Wednesday, July 1, 2015

DIY Chalk Paint for Kids' Art Activities

The kids want to paint, but you’re all out of tempera. Ok, so it’s not exactly a major emergency. But, a DIY paint recipe could come in handy just about right now. If you have some sidewalk chalk and school glue sitting around, you’re in business!

Kids' art

I’m a fan of make your own paints. Why? Because you can completely customize them to the kiddo’s liking. For example, a few weeks ago we made slime paint. It’s messy, sticky and kind of gross. But, it’s also super-dun and not your regular art materials.

This recipe lets the kids make their own creamy paint for using with a brush or their hands. As a bonus, it only really requires two ingredients. That means if you don’t have the stuff on hand, you don’t have to spend all day shopping or go to five different craft stores just to do a little art activity.

Another plus of this painting project is that it encourages sensory exploration. Add more chalk to make a chunky consistency or pour in more glue to make a slick, smooth version.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Colorful chalk

·        Clear-drying school glue

·        Plastic baggies

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Crush the chalk. This is the probably the most challenging part of the activity. Put a piece of chalk into a baggie and crush it. Your child can use the back of a wooden spoon to grind the chalk into a sand-like consistency. If the chalk just won’t crush, set it in the sun to warm it up first. This softens it up a bit, making it easier to crush.

Kids' crafts
 
2.     Make piles of different colors of chalk on a piece of wax paper. The paper acts as a barrier to protect your work surface.

DIY recipe
 
3.     Mix in the glue. Add a puddle to the center of each chalk pile. The less you add, the thicker it will be.

Children's art
4.     Paint! Your child can use a brush to create a picture or finger paint an abstract work of art.
Finger paint

Are you looking for more creative kids’ crafts? Follow my Pinterest board for ideas!
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Rainbow Ice Art Race

It’s an ice race! If the kids are spending the sweltering summer days complaining that they’re hot, bored and need something to do, try this science-art combo! When your kids get crafty with this easy art activity the result is educational entertainment (shhh, don’t tell them that they’re actually learning!).

Ice Paint

Use ice to explore color mixing and states of matter. If you’re wondering how your child can use an ice cube to create colors – it’s simple. The ice isn’t the regular run-of-the-mill clear cube. Instead, your child will help you to make a batch of rainbow-hued ice to use for this summer activity. As your child goes through this project, help her to explore the process she’s engaging in. Ask questions, encourage her to ask her own questions and remind her that there’s no ‘right’ result. In the end her craft may look fairly abstract (chances are almost 100 percent that it will). And, that’s perfectly ok!

Here’s What You Need:

·        1 ice cube tray

·        Food coloring

·        Water

·        Thick white paper – Use something matte, such as card stock. Avoid shiny poster board paper (the color will run too quickly on a slick surface).

·        Optional: Salt

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Squeeze a drop or two food coloring into each compartment of the ice cube tray. Try making each section a different color. Add another layer to this step and mix the primaries (red, blue and yellow) into the secondaries (purple, green and orange).

2.     Add water to each compartment. Putting the tray under a running faucet may cause the colors to splash everywhere. Reuse an old water bottle, filling it up and gently adding the liquid to each color.

3.     Freeze the ice cubes.
Rainbow art

4.     Place the paper on a table or another work surface (and outdoor patio is an easy-to-clean option). Ask your child to predict what she thinks will happen when she puts the colorful cubes on the paper. Also ask what will happen when two different colors of cubes meet up.

5.     Pop the frozen color cubes out. Let each rest in its tray compartment (if you toss them into one big bowl or put them on a plate the colors will start mixing before your child is ready).

6.     Line the cubes up at the top of the paper. Get ready, set and go!
 
Kids' crafts

7.     Push the cubes down the length of the paper, making streams of rainbow lines. Your child can also try lifting one end of the paper to make the cubes slide. Watch as they melt and the colors begin to mix together during the race.
 
Kids' paint

8.     Optional: Sprinkle salt on a cube or two to see what happens. Question your child before, asking her if she thinks it will make the ice melt slower or faster.

Your child can repeat the ice art activity until it’s all melted. Try other configurations of cubes or stack them into a pyramid (and see what happens as they melt away). If the ice isn’t exactly melting, your child can chip and flake it onto the paper with the end of a spoon.

