Mini Monets and Mommies

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Oreo and Yogurt Holiday Smoothie Recipe!

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The holidays are quickly approaching. And, we all know that means parties, family get-togethers and celebrating, celebrating and then some more celebrating. That also means feeding everyone who comes over (whether it’s for a Christmas party or an impromptu gathering).

Christmas recipes

With all of the holiday cheer (and heavy food), I’m kind of into creating lighter fare this time of year. Okay, so I still like sweet treats. I can’t help it. But, I really wanted to spread some holiday cheer without filling my kitchen with cookies, cupcakes and pies. And honestly, I also wanted an easier option. Something that doesn’t require hours and hours of prep-time and baking. Seriously, who has time for that? I’m not saying that this is an entirely healthy holiday treat. But, it’s lighter than a fruit cake and it does have yogurt in it (which makes it healthier than ice cream).

That’s why I’m glad that Giant Eagle has everything I need for my holiday shopping. Not only do they have an awesome array of their own brands, but they also have all of my favorites—that’s partially why I’m using Oro Thins for this super-easy recipe. I’m not stretching the truth when I say that I’m at Giant Eagle at least three times a week. Really, you can go there and ask their team members (believe it or not, the other day one of the Eagle’s Nest employees came up to me to say “hi” – she remembered my now 15-year-old son from when he was a preschooler!).
Holiday foods

I’m a fan of fancy drinks (the non-alcoholic kind, I mean). When I saw the Dannon Oikos Yogurt Drinks I immediately thought of trying out an easy holiday smoothie. To add a pinch (or maybe a bit more than a pinch of sweetness) I paired the drinks with Oreo Thins. How? Read on to see how this fab smoothie worked out!

Holiday cards

What You’ll Need:

·        Single serve Dannon Oikos Yogurt Drinks (I used vanilla and strawberry—for the wintery white and Christmas-y red!)

·        Oreo Thins (or you could swap in regular Oreos)

·        ½ vanilla yogurt

·        Red and green crystalized sugar or holiday sprinkles

·        1 tablespoon white frosting (this is just for a garnish, it won’t actually go into the smoothie)

·        Optional: 1 cup crushed red berries of your choice

What to Do:

1. Crush the Oreo Thins (leave a few whole ones out). You can put the cookies in a plastic zipper baggies and crush them with the back of a large wooden spoon or you can put them into a food processor.

Cookies holiday

2. Add the yogurt drink (I used one per serving), the crushed cookies and the yogurt to a blender. If you’re using fruit, add this now.
Yogurt drink

3. Blend the mix. Until it is smooth, but still thick.

4. Pour the holiday yogurt smoothie into a tall glass. Or you can get fancy, and use a wine glass (minus the wine, of course). We used a mason jar too!

5. Coat the rim with a thin layer of white frosting—it looks like snow! Sprinkle the sugar (or the holiday sprinkles) over the frosting to add a touch of Christmas flare. Don’t worry about it falling into the smoothie—it will just add extra holiday d├ęcor.

Remember those leftover Oreo Thins that you didn’t put into the smoothies? You can create an edible accent to your smoothie display (that is, if you’re setting up a table design for a holiday party buffet). Spread some of the white frosting over the cookies, and add more of the red and green crystalized sugar or holiday sprinkles.

If you have a few candy canes on hand, rest one on the top of each smoothie glass.

Now that you’ve got the sweet totally taken care of, you probably need something to balance it. You, and your guests, may start craving the salty stuff. Here’s where I’m glad that there’s a Giant Eagle close to home. I totally didn’t think about the fact that so much sweet needed a salty balance. So, when the thought hit me I had no problem running out (again) to pick up a box of Keebler Club Crackers! Pairing the crackers with Market District Hummus made for an easy savory option. It also gave me the chance to get a few Hallmark Holiday Cards for my guests.

