloon into the shape of a long sausage, about 38 inches long. Hold it horizontally in front of you with hands outstretched about 8 inches in from each end.
Simply bring your hands together to form a “V” shape, and twist the balloon ends together at that 8-inch point. You have just created a bunny head and two floppy ears (watch a how-to video at www.donnaerickson.com).

Hold it up to frame your face and take a photo!

Make more, and set them around the house, or tie fishing line around the ears and hang in windowsills for Easter weekend.

Extra idea: Make a face for the bunny.
Set a bunny balloon flat on an 8-1/2-by-11 inch sheet of plain paper. Use balloon as a pattern, and use a pencil to outline outside of the oval head shape, minus ears. Cut it out. Use markers and colored pencils to draw and decorate the bunny’s face on the paper.
Use double-stick tape to secure the rim of the paper face to the back of the balloon.

Safety note: Young children can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Adult supervision is required. Discard broken balloons appropriately.

Resources: View a colorful sampling of Ivy’s whimsical and charming “Rabbit Run” art series at www.donnaerickson.com.

MAKE A SIMPLE BALLOON BUNNY-(video)

Click below for a short video on how to make A  bunny balloon. You do not need to stand outside in snow and mouth numbing cold to do this activity.

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California artist Ivy Chew makes a simple balloon bunny at the opening event of her “Rabbit Run” art series at Agency in Santa Cruz.

GET INSPIRED WITH THE WINTER OLYMPICS


Let the excitement of the 2018 Winter Games in distant Pyeongchang, South Korea,  Feb. 9-25, generate some new interests and activities your whole family can enjoy right at home.
The weeks of daily television coverage that follow the pageantry of the opening ceremony  bring opportunities for your family to learn and have fun together watching the competition. Here are some teachable and inspirational moments the games can provide as you and your kids cheer for your favorite athletes.

WATCH AND LEARN
Devote a family bulletin board (or use a large piece of poster board) to the Olympic Games. Hang it in your kitchen or in a place where you come and go. Help your children find, cut out and display newspaper, magazine or printed online articles of athletes they are rooting for and admire. They might even be your hometown favorites.
To add to the spirit of the games, make a chart with their favorite athlete’s names, nationalities and sports. Note achievements as the games progress.
The Olympics are also a great tool for teaching kids global geography. You might hang a world map near your television or computer to locate continents, countries and cities.

NEVER GIVE UP
The skills and stories of hard work, courage and persistence of thousands of athletes worldwide are inspiring. When they tumble and fall, they get back up and keep on going, teaching those of us at home to strive to do our best. And remember, despite their talent, even the best trained athletes still make mistakes and only a small percentage actually win a medal.
Ask your children what personal characteristics they think led to the success of the athletes you watch. Then talk about the sports they enjoy in their lives and the challenges and feelings of accomplishment they experience on the ice, in a gym or snowboarding down a hill.

BRING HOME THE SPIRIT OF THE GAMES
Encourage a spirit of cooperation when engaging in your own family projects, sports and games. Winning certainly is fun, but encouraging and supporting others can be even more enjoyable. If you’re playing board games, tackling a household chore or if you’re inspired to try an Olympic sport like ice skating or skiing, aim toward challenging one another in a cooperative spirit.

