TURN HOUSEHOLD ITEMS INTO JUGGLING BALLS

Running a household requires the skills of a juggler. First come the kids and their schedules, then toss in cooking, cleaning, car repair and pets. As most parents will attest, just when you think you’ve got it, the unexpected comes along to throw everything off balance! Start and stop … the juggling act never ends.

My kids called themselves jugglers too, but for them it was juggling oranges out of the fruit bowl, potatoes from the pantry or just about anything that crossed their paths. Then, with some creative thinking, we came up with some alternatives, like a set of juggling balls.

Much to their delight, we made these handy, sturdy balls in minutes using basic supplies we had in the kitchen.

Here’s how:
Scoop 1/2 cup of uncooked instant rice into a plastic sandwich bag. For heavier balls, you may substitute the rice with dried beans or clean sand. Pinch the bag tightly around the rice, squeeze out any air, make it into a ball shape and secure the ball shape with a rubber band. Cut off the excess plastic bag near the rubber-band knot.

Cut the tip off the neck end of two sturdy, medium-size balloons in contrasting colors. Stretch one of the balloons over the filled bag, making sure the rubber-band side is completely covered. The balloon should fit very tightly. Snip three or four quarter-inch holes randomly on the second balloon. Stretch it over the ball, covering the opening of the first balloon. The cutouts will reveal the color of the first balloon.

Make several balls with a variety of cutout shapes and colors, and let the performance begin! For extra-sturdy balls, add a third balloon. Store your set of juggling balls in an empty and clean Pringle’s-style chip can. Cover with decorative adhesive-backed paper.

Tip: If you are a beginning juggler, practice the moves using three lightweight chiffon scarves. When you toss them in the air one by one, they come back down slowly to help you get the hang of it!

MAKE GIANT ABC’S FOR EARLY LEARNING FUN


Fun times are ahead for preschoolers and kindergartners when you create a collection of hands-on alphabet letters that reinforce sounds and the words they are learning to pronounce, read and spell. Craft the 26 letters, save and use them over and over to practice language learning skills.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need:
–26 sheets of poster board or cardboard, 9 inches by 12 inches
–pencil and markers
–scissors
–assorted small glue-on objects, stickers, magazine cut-outs of items whose names start with the sound of specific letters (see suggestions below)
–glue

Here’s the fun:
1. Draw large block letters for each alphabet letter on poster board/cardboard. Cut out. (Instead of making all at once, consider designing a letter per week. Or start with a few, such as those that spell your child’s name.)
2. Choose a letter together and come up with things that begin with the sound of that letter. For example, the sound “p” in pasta for the letter “P.” Look on your shelf for dry pasta and glue a few pieces on the big “P.”
Here are more simple items with crafty ideas to get you started:
A. Cut a small apple in half, dip dried cut side into paint, and stamp on the A. Or, glue plastic ants crawling over.
B. Buttons, beads and balls on a blue letter B.
C. Candy and candy wrappers on C.
D. Use a cotton swab to glue paper punch dots on D.
E. Crushed eggshells all over the E.
F. Floral fabric scraps and silk flowers on F.
G. Green glitter glued on a green letter G.
H. Print your child’s hand with poster paint on H.
I. Cut a cone and rounds of ice cream from paper to glue on I.
J. Glue a jam label or some jacks to J.
K. Apply lipstick to your lips and smother K with kisses.
L. Glue pressed leaves to L.
M. Draw a picture of your mailbox and glue mail on M.
N. Glue real nickels on N.
O. Glue raw oatmeal and cereal “O’s” to an orange O.
P. Glue popped popcorn to a purple P.
Q. Cover Q with craft feathers. Add a paper beak, eye and feet to resemble a quail.
R. Glue silk or pressed roses on a red R.
S. Glue used postage stamps on S.
T. Cover T with twisted and tangled masking and Scotch tape on T.
U. Draw a ukulele on U.
V. Make a Valentine on a violet V.
W. Glue wood chips to a white W.
X. Glue on pictures of xylophones on X.
Y: Shape and glue pieces of yellow yarn in “Y” shapes on Y.
Z. With zippers closed, glue the fabric portion of recycled zippers to Z. When dry, they can be opened and closed.

