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.
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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!

Things You Can Dye For Crafts

I’ve done a lot of crafts with my boys. As you may have guessed. And I get a lot of crazy ideas. Which you may have guessed by now. In fact, I do have a way of saying, “Ok, I have an idea!” My children are used to it. My co-teacher just rolls with it. My senior teacher’s assistant last year would get a look of horror on her face. Which, to be honest, is fair.
Guys, I have a Poet-tree in my classroom.
I compiled a surprisingly short list of things that I’ve dyed over the years. I used food dye for most of them. Usually mixed with water. I let them soak in plastic cups and then set them on paper plates or trays with foil or wax to dry. These are good for texture crafts. Or just letting your kid put down glue and sprinkle it on.
Things I’ve dyed for the boys to use in art projects:
1. Sand (water and food dye)
2. Rice (water or rubbing alcohol and food dye. When the boys were small and I thought they would eat it, I did water and food dye.)
3. Salt (food dye. Don’t mix with your hands. It takes a long time to get off your hands.)
4. Egg shells (food dye and vinegar or egg-dying tables and water and vinegar. I’ve dyed empty shells with a hole in them. I’ve dyed egg shell halves. I’ve dyed crushed egg shell pieces.)
5. Dried pasta (food dye and water. I hear food dye and vinegar works as well, but when I dyed them, I was sure the boys would eat it. Also you could just by colored pasta because that’s a thing.)
6. Coffee filters (This is the markers and water, but I have made them for other crafts and not just for science, so I’m counting it.)
7. Sea shells (This didn’t go over as well. I should try it again. Food dye and water. Don’t use vinegar. I ended up painting them.)
8. Flour clay. Vinegar. Baking soda. Honestly I’ve dyed so many things. A dress…. that didn’t work out and wasn’t for a craft/
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.

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!

Mail Time!

What is more exciting to open the mail box and have something other than junk mail and bills? Ok, a package. But also just mail from someone.
Kids rarely get mail. They love it.
Heck, stop at a mail box and mail your own kids mail.
Things to send in the mail:
1. Send origami that you just learned to make.
2. Send postcards you collected and never sent.
3. Send recycled post cards. You know that stack of cards you have and should toss? Rip off the front cover and send it as a postcard.
4. Send cards. Homemade or not. Random valentine cards left over from years ago. I have so much random stationary. I inherited it from my great aunts. Heck, I have a friend who seems to always be sick, so I send her Get Well cards