Are you looking for more summer at? Follow my Pinterest board for activity ideas!

 

 
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Monday, June 22, 2015

Blue Raspberry Scented Playdough Recipe

DIY playdough is fun enough as is, but add a scent to it and it’s even more of a sensory experience. Making your own sculpt dough isn’t exactly Earth-shattering, ground-breaking art. I’m still pretty much using the same recipe that I started using years ago in my pre-mom days when I used to teach preschoolers.

Children's art

There are two things that I can’t stand about this playdough recipe: 1. The smell (it’s from the flour and cream of tartar), and 2. The color (again, from the flour). I’ve added berries, glitter and more to make the dough more likeable (at least, to me). My son truly enjoyed the berry version. That was in part due to the fact that it came out looking like a Halloween brain mush.

This time we’re adding blue raspberry Kool-Aid. It’s my favorite flavor. Why? Because no raspberry was ever electric blue in nature. Also, I adore that ‘blue’ in itself is a flavor. The scent truly covers up the playdoughy smell and makes the color much more – well, colorful!

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        2 ½ cups water

·        2 ½ cups flour

·        3-5 tablespoons vegetable oil

·        1 ½ tablespoons cream of tartar

·        1 cup salt

·        1 package ‘blue’ drink mix powder

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Mix all of the ingredients in a big bowl. Mix the powdered drink with the water first.
Kool-aid drink
 

2.     Cook the mix on the stove over a medium heat. Stir it often. If the watery part of the dough starts to boil, turn the heat down and stir it a bit more.
 
Kids' crafts

3.     Continue heating and stirring until you only have dough left (i.e., no water).

4.     Spoon the dough into a bowl and let it cool.
 
Kids' play

Now it’s ready for mashing, smashing, rolling, tossing and of course – smelling!

Are you looking for more playdough recipes? Follow my Pinterest board for ideas!
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Friday, June 19, 2015

Colorful Ice Building Blocks for Kids

Building blocks made from ice? Why not? I love using ice. You can add color, sparkles, toys to be excavated or even chalk to it! Now the kids can explore the intricacies of architecture (or, at least the basics) through it.

Building activity

After making a batch of color-infused ice cubes to paint with, I thought, “Why not do something different with them?” Sure, letting the cubes melt into flowing water colors is artsy fun, but it isn’t the only thing the kids can do with cubes. Stacking them into towers or making mini forts combines art with science and math.  Your child is the engineer, figuring out what patterns and structures allow the icy building to stand. At the same time he needs to predict what the ice will do (in terms of changing states of matter – i.e., melting). As the ice begins to melt, the structure will change. This means your child needs to make a few adjustments.

When he’s all done building he can move the cubes to find the colorful prints left behind or just use them to create his own masterpiece!
Ice art

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Ice cube tray

·        Food coloring

·        Water

·        Paper or cardboard

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Drip a few drops of food coloring into each compartment of the ice cube tray.

2.     Carefully mix water in. Pour it slowly or use a dropper so that the colors don’t spill.

3.     Freeze the cubes.

4.     Pop the ice out.
Colorful art

5.     Place a piece of thick paper or cardboard on a sturdy surface, such as a table.

6.     Start stacking! Your child can create any type of stack that he wants with his building blocks made from ice. Make a single tower, a pyramid or a more elaborate piece of architecture. You can also freeze different sizes or shapes of cubes (we used larger square cubes and standard-sized ones).
Kids' art

Before the ice melts try out a few different building techniques. Alternate colors or size of ice.
Kids' activity

Are you looking for more icy art? Follow my science and art Pinterest board for ideas!

 
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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Banana Split S'mores Summer Dessert Delight

Banana split s’mores? It’s soooooo summer, isn’t it? Yes, it melts almost immediately. But, shouldn’t part of eating the ooey gooey marshmallow treat be getting messy? If you want a calorie-conscious, dainty little snack – this isn’t for you.
S'more Recipe
 
On the other hand, if you’re saying, “Hey, it’s summer vacation. I need a treat! The kids need a treat!” then go right ahead with this. This completely kid-friendly recipe is also an easy (and super-fun) addition to a summer birthday party, family reunion or July 4th holiday celebration.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
·        Chocolate ice cream
·        Graham crackers
·        Marshmallows
·        Sprinkles
·        Bananas
·        Strawberries

Here’s What to Do:
1.     Get the marshmallows for your banana split s’mores ready. If you’re stuck inside you can microwave them (I used 10 seconds, but microwaves vary- so you may need more or less time) or you can bake them on top of graham crackers in the oven. I set the oven at 350 and kept checking back to see when they puffed up and started browning on top. If you’re outside, use the campfire or your fire pit instead (for that crusty brown goodness).
2.     Spoon a scoop of ice cream on to the graham cracker. The chocolate ice cream is the substitute for the traditional chocolate bar.