SCOOP UP FUN


Make a wonderfully versatile toy for the entire family to enjoy.  These scoops for tossing and catching lightweight balls are perfect for play in the backyard, at a park or especially when you’re at the beach. So when the family wants to play a game of catch, you’ve got that one covered. And when you need a sand shovel, you’ve got that one, too.
Start by fishing around under your sink or in the recycling bin for two plastic laundry detergent bottles.

Here’s what you’ll need:
–Two 2-quart or larger plastic laundry detergent bottles with side handles
–Scissors
–Marker
–Stickers
–Child’s sock (optional)

Here’s the fun:
Wash the 2 bottles and remove any paper labels. With a pair of sharp scissors, an adult should cut off the entire base of each bottle and toss the pieces back in the recycling bin. It’s easier to cut off than it might look. Dig the tip of the scissors into a point along the line of the base and then just start cutting.
On the handle side of the container, draw a big “U” shape with a marker so that the bottom of the “U” meets the handle. The shape should be wider than the size of a plastic Wiffle-style ball and extend to the cut-off base. Again, an adult should cut this shape out. Soften the edges by trimming off and rounding the sharp corners.
Let the kids decorate the two scoops with stickers.

Now you have your ball catchers and great sand shovels. But uh-oh. In the middle of a great game of scooper catch, the ball disappears into an unexpected wave. Is the game over? No!
Remove the lid and cup a sock around the spout of one of the scoops. Pour some sand into the scoop so that it works as a funnel, filling the bottom of the sock. When your “ball” is the size you would like for tossing, remove from the scoop and tie a secure tight knot in the sock. Replace the lid on the scoop.
Stand up, put the sock in one scoop, give the other scoop to a friend, and toss the ball!
If you miss, keep at it. It does take practice, after all.

Tip: If your kids are a little older and are skilled ball players, you might want to consider making the opening of the scoop a bit smaller for more of a challenge. Or, simply start with a smaller detergent bottle.

THE MAGIC OF BUBBLES

“Bubbles.” It’s hard to say the word without a smile. Everything seems to be just a bit better and festive with bubbles — birthday parties, weddings and summer family reunions.

The other day, I had fun asking kids and adults of all ages the simple question: “What do you think of bubbles?” Without hesitation, they said:

“Mesmerizing!”

“I love their perfect spheres.”

“I’m always happy when I see bubbles.”

“I feel like I’m at a party.”

“They’re like out of a fairy tale.”

“If the sun is right, you can see your reflection in them.”

“They’re fun to pop.”

“They are the best!”

So, there you have it. Bubbles bring sparkle and energy to life. Bring on the bubbles this summer with this simple, basic homemade bubble brew. Look around your home and find possible bubblers. Experiment and see what you like best. Then enjoy popping them or watching them as they loft above you with the breeze.

HOMEMADE BUBBLE BREW

To make the solution you’ll need:

1 large plastic bowl

2 cups warm water

1 cup dishwashing detergent (preferably Joy or Dawn)

2 tablespoons glycerin (sold from the pharmacy)

Here’s the fun:

Pour water in the bowl. Measure out and add the liquid detergent. (Please make sure it’s not detergent for dishwashers.) Stir.

Add the glycerin and stir a little more.

Pull out your junk box, kitchen utensil drawers and cupboards, and say to your kids, “Everyone find a thing or two that isn’t sharp, won’t get soggy in water and that has lots of holes in it!”

For example, spatulas, biscuit cutters, plastic strawberry cartons and plastic caps with small holes on spice jars (clip on a clothespin or chip clip for a wand handle). One of my favorites is a plastic flyswatter, which, when dipped in solution, makes dozens of itty-bitty bubbles when you wave it.

