Category Archives: Arts and Crafts

Homemade Gift: Door Draft Stopper

I think our Slithering Snake door draft stopper turned out pretty cute.  J and I made these together for his greatgrandparents. You can use them by doors or windows, or just as a cute decoration in a nursery.

When I first saw this idea, here at Family Fun, I stopped reading as soon as I saw “stitch it closed.”  If an activity/craft involves sewing, I typically declare it NOT FOR ME.    

After going back and forth for weeks, I decided we’d try it.  We pretty much followed the instructions on the original site exactly. 

What you need:  Cute tights, filler (we used a full 5 lb bag of rice), 2 googly eyes, red felt, fabric glue, needle and thread. 

I made a homemade funnel (water bottle) for J to use in filling the “snake” with rice.  I then forced myself to break out the dust-ridden sewing box and finish it off.  It wasn’t as hard as I had expected and took me about 10-15 minutes to sew it closed.  Most of you would probably find the sewing pretty simple (and a 5 minutes job).  I found it manageable.  Trust me, if I can do this, ANYONE can!

J then glued on the googly eyes and the tongue using fabric glue (I later sewed down the tongue for extra durability). 

The photo is actually of the one we made to use ourselves.  I wanted to give it a test-run to be sure it didn’t break easily before making more for my grandparents.  I certainly didn’t want my grandmother’s to end up vaccuming  rice all year long if they were to break.  I’ve found it actually holds up really well, so no worries there.   We use ours actually to block out the light that streams under the door in J’s room.  We have skylights right outside his door.  I found the sleeps sooooo much longer in the mornings if I block that light.  His room is also open to the rest of the house it can get noisy.   Who knows, maybe this will also help block some of the noise!

I think these are cute choices for homemade gifts, something that takes anywhere from 10-30 minutes to complete!

Age Attempted: 32 months


Homemade Toy: Magnetic Pompoms

When I was writing the Apple Picking post, I realized I never actually introduced our magnetic pompoms.  This has been a great homemade toy for J.  I saw it multiple places online when J was much younger and just waited until I was confident he would be safe with the small magnets.  We’ve never had one fall off, but you never know. I wouldn’t leave little ones alone with this toy until you were 100% confident they wouldn’t try a taste test.

This is a great addition to a busy box gift for older toddlers/preschoolers.  Include the pompoms, a small cookie sheet (found at dollar stores) and some blank templates and/or patterns to follow.  A great and unique toy on a budget. It would even be a good homemade Christmas gift.

To Make: All you do is hot glue magnets onto the back of pompom balls.  Use the free magnets you get in the mail to save money or buy roll of magnets from the craft store.  You won’t need an entire roll, so it can be used for other things as well.  Be sure to include a variety of color pompoms and a large number of each color.  The more you have, the more your little one can create.  You can also use multiple sizes of pompoms if you want (I’ve only made one size).  Add a cookie sheet and you have a great toy.   Something about pompoms intrigues kids.

1. They can design pictures freely. 

No my toddler did not create this picture 🙂  This is one I made for him as he called out things to create.  I forgot to snap pictures of his creations, though he makes a pretty good sun!

This homemade toy can be as simple as this and it will be worth the effort.

2. Black and white templates can be printed for them to fill in creatively.

I made this blank pompom template  for J to use.  You can also check out the links at the bottom of this post for sites I’ve found with printables.

3. Color printouts encourage them to match the correct colors.

 Here he is matching the pompoms to the corresponding colored circle in the gumball machine.  This type of activity is especially good for younger toddlers that are still working on their colors and fine motor skills.

It’s really easy to create your own, just copy and paste from Google images and add some colorful circles.

4. Patterns, sorting, counting, and colors

  I started the patterns and he found the right pompoms to continue it.  You could also show them a picture of a pattern and ask them to copy it on their own.  Preschoolers could work on much more intricate patterns or designs.

This shows some color sorting as well as our intro to bar graphs where he compared the different bars to decide which had the most/the least, which were equal,…  We finished by counting each bar to see we were right.

6. Shapes, Location

 As of now we create them together, he copies my examples (or tries to),  or he gives me instructions on what to create and where (good directional practice for them).

For older ones you can give them instructions to create a certain color/size shape, include location of the shape to increase the difficulty (ex: make a purple triangle inside the circle).

