Mini Monets and Mommies

Monday, July 25, 2016

10 Kids' Ice Art and Science Activities

It’s summer. It’s hot. And, there’s a major heat wave. It’s 90 + degrees outside, and the kids are (understandably) complaining, “Mommmmmmmmy, it’s hot in here!” This is where kids’ ice art and science activities come into play.

Ice art

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Yes, heading to the pool is totally ideal on one of these sweltering days. The mercury is up and cooling off in a big vat of chlorinated water with a few hundred other completely uncomfortable kids is on the agenda. Or, is it? You’d rather not spend an hour packing the pool bag, getting swim diapers on, slathering on the sunscreen, putting on new swim diapers, putting on more sunscreen and driving to the pool (only to find that the closest parking space is a good 15 minute walk – in the extreme heat – away). But, you still want to do something fun.

Okay. So, get out the ice. Actually, it’s technically not as simple as that. You’ll want to do some prep work beforehand. So, when you hear the weather person on the local news trying to freak just about everyone out about the upcoming dome of high heat that will ultimately blanket your part of the country, start making the ice!

These kids’ ice art and science activities all involve colorful and/or glittery cubes. All you need to do is drip a drop or two of food coloring into an ice cubes tray, add water and freeze. In some cases, you’ll also need to add a sprinkle of glitter or another ingredient (it’s all in the activity list). You can make the ice the night before or really anytime ahead of the activity day. As long as you have room in your freezer, you can stash the cubes for future use.

Kids' activities

Just in case you forget to freeze a tray of colorful water (and when would any of us ever forget anything? – said with heavy sarcasm), you can take a short cut. Toss a few regular clear ice cubes (if you didn’t make them ahead, you can buy a bag of ice at the grocery store or convenience store) in a bowl, add a few drops of food coloring and stir. Don’t use a bowl that you absolutely love. Chances are the food coloring will stain it. Make a few batches, with different colors.

But, if you did happen to pre-freeze your cubes, here are a few fun options to keep cool during a heat wave:

Water and oil ice: Explore what freezes and what doesn’t. When the kiddos are done with the science part, use these to make abstract art prints.

Science exploration

Abstract art: Want to do some more abstract painting? This icy experiment gives the kids just that.

Kids' crafts

Frozen glitter cubes: They’re cold, they’re blue and they’re filled with sparkles. Paint with them, watch them melt or add some glue to catch the glitter.

Sparkle cubes

Red, white and blue chalk cubes: This one goes beyond the basic food coloring and water recipe. Add some crushed chalk for a totally different experience.

Chalk paint

Chalk ice: Another sidewalk chalk plus water plus a freezer art and science activity.

Finger paint

Rainbow race: Make a rainbow of colorful cubes, and then race them on a super-hot day.

Rainbow race

Primary color mix: Take the ice outside, add some colorful water and mix the colors.

Frozen art

Glowing ice: Yes, really. It glows in the dark.

Glow Dark

Striped icy science: Create stripes and layers of colors in ice. How? Read on to find out!

Kids' art

Building blocks: Take these melty blocks outside to build a massive chilly tower (or whatever else your child wants).

Ice blocks



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Kids' Art and Science: Frozen Vegetable Oil Prints

What happens to vegetable oil when you put it in the freezer? That’s the starting point for this kids' art and science activity!

Science art

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Okay, so I’ve never frozen oil of any sort before. I’m not sure why I ever would have. I’m not a whiz in the kitchen – and, when would there be a recipe that called for freezing olive oil anyway? What I do happen to do a lot is freeze water. No, I’m not an ice-in-every-drink type of girl. Actually, I rarely put ice in drinks. When my son was 4 we went to a friend’s house on one of those scorching hot summer days (we didn’t have AC at the time). She handed him a glass of lemonade with ice cubes in it. And, he cried. Why? He ran over to me screaming, “Mommy, she gave me lemonade with glass in it.” My son was so not used to ice in drinks, he actually thought it was glass.