Smoothie treats

That’s it! A simple appetizer-style buffet for the holiday. If you’re looking to create a full-on spread for your holiday party, check out the Giant Eagle Social Hub. You’ll find creative recipes galore there!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

10 Holiday Gift Must-Have's for Artsy Kids

Who loves making art? Your child does! The holidays are quickly approaching, and you need gifts, gifts and more gifts. After all, there are eight nights of Hanukkah and the Christmas tree has enough room to fit a sleigh-full of presents under it. So, what’s the answer? Kids’ holiday gifts that focus on art-making.

Holiday ideas

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There are what seems like an endless supply of kids’ art materials out there. It can be almost unnerving to walk into a craft store and try to pick out a handful of supplies. In my years teaching children’s art classes I was lucky enough to have a wall of closets stocked high with almost every artsy item that a kid could want. Seriously. If only I could have that at home. But, I can’t (and I know most of us can’t). So, we need to pick and choose.

Holiday gifts

Yeah, the kiddos are going to ask Santa (or you) for video games, smartphones and all kinds of other stuff that they really don’t need—and that you really aren’t into buying. If you’ve got a crafty kid or just want to add some artsy ideas to their already lengthy list of holiday presents, these are some of my top picks. Along with gifting these to your child, you can also pack some away into a gift basket for others. Last year we put together an art-themed gift basket for a silent auction at my son’s karate school’s holiday party. It went over very well.

So, what are my favorite kids’ art supplies to give as holiday gifts?

1. Paint: Really, a nice tempera will do when it comes to process paint explorations or as a finger painting medium. I’m a fan of Crayola’s. The texture is easy for kids to work with, it isn’t too watery (I can’t stand watery tempera, it’s just way too runny for little hands) and it doesn’t get that weird smell after a few uses (when I worked in a preschool the paint closet always smelled like old tempera). I also like that you can choose small sized bottles (they come in multi-color packs) or larger sizes.
Crayola paint

2. Oil pastels: I love, love, love oil pastels. Yes, kids like regular ol’ crayons. But, when you take out the oil pastels, they really get creatively crazy. They’re slightly less of a mess than paints, but the kids can still blend the colors together. This 50-piece assortment of Cray-Pas gives your child all the shades and hues she’ll need.
Oil pastels

3. Modeling clay: Building and sculpting are fine motor favorites. But, I also like using modeling clay to paint. What? How? Follow this tutorial to see how (it’s such as less-mess version of finger painting). Crayola has my favorite kind of clay for artsy play. While you’re looking, their Model Magic (which is a totally different type of compound) also makes a creative kids’ holiday present too.
Modeling clay

4. Glitter: What child doesn’t want to play with the sparkly stuff? ALEX Toys Artist Studio24 Glitter Shakers gives your child so many sparkle-filled options to choose from.
Glitter art
5. Hole punches: I know, I know—hole punches? Right? These shaped punches are perfect for so many crafts. Really, I used to use them all of the time when I taught art classes. Let the kiddos punch a bag of shapes, then use them anytime to collage or add to a craft project.
Hole punches

6. Canvases: Ready-to-use canvases are an ideal alternative to plain construction paper. Your child is probably pretty used to painting on paper (or maybe poster board). A pack of canvases gives her a new option, making her feel like a “real” artist.
Art canvas

7. Craft foam shapes: These are super-easy to use. You can get adhesive back ones (they’re basically like puffy stickers) or plain ones to glue on. In either case, gifting your child with an assortment means hours of crafting fun. You can pick a theme that interests your child or go with something educational (such as letters and numbers).
Foam shapes

8. Craft foam sheets: While we’re on the subject of craft foam, adding in a few paper-sized sheets makes for even more artsy good times. Your child can cut these apart and add craft foam shapes to DIY her own bookmarks, fold them in half to make books or use her imagination and create whatever she wants to.
Craft foam

9. Watercolor crayons: As if watercolors weren’t fun enough as is, try this art item out with the kiddos and see what happens. They can draw (like they’re using crayons) and then brush on water for a paint effect.
Watercolor crayons

10. Paper mache art paste: Oh, this is my all-time top paper mache pick. Sure, you can make your own using school glue, water and flour. But, I adore Elmer’s version. It’s a powder that dissolves into water, giving the kids tons of ooey, gooey artsy sculpture-time play.

