Mbira or Finger Piano

Did you see the Google doodle today? It’s a mbira.
Last year I had to instruct my 3rd grade Cub Scouts how to make one. I was worried because overly hyper boys with wire cutters and bobby pins seemed like a bad idea. So I pre-cut everything before the meeting. Once that was done, it turns out to be a pretty simple project.
Sort of. I still had a dozen boys and a few siblings, so I did enlist parent help.
You’ll need a piece of wood. This one is 5″×5″. 2 tongue depressers (large popsicle sticks). Bobby pins. Hot glue. Wire cutters. Optional: wood stapler and staples
1. Cut the bobby pins to different lengths. You can straighten them out to make longer keys. Obviously I kept it simple to 3 bobby pins. You may want to wear eye protection when you do this.
2. Hot glue a tongue depresser onto the board. We did ours about 1.5″ from the edge.
3. Hot glue or staple the bobby pins onto the tongue depresser. Longest to shortest.
4. Hot glue the second tongue depresser on top of the first.
20200521_213013-001
Tada. You can decorate them if you want. And they aren’t very loud. We did two other instruments that I will share soon.
More ideas to come. Stay safe. Stay sane!

More Activities for Bored Kids (and Adults)

There was a week where my kids all had Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease, and I thought I was going to lose my mind. 3 kids, 6 and under. And they can’t go out; I couldn’t go out. I didn’t own very many suitable games back then. I was so determined to do it video game free and minimal TV.
Not that TV would have helped too much. They would get bored and need to be entertained.
And then there are the summers of Southern Arizona. So hot you can bake cookies in your car. No one goes out during certain times unless you can’t help it.
So yeah, I do have a lot of ideas on how to entertain kids. Who are willing to destroy the house or each other to entertain themselves.
1. Build a blanket fort. Like the kind you wish you could’ve when you were a kid. Think of how epic you can make your fort now that you are the adult and have access to all those blankets, pillows, and chairs. Added bonus, perfect nap time areas.
2. Dance party. I’m torturing the boys with mid ’90s dance music. Wait until they hear disco. I randomly dance anyways. I can’t carry a tune, but I can lip sync. And air guitar. Little ones love to dance. And older kids are so much fun to embarrass.
3. Randomly decorate the house. Streamers, balloons, pictures, random party stuff. I decorate the house for May the Fourth every year. This is so much fun with kids. My poor parents.
4. Eat by candlelight. Those battery power ones. For fun, add glow bracelets. To be honest, my kids would spook themselves out. But it was fun while it lasted.
5. If you have Legos, competitions. Fastest car. Tallest tower. Best dinosaur. There are all sorts of cool Lego ideas out there. At my house, we’re behind in opening up Lego sets any ways. Lego days are a huge hit.

6. Sprinklers! Now that some places are getting hot. Or when you get your summers. God, my kids love playing in the sprinklers.
7. Can you hear me? Simon says, except you say “If you can hear me, do….” say it quiet. Come up with as many things as you can. My Cub Scouts get a kick out of this.
8. Speaking of Cub Scouts, you know how I calm down 12 hyper active 9 & 10 year olds? Meditation. 2 minutes of sitting still, listening to rain. I didn’t believe it until I tried it. Even my boys will find me when I meditate, and they just sit with me. It is all sorts of cool and weird.
More to come. Stay safe. Stay sane.

Some Fun Outdoor Crafts

In some part of the country, summer has started. In other parts, it’s spring. For others, it’s still winter. And I am so sorry for you. You’re living in my hell, and I have no crafts for snow.
Luckily where I live it only snows every other year. Seriously, I would die if it snowed in my area.
Which is why I have quite a few outdoor crafts. Because it’s nice usually here. And it gets kids out of the house for a little bit. Especially if you just cleaned the house.
Though some of these crafts are just wait and see like the crayon ones from yesterday.
1. Tracing shadows. I’ve seen it all over about putting toys in front of paper, and tracing shadows. It’s cool. The boys liked doing it when they were little.
But can I suggest even easier art?
2. Fading art. Lay the toy on construction paper outside. The sun will fade the paper, leaving where the toy was still dark. So with that in mind, arrange the toy(s) in an artful way for cool designs. Toddlers will just throw them down. The darker the paper, the better. In Tucson, this takes an hour or so. Basically nap time. Other areas of the country may vary.
07182010 pics - up to 167
3. Fading art with plants. This looks cool when you use cool looking leaves and branches.
4. Reverse the fade. We had dinosaur cut outs that you traced the inside when the boys were little. So the paper faded just the dinosaur. While you might not have something so cool, you can easily cut out designs and shapes to use instead.07182010 pics - up to 16607182010 pics - up to 168
More crafts to come. Hang in there. Stay safe! Stay sane!

