Tutorials and DIY

Tutorials and DIY for family crafts, kids art activities, and sewing projects.

DIY Zen Garden Sand Tray

Make Your Own Zen Garden

I’ve had the idea to create a mini zen rock garden for a while now—you know, the kind where you rake the sand into patterns around strategically placed rocks?

For rocks, though, I wanted to use melted crayon rocks for a pop of color—shiny, colorful treasures amidst the sand.

I don’t know much about zen gardens beyond that I like them so don’t know if this would be considered sacrilegious or something.

But it is pretty. And a wonderful sensory and visual experience.

DIY Zen Garden Sand Tray

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Fabric Arts and Crafts Ideas for Kids

Kids Fabric Arts and Crafts IdeasHave you tried fabric art with your children yet?

We’ve tried quite a few kid-friendly fabric arts and crafts ideas including using fabric in art projects, printing on fabric, drawing on fabric, decorating our own T-shirts (and other fabric items), painting fabric, glue batik, Sharpie tie-dye, and, of course, sewing with fabric.

First, though, a few notes on MATERIALS for fabric arts and crafts:

Fabric Paint :: We like Jacquard Textile Paint

You can also use BioColor paint for fabric painting if you mix it with the special BioColor Fabric Medium first. It works surprisingly well, so keep it in mind if you already have BioColors. Or if you have been wanting to get BioColors for kids’ art anyway… (I wouldn’t buy them just for fabric art.)

Fabric Crayons :: We use and love Pentel Fabric Pastel Dye Sticks

Fabric Markers :: We’ve used both Crayola Fabric Markers and Colorations Fabric Markers. Both work just fine. We also use regular Sharpie permanent markers on fabric but I’ve heard great things about the Sharpie Brush Tip Fabric Markers and want to try them next…

Fabric :: For fabric to print, paint, or draw on, we generally use a plain white or natural cotton.

A Round-up of Fabric Arts and Crafts Ideas for Kids

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How to Make Homemade Bubbles

How to Make Homemade BubblesYesterday, when I wrote about making homemade bubble wands with the kids, I promised to share photos of them using their new bubble wands as well as the instructions for how to make homemade bubbles.

Here goes!

First the bubbles recipe and then the photos…

How to Make Homemade Bubbles

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dawn dish soap

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Whisk the sugar into the warm water until the sugar dissolves.

2. Add the dish soap and whisk to combine.

3. Blow bubbles with your new bubble solution!… 

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How to Make Peanut Butter Cups in Silicone Molds

How to Make Peanut Butter Cups in Silicone MoldsGiven our love of peanut butter playdough, peanut butter nest snacks, and peanut butter cups, I thought we ought to try to make an Easter version of the divine combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

Maia and I first planned to make peanut butter cups in egg shapes.

I saw a few posts on Pinterest, and because I get inspired by pictures, but am not great about reading instructions, I assumed they used an egg-shaped mold to make them.*

After searching in vain for such a mold, and wondering if I could rig up some plastic Easter eggs to work as a mold, I came across a silicone mold that I liked even better at World Market. This one has butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and bees—lovely and much more versatile than an egg-shaped mold!

*They actually rolled out the peanut butter filling, cut it out with egg-shaped cookie cutters, then dipped the eggs in melted chocolate. (I went back and read a couple posts after I struck out on the silicone egg mold hunt.)

This recipe is super easy and fun for kids to help make. We modified our regular peanut butter cup recipe by adding more powdered sugar to the filling and a little coconut oil to the chocolate…. 

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Cardboard Art Projects for Kids —Modern Art from Corrugated Cardboard Scraps!

Cardboard art projects for kidsThis series of cardboard art projects started both as a way to use cardboard scraps and to keep my younger daughter happily occupied (and, yes, quiet) while the older one did her homework.

However, it quickly turned into one of many modern art pieces that have been made by both kids as well as a couple of their friends, hung on our walls, and turned into Valentine gifts.

Besides looking awesome, these cardboard art projects are a fun way to recycle cardboard boxes and cardboard scraps into wall-worthy modern art!

We used corrugated cardboard scraps left over from the cardboard dollhouses we made  recently—box flaps that had been cut off and window pieces that had been cut out. But you could just as easily cut up a single cardboard box that is headed for the recycle bin and offer it up to your kids for art-making.

Here’s the basic how-to:

Modern Art for Kids from Cardboard Scraps

MATERIALS

Cardboard Heart Art Project for Kids 03

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Use scissors or utility knife to cut out your basic background shape out of the cardboard—square, rectangle, heart, whatever (a grown-up job).

2. Cut out smaller pieces of cardboard into random geometric and/or amorphous shapes (a grown-up or big kid job).

Cardboard Art Projects for Kids

3. Use the glue gun to glue the smaller shapes onto the background shape as desired.

A Note about Glue Guns: If you’re unsure about letting a child use a hot glue gun, read this post on glue guns versus white glue by Teacher Tom, my interview with him, or page 181 of my book (more tips from Teacher Tom on kids using glue guns).