 Art paste


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Kids' Craft Stick Puppet Art Activity

The kids want to make their own puppets. But, you’re not terribly crafty. When you hear the word “puppet” you see visions of dancing marionettes or over-sized plush play toys. Now you’re thinking, “How could I help my kiddo to make one of these?” Well, don’t worry. This kids’ puppet craft is super simple—and still totally creative too!

Puppet-making craft

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Set your child’s imagination lose. Right now. You don’t need fancy art materials or crazy processes for the kids to make their own playful puppet friends. With a craft stick and a few basic art materials your child can create her own imaginary creature. And, she can dress it up in some DIY crafty clothes.

Not only does this activity help your child to explore art (gluing, painting, cutting), but it also helps her to build fine motor skills. After she’s done with the art-making, your child can also get in some dramatic play. She can use her imagination to create a character for her puppet and act out story (either one that she makes up or one from a favorite book).

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Craft felt (choose a variety of different colors—you can use 8x10-inch sheets or scraps left over from other projects)

·        Scissors

·        Clear-drying school glue

·        Wide craft sticks

·        Googley eyes

·        Tempera paint

·        A paintbrush or a sponge (instead of painting, your child can sponge the paint on—creating textures)

·        Pipe cleaners

·        Modeling clay

·        Optional: Craft feathers

Here’s What to Do:

1. Glue the googley eyes on to the top of the stick.
Kids' art

2. Ball a small piece of clay up to make a nose.

3. Cut out felt clothes. Your child can cut simple shapes (such as triangles). Cut smaller shapes to add on to the clothes as decoration. Glue the felt together.
Children's crafts

4. Twist a pipe cleaner to make “hair.” Your child can also add craft feathers to the pipe cleaners.

Your child can glue the clothes on now, or she can keep the art-making going and paint the craft stick.
Kids' art

5. Paint the craft sticks. Pour a few different colors onto a palette (or use wax paper as an inexpensive barrier). Your child can use a brush or a sponge. Cover the top side, let the paint dry and then flip it over to paint the other side.

6. Now, glue the felt clothes onto the DIY puppets.
Kids' crafts

When the puppets are dry, your child is ready to play, create stories and act out her favorite tales!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Pattern Play: Kids' Math and Art Activity

For many kids, math isn’t fun. I know, I know. Math skills are totally important for children. But, that doesn’t mean they want to sit at a desk and complete worksheet after worksheet after worksheet. I know my child certainly didn’t. So, when it comes to learning about patterns (a basic math concept) I’m not going to go with the dull approach. I mean, why would I?

Pattern play

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For many us, math equals dull lessons, doing equations and holding a pencil until our fingers feel like breaking. Okay, so years ago (when many of us were in school) math was a paper and pencil only subject. There was no creativity in it. Well, things have changed. Now our kiddos get the chance to explore and experiment with math concepts in many different ways. And, what an awesomely amazing advancement that is!

Think about it, what would your child rather do—play or toil over worksheets? Um, I’m pretty sure I know the answer. That’s why I really do enjoy taking basic skills (such as recognizing and using patterns) and mixing them into other areas—namely art. This isn’t to say that visual art is the only way to extend math education. Not by far. Plenty of educators add it to music, movement, science, history or any other subject that it fits into.

This kids’ math activity takes patterns off of the printed page and puts them into your child’s hands. She can explore the painting process, play with felt shapes (bringing in geometry too!) and get abstract in an absolutely artsy way! In other words—she’s learning while having fun too. Your child is also getting the chance to explore the science of coloring mixing, discover through her senses, build fine motor skills and get creative.
Math activity

We’re going to cover three separate art activities here. That said, you can also combine them into one pattern play math-art activity. Let your child take the lead. After she feels comfortable with the concept of patterning, encourage her to make a multi-media masterpiece! She can add the felt to the painting (collaging it on with glue), paint on the felt or come up with her own imaginative idea. As long as she’s still playing with patterns (which is the central concept here), take all other “lesson” constraints off of your child. This lets her creative side loose. You might just be completely surprised (in a good way) at what you see!