Fast-forward a decade and I’m making ice all the time. Only now, it’s more for art purposes than drinking (unless my family wants to drink the rainbow-colored cubes that typically inhabit our freezer. So, this time I decided to pour some veggie oil into the mix. And, here’s where the experimenting begins…

Oh yeah, wait just a moment. Not only is this science-y fun, but it’s also an art exploration. Yep. As your child is making discoveries and experimenting with freezing different liquids, he can also create a print. Let me say now, this printing project part happened totally by accident. But, that’s one of the joys of art (and even some science activities). You don’t have to set out to make ‘something’ -- sometimes even if you do, it turns out completely (and amazingly) different than you and your child thought. What does that mean for you? Let go of the idea that everything has to be ‘right’ or look like it does on Pinterest. Sometimes going off course is better than you could have ever expected -- especially when it comes to kids' art and science activities.

And, here’s what you’ll need:

·        Ice cube tray

·        Vegetable (or olive or canola) oil

·        Food coloring

·        Light-colored or white card stock paper

·        Water

Here’s what to do:

1. Drop one or two drips of food coloring into each compartment of the ice cube tray. Try using the primary colors (red, blue and yellow). Mix them (adding one drop of red and one of blue, and so on) to make more hues.

2. Add water to half of the compartments and oil to the other half. Encourage your child to observe and describe what happens to the food coloring when he adds the oil. He can add another drop to the oil too (it’s pretty cool).

Science art
3. Freeze overnight. Ask your child to predict what will happen to the water side and the oil side.

4. Take the cubes out. I don’t want to give away any big secrets here, but I’m going to anyway. For those of you who aren’t up on what freezes and what doesn’t – the oil side will turn into a creamy semi-solid. Shhh – don’t tell your child. Let him explore and observe for himself. So, you can pop the ice cubes out, but not the oil cubes

5. Compare the two kinds of cubes. Your child can use his sense of sight and sense of touch to find out what the differences are. Put the water ice cubes on a piece of paper. Let them start melting. Ask your child to predict what will happen if you put them in the sun. Go ahead and put them outside or on a sunny window sill. Make sure to out cardboard, a garbage bag or something else under it.
Kids' art

6. Scoop out the oil cubes (they won’t pop out). Put them on another piece of paper. Ask your child to describe the differences between the oil and water cubes (when he puts them on the paper).
Vegetable Oil

7. Play! Your child can smoosh, smooth and push the food coloring-oil cubes around. Ask him what words describe how they feel (such as slimy).

 8. Go back to that other paper (you know, the one with the water ice on it). As the cubes begin to melt, your child can paint the paper with them. Compare the two paintings (the one with the water ice and the other with the oil ice).

Children's science

9. Drip the excess water (and remove any un-melted ice cubes) from the paper. Turn it over and press it onto the front of the oil-food color paper. Press or pat it together. As your child pats the surface, some of the oil and the food coloring will seep through. What’s the result? An abstract-looking print!
Art Activity

Science print

Keep experimenting with the oil, food coloring and ice (to keep the kids' art and science activities going). Your child can mix together colors, blend the different liquids and see what happens when you try to re-freeze the paper!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Literacy and Math: ABCs and 123s eBook!

I’m a huge fan of using art to creatively teach early literacy and math concepts to young children. I spent years figuring out how to successfully incorporate letter and number activities into art explorations (while teaching children ages 2 and up in museum-based art classes). Well, now I’m super-excited to be part of a brand new ebook – ABCs and 123s!
Number activities

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ABCs and 123s includes 40+ hands-on play ideas that will help your child to build letter and math skills! These activities aren’t just the artsy kind (even though, as an art teacher, I might be partial to those). The ideas included are multisensory explorations (for children ages 2-8-years) that encourage creative play, helping your child learn by doing. Whether you’re a parent or an early childhood educator, these activities cover a variety of content areas – including science, sensory play, imaginative learning and (of course) art.

ebook letters

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You can use these activities at home, in the classroom, inside or outdoors. And, don’t worry if you’re not exactly bursting with confidence in your ability to teach your young child about literacy and math concepts (that’s completely normal, and totally understandable). Each activity includes a detailed materials list, step-by-step instructions and full color photos. Meaning, it’s amazingly easy to take what you see in the ebook, and turn it into a real-world activity with your little learner.

So, what will your child/young student learn? The activities include concepts such as:

·        Learning how to recognize and write letters and numbers.

·        Understanding both upper and lower case letters.

·        Drawing shapes/making marks.

·        Alphabetic order.

·        Spelling (your child’s name, sight words and other age-appropriate vocabulary).

·        Building language skills.