6. Letters and Numbers  

Have your little one trace letters and numbers or “write” them on their own using the pompoms.  You can draw large block letters or numbers for them to fill in with the pompoms.  They can match the correct number of pompoms next to the correct number.  Or check out the list of online templates I found. 

I’ve seen activity books for Dot Markers that would work well with magnetic pompoms.  Of course any of the templates for magnetic pompoms could also be used with Dot Markers or circles stickers too.

Other Printable Templates: 

Shapes  and Colors (from Home Grown Hearts)

Number cards (from 1+1+1=1)

Numbers (from Making Learning Fun)

Upper Case Letters and Lower Case letters (from Making Learning Fun)

B&W Pictures (From Making Learning Fun)

Color Pictures (From Making Learning Fun)

(For the Making Learning Fun templates, I had to copy the templates and paste it onto ppt to expand each picture.  When I printed these straight from the website, the circles were much smaller than I wanted.)

If you find any other great templates let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

Ziploc Photo Books

My grandparents are always telling me that really all they want for birthdays or Mother’s day are lots of pictures to show off.  So this year, J made a photo-filled birthday card for his great-grandma.  This would be a great art project for toddlers to give at Christmas time.

All you really need is a stack of ziploc bags, photos and a stapler and/or duct tape.  To make this activity last longer, I added construction paper and various art supplies to the materials.  I set out the materials and J chose how to decorate each page (stamps, stickers, dot markers, crayons, rolling stamps, …  hmmm that’s all I remember).  He then chose which picture he wanted to place with each page and placed both his art piece and his photo into the ziploc bag.  I stapled all the opened end of the bags together and covered it with fun green duct tape. 

Older kids could write their own story, draw their own pictures and give their first published piece to grandpa or grandma. 

Age attempted:  29 months

Countdown to Thanksgiving

I saw this  cute Thanksgiving countdown and had to try it.  I adapted it a little so that I could reuse it every year (or at least for a few years). I used foam and cardboard instead of construction paper and cardstock.  I also made it magnetic and keep it on our fridge.  

 Our turkey actualy isn’t this full yet, I just took a picture of what he would look like in all his glory.  J adds one feather to Mr. Turkey each day.  You could do the reverse and pluck a feather each day, pretending to ready him for Thanksgiving dinner.  I think older kids would find that really funny actually.   

First check out the original site if you like to change things up each year and are ok with a temporary version.  I liked how she made the head 3D.  Since J is so young I know that this will still be exciting for him next year.    

My materials:  colorful foam, cardboard, googly eyes, adhesive magnets and glue.  It took about 30 minutes to make, but could be done much faster since I had to redo things a few times or find new materials to work with. This is also something your little one could help make.  I just did it during naptime since our week is so busy and wanted it done in time for a decent countdown.

How I made it:

1. Cut the feather strips out of colorful foam. (You want thin strips so they fit behind Mr. Turkey, especially if you plan for a full month’s countdown.)

2.  Attach an adhesive magnet to the top of each strip.  This will allow you to have that fanned look to the feathers.  If you place the magnets closer to the bottom, they will simply create a single file line across the turkey’s back. (This was my first mistake!)

3.  Cut two circles out of brown cardboard, a large one for the body and small one for the head.  **I suggest having a very large body so you have plenty of room for your feathers to fan out, especially if you plan to start on Nov. 1st.  The cardboard circles that come with frozen pizzas work great.

4. Glue the smaller circle onto the larger one.

5. Cut out a strip of cardboard and glue on the back of the large circle.  **Place it on the base of the body since the feather strips will be stuffed along the top. (This was my second mistake!) When dry, place 1-2 magnetic strips on the back of the turkey’s body.  The cardboard backing allows Mr. Turkey to be lifted slightly when attached to the regrigerator.  This allows the feathers to slide behind him easily.

6.  Cut out the feet, beak, and snood and glue them onto the turkey, along with the googly eyes.

7. Test it out before getting your little one’s excited about it.  I’m glad I tested it first since I needed to rearrange the magnets on my pieces.   Now we have a cute turkey that J can easily slip a feather behind on his own each day.

Age attempted: 30 months

Autumn Tree

This is a simple activity to do in the fall. I brought this along on a trip to complete in our downtime at the hotel. 

I found a bag of glittery leaf stickers for $1 (either at Target or Rite Aid?).  I drew the tree trunk prior to the activity, but this certainly doesn’t need to be done beforehand.  Since they were foam stickers, J had no problem filling his tree completely on his own.  And I thought the end result looked really good!