You may also make your own bubbler by twisting thin wire into a shape such as a square, heart or circle. Leave enough wire to twist together a handle. Thread colorful plastic or wooden beads on the handle to decorate the wand, if you wish.

Go outside, choose a bubble maker, dip it in the soapy liquid, and gently blow through it, or grandly wave it back and forth above your head while the bubbles

 Make giant bubbles with a homemade recipe:

Giant Bubble Solution

Makes a little more than a gallon

Ingredients:

1 cup Original Dawn liquid dishwashing liquid or ultra Dawn if not available

3/4 teaspoon J-Lube (optional) available online

1 gallon warm water

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 tablespoons glycerin available at pharmacies and some markets such as Whole Foods

 

1-Stir J-Lube in the cup of dishwashing liquid.

2-Pour warm water in large clean bucket or 2-gallon size container. Stir in baking powder and glycerin. Add the dishwashing liquid/J-Lube mixture and combine.

Make simple bubbler:

Here’s the stuff you need:

-two thin wooden dowels about a yard in length for larger bubbles, or two chop sticks for smaller “still big” bubbles

-household string

-metal washer

Here’s the fun:

Tie one piece of string approximately 4 ft in length on the end of both dowels. On the same ends of the dowel tie another string approximately 8 ft in length. Before tying the 8 ft string slip a washer on the string and slide it to the middle. After tying, when you hold the dowels apart approximately 3 ft, the strings should form a large V with the washer being the bottom tip of the V.

To use:

Hold sticks with both hands at the ends opposite the string. Bring sticks and hanging string together touching, then dip in the bubble mixture to completely cover the string. Keeping sticks together, slowly lift straight up out of the solution. Raise arms high and gently open sticks and move in a slow motion to create bubbles. Open and close the sticks slowly as bubbles emerge. If there isn’t a breeze, walk and gently wave the open sticks to create the bubbles.

 

 

 

ARRANGE A PARTY CHEESE BOARD WITH KIDS

There are so many ways that kids can be part of daily meal prep, from setting the table or popping ice cubes into a pitcher of water to hulling fresh strawberries for dessert.
Routine jobs are important to family life, and new responsibilities can be introduced as kids grow and become more confident in their kitchen skills. It’s especially gratifying for kids when they can be part of the action when company comes.
If there’s an end-of-summer informal barbecue on your calendar, there are always extra to-dos, many of which are suited for young helpers, like arranging fresh fruit, cheese slices and other tasty and healthy nibbles on a cheese board for a delightful, trendy appetizer.
Kids are artistic by nature, so first give them an opportunity to take a visual tour with you in the kitchen to find out what healthy appetizer-type food items are on hand on pantry shelves, in the refrigerator and in the fruit bowl on the counter. They’ll no doubt be inspired by the rainbow of colors on the spectrum, from red cherry tomatoes to green olives and violet grapes.
Now it’s time for them to get creative.

BASIC FAMILY-FRIENDLY CHEESE BOARD

For young school-age kids, begin with a few foods that can go directly to a cheese board or platter with minimal fuss. Good choices are pre-sliced cheeses, nuts, olives, dried fruit, cold cuts like salami and clusters of washed grapes. Kids can line up the cheese or place a chunk of cheese at an angle with a cheese knife to the side. Put small piles of nuts near cheeses, line up cold cuts in rows, then fill in spaces with dried fruit, grapes, sweet cherries and berries. Pile a variety of crackers here and there.

If you have space, spoon prepared hummus into tiny bowls for spreading on crackers. Peanut butter, jelly and honey will make the selection even more kid-friendly. Add style with a few edible blooms, such as nasturtiums, or use a pretty silk flower or two.

As kids become more comfortable in the kitchen, teach them how to mix their own sweet and savory dips, slice vegetables and wrap breadsticks, pretzels or asparagus with cheese or meat.

Extra family fun: When guests arrive, your young child might like to play the role of a “waiter” and take orders from adults of their choices from the cheese board. They can assemble the “order” on a small plate and deliver it to the guest.