MAKE LOOK-ALIKE POLAR FLEECE SCARVES FOR COZY WINTER DAYS

   
Be warm and feel cozy with easy, no-sew polar fleece scarves. Make one for each member of the family — including your dog! — in the same plaid or pattern, and you’ll be dressed with extra family spirit for  sporting events, get-togethers and taking photos.
Find washable polar fleece fabric in a variety of patterns and designs by the yard online and at fabric stores. (Stores such as Jo-Ann offer coupons regularly for significant discounts on your purchase. My scarves came to less than $2 each.)
I zoomed in on the checks and plaids, and chose classic black and red buffalo check this year — a great look for cold winter months. The straight lines of plaids and checks provide a visual guide when measuring and cutting, a timesaver when cutting out several scarves.
For school-age kids and adults, an 8-inch-by-60-inch scarf is a nice size, so count on purchasing about 1 2/3 yards for six scarves, depending on the repetition of the pattern. Since the fleece doesn’t ravel, there’s no need to allow for seams.
Here’s what you’ll need for six medium-size scarves:
  –1 2/3 yards of 59-60-inch-wide polar fleece fabric
  –good sewing scissors or rotary cutter (adults only) and rotary cutting mat
  –a clear plastic ruler such as a quilter’s ruler
  –straight pins or fabric pencil if using scissors
Here’s the fun:
  1. Lay out the fabric on your worktable and rotary cutting mat, if using rotary cutter. Measure and mark the length (60 inches) and width (8 inches) points of your scarves with straight pins or fabric pencil. The scarf length should be along the selvage (not across the width of the fabric), so that the scarves won’t stretch out of shape. For a uniform look, be mindful of repeat checks or plaids as you measure. Adjust measurements if making scarves for small children or your pet.
  2. Cut off the selvages, and then cut out scarves.
  3. Cut fringe 1/2 inch by 4 inches on each end for a fun, finished look.
  Extra idea: For a unique and useful memento, make matching scarves for guests at your next birthday or sledding party.

 

SHARE A STORY WAITING TO BE TOLD

  “Tell me another story about your sled dogs … didn’t they get cold feet?” Ten-year-old Aubrie Odeyemi was full of questions as cousin Mary shared the adventures of her incredible accomplishment of finishing the almost 1,000 mile 2016 Iditarod sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.

  Mary, 34, was good at telling her action-packed experiences of perseverance from the fear of losing the trail and getting lost, and taking care of the dogs in sub-zero temps every night, no matter how cold or tired she felt, to feeding the huskies meals and providing frozen beef and fish snacks throughout the day when on the move — “they’re like a popsicle to a dog!” she adds. In every story, her love of her dogs, the thrill of the challenge, and the beauty of Alaska came through her words.

  Stories magically hold our attention. What do you remember from a presentation? It’s usually the story that was told. How do savvy political candidates try to get your vote? By telling a heartwarming story. And what keeps us gathered around the table long after the dishes have been cleared? A lively storyteller spinning a yarn.

  This festive season, discover that the best dramas, mysteries and true adventures aren’t necessarily in theaters or on the big screen. They’re also in the hearts, minds and experience of people right under your roof, because everybody has a story.

  Here are three story-swapping tips:

  Photos make lively story starters.

  Grab a family album and show a photo from decades ago to a grandparent to trigger a memory of an event. “Oh, that’s at our annual family picnic when I was in charge of churning ice cream,” Grandpa might say. “We made the special treat ourselves in those days. Once your Uncle Paul put a pickle in it when I wasn’t looking. It tasted just awful.”

  Good listening encourages creative, confident storytelling.

  Encourage your kids to listen to one another respectfully as stories are told.

  The world is waiting for your stories.

  There is no right or wrong way to tell a story, and you’ll never run out of ideas. As someone’s tale is being told, the hidden magic, images or meaning will get you thinking, and your own stories will surface, to everyone’s delight.

 

MAKE “PINE TREE” VOTIVE CANDLEHOLDERS

Creative time also can be vocabulary-building time when your kids learn how to say and spell “arborvitae.” Check it out online or, depending on where you live, take a walk together and discover the common hardy shrub with flat spraylike green branches that grows in most zones of the country. Here’s the fun part. Take a closer look, and see how the tips on branches resemble the shape of a pine tree.

“Why not glue the flat tree-like tip portions of the branches onto clear glass votive candleholders?” thought my friend Lisa MacMartin, who is always on the hunt for natural materials for sharing projects with children at her welcoming store and family craft studio, Heartfelt, in Minneapolis (heartfeltonline.com).

