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Preschool & Toddler Activities

Chasing bubbles in the back yard

It is not even summer break, yet I already feel like I’m having a hard time keeping the kids busy. On one hand there’s the advice that says it is good for kids to be bored, because it forces them to be creative with the tools (or toys) they have access to. On the other hand, I’ve also read that boredom actually puts a lot of stress on a young brain, which science has shown to be unhealthy. All I know is when the kids are bored, they make this mama C.R.A.Z.Y.!

Since Leo’s second birthday is coming up in a couple weeks (and since my parents want me to buy Leo’s gifts for them), I have been happily researching some new games and activities I think would keep him occupied he would like. I’ve given him one gift a bit early, the Design and Drill Tool Kitby Educational Insights. He took to it like fish to water. Anything with pieces and moving parts is fascinating to him. It’s the smaller of the three sets, but I wanted to give it a try first. I’m poised to buy more bolts and an extra drill so his sister can join him. I love to have them working on a project together. The other sets come with pattern sheets that older kids can follow.

Speaking of patterns, Chloe is definitely aware of them in both shapes and colors. Here are a couple of her creations from just this past week. These were projects she designed completely on her own. All I got was a “Mom, come look what I made!” at the end. Plus, I’ve got to hand it to her, she takes Leo’s interference a lot better than I would if I was trying to concentrate on a creative project. I usually try to give them a little time to work it out (like with the colored plastic blocks), but if Leo cannot control himself from knocking down her buildings down over and over (like the wooden ones today), then I will remove him and give her some peace to work.

We also do a lot of arts-and-crafts type projects. Here was a project from yesterday, where the kids drew on popsicle sticks and I helped lash them together with tape (the classic “raft of popsicle sticks” project). It kept them both busy for a short time, and we did an “experiment” at the end to see if they would sink or float. However, Chloe was not happy to have the colors in her raft began to wash away. Whoops. I forgot that they were washable markers (the only kind I’ll let her brother near). By the way, Chloe told me that picture was of her and me that she drew on the sail.

And sometimes, I just throw my hands up in the air while saying “Whatever!” and go pull out something I’ve been saving – like these animal masks that I ordered for Leo’s upcoming party. Part of me wants the kids to be surprised, but part of me also knows that it wouldn’t hurt for them to get played with a little before the big day. It was surprisingly fun! We made silly faces in the bathroom mirror, trying on the different animals and finally I had to run and get my phone so I could take a couple pictures. This is the face of a child happily engaged in the activity she is doing at the moment. A photo worth a thousand words to this mommy!



My Little Artiste

I guess with two graphic designer parents it is no surprise that Chloe loves art and crafts of any kind. Thankfully, it keeps her occupied for long periods of time, too.

When I’m tired or don’t have the time to clean paint brushes, I give Chloe Q-tips. They provide a different painting experience, and allow me to toss them when she’s done.

We have a bad habit of ruining play-doh by leaving it out to dry. Making it at home makes me feel less guilty, and its cheap and easy. Here’s the recipe and instructions, but you must let the salt dissolve in the water first, or the play-dough ends up with a grainy texture.

The photo at the top shows Chloe making a collage with her My First Scissors. They are rated for kids as young as four years old, but Chloe uses them just fine at 2 and a half (and under supervision). When she asks to “do cutting” I just hand her some pages from our recycle bin along with a glue stick, scissors, and a sheet on which to paste. It occupies her time, helps to develop good hand skills, and she enjoys it. All good things.

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Our lavender is in full bloom, making all the bees and butterflies around here crazy happy. It is such a beautiful color. And the smell… gorgeous.

At the end of summer I’ll dry the stems and place the scented buds in my drawers or hanging in fine mesh bags in the closet. I didn’t get around to it last year, so I want to be extra good about it this year. There are about a million things that can be made out of lavender, too – from salt or sugar scrubs, sachets, wands, to even ice cream. So many choices, so little time.

And here’s a whole long list of lavender recipes and projects from Martha Stewart.


Chloe update, 20 months

Chloe will be 21 months next week. Normally, I’d wait until then to give an update, but several BIG things have happened and I can’t wait to share. I’m afraid if I don’t, they’ll just go unrecorded. Here’s the biggest news:

Chloe pooped in the potty for the first time today!!!

I noticed her just slightly bearing down while I was talking to her this morning. I immediately asked if she was poopy and suggested she go sit on her potty. She turned and ran to the bathroom, me following so I could whip off her diaper. She sat down just in time for us to hear a tiny thud. I wasn’t sure if I should point out her accomplishment immediately or just keep her seated in case there was more coming. I decided on the later, and we flipped through a magazine to keep her entertained. Turns out that one thud was it, however, when she got up and I showed her what was in the pot, she did NOT like what she saw. As a matter of fact, she got really upset and almost started crying so I quickly ramped up the happy face and voice. The last thing I wanted was for this to be a bad experience, but I simply was not expecting that kind of reaction. Thankfully she settled down quickly, although continued to look disturbed. I dumped the offender into the main toilet so we could say bye-bye as it flushed away. I wonder if there is anything I could have done better, because I really hope she won’t be afraid to try again!

