Mini Monets and Mommies: 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

6 New Year's Eve Activities that the Kids Will Absolutely Adore!

New Year’s kids’ activities anyone? Um, yes please! You’re celebrating “Noon Year’s Eve” at, well – noon. Or, maybe you have your fave families coming over for an evening get together. Whatever your plans are, having plenty of arts and crafts (along with some tasty treats, of course) on hand is a must-do.

Kids' art

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Before going crazy with crafts, start simple. You have plenty to do around the holidays. So, why add to it with complicated art projects or overly complex recipes? Yeah, yeah, Pinterest is bursting with an over-abundance of seemingly awesome ideas. You scroll down your feed and think, “Well, I could do that.” Maybe. But, keep in mind, the middle of your New Year’s Eve celebration isn’t the time to find out that what looked oh-so-easy on Pinterest (and, don’t they all?) was actually super-complicated.

Pour the Paint

Kids' crafts

Okay, so if you want something beyond simple to keep the kids busy (and keep them totally happy too!) put out some paints. Is it mess-free? Nope. But, all you really need are four colors – the primaries (red, yellow and blue) and white. They can mix their own hues and then paint a holiday masterpiece. Add in some glitter (yes, this multiplies the mess exponentially) for a festive sparkle.

Try Clay Play

Modeling clay
If your goal is to keep the mess to a minimum, one of my favorite kids’ art activities is finger painting with clay. The secret for this one is that there’s no actual finger paint involved. Instead, your kiddo can pull apart soft modeling clay into dime-sized pieces. She can then spread it out over a cardboard surface, finger paint style. It’s a fab fine motor activity and you can adapt it for any occasion. Have your child use the clay to make New Year’s fireworks or just make abstract art.

Confetti Art

Craft activity

Let’s say you have tons of magazines hanging out in the basement, garage or attic. Maybe you don’t. But, given that Christmas and Hanukkah were just last week, you might have some extra gift wrap odds and ends stashed around. Cut those up and use as confetti. The kids can paint a piece of card stock paper with clear-drying school glue. Toss the confetti, and watch it stick. Yay!

Glitter Ball Drop

New Year's Eve

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1! The ball’s dropping in NYC, and at home too. Make your own with some sparkling playdough. Follow this recipe to whip up some DIY dough. Add a drop of food coloring in or don’t (the glitter will create a cool color). Sprinkle tons and tons and tons of glitter in (hey, it has to sparkle like the Times Square ball, right?) and mush it around. Your child can make the midnight drop ball and then take it apart for more playdough fun.

Glitter Gunk

Kids' art

As if playdough isn’t fun enough, try some New Year’s glitter slime! Follow these directions to mix up a batch of slime. Add in the sparkles and you’re ready for some festive science fun. The more glitter your kids use, the more solid the color will look.

Kids’ Cookies

Holiday sweets

When the kids tire from the crafting, try these easy no-bake cookies (here's the recipe). They’re sparkly (like the glitter) and look like mini New Year’s Eve balls. Oh yeah, and they’re super tasty too!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Make Your Mark With This Awesome New Kids' Activity eBook!

I’m so excited to be part of an amazing new book, Make Your Mark! Seriously, I’m not just saying it’s amazing because I’m in it. It really, truly is. Make Your Mark is a book about creative writing, confidence, compassion and caring – and all for kids! Okay, so it’s you (the adult) who is going to read it. But, it’s your little one who will totally benefit from the activities inside.

Kids' book

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What kinds of kids’ activities will you find? Make Your Mark is filled with 30+ projects. These will help your child to develop a love of writing early on. From creative storytelling to building self-confidence and compassion, this book goes deep and helps your child to learn on many different levels.
Early literacy

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The activities are an array of ideas, featuring play, art, language, writing and more. Whether it’s making a first mark through art, using pens and brushes to make more complex marks or igniting inspiration through storytelling, you’ll find plenty of ideas and activities for your young child to try out. These include:

·        Art

·        Writing trays

·        Finger gyms (and other fine motor play ideas)

·        Interview activities

·        Kindness activities

·        Collaborative projects

·        Printables

Kids' projects

This is a perfect way to help your young child develop early literacy skills, build social abilities and improve her emotional awareness. One of the things that I enjoy most about this book is that there’s an awesome array of ideas included. There isn’t just one “right way” to help your kiddo to develop early literacy abilities. Some kids learn by keeping their hands busy, while others like to look at pictures and print (and these are only two examples of the many ways in which people learn). Giving your child choices and having a variety of activities on hand makes it easier to match your little learner’s individual development with educational options.

Art activitiesKids' activities

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Make Your Mark is for sale starting Friday December 9th. There is a special launch price for the month of December – in other words, buy it this month to save your hard-earned money! The launch special price is $11.25. That’s a 25% savings, no discount code needed (all you have to do is buy the book before December 31, 2016). After December, the ebook will available for the regular price of $14.99. So, why wait? Get your copy right now!

Kids book

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Buy it worldwide for instant download

This is an ebook, which means you will be sent a link that allows you to download a PDF containing the ebook and all the resources. You can save it to your computer or iPad* and then either read it on screen or print some/all of the pages, as you prefer.

You can buy the ebook wherever you are in the world. You pay via PayPal, which will take care of any currency conversion for you. The ebook costs US$ 14.99.

*You can buy the ebook now, on any device, and then download it when you are ready. Depending on the apps you have installed and your operating system, you might be able to download the ebook on your mobile device. However if you have any doubts or problems, I recommend you use a computer to download the book and then share it to your mobile devices. You will be sent download instructions when your purchase the ebook.

The Make Your Mark 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 Make Your Mark ebook is protected under copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Oreo and Yogurt Holiday Smoothie Recipe!

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

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!