I gave her idea a try. After clipping a few sprigs in my backyard, I flattened them between pages of a thick book for a week. When pressed, the mini branch tips were ready for adhering to clear glass votive candleholders. For the holidays, a dash of white glitter on the sticky glue was the perfect wintry touch.
Press a few branch tips, and you’ll be set for a family craft night making these festive votives for a cozy candle lit evening in your home. Or, wrap extras up for hostess gifts when you share the season with others.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need:
–pressed stems of arborvitae
–scissors
–standard-size clear-glass votive candleholders available at craft stores, or upcycle clear glass jars with labels removed
–Mod Podge water base sealer, or household white glue
–paper plate
–small paintbrush
–fine white or sparkly white glitter

Here’s the fun:
1. Trim four “tree-shaped” ends of the arborvitae to fit a bit less than the height of the votive holder.
2. Pour Mod Podge or glue onto plate. (If using glue, dilute with a few drops of water). Brush Mod Podge or glue mixture on a section the size of one of the “trees” on the outside of the glass. Press greenery with your fingers until it adheres. Lightly brush on another layer or two of the adhesive. Sprinkle with glitter. Repeat as you go around the candleholder.
3. Once dry, your votive holder will be set for service. Place a lit candle inside, and watch it shimmer.

Extra idea: If you don’t have access to arborvitae, instead, print and cut out images of pine trees or other natural images online or from magazines.
Safety note: An adult should always be present when burning candles.

DRUM AND SHAKE WITH HOMEMADE INSTRUMENTS


When I heard the beat of the drums, I knew I was really back in Africa. It had been years since I taught in a secondary school in the remote Ubangi region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Accessible only by boat or plane, I was fortunate to return last month to this tropical land of mangoes, butterflies and poinsettias as large as trees to see former students, and participate with Congolese women’s groups devoted to hygiene, finance, agriculture and clean-water projects.

It was the rhythmic welcomes in villages, each drum with its own sound blended with the tones and beats of rattles and voices, that got my feet stamping and hands clapping. The sounds are pervasive. All ages still beat drums to transmit messages, even while others simultaneously dial up their cellphones to do the same.

Percussion instruments are universal, really, and at their most basic level play an important part in a child’s development. A simple rattle sparks an array of sensory experiences for a baby. No wonder a growing toddler enjoys finding anything that clangs to bang together like cymbals. Later, their fascination may lead them to musical training, which has been proven to increase math scores and self-expression.
Here is how to assemble a mini drum set and shaker to further your child’s musical journey:

Drum Set
–Paint various sizes of clean, soup and vegetable tin cans in bright colors. Decorate with pompons and other favorite crafty charms.

–Wrap strong paper cut in circles over the open end of some of the cans. Hold paper in place with rubber bands. Turn remaining cans open-side down on a table.

–Use wooden and metal spoons to tap out a rhythm. The eraser ends of unsharpened pencils make good drumsticks.

For fun, play a game of “echo.” Hit the cans and challenge others to repeat what you have done.

–For mini cymbals, thread a bead 3-inches down on a wooden skewer. Glue in place, then thread a flat canning-jar lid with a hole poked through its center, onto the skewer. Add another bead and a second lid. Top with a bead and glue in place. Tape to the side of a can. Hit with “drumsticks” as you play on the mini drum set.

Bottle Shakers
–Pour dry beans in a plastic bottle and glue the cap shut. Paint and decorate with colorful tape and stickers.

CREATE MINI SUCCULENT PUMPKINS


Just in time for Thanksgiving and December holiday gatherings, stylish mini pumpkins can star in stripes, white and various shades of orange for eye-catching place settings and centerpieces when you glue moss and embed living succulents on top.

Give your kids the job of keeping succulents misted every few days as the plants root into the moss, and enjoy the creations in your home now and into the new year. When the mini pumpkins soften and age, toss them in the compost bin and pot the succulents indoors in soil in a flowerpot to grow in bright sunlight or outdoors in a frost-free garden bed.