Upcycle Broken Crayons

We’re all a little bored right now. Or were if you are lucky to move about now. Did you do a little cleaning? Are you cleaning out your drawers? Have you found a bunch of broken crayons?
First I used to put broken crayons in a plastic travel soap case with a small pad of paper, usually Post-It notes. I would keep this in my purse for times when we had to wait around for something like at the doctor’s or an adult’s house. Maybe your kids have lost all the crayons the restaurant gave them.
Here are some other ways to use crayons. Let the kids help you smash and break the crayons into smaller pieces to make it quicker for the crayons to melt.
1. Make crayons. Break the crayons into smaller pieces. Preheat the oven to 200. Put broken crayons into a muffin tin or silicon molds. Heat for 20 minutes or until melted. Let cool and pop them out.
2. Make crayons. Cheaper or without worrying about your tins and molds. Preheat the oven 200. Cover a cookie tray with foil. Place cupcake wrappers on the try. Put broken crayons in the wrappers. Heat for 20 minutes or until melted. Let cool and pull off wrapper.
3. Make crayons outside. This is for you, Arizona. Put broken crayons in cupcake wrappers. Put wrappers on a paper plate. Place outside. It takes about an hour. Bring inside. Let cool.
07182010 pics - up to 176
07182010 pics - up to 178 These left a grease stain, so hence the paper plate or something underneath the cupcake wrapper.
3.a. I’ve also done this in film canisters. Remember film canisters?
3.b. I wonder if this would work with molds. Hmmm….
3.c I hear it works with plastic medicine bottles. Hmmm…..
4. Make candles. Melt crayons. I prefer a double boiler technique, but you can melt in the microwave. Be mindful of what colors you mix together. Place a wick in a candle holder or baby food jar. Pour in melted wax. When making candles, often the wax will cool with a divet, so hold some wax back to pour in later. You can tie the wick around a pencil or place the wick between two pencils.
More to come. Stay safe! Stay sane!

Let’s Do Some Origami

Let me introduce you to some easy origami. Since I have a hard time trying to fold straight, so if I say this is easy, it’s easy. Origami is a fun activity to do inside, teaching kids (and adults) patience, persistence, and following the directions.

  1. A Whale

 

2. A Doll

20200429_204415

Step 1. Fold the left (or right, just pick a side) a third of the way into the paper.

 

20200429_204454

Step 2. Turn the paper so your folded piece is at the bottom of the paper. Fold your right (or left, just pick a side) a third of the way into the paper. Turn the paper so the white diamond shape is at the top.

 

20200429_204517

Step 3. Flip the paper over. Fold the bottom corner up.

20200429_204643

Step 4. Flip the paper over and draw a face. You can fold the top corner or leave your person with a point.

3. Another Doll. This is the one I used to make for my babysitting chargers.

20200429_205539

Step 1. Fold the paper corner to corner.

20200429_205618

Step 2. Open up the paper. Fold the left corner to the middle. Fold the right corner to the middle.

20200429_205644

Step 3. Fold the bottom corner up all the way until the fold is along where the corners met in the middle. It looks like a neat triangle.

20200429_205733

Step 4. Fold the bottom again, nearly in half. Looks like a cool boat. It sadly doesn’t float.

20200429_205746

Step 5. Flip the paper over. Those corners sticking out are the arms. Fold them in.

20200429_205821

Step 6. Draw a face. Fold the corner back for a flat head. The flat head is suppose to be a boy, and the point is suppose to be a girl. I’m sure it doesn’t matter.

20200429_205855

Fun with paper!

More ideas to come. As I finish grading essays and wrapping the school up. Stay safe! Stay sane!

Let’s Play with Soap

I have so many random crafts and science projects. Seriously, so many. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have ones for soap.

We use soap in Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. And now that I’m writing this, I can think of a couple more that will have to wait until I find the directions. Hopefully they aren’t in deep storage….

While I know many states are letting people out into the world, I know many more are not. It’s frustrating and chaotic. But I still have plenty of crafts to share because before you know it, the kids will be out for summer.
1. Water and Oil and Soap. This is a fun little experiment to show kids what water does to oils. My Girl Scouts loved this. Take a zip lock back fill a 1/3 with water. Add enough oil (canola or whatever) to make a layer. Show the kids how the water and oil don’t get along. Then add dish soap. Dawn works the best. Make sure the bag is sealed. Like really make sure. Then shake it up. The water, oil, and soap combine because the soap binds with the oil. It’s more complicated than that, but yeah.