·        One-to-one correspondence.

·        Counting, adding and subtracting.

·        Understanding base-ten.
Creativity quote

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Aside from the awesomely imaginative activities, one of my favorite things about this book is that it’s an ebook. No torn pages here! You’ll be sent a link that lets you download a PDF containing the book (and accompanying resources). Save it on your laptop, computer or iPad/tablet and use it straight from the screen or print it out. In some cases (depending on what device you’re using and what apps you have installed), you can download it to your smartphone. But, it’s recommended that you start by downloading it to your computer – and, then share it with your mobile device.
Letter activities

ABCs and 123s is available worldwide. Payments are accepted via PayPal, which takes care of all currency conversions. The regular price is $14.99. If you purchase the book before Friday July 22nd, you’ll receive a special discount price of $11.25. That’s 25% savings – no discount code needed.

Letter activities
Buy now
The ABCs and 123s ebook is published and sold by Cathy James at Please direct any customer service queries regarding purchases of the ebook to or refer to the NurtureStore FAQ.

The ABCs and 123s ebook is protected under copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.’

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fun Fourth of July Kids' Crafts

The Fourth of July is quickly coming up! That means fireworks, a backyard BBQ and red, white and blue patriotic kids’ crafts.

Fourth July

What’s on your art activity list for the Fourth? You can go simple (which is perfect during a family reunion or party) and put out crayons in American flag colors, add a few star stickers and let the kids get artsy with very little mess.

Child's crafts

If you’re looking for something that sparkles, break out the glitter. This glitter flag craft is easy enough for your preschooler to try, but still fun for older kids.

Sparkle crafts

Chalk doesn't always equal sidewalk art (although, sidewalk drawing is a fabulously fun art activity for kids). You can grind it up, add some water and create your own red, white and blue cubes for a patriotic painting.

Patriotic art

Following the freezing fun of frozen chalk are cubes of another sort. Get out the food coloring, toss in some sparkles and create your own glittering cubes. Make red, blue and silver (or opal) for a Fourth theme.

Sparkling art
Do you have a few extra berries hanging around (especially after you’ve whipped up a few 4th of July-themed treats)? Let the kiddos put them to use, making their own paints. These natural paints are taste-safe, meaning they’re perfect for little kids who just might be into exploring everything with their mouths.

Berry art

Jackson Pollock anyone? Mix a famous artist activity and a fun Fourth painting exploration! Paint splatter the day away.
Kids' art

Tissue paper prints are a favorite of mine. Just remember – never use color-fast or non-bleeding tissue. Like the names say, these papers hold their colors. This means that they won’t work for prints.
Flag crafts

While we’re at it, why stop at Fourth of July kids’ crafts? That holiday cookout means that you need some snack-y options for the kids. Summertime grilling season means one thing to me (okay, aside from the requisite hamburgers and hotdogs): S’mores!

We were a big s’mores family. After my son’s Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis last spring we’ve had to forego the ooey gooey *and super sugary) treat. But, someone should eat those tasty marshmallow stackers. So, here are a few of my favorites that are also perfect for your Independence Day party!

Pink princess. Sparkly, pink and filled with strawberry taste.

Cupcake s’mores. This one requires baking. But, it’s oh-so-good.

Cherry red coconut. Add in a few blueberries for a red, white and blue dessert.

Melting snowman. If you have a Frozen fan, these are for you.

Animal cookie ice cream sundae. Sugar-packed? Yes. A cool treat on a hot day? Yes!!!

Dessert ideas

With your artsy activities and tasty treats, you’ve got plenty for the kids to do (and eat) on the Fourth of July. What's your favorite Independence Day kids' craft? Share it on the Mini Monets and Mommies Facebook page!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer of Grilling Healthy Backyard Barbeque

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SummerOfGrilling #CollectiveBias

Summer is finally here, and it’s grilling season! About 10 years ago (when my now-teenage son was 4-years-old) we started a Sunday barbequing tradition. We get together with my parents and have hamburgers, hot dogs and all of the ‘summertime favorites’. Sounds fun, right?

Hamburger Recipe

Well, it is. Or, at least was. I have to be honest here, this year I was exactly looking forward to our summer cook outs. A few months ago my 14-year-old was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. After five very scary days in the hospital he was released with a brand new meal plan (and orders to test his blood sugar and give himself insulin injections six times a day). He’s done amazingly well so far – even though it’s been a major change.