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Craft felt

·        Scissors

·        Clear-drying school glue

·        Card stock paper

·        Tempera paint

·        Optional: Paintbrushes (or your child can use her hands)

Here’s What to Do:

Felt Pattern Play

1. Cut at least two different colors of craft felt into shapes. Assign one shape to each color, or make them all the same shape. Your child can draw the shapes on with a marker or try this freehand.

2. Arrange the felt shapes in a pattern. Your child might choose to make an alternating color pattern or alternate the shapes (if you are using at least two different shapes). As your child gets the hang of this, try adding in more colors. For example, she might make a red, green, blue, yellow, red, green, blue, yellow pattern.
Pattern art

Pattern Finger Print Paint

1. Pour at least two (or you can use more) colors of tempera paint onto a palette, paper plate or piece of wax paper.

2. Dip one of your child’s fingers into one paint color. Have her make a print on the paper.

3. Repeat the paint printing step with another color.
Finger paint

4. Continue, making a pattern with the colors. Your child can also add one color of paint to each of her four fingers (this is excluding her thumb). She can press her fingers down on the paper, add more paint to them and repeat to create a pattern.
Finger paint

Abstract Art

1. Use the paint that you’ve already poured to make a more sophisticated or complex pattern. Your child can start with her painted fingerprints and move from there or create an entirely new painting.
Painting activity

2. Finger paint (or use brushes) make alternating patterns with squiggles, polka dots, zig zags or anything else your child wants. She can create patterns through the colors or shapes that she paints. Your child can also add extra colors. Invite her to mix the colors that you've given her. She can take three colors, and turn them into a rainbow of hues.
Art activity

Combine all of the options or keep them separate as their own art and math activities. It’s up to your child!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Use Those Felt Scraps: Totally Not Scary Monster Puppets for Kids

Halloween monsters! Spooky! Um, now your 4-year-old is in tears. She’s not exactly ready for the fill-on ghoulishly scary experience that comes along with this holiday. That’s okay. This kids’ craft felt art activity is far from the walking dead, vampires and chainsaw-wielding maniacs that spook their ways through horror flicks.

Craft felt

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So, this started with scraps. We’ve got crazy amounts of craft felt. I’m a fan of DIY felt boards, so the leftovers tend to pile up. Actually, I stash them away in a baggie, tuck them into the craft bin and usually forget all about them. What happens? I end up with a ridiculous number of felt-filled baggies.

The problem with using the scraps is that they tend to be oddly shaped. There were no circles to add on as faces or roof-shaped triangles to make houses. What to do with these bits and pieces?

Well, instead of tossing them (awfully wasteful, right?) they became sweet—not scary—monsters. Yep, your child can turn a bag, handful or a few felt scraps into perfectly adorable Halloween monster puppets. Oh yeah, you might need a few other things too.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Felt scraps

·        Scissors

·        Clear-drying school glue

·        Googley eyes (I prefer a variety of sizes)

·        Thick craft sticks

Here’s What to Do:

1. Trim the scraps. Or not. It depends on what your child wants to do. She can use the scissors to create any sizes and shapes she wants.

Puppet art
2. Glue the scraps onto the tops of the craft sticks. Layer and overlap them to create hairy-looking Halloween monsters!
Kids' art

3. Glue the eyes onto the felt. Your child can use one giant eye or glue a group of differently sized eyes on.
Kids art

That’s it. Well, of course, your child needs to let the glue dry. After it’s completely dry, she can play with the monster puppets. She can create her own stories or act out a monstrous tale. Don’t stop at one puppet, make a few too!

This is also an easy option for a Halloween or birthday party. Simply set out the scraps on a table and let the kiddos glue away. Use a permanent marker to write each child’s name on their puppet’s craft stick (a washable marker will run when your child holds the puppet by the handle).

You can also pack up the very few materials (felt, eyes and sticks), and put them into baggies to use later on. Easily stash the kids’ craft in your bag and bring it to grandma’s, on vacation or anywhere else!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween Monster Kids' Peg Doll Art Activity

Your kids are all about crafting for Halloween. But, those super scary monsters aren’t exactly a great match for your preschooler. Neither are spooky spiders or ghoulish ghosts. That’s okay. These peg doll monsters are cutely creative—without any of the “Boo!” factor.