Just as exciting as the potty usage, is the fact that Chloe said her first three word sentence yesterday! She says lots of words and sounds together, just not quite in proper order. I heard it while she was rummaging through one of her toy drawers for her baby doll. When she finally pulled it free she declared “I got it!” At first I wasn’t sure if I heard correctly, but then she repeated it again (and again!).

Lastly, I’ll mention the pasta stringing activity I prepared for her yesterday. The idea was to help her make her first pasta necklace with some dry rigatoni and a piece of yarn. Turns out she didn’t even need my help! I loved just sitting back, watching her dextrous little fingers thread the “beads” onto the yarn and pull them through. And here I thought it would be a challenge for her. Afterwards we took a little trip to the dollar store for some budget art supplies for more at-home projects. I probably think this at every stage, but this is certainly my favorite so far. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Sewing Calendar 2010

Look what arrived in the mail today! My very own copy of the 2010 Sewing Calendar! It features over 100 cute and inspiring sewing projects, including my Felt Photo Album tutorial! It is so cool to see one of my projects in print. No, I don’t get any perks from being included or from the sale of the calendar, but it just feels good, you know? Which reminds me, I haven’t done anything crafty for the longest time. Perhaps it is time to start something. ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. The photo above is from Amazon, but Made by Petchy has some nice detail photos here.

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Baby Craft Tutorial Roundup

A while back I started a page devoted completely to cool baby craft tutorials. There is a tab below the blog header that links to it. It contains a mix of my own tutorials and other people’s projects. So far there are tutorials for baby hair clips, appliqued onesies, felt baby shoes, burp cloths, kimono wrap, diaper and wipes pouch (poopy clutch), knit hat with earflaps, LED baby booties, diaper cake and embellishing baby tees. I hope to add more as I come across them on the net, so check back if you’re interested, or let me know what some of your favorite ones are and I’ll add them to the list.


Free Sewing Patterns for Download

Some of my favorite how-tos: felt bag, oven mitt, and travel tissue cozy

Cool patterns for free: Anna Top, Jocelyn Dress, and Marie Skirt

I was browsing around Belinda’s site, sewseamless.com (lots of good info for beginners like me), when I followed a link and to another site called BurdaStyle and was surprised to find that it has pattern pdfs you can download for FREE! It also includes nice sections on how-tos, inspiration, and other resources. Many of the patterns and techniques are somewhat advanced, but it was fun to look around and see the possibilities, especially where members would “alter” a pattern to make their own design. Does anyone know of other sites like this where cool/modern patterns can be downloaded for free?

Postscript: I don’t know if they are from the same parent company, but there is another site called Burdamode.com which also lists some free patterns. The only one I really like is for the Tiered Skirt. Also, Kathy from Pink Chalk Studio recently provided a great link in the comment section to Creative Kismet’s tutorial roundup.

See more patterns, free downloads, tutorial and projects here and here!


Sweet Chemise

I just completed the sweet chemise project from the book Simple Sewing with a French Twist. It was my first apparel project. The instructions were fairly clear, and had good diagrams, but I really missed not having my mother-in-law around. She was a great help when I got stuck on my last project. The neckline gave me the most trouble, but I was able to muddle through.

Overall, it turned out fine, though not as easy as I expected. I think it would not be easy for a person without computer skills to properly enlarge and print the pattern on a photocopier, as suggested. I also found the order of instructions a little strange, and the length a lot longer than it looked in the book’s picture, although my measurements did match up. I guess I thought it would be more of a shirt than a dress. In the future I’ll try making this again, but with softer fabric and maybe a tad wider around the bust area. I would guess the end product to be about a size 2-4, which is surprising, and could be really disappointing for someone with a decent-sized chest. It would have been a little looser if I hadn’t followed the directions for french seams (check out Stardust Shoe’s blog for a good example), but it was a technique I wanted to try.

I did a search to see how other people’s sweet chemise projects turned out but only found Robin at That Silly Girl. Hers actually turned out short by accident. She also shares a link to Belle Epoque’s Tie-top Tank tutorial that looks really cute. I think I might try that next time.


Sewing Project #2 – Pillow Covers

striped pillow

I just finished my second sewing project – two striped pillow covers following the easy instructions out of Sew Subversive: Down & Dirty DIY for the Fabulous Fashionista. Basically you make a big sewn envelope into which you stuff a pillow form. A perfect beginner’s project because you don’t have to worry about zippers. I can’t believe how good they look, especially on our horrible Pottery Barn sofa which my husband and I hate. The pillows add a much needed modern touch.

About our dreadful sofa รขโ‚ฌโ€œ we have been wanting to replace it for SO long. Not only is it mushy and uncomfortable, it also has several chewed out sections from when we first got Barkley. He was dealing with some separation anxiety when we would leave him home alone. For a long time we considered this one from Crate and Barrel, but decided it was too expensive and we weren’t sold on the color. Now we’re thinking about this one from Ikea, but we’re not sure about its colors either (sigh) and we’re being very careful with money right now. But if we can decide before December they’re having a sofa event where you get an Ikea Gift Card worth 20% of an upholstery purchase. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

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