 


2. Make soap. You could buy soap and melt it and make it. OR you can save all those slivers of soap you’ve been using to really wash your hands. Melt them. I prefer the double broiler to slow microwaving. Pore into molds or into paper cups. Let cool. Pop them out of molds.


2.a I once made soap with toys in them. Lots of fun.


3. Carve soap. This is a Cub Scout activity. Whittle or carve shapes out of soap. I made templates from pictures online like a bear, a whale, a shell, and various simple shapes. We do this in 3rd grade in Cub Scouts. But using a plastic knife, soft soap, and adult supervision, you could probably do it younger.


4. Bubbles! My favorite memory is entertaining the boys when they were little and blowing enough bubbles to fill a mall court yard. It was magical.


5, Homemade bubbles. I lost my recipe. So try these: 4 cups warm water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup blue Dawn dish soap. Mix. OR 2 cups warm water, 1/3 cup dish soap, and 1/4 cup corn syrup. Mix.


6. Bubble wands. Pipe cleaners bent into a closed shape attached to another pipe cleaner, dowel, or stick.


Stay safe! Stay sane! More to come!

Morse Code Activities

You want to know what’s fun? Secret codes.

Breaking them. Learning them. Making them.

Why do you think the Rosetta Stone is so cool? It broke a code.

Why save up box tops or bottle lids for that cool decoder ring? Breaking a secret code!

So while I hunt down my old Cub Scout and Girl Scout Handbooks, let’s start with Morse Code.
1. Teach Morse code. For fun. Or until we need to use it to coordinate a defense against aliens because they are hijacking our satellites.
2. Make secret messages of Morse code on paper. “Send” them to the kids. Let them “send” them to you. I remember a short story as a code where the Grandma made people ring her door bell in a code. It was SOS in Morse code. Do fun ones first. Wait on the “do your chores” message for later.
3. Make secret messages in Morse code with Legos. Or blocks.
4. Make secret messages in Morse code with noodles. Break up spaghetti or use long and short noodles. Glue noodles on paper. Or string them on a string.


5. Make secret messages with beads. Make cool jewelry with a special messages or words.

Morse code - Wikipedia
More to come! Stay safe! Stay sane!

Science and Art and Coffee Filters

How about Science and Art!

I love art. And I love science. I love science demonstrations and experiments. I just like cool things. I like working with my hands. So we do a lot of art and a lot of science.

I’m sure I have pictures of these when the boys were little, and we did these. But I just spent 20 minutes going through hundreds of pictures. So I’ll find them the next time I search the pictures. Or maybe we’ll do some over the weekend. Mwhahaha.
1. Chromatography. Separate the pigments of markers. Fill a couple of glasses with water. Take a coffee filter and color it with markers. I have always had the boys leave the center white and leave a lot of the filter uncolored. But you can color the whole thing or make designs. Once the child is done coloring fold the coffee filter so the bottom is just touching the water. Eventually the water will climb the filter and separate colors or blend them together depending on your white space. Leave them to dry.

20200326_161830


2. You can do this with different types of markers and test the different pigments. We did this in Scouts.


3. Now you have these cool works of art to hang everywhere.


4. Or flowers. Take a few filters and layer them. Fold them into a cone shape, giving the resemblance of a carnation. Tie the bottom with a pipe cleaner.


5. Or butterflies. Take one filter. Fold it in half. Fold a pipe cleaner in half. Put the pipe cleaner up the middle of the filter like you’re cutting the filter in half with the pipe cleaner. Scrunch the filter to form to wings and twist the pipe cleaner at the top to hold the wings and create antennas.


6. Butterflies using 2 filters. Fold both filters in half. Put them straight edge to straight edge and take the pipe cleaner and copy the instructions.


7. Suncatchers. Cut the filters into pieces. Cut a piece of clear contact paper in any shape. Let the child decorate the contact paper with pieces. Cover the pieces with contact paper.


8. Mosaics. Cut the filter into pieces. Let the child glue the pieces in interesting shapes.


More to come stay safe and stay sane!

Some Fun Kid Activities

I’ve been posting lots of crafts, but if you have kids like my boys, they need to move and run and jump and climb and punch. So much punching.

We are taking 3 walks a day. I feel like I’m preparing for being a dog owner.

And watching my kids, I can see how people come to the conclusion video games cause violence. Yes, I know the studies. But they do seem to be more violent when they play more. I feel like that’s really the result of frustration for a difficult game with the high energy combined with no moving.