“SEW EASY” HOODED BATH AND SWIM TOWEL


Sew a simple fingertip or hand towel to a colorful bath towel in contrasting colors and your child will have a clever hooded cover-up that can be used every time he or she finishes play and swim time in a lake, the ocean or a swimming pool. It’s a plain and simple, cozy solution for the post-swim chill. Come fall, it’s just as useful and comforting when getting out of the bathtub. Whatever the wet occasion, being wrapped in this hooded bath towel from head to toe feels oh so good.

Once you see how quickly it comes together, sewing just two seams, get inspired to make more for birthday party presents — and even for a baby shower gift, by reducing the towel dimensions for a baby or toddler size.
Enlist your older kids to help you measure and pin. If they’ve never used a sewing machine, it’s a good first sewing project because of the simple straight seams.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need for a hooded towel for a young school-age child:
— 1 fingertip towel with or without fringe, about 11 by 18 inches
— 1 bath towel in similar or contrasting color, about 25 by 48 inches
— straight pins
— thread
— large button or a 2-inch strip of hook and loop fastener, such as Velcro brand (optional)
— sewing machine
Here’s the fun:
1. Fold the fingertip towel in half widthwise with right sides facing. Pin one of the short sides together with straight pins.
2. Sew along the pinned side, allowing for a 1/2-inch seam. Turn right-side out. You have now made the hood portion.
3. Measure, and mark with tailor’s chalk or a pin, the center point on one of the long edges of the bath towel. Now, mark the center point on the unsewn length of the fingertip towel. Match the points of the towels and pin them together, right sides facing.
4. Stitch the towels together from one end of the pinned fingertip towel to the other.
5. Fit the hooded towel on your child. For a front closure, stitch strips of Velcro to the bath towel, or make a buttonhole and sew on a button (optional).

BANANA BOATS:A CAMPING AND BACKYARD GRILLING TREAT


Benjamin Franklin gets credit for saying that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Hey, Ben, do you mind if I add bananas to your list?
No matter the time of the year, I’m always certain that when I take a trip to my local grocery store, there will be a bunch or more of the yellow treasures that end up in my shopping cart. They are relatively inexpensive, healthy (potassium rich), and they come naturally well-wrapped.
Toss bananas in your kids’ sports bags when they head off to soccer practice, or tuck them in your carry-on for an instant snack on a flight to your vacation destination. You just can’t beat that dependable, always in season, always there banana.
No, I’m not a spokeswoman for the banana council, but I am a real fan of the fruit, even if I sometimes complain that they seem to go from yellow to brown way too fast, or when they end up getting smooshed in the bottom of a kid’s backpack, not to be discovered for a week or two.
Here is another reason to make certain that enough bananas make it home from the grocery store. You can create, concoct and cook this yummy “Banana Boat” dessert treat with kids on a camping trip, or fire up the grill at a designated picnic spot at a city park or in your own backyard.
BANANA BOATS
Serves 6
— 6 firm, ripe bananas
— chocolate candy bars, broken into pieces, or chocolate chip morsels
— marshmallows, miniature or regular
— aluminum foil
1. Slice each banana just through the skin, lengthwise without removing the peel. Use a teaspoon to scoop out a small amount of the banana the length of the slice, to create a little cavity. Tuck the chocolate bits and pieces and the marshmallows into the cavity of the sliced banana.
2. Wrap each entire banana in foil, and place directly in the coals of a campfire or on a grill. Cook until chocolate and marshmallows are melted, about 8-10 minutes.
Remove with tongs. Unwrap and eat with a spoon. Yummy!
Cook’s note: Add nuts, granola, dried fruit or other toppings, if you wish.
Tip: If you have extra bananas that are starting to turn brown, peel them, wrap in plastic wrap, store in a freezer bag and freeze. Eat them whole while slightly frozen, mash them for baking, or toss into a blender with favorite smoothie ingredients.

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.

IMG_3234

 

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