Get older kids involved in creating the mini succulent pumpkins by swirling the nontoxic sticky glue or a glue gun, handling the wiry moss and arranging different varieties of succulents and add-ins make for artful fun.

Here’s what you’ll need for one succulent mini pumpkin:
–One clean pumpkin with a flat-top surface.
–Water-soluble white glue that dries clear, such as Mod Podge Matte finish or a low-temp glue gun.
–Sphagnum moss available in garden centers or craft stores
–Several succulents. Use cuttings from your garden or purchase at garden centers.
–Natural add-ons such as seedpods, acorns, tiny pine cones, eucalyptus

Here’s the fun
1. Set mini pumpkin on a newspaper-covered work surface. Remove stem with clippers, being careful not to cut into the pumpkin.
2. Drizzle glue around the top area of the pumpkin in swirls. Cover with the moss, about 1/2-inch thick, pressing firmly in place. Let dry.
3. Remove roots and soil from the succulents. Dip short stems into glue and poke into the moss. For balance, place a tall succulent for a focal point near the center and add remaining succulents and add-ons around it over the moss. An adult or older child may use a glue gun to affix the add-ons, if you prefer.

Care: Set the pumpkin on a saucer, trivet or tray. Mist succulents and moss regularly, making sure the pumpkin remains fresh and dry. The succulents will begin to root through the glue into the moss. Keep away from excessive heat, freezing temperatures and rain.

Extra idea: Use at each guest’s place at the Thanksgiving table. Tuck a name card in each one and set at each plate. Spray paint pumpkins in gold or silver for December holiday dinners. Guests may take one home to enjoy into the new year.

 

Watch the video below to see Donna create mini succulent pumpkins on Twin Cities Live.

CREATE A SOLAR COOKER AND COOK A SNACK


When you put news on your mealtime menu, it opens up all kinds of opportunities for together-time conversations, whether it’s the stats of your home team or the biggie event  over North America on Monday, Aug. 21 — the solar eclipse of the sun. While not a total eclipse in all states, it IS a novel, out-of-this-world experience where you live.

OK, so your kids might associate the sun more with your constant nagging to slather their skin with sunscreen or wear a brimmed hat on a bright afternoon at the park. But when they tune into learning about this rare astronomical event, they’ll be engaged in new ways in our solar system — and the sun, in particular. (Learn more: eclipse2017.nasa.gov.)

Make the topic of “sun” practical, too, by constructing a simple solar cooker in minutes to show that the sun is powerful and provides energy for many things, including cooking a yummy fruit snack.

SIMPLE SOLAR COOKER
Here’s the stuff you’ll need:
–a hot, sunny day
–22-by-28-inch black poster board
–aluminum foil
–stapler
–tape
–small, clear glass bowl
–fruit and add-ins, such as an apple, honey and raisins (peaches and pears also are good)

Here’s the fun:
Make oven:
Lay the poster board on a table and cover one side completely with the foil. Staple the sheets of foil in place.

Gently roll the poster board in a diagonal direction to form a large cone shape with the foil on the inside.

Loosen the shape a bit so that one end is wide open and the other is small. It will resemble a megaphone.

Tape the seam closed, and staple the small end flat and shut. Now it’s time to crank up the heat.
Cook the snack:

Thinly slice an apple and place a few pieces in the clear glass dish. Top with raisins and a drizzle of honey, if you wish.

During the hottest and sunniest time of day, place the cone cooker on its side on a flat surface. Position it so that the sun’s rays are aimed directly inside. Tuck the bowl way back in the cone, and leave it to heat up for about 30 minutes. Cover with an oven bag or plastic wrap if you wish.

When time is up, slip the treat out carefully using a potholder.

Eat it up! Add ice cream or frozen yogurt for solar apples a la mode, if you wish.

Extra-sunny idea for nighttime: Make my space lampshade. The light bulb can represent the sun, then add your own ideas to a recycled shade to create a simple model of the solar system. See instructions at my web site……Donnaerickson.com