When I was little, I walked with my dad across the University of Oregon campus just before school started. I held his hand as we meandered under the centuries-old trees and kicked the crackling fallen leaves. I often stooped to pick up acorns and chestnuts.
I’d find them in my pocket all fall and winter long—little treasures squirreled away.
Even now I can’t resist picking them up. I run my thumb over the smooth shell like a worry stone and remember those crisp autumn walks with my dad.
The other day, on one of those cold but bright fall mornings, my girls and I took a walk. It was just chilly enough for me to be grateful for the
furnace baby strapped to my chest, and Peeper stopped every few steps to investigate something or other while Finn waited impatiently.
We approached a chestnut tree and the mess of nuts, shells and leaves surrounding it. Squirrels scolded us overhead while Peeper picked up a handful of chestnuts and talked about how pokey the burst-open shells were.
We brought a bunch home and started a “special project,” as she has taken to calling her art endeavors. We incorporated the treasures into our fall art crafting—take a look and you and your little may love painting with chestnuts, too!
Several times a day, my daughter asks me, “can we do an art project?” so we end up spending a lot of time with paints, glitter and glue. But I noticed that while Peeper dove into creating each masterpiece without worrying about what it would be or how it would turn out, I hung back.
I didn’t know what to make. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t feel moved to get creative with my kids.
When it came to arts and crafts with my daughter, I was fresh out of ideas.
Sound familiar? If you need a gentle nudge toward trying on a child’s uninhibited inspiration, too, here are some ideas to get creative with your kids—even if you’re not an artist.
I received a free craft kit from Little Loving Hands to try out. As always, all opinions here are my own.
My Peeper, she has one of the kindest, most empathetic hearts I’ve ever known. She brings Kiwi’s favorite toys to her when Little Sister is crying. She covers me in kisses if I stub my toe (including the time a few weeks ago when I’m pretty sure I broke my pinkie toe—ouch!). She gets choked up if a character in a book is sad.
So it’s natural that she wants to help others.
Volunteering opportunities for preschoolers and younger kids are slim pickings, though. I keep an eye out for children’s volunteering activities but rarely find a way to bring her along.
So we create our own volunteering opportunities at home. We make cards for Meals on Wheels. We do the monthly activities, like cleaning up the nearby park and making bird feeders, sent to us by Giving Families. And recently, we made a craft for a homeless child living in a shelter with the kit from Little Loving Hands. Read more
Glitter gets a bad rap: It sticks to everything, makes its way into every crevice in your house and can apparently scratch a kid’s cornea—yada yada yada. But I am a Glitter Cheerleader.
I love the way glitter catches the light. I wear a craft project’s collateral glitter with pride, even days later. (Doesn’t glitter in your hair or on your blazer just say, “I’m a mom of a preschooler and I’m not afraid to flaunt it!”) And I love the way Peeper gets so freaking excited whenever I suggest we do a glitter art project.
The other day, when I suggested we try something new—glitter marble painting—was no exception. Her face lit up like a glittered disco ball.
Just about every parent, auntie, uncle and friend has bought a present, watched a child tear through the wrapping paper and waited as she uncovered the gift you so thoughtfully chose for her—then scratched your head as she ignored the toy to play with the cardboard box it came in. The preference can be baffling, but it’s also enchanting: Kids can make playing with a cardboard box the highlight of their day.
You can give a kid a box and let their imaginations run wild—and you can jumpstart the fun with these cardboard box activity prompts.
True story: Along with Radiohead’s Creep and Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Around the World, Kermit’s Rainbow Connection is one of my go-to karaoke jams.
So naturally, when it was my turn to host our co-op homeschool preschool this week, I wanted our St. Patrick’s Day lesson to include lots of activities with rainbows!
If you’re looking to infuse your fun with some St. Patrick’s Day luck, or get all rainbow-y on a regular day, here are some activities from me as well as links to additional ideas. Happy St. Patty’s Day! Read more
Not long ago, we learned our next-door neighbor was sick. She had surgery and was recovering quickly, but I wanted to send over something to show we’d been thinking of her.
Naturally, I wanted to involve Peeper. We set to making a paper bouquet of coffee filter flowers.
Lessons in empathy
Peeper is still too young to understand why we were making the bouquet, and thank goodness. How wonderful to be unaware of things like cancer, anesthesia and prognoses. But it’s important to instill the value of doing nice things for others, so we made our own thinking-of-you package instead of buying a bouquet or card at the store.
One of the nice things about these coffee filter flowers is you almost definitely have the materials on hand. What’s more, it’s ridiculously easy and simple enough for even toddlers to do.
What are you waiting for? Even if you don’t know someone who’s ill, you do know someone whose day would be brightened by a hand-made flower or two. Read more