Ice cream
 
3.     Stack on sliced bananas and strawberries.
Summer fruit
 
4.     Add the marshmallow.
5.     Sandwich the s’more with another graham cracker.
6.     Squish a second marshmallow on top. If you’re really daring, add a generous heaping of whipped cream.
7.     Cover the top with sprinkles.
Kids treat
 
Finish the banana split s’more with a cherry on top. If the kids (or you) don’t feel like a cherry, add a few more sprinkles or even a second scoop of ice cream!
Are you looking for more s’mores? Follow my Pinterest board for ideas!
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Sunday, June 14, 2015

DIY Disco Playdough

Playdough plus glitter equals sparkly fun for the kids! Mixing up a batch of the mashable, stretchy dough hasn’t always come easy to me. There’s no real magic secret to the ‘world’s best playdough’. The majority of recipes look at least somewhat like what you’ll see here. It’s what you add to it that makes it different!

Glitter art
 
Many years ago (before I had a child of my own) I had my first dough-making experience. It was also my first time teaching (3- and 4-year-olds). My supervisor teacher handed me the recipe and sent me off to the school’s kitchen to cook it. Let me just say, it did not come out very well. I added enough glitter to it that the kids didn’t mind the not-so-smooth texture (after all, they were in awe of the sparkles).

My play dough skills did somewhat improve since then. Honestly, the more you make the stuff, the more you can experiment with what works for you. Some people like to add more oil, less oil, no oil, coconut oil, food coloring, powdered tempera, and so on.

Why do I love this dough activity? Because it truly sparkles like a disco ball. And, if you’re afraid of glitter (which is completely normal and rational, given that the sparkly stuff sticks everywhere), don’t worry. The play dough’s mushiness grabs the sparkles and does a pretty good job of holding them in!

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        2 ½ cups water

·        2 ½ cups flour

·        3-5 tablespoons of vegetable oil

·        1 ½ tablespoons of cream of tarter

·        1 cup of salt

·        Glitter – In several different colors

·        Optional: Food coloring

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Mix all of the ingredients in a big bowl. Personally, I prefer to mix them in the pot that I will use to cook the dough. That eliminates one more dish to wash later on.

Kids' cooking
 
2.     Cook the mixture on the stove, stirring often. Do not allow the dough to come to a boil. If it starts bubbling, turn down the heat immediately. Continue stirring until it looks like dough. If it looks like watery cake batter, keep going.

Children's recipe
 
3.     Spoon the play dough into another bowl to cool.

Kids' clay
 
4.     Optional: Add color, after it has cooled enough to touch. Drop a few drips of food coloring in and mash the dough as much as you can. Your child can knead it, fold it over and press the color through.

5.     Sprinkle glitter onto the dough. I put a piece of paper underneath the catch the excess glitter. You can dump the leftover sparkles into a baggie for later.

Kids craft
 
6.     Roll it into a ball. Sprinkle more glitter (in different colors) over the ball for a disco effect! Hint: Use a mix of fine and course glitter. The fine glitter coats the outside of the dough, giving it a metallic sheen, while the course stuff really stands out. Your child doesn't have to keep the playdough in a ball. She can spread it out and see how the sparkles shine.

Disco ball
 
Are you looking for more playdough recipes for kids? Follow my Pinterest board for ideas!
 
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

On Becoming a Freelance Writer

I rarely write about writing. Actually I never do. I’ve thought about doing it. For a day or so I actually toyed with the idea of starting a whole other blog dedicated to it. But, then I realized two blogs, freelancing, being a mom and having a life is just way too much for me right now. Plus, there are so many absolutely fabulous blogs about writing/the freelance world already out there – why add another one?

