SUMMER OUTDOOR FUN

Summertime invites all ages to experience a big dose of creativity, because you can enjoy so many artful, and sometimes messy, activities outdoors.

If you have a block party coming up in your neighborhood, a family reunion or a birthday party, here are classic ideas with clever twists to engage kids’ imaginations and show off their creative side.

The basics? A long portable table covered with newspaper and the supplies to draw everyone in.

FACE PAINTING

Set out hand mirrors for “selfie” face painting using watercolor pencils dipped in water, or use this face paint recipe. Hold a mirror in one hand while drawing with the other. Kids and adults also will have fun painting one another’s faces.

Face Paint Recipe:
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon cold cream
Liquid food coloring in a variety of colors
Small paintbrush
Small recycled yogurt-style container for each color
Stir together cornstarch and cold cream in a container until blended. Add water and stir. Add coloring, one drop at a time, until you get desired color.
Paint on faces with a small paintbrush or use a cotton swab.

MAKE A GOOEY GOOP CONCOCTION

Kids enjoy just about anything that’s gooey, slithery and slimy. Here’s a crowd-pleaser.
8-ounce bottle of white household glue such as Elmer’s
8 ounces water
Liquid poster paint (optional)
Small and large mixing bowls
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons borax powder
Stir together glue, 8 ounces water and a few drops of paint (optional) in large bowl. In small bowl, mix warm water and borax. Slowly pour the borax mixture into the glue mixture. Swirl mixture with your hands, and in seconds goop will form into gooey glops as it oozes from your grasp. Pick it up, squeeze it, and play.
Note: If it gets on clothing, wash out quickly with soap and water.

SALAD SPINNER ART

Remove the lid of an old salad spinner that you use for crafts, and set a round paper plate in the middle.

Fix it to the nodule at the center of the bottom of the spinner with a piece of clay.

Pick three liquid poster paints and drop puddles near the center of the plate.

Pop the top of the spinner back on and give the crank a whirl for 5-8 seconds. Let it wind down, and remove the top. See the explosion of color spread in all directions. If you wish, add more paint and a pinch of glitter, and spin again. Remove plate, let it dry and display when you get back home.

PLASTER CASTING ART AT A SANDY BEACH

Heading for the beach by the sea or a lake? Along with towels, sunscreen and flip flops, bring along a carton of plaster of Paris, a paper cup and an empty quart-size can or plastic recycled food container to make a unique piece of natural art that will last — and decorate your yard or deck when you get back home.

You can even make a terrific creation in your own backyard sandbox if you don’t live near the water. If your kids have made plaster handprints in school, they’ll be familiar with the following and easy how-tos.

To make a mold in damp sand, use your hands to scoop out a free-form design at least 2 inches deep. If you are at an ocean beach, just be sure the tide won’t be coming in for at least a couple of hours. You also may make a mold using toys such as a plastic fish or crab. Press the toy into the sand to make the shape, and then remove the toy. Any connecting areas in your design should be at least 2 inches wide to keep the final plaster project from breaking. To add interest, press some natural objects you collect on the beach into the base of the sand mold, such as shells, rocks, twigs and bark or driftwood.

Pour a cup or two of fresh or seawater into the disposable container. Add the powdered plaster according to directions on the box and stir with a stick. The mixture should be smooth and thick like a milkshake. Don’t overstir, however, as this causes the mixture to set up too quickly and weakens the final product. Immediately pour the mixture into your sand mold, spreading it evenly to all areas with a stick, if necessary.

To make a hanger for your art, poke a paper clip halfway into the plaster at the center top as the plaster thickens. If the project is large, you may wish to position two paper clips evenly spaced from each side.
Allow the plaster to harden for about an hour and a half, depending on the size of the mold, and then carefully remove the plaster souvenir from the sand. Dispose of leftover hard plaster in a trash can.

Take a picture of your pleased kids holding their creations before you head home. Wrap your art loosely with newspaper, and let it dry and harden completely. Glue on additional decorations, if you wish.

NOTE: Never pour liquid plaster down a drain.