My 4-year-old handles a hot glue gun safely and successfully and really loves the control she has with it. You might be tempted to get a cool-shot glue gun, thinking it’s safer, but I’d recommend against it. They are really hard for little kids to squeeze and the glue hardens way too quickly, basically making them unusable for this purpose. Wait until your kids are old enough to understand that the tip is hot and could burn them if they aren’t careful, then just get a regular hot glue gun.

I suggest buying a mini size hot glue gun to use with little kids (easier to squeeze) and a regular size glue gun for older kids.

4. Continue adding cardboard shapes, and even layering them, as desired until you are satisfied with the design and layout.

cardboard art project for kids

5. Paint the cardboard art piece! We used acrylic paints, which worked great on the cardboard, but you could also do it with BioColors, Activity Paint, or Tempera Paint. I gave some of ours a coat of gesso first and some didn’t get the gesso — I think either is fine. Let dry.

Kids painting the cardboard heart art

The kids seemed especially inspired by painting the different raised cardboard shapes.

Cardboard Art Projects for Kids

6. Add drawings, scribbles, and doodles on top of the painted cardboard art if desired. Daphne drew on top of the paint on some of hers and also drew directly on the cardboard on others.

cardboard modern art project for kids

She has recently been making very detailed drawings with lots of hearts, spirals, flowers (where’ve I seen that before?!), fairies, and storytelling elements.

Cardboard Art Projects for Kids

7. Turn the cardboard art piece over and use the hot glue gun to glue the ribbon on as a hanging loop.

Cardboard Art Projects for Kids

8. Hang on the wall and admire! Alternatively, you could do what my kids did with many of theirs, and give them to Grandma and teachers as gifts (Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, last day of school, etc…)

 This post includes affiliate links.

Glue gun question: Do you let your kids use a glue gun? What do you think? How about your kids? Do they enjoy using one to create and build?

A Heart Suncatcher with Mosaic Tiles from the Light Table

Make Heart Suncatchers with Light Table Mosaic Tiles -- A fun Valentine's Day activity for kids!I set up a quick version of a DIY light table about a month ago (after years of saying I would make one) and it has been absolutely wonderful during these past few weeks of snow days and illness. The kids have gravitated toward it again and again.

The light table is simply a large clear plastic storage bin with a string of white Christmas lights inside. It’s the easiest and cheapest light table possible, yet the kids would call it Fun with a capital “F” and I would call it a sanity saver.

Most recently Maia and Daphne made heart suncatchers with some of our translucent mosaic tiles. They are really quite gorgeous!

What began as a mosaic design and symmetry activity on the light table became lovely heart suncatchers when we sandwiched the lightweight tiles between sheets of contact paper.

Here are some photos of the process from light table to suncatcher:

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Stained Glass Heart Crowns for Valentine’s Day

Stained Glass Heart Crowns -- a fun kids craft for Valentine's DayWe made stained glass heart crowns the other day as a Valentine craft, using the same technique as our flower crowns from last spring.

Instead of flower petals, though, we used colored tissue paper—both the little heart shapes you see here as well as geometric shapes—and added extra decorations to the crowns with metallic drawings and doodles.

They turned out great!

Daphne has been calling herself the Queen of Hearts since. And making royal decrees that usually end in giggles.

It’s been a month of snow days and illness here. Which means it’s also been a month of pretend play, fort building, and art activities (between snow play and doctor visits). I don’t think the girls have both been in school on the same day since before Christmas!

Here’s how we made the heart crowns:

(in case your kiddos would enjoy being the kings and queens of hearts, too!)

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Plaster Balloon Sculptures with Kids

Plaster Balloon Sculptures with Kids -- So fun! You have to try this!We made sculptures the other day with balloons, plaster of Paris, and four giggling children. The whole process and experience was awesome and was the perfect antidote to the freezing weather outside.

Let me just say right now that you have to try this. It takes a bit of prep, but is so worth it!

I found the idea and instructions for the plaster balloon sculptures on First Palette, pinned it ages ago, and have been meaning to give it a try since.

So glad we finally did!

By the way, I recommend you read the step-by-step instructions at First Palette if you’re going to do this project. They are excellent and specific.

We did ours slightly differently (mostly to make the plaster mixing & pouring easier), but not by too much.

Plaster Balloon Sculptures with Kids

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A Stained Glass Bunting for the Window

A Stained Glass Bunting for the Window! Kid-friendly art activity with melted crayon drawing, watercolor, and oil. Beautiful!!

As part of our welcoming of the New Year, we started to make a variation of our “Words & Wishes for the New Year” bunting (from The Artful Winter eBook) and then decided to take it in a whole new direction. There are still words and wishes on this one, as well as doodles and drawings, but it turned into a super-colorful stained glass bunting for the window.

Here’s how we did it:

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