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.
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.
Art, at its best, is a full-body experience—at least according to my kids. And with summer here (happy first day of summer!), it’s the perfect time to get outside for some messy painting.
On a recent afternoon, Peeper, Kiwi and a few friends did just that. I squirted paint onto plates of shaving cream, and the kids dove in: Within minutes, we were all messy. And within minutes, we were all having so much fun.
After all, we often tell kids to be neat. Use a napkin. Don’t spill. Wash your hands. Keep your hands to yourself.
With the weather warming up, though, it’s a great excuse to play outside. And with a little set-up—and a lot of shaving cream—you can let your kids’ creativity go wild. Come on, color outside the lines!
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
Peeper loves to create, so when it came to planning her second birthday party, I knew I wanted to incorporate art. Thanks to getting almost no sleep and leaving most of the party prep till the morning of, I had to scale back some of our painting plans, but one activity made the cut: the group DIY easel.
Peeper and her friends got to paint alongside each other in our front yard, and each kiddo took home a piece of art (or several!). Peeper’s painting is now hanging on our wall above the dining table.
The setup was surprisingly easy—and cheap—and we’ve left it up in our yard for now. Peeper continues to use it, and when we do decide to take it down, we’ll recycle or reuse all the pieces for projects later!
Want to get in on the artistic action, too? Here’s how to make an easy group DIY easel for your kids to paint their own outdoor masterpieces. Read more
Eric is really, really good about saving his change. I tend to spend mine, getting way more excited than is warranted when I get to use pennies at the store, whereas he empties his pockets at the end of the day to watch a jar fill up with dimes and quarters.
Not too long ago, the peanut butter jar we’d been using was too full to accept a single more cent. I took it to our credit union—and walked out more than $135 richer.
The problem: I could not go back to using that scuzzy plastic jar. It was dirty, it was ugly and I didn’t want it sitting on our mantle, no matter how much money it held.
So I enlisted Peeper’s help! Together, we made a brand-new/upcycled change jar so we can (ahem) watch our money grow. (Get it?)
Here are the instructions so you can make one, too! Read more