Writing Career
That said, I’ve been getting paid to write since 2009, and wanted to share some of my insights. I know, I know – who really cares? Everyone on the Internet is an expert about something or another, and they all think that what they have to say is the most important thing ever. I don’t. So, why am I writing this? The other day I was reading a post on places to start out as a freelance writer. I rarely comment on articles, but this time I felt the need to. My little addition to the post in the comments section started to take on a life of its own, so I thought, “Why not just write my own post?”

Then came the ideas. There’s a scene in the movie “Baby Mama” where Tina Fey is talking to Greg Kinnear about her somewhat-genius-/somewhat-crazy/mostly-moronic ideas that strike her in the middle of the night. When she wakes up she has little notes stashed near her bed that she’s written things such as, “electric toilet” and “make everybody be twins.” I don’t go as far as writing them down (I probably should), but I do tend to have these types of ideas in plenty. Sometimes I actually act on them (like the time when I bought a super-fancy photo printer from amazon when I had the idea that everyone I knew could send me their digital baby photos and I’d make personalized scrap books – yeah, I have lots of nice photos of my child and the dogs hanging around the house now, but no scrap books) and sometimes they just stay in my brain (like the time I decided that my dogs should have their own blog). So, when I imagined what writing about writing looked like, it took on a life of its own.

This brought me to one question, “Where to start?” I suppose the beginning would be the logical place.

Why did I start writing? I actually started writing for money when I had a brief, but amazingly interesting, job helping to organize a research project for the Child Life department in a children’s hospital. That writing couldn’t be more different from what I do now. It was all academic, totally not relatable and very journal-y. The grant for that job ended, and I was working as a museum-based art teacher. So much fun, but not much money. I, like just about every other mom, wanted to put some balance back in my life (and have enough money to afford the fancy shampoo, after paying for diapers, wipes and a zillion little baby socks) by working from home. I kept my museum job, but looked into writing for money too. I started a blog. It lasted for all of one day before I deleted it. I found a revenue share site. That lasted for years.

If you’re wondering what a revenue share site is—it’s a website that allows you to contribute content, and then get paid by splitting the ad revenue. At the time (these were the pre-Panda days) SEO seemed simple and with some targeted keywords I was off and making a few hundred dollars a month just by writing down my lesson plans and sharing what I knew about early childhood arts education. Some of top writers at this site made full-time incomes (mind you, this was a very few). Then Panda came, and Google effectively killed my (and many other revenue share writer’s) income. That’s ok. At this point I was still learning how to write online, and the community message boards on this site were what I really needed to get a grip on what I was doing.

What next? Armed with my ‘published’ articles, I headed off to one of the biggest content mills out there. If you don’t know what a content mill is – it’s a website that ‘hires’ (you’re never a real employee, so they have no obligation to give you any work) writers to create lots and lots of content for typically very little money. They want everything to be uniform, so there are usually truckloads of rules, editorial guidelines galore and various ways to make you into a crazed lunatic while making what amounts to less than minimum wage. For quite some time I made a very nice living off of a content mill. Then I was basically fired (technically they couldn’t fire me, as I wasn’t a real employee). I don’t really blame them. What I wrote for them sucked. The titles were ridiculously inane and my heart just wasn’t into it. Seriously, I wrote articles with titles such as “Places to Put Your Purse” and “Is that a Beaver in My Backyard?” Guess what? No one should ever, ever, ever google “Where can I put my purse?” If you can’t figure out where to put your purse without Internet instructions, there’s a bigger problem than not knowing where your bag goes. I spent months churning out sometimes as many as 10 600 word articles a day while watching the Real Housewives of somewhere or another. If you’re considering applying for a ‘job’ at a content mill, go ahead. You’ll make easy money, get paid possibly two times a week and build up a resume. While I have less-than-great things to say about the mill where I worked, it did pay the bills and in many ways it jump-started my career.

Working Writer
 
Now what? I’ve got to say that I’m not a fan of the uber-lengthy article. I usually lose interest, so I don’t blame you if that’s what you’re doing about right now. With that in mind, you’ll have to wait until my next installment to see what happens next. Ok, so it’s not exactly a cliff hanger (no I did not pretend to be pregnant with the content mill’s baby just to win back my place, nor did my evil identical twin start writing under my name – yes, I watch way too much Days of Our Lives). But, it may help you out a bit if you’re a beginning freelance writer.
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