Instead of just eating when and what he wants, he now has to follow the guidelines the nutritionist created. When it comes to our summer barbeques that means no gorging on chips and passing on the burgers (and veggies). There are no more refreshingly chilly popsicles or bowls of ice cream at the end of dinner. But, as I’ve come to realize, that doesn’t mean we can’t have still have a super-tasty cookout. We just had to make some adjustments.

When I was planning for the start of grilling season I had to make some adjustments. This meant coming up with ideas for plenty of healthy options, that were still ‘cool’ enough for a teenager to try (believe me, a plain burger on a bun wasn’t going to cut it). So, on my weekly trip to Giant Eagle (okay, so maybe I’m there more than weekly – I should probably write better lists) I decided to try something a bit different than or usual summertime staples.

In past years I’ve pretty much stuck to a package of ground beef that I turn into mega-sized burgers. This year portion control is a must-do, so massive burgers won’t do. What’s the alternative? Market District Gourmet Seasoned Beef Burgers! Not only do they have added flavor, but they’re already in perfect burger form (with a portion size that works within my son’s meal plan – yay!). I chose these as our new centerpiece for our weekend backyard meals.

Instead of chips, dip and ice cream that I usually added, I went with a much more nutritious version of the summer cook out. Keep in mind, this meal worked with my son’s specific meal plan. That said, it might not work for every diabetic (you should only and always follow the doctor’s or nutritionist’s guidelines and plans). Even if your child doesn’t have diabetes, this is a much healthier version of what (at least for us) used to be a not-so-healthy meal.

Along with the burgers, Giant Eagle had everything else that I needed to complete the meal (they truly are the grilling headquarters – and who doesn’t appreciate a one-stop shop?).
Grilling Foods
What did the meal end up looking like?

Obviously, the burgers came first. Here’s what you’ll need:

·        Market District Gourmet Seasoned Beef Burgers (they are in the meat section, and portioned nicely, with a variety of seasonings -- i.e., you can make everyone happy)

·        Kraft Natural Cheese Slices, from the dairy aisle

·        Heinz BBQ Sauce

·        Pepperidge Farm Buns

·        Nature’s Basket Ketchup

·        Giant Eagle Mustard

Here’s what to do:

1. Grill the burgers! So super-simple, isn’t it? I’m not a fan of handling raw meat (I really don’t know anyone who is). So, the ready-made burgers mean that you can just put them on the grill and cook. No having to measure seasonings, mix and mold the meat into patties.

2. After the burgers are completely cooked add another layer of taste. Teenagers certainly don’t like anything dull (which is a complete contrast from when my son was younger and wanted everything plain, plain and even more plain). I poured the Heinz BBQ Sauce into a small bowl and let him brush some onto his burger (you can also add a light brushing of it before you cook the burger too). This is also an easy alternative for anyone who isn’t into ketchup and mustard.

Hamburger Barbeque

3. Put the burger on the bun and add a slice of Kraft Natural Cheese.

Done! My son’s plan calls for more carbs than just the bun. Instead of greasy chips, we grilled strips of zucchini and yellow squash (hint: you can also brush on some of the BBQ sauce for added flavor). We also added the grilled veggies right into burger (on top of the cheese) for an extra pinch of health!

Market District Burgers

What about drinks and dessert? I’ve really never explored diet drink options, at least not until my son was diagnosed. But, for special occasions (such as a family meal with the grandparents) he always asks for something more than plain water. I picked up a few bottles of Lipton Ready to Drink Diet Peach Tea and went to the bottled water aisle for some Aquafina Sparkling Black Cherry Dragonfruit. The Diet Peach tea has no carbs, so it was the perfect drink addition to the meal. The Aquafina Sparkling water has 3 g per serving/can, but that still fit well within my son’s meal plan.

Summer Drink

I have to admit, I was a bit confounded when it came to dessert. Ice cream and popsicles were no-no’s, so I had to come up with a low-calorie option. That’s when I realized I had already bought dessert, without even knowing it. I could simply freeze the Lipton Ready to Drink Diet Peach iced tea and Aquafina Sparkling into low-cal pops.