This would be a good travel activity.  It involves little to pack and will keep them occupied for awhile!

Age attempted: 30 months

(We did a similar activity with dot markers last year.)

Autumn Collage

 Curious George Seasons (CGTV Spin-the-Wheel Board Book)J made this collage by combining autumn stamps, stickers, and cut-outs from magazines/junk mail (I just saved so over the past few weeks).  We did this activity after reading Curious George Seasons

 I started all our fall activities with this collage.  You could end the season with this activity and have them pick out the stickers and pictures that would apply as a good review instead or add a few new items to the collage as you learn about them (acorns, leaves, turkeys, squash, pumpkins,…).

I’ve already started saving clippings from junk mail for our winter collage.  Might as well put that junk mail to good use!

Candy Corn Puzzles

I thought this would be a good activity to work on sizes.  I prepped the activity by precutting the pieces, creating small, medium and large pieces similar to candy corn. If you can tell in the picture, I also drew the outline of the candy corn on the black paper.  This step probably wasn’t needed though.  J glued the pieces in order (small, medium, large) to create the candy corn.  I did have examples of candy corn out (since he’d never seen them before!).  This was simple to prep and good practice for J.

We also used this same concept to create door knob hangars for J’s cousins.  I precut the black paper, including the circle for the door knob and J decorated it with a smaller version of the candy corn puzzles and adding their name.  Later I covered them with clear contact paper for durability.  You could also use foam or cardstock if you didn’t want to “laminate” them. 

Age Attempted: 30 minutes

Matching Craft with Jack-O-Lanterns

These pumpkins were fun to make and they incorporated a few new shapes and lots of matching practice for J. 

Prior to this activity, you need to have a selection of eyes (each pair a different shape), nose (shapes to match the eyes) and mouths cut out.

**There aren’t noses on this example b/c I wasn’t intending to include noses at first.

I first had J paint a bunch of plates orange with a small green stem at the top of each one.  We made eight different plates so I did help paint some of them.  I think he focused on 3 while I did the rest.  You could  just print off some pumpkin clip art online instead of painting (but then you’d miss some of the fun!).

The next day when the plates were dry, I set out the collection of mouths to choose from and J glued one mouth on each plate.  We focused on location, the mouth is at the bottom of the face and he tried to glue in in the appropriate spot on each plate.  I then set out the eye choices, mixing up all the different shapes and he had to match the shapes to create each pair of eyes.  I was intending to stop here, thinking the activity was long enough already, but J insisted they needed noses.  So I quickly prepped some noses and he matched them to the correct plate. 

We strung the string through each plate and hung them on our door.  J was quite proud!

Age attempted: 30 months

Chocolate Oat Acorns

This was another of our autumn activities.  It’s fun, cute and easy prep (using things I already had around the house). 

Before hand, I cut out a square with cardboard (the original activity said to use a paper bag, but I didn’t have any).  I also drew the acorn onto the cardboard. 

I first had J use a brown crayon to color the “hat” of the acorn and a white crayon for the bottom.  He then glued the chocolate unto the hat and the oats onto the bottom.  We focused on trying to fill the ENTIRE hat/bottom, making that the goal.  Fortunately he had no idea you could EAT the chocolate and so didn’t try until I suggested it (when he was finished with his acorn). 

Once the glue was dry we emptied the excess. 

Age attempted: 30 months

Spaghetti Spider Web and Handprint Spider

We’ve been reading Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider, so we did this activity to go along with it.

WEB: I decided to do this last minute since I had all the materials on hand anyway.  All you need is cooked spaghetti, glue, and wax paper.  Dip the spaghetti into the glue and then lay it onto the wax paper.  When finished, let the glue dry COMPLETELY and then peel it off the wax paper. It’s possible I used too much glue since after J was finished, I went back and drop some glue on the spots where the spaghetti overlapped.  It did help the “web” stick together, but made it hard to remove from the wax paper. 

SPIDER: Trace handprints on black paper and then cut out (removing the thumbs).  Glue the palm portion of the handprints on top of each other.  Glue black pom poms onto spider body (I used black sponge curlers cut up into pieces b/c it’s what I had).   Top with googly eyes. This was easy and quick to do.

Age attempted: 30 months; J LOVED this activity, especially making the web (though obviously his web is quite sporadic and not at al symmetrical!).  It was really easy but quite unique.