RECOGNIZE PEOPLE AND PLACES WITH BOX PUZZLE PLAY

What’s on your summer calendar? Fourth of July celebrations, picnics at the park or a family reunion far from home? For your preschoolers, the friendly faces at these summertime gatherings of cousins, aunts, uncles and friends might seem puzzling at first. Who are all these people?

Here’s a playful way to prepare your child (and maybe even you!) for these special events before you go. Make fun and easy recycled cereal box puzzles featuring photos of the faces they will be seeing and places they’ll be visiting in coming weeks. Instead of asking, “Who’s that?” as Uncle Pete scoops ice cream at the reunion dessert bar, you might hear: “Hey, mommy — he’s the guy in my puzzle!”

Before you begin, scroll through your photo library and look for a group photo of people you’ll be seeing, and photos of homes or landmarks of places on your itinerary. You’ll be enlarging the images and cutting them into rectangular puzzle pieces to adapt to the size of the boxes.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need for one puzzle set of two images (one on the front and one on the back of the boxes):
–9 small, empty rectangular single-portion cereal boxes
–2 photocopied photographs of extended family members, and/or a place where you will be traveling (about 8-inches by 12-inches)
–paint, or wide colored tape
–scissors
–household glue or spray craft glue
–Empty grapefruit or orange net bag for storage (optional)
Here’s the fun:
1. Lay one photo or piece of art face down on a table. Line the boxes side by side on the backside of the photocopy in three vertical rows. Draw around each box with a pencil, and then cut out the pieces.
2. Cover the printing on the sides of the food boxes with paint or colored packing tape, then glue the paper photo pieces on the front of each box.
3. Turn the boxes over, and add another photo following the same instructions.
4. To play, mix up the boxes and start puzzling them on one side, then the other. Say the names of the people or places as you go. Tell your child how they are related, and share a story or two about individual people.
When done, I like to keep these puzzle pieces in empty net bags. If you weave a string through the tops, you can hang them on a hook for easy storage between play.
Extra idea: For a mini puzzle, use a set of same-size boxes in smaller sizes, such as single-portion raisin boxes. Adjust the dimensions of the enlarged photos to fit accordingly.

“PICTURE YOURSELF” GIFT WRAP

It’s fun and easy to make this inexpensive personalized wrap using photos, markers and a copy machine or printer.

Start by sorting through photos stuffed away in albums and drawers, or browse through digital photos on your phone and computer. Choose your favorites, and then pick one of the following ideas to show off smiles, smirks and grins.

Andy Warhol-like wrap:

Inspired by Warhol’s technique of painting repeats of the same image of celebrities and objects such as the Campbell’s soup can, make a similar artistic collage from one of your photos. (For an example of Warhol’s painting, go online to www.wikipedia.org/wiki/andy_warhol and under “Contents,” click on “Paintings.”)

Go to a photocopy store and make lots of black-and-white copies of one of your photos. Cut them out and trim off any excess white paper so that the prints are all the same size. Glue them together in rows on an 11-inch by 17-inch sheet. Photocopy the large sheet.

With markers, fill in some of the light spaces with bright colors to enhance the black-and-white images on the sheet. Set aside. Wrap a gift with plain paper from a recycled paper grocery bag. Trim the photo sheet to size, and glue it on the front or top. Add a ribbon or bow, if you wish.

Note: Instead of using a photocopy machine, create a black-and-white photo collage of repeated photo images with a computer and printer, if you have them available. Use the preloaded photo software that came with your computer and printer, or one that is recommended.

Other quick photo gift wraps:

–For a small gift box, simply make one photocopy of a photo of the person receiving the gift. Glue the black-and-white copy to the center of the wrapped package and color it in with markers. Add a greeting and your signature.

–Choose a photo to provide a hint for what’s in the package and glue it on top. For example, if the gift is mittens, a wool scarf or hat, use a photo of your favorite sledding hill. For a box of Legos or building blocks, use a photo of a city skyline. For a cookbook, pick a photo of the family at a picnic or sitting around the dinner table.