Painting crafts

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Honestly, this kids’ art activity came from the fact that we had an awful lot of pegs sitting around. After making a batch of peg dolls with removable modeling clay hair (and simple pipe cleaner clothes), I just put the unused materials (pegs) away.

Now that it’s almost Halloween, those plain ‘ol pegs are getting some use. This art activity lets your child learn about colors (and color mixing!), explore the artistic process, get creative and create a totally usable toy.

Holiday crafts

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Wooden pegs (peg dolls)

·        Tempera paint

·        Clear-drying school glue

·        Googley eyes

Here’s What to Do:

1. Pour the paint into pools on a palette. You can also use thick cardboard or do what I do and use wax paper. The wax paper is inexpensive (and you probably already have it in your kitchen) and provides a barrier in between the paint and your table. Use as many colors as your child wants. You can choose a rainbow of hues or just go with the primaries (red, blue and yellow) for a lesson in color-mixing.

Children's crafts

2. Roll the pegs through the paint. That’s right—your child is just going to roll them! As she rolls them from color to color the peg dolls will get coated. What’s the result? A rainbow-like swirl. Let your little artist keep going until she wants to stop. It’s okay if the colors mix so much that they turn into a muddy brown or tan. The important part of this is that your child gets to have fun exploring the color-mixing process. And bonus, she’s also building fine motor skills too!
Kids' art

Art activity

3. Let the paint dry completely.

Painting craft

4. Glue the googley eyes on. Your child can glue one pig eye on each doll’s head or glue a monstrous number of eyes all over the doll. Let the glue dry before your child plays with the dolls.
Monster art

This also makes an easy (and creatively fun) addition to a kids’ Halloween party. Set up paint stations, hand out the pegs and let the kids roll away! If you don’t have to time during the party, make a few beforehand to hand out as favors or use as decorations.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Finger Paint with Clay and Temperas

Finger paint plus clay equals a pretty awesome art activity! So, you’re looking for kids’ art explorations and you want something that lets your little one get creative and play with some crafty materials. Then, this might be what you’re looking for.

Finger paint

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Okay, this activity is definitely what you’re looking for. It’s clay paint, finger paint, process art-making fun! And, your child gets in a fine motor workout. Bonus points if you connect to science too (which you very easily can). How?

Well, first let’s start the art-making itself. Your child is going to start with a layer of clay ‘paint’. We’ll get into the specifics in just a moment. This is one of my absolute favorite artsy ideas. I started using it when I taught gallery-based museum art classes for preschoolers. Obviously, I could bring real paints into the art galleries. Imagine your 3-year-old, some temperas and a real Monet. Not exactly a match-up. So, instead of real paint, I used soft modeling clay. It spreads well, the colors mix and it creates a pretty cool texture.

This activity also adds on actual finger paint. Why? Mostly, because you probably aren’t making this in an art museum. In that case, why not make a mess? And, here’s where you can add in some science. First, ask your child to make a prediction. What will happen to the clay when she spreads it out? Or, what will happen to the clay when she mixes the paint in? Next, make observations. How do the clay and the paint mix—or how don’t they? During the art activity your child can experiment with mixing colors (both with the clay and with the paint).

Now, let’s get back to the art-making…

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Soft modeling clay

·        Tempera paints

·        Card stock paper (or cardboard)

Here’s What to Do:

1. Pull the clay apart into dime-sized balls.

2. Spread the clay. Your child can push the clay down and spread it across the paper (in a finger paint-style motion). She can layer the clay, mix it together or spread it out in her own design (or, she can make an abstract art piece).

Clay art

3. Pour the paint onto a palette. I like to use a simple piece of wax paper. It’s easy. It’s inexpensive. And, it keeps the paint from getting on your table.

4. Finger paint—with the paint! Your child can paint on top of the clay, adding new colors and textures to her artwork.

Craft project