Here’s some ways to go play with the kids.
1. Stick to the classics. Tag, which never goes out of style. You don’t have to move half the time.  Nerf guns and squirt guns. Jump in there and show the kids who can really shoot. Hide and go seek. Play this one right, and you can snag a 5 minute nap. (What? I couldn’t find you; you’re such a good hider!)

 

2. Put Away Toys by Number. Give the kids a number and they put away that number of toys. I taught my 2 oldest my phone number that way. Or you can race to see who puts away that many toys. Tornado A still loves that game. My mom hates this game.
3. Find the…. When I lived in my own place, I used to hide a dinosaur decorated with glitter and a few flower stickers (because I can). First kid to find it got a piece of candy. I hid an axolotl recently. Unfortunately the boys haven’t found it. Like it’s been over 2 weeks. I’m disappointed.


4. Flash light tag. Tag in the dark. It person has to turn the light on you to tag you. My brothers were pros at this.


5. The Smell Game. Blindfold the child and have them smell spices or various kitchen stuff and have them identify it. Born out of desperation to entertain two little girls. I made them close their eyes and then grabbed jars from their mother’s spice cabinet and had them guess the spice by the smell. I have babysitting chargers all grown up who remember this one.


Good luck! More to come. Stay safe! Stay sane!

Tales from the Great Covid Pandemic

Why write a blog and not tell stories? That was the whole point of this…..

 

Me: I can help you.

Tornado E: You can’t.

Me: I teach freshman English.

Tornado E: But you don’t teach GATE freshman English.

Kid….

***

Me: I can help you.

Tornado E: No, you can’t.

Me: You’re working on English. I’m an English teacher.

Tornado E: Well, you don’t know MLA.

Me: Kid, do you even know what my degree is in?

***

Me: Tornado S, you’re in trouble!

Tornado S: I didn’t do it.

Me: No kidding. I’ve heard from two teachers now. You haven’t done any work for 2 weeks. You’ve just sat in front of the computer doing nothing for TWO WEEKS.

Tornado S: I did science.

Me: Try again. The last teacher that emailed me was your science teacher.

***

My Mom: Fae, you need to go to the grocery store. I forgot to ask you for sour cream.

Me: You sent me yesterday.

My Mom: You’re the only one who can go.

Me: And the day before that. And the day before that.

I am the red shirt of my family.

***

My mom has been making masks.

My mom: Fae, I sold your mask.

Me: You sold my mask? The one you made me last week?

My mom: One of my friends wanted a green one. It’s not like you’ve worn it.

Touche.

***

Tornado A: Hi, Mama! I’m up!

Me: It’s…. 6…. why…?

Doze because I don’t have to commute anymore….

Tornado A: I checked my assignments! I didn’t have any! So I did 3 math exercises and 3 English assignments! So I’m done!

Me: It’s…. 6:30….. Dude, your teacher hasn’t posted anything. I haven’t posted anything!

Tornado A: But I checked!

***

Tornado A: MAMA! I’m done! With all my assignments!

Me: It’s only been twenty minutes!!!

***

My grandma: I need to get milk and eggs and a cake mix.

Me: Why won’t you let me go for you?

My grandma: I’m not frail.

Me: You’re in. the. vulnerable. group.

My grandma: I’ll be fine.

Me: I have charts and articles. I’ll bore you with research.

My grandma: Fine. If it makes you feel better, go.

***

Me: Are you done with homework?

Tornado E: …. Yes….

Me:…..

Tornado E: (nods and smiles)

Me:…….

Tornado E: ….Maybe…..

Me: Do you work.

Tornado E: (sighs, grumbles, goes to his desk) mumbles something

***

Me: Are you done with your work?

Tornado E: I’m watching something first (on his phone).

Me: Is it for school?

Tornado E: ….Yes…..

Tornado E’s phone: *%$!@

Me: Your phone tells me that’s a lie. Do your work.

***

Me: Did you read?

Tornado S: YES!

Me: Was it game stats online?

Tornado S: Yes!

Me: Go read an actual book.

Tornado S: But-

Me: Now.

***

Tornado S: I don’t see why I can’t read online.

Me: Are you reading game stats?

Tornado S: I was researching.

Me: Game stats?

Tornado S: What does it matter? Reading is reading. It’s all the same.

Me: Can you make connections? Predictions? Analyze theme, plot, characters?

Tornado: I’ll get a book. (mumbles something about teachers and mothers.)

***

My mom: Fae, I need green onions.

Me: I’ll put it on the list. I’m going now.

My mom: Do you have your mask?

Me: Yeah!

My mom: Let me see.

Me:….

***

Me: Why does my face mask smell of peanuts?

***

When you wear a face mask, no one can see you mouth cuss words. Even when you wear a face mask, people can still hear you cuss though.