Kids' treat

Add a popsicle stick and you’ve got a fruit-flavored treat! I had just bought these cute ring-pop ice molds. They worked perfectly for this recipe. I added slices of strawberries to a few too!.

Summer recipe

The grandparents aren’t exactly into popsicles, so they popped the cubes (minus the sticks) into plain seltzer water for a fresh summer drink. You can also slice up berries and add them to the mix (before freezing, of course).

That’s it! So easy. Show us how you made Giant Eagle you summer grilling headquarters by leaving a comment below. Share your recipe ideas for burgers and more for everyone to see!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

DIY Rainbow Building Blocks

Building blocks don’t always have to be wooden or plastic. This STEAM activity proves just that! Last week we made geometric shape stampers out of kitchen sponges for paint printing (and color-mixing!). Instead of tossing the sponges out after the art activity was done, we’ll show you how your child can keep on using them.

Rainbow blocks

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Okay, so the obvious continued use for the stampers is to reuse them. Stash them in a container and take them out to use next time your child wants to make some art. But, we’ll show you another way that your kiddo can play with them.

How? This is where the building blocks come in. After the painting is done (and completely dry), your child can turn the sponges into rainbow-colored blocks. This activity isn’t just artsy, it helps your child to build fine motor and math skills. She’ll also have to use her critical thinking skills to balance the shapes and stack them – without everything falling down.

Even though I just said that you should wait for the paint to dry, you can turn this activity into (very) messy play. Instead, start building with the paint still wet! Not only is this messy play, but it's a completely creative STEAM activity too.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Kitchen sponges

·        Tempera paint

·        Wax paper

·        Scissors

Here’s What to Do:

1. Create geometric shape stampers. Read this how-to for more information. If you haven’t made the stampers already, you’ll need to cut the sponges into shapes, and then…

2. Pour the paint into pools on the wax paper. The wax paper protects your work surface and acts as a palette (just less expensive). Try the primary colors (red, yellow and blue) and white. Your little artist can mix them into a rainbow of hues with the sponges. Coat the sponges completely. Your child can press the sponges down to make a few prints now too!

Kids' art

Children's art

3. Let the paint dry. Or, don’t – if you want a messy art play activity!

Sponge stampers

4. Start stacking. Your child can build a tower, a wall or anything else she can think up. Add more sponge shapes to the mix to create an entire pretend play world.
Paint project

5. Take the sponges down and repeat – but, with different designs (in other words, encourage your child to build something different).

Keep in mind, your child doesn’t necessary have to build upwards. She can keep the design flat, and put the sponges together in patterns or puzzle-style on a piece of cardboard too!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Kids' Art: Painting with Sponges

Painting with sponges? It’s not exactly breaking news in the world of kids’ art activities. That said, you don’t have to go out and buy fancy materials and you can use this easy-to-do lesson to add in other learning areas (such as shapes and colors).

Color-mixing art

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Do you have a kitchen sponge sitting around? I mean a clean one, and not the one sitting on the side of the sink covered in last night’s spaghetti sauce (we all have one of those). You can use a nice clean (and completely inexpensive) sponge to make shape stampers. Not only can you create DIY stamps, but you can add on a color mixing activity as well. How? Read on to find out…

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Kitchen sponges

·        Scissors

·        A marker

·        Tempera paint (in the primary colors – red, yellow and blue – and white)

·        Card stock paper

Here’s What to Do:

1. Draw a few shapes (triangles, rectangles, squares, circles) on the sponges. Use the whole sponge for one shape or divide it into a few.

2. Cut the shapes out. You can print the picture below out for your child to match the shapes and the words.

Kids' lesson

3. Pour the paint into pools on a palette (or use a sheet of wax paper).

Kids' art

4. Start painting with sponges! Dip the sponge into the paint. Press it onto the paper. Repeat, making multiples. Your child can make a random abstract design, create a pattern of shapes and/or colors or make a larger design that’s made up of smaller shapes (such as a cat with circles for the face and triangles for the ears).

Shape project

Kids' art

Shape sponges

Now for the color mixing:

Blending colors

Your child already has paint on the shape sponge stampers, so don’t worry about wiping it off. Have her dip one of the paint-covered sponges into another color. Now the mixing begins. She can continue on with this process making green from yellow and blue, purple from blue and red and orange from red and yellow. Your little artist can also add white to any of the colors to make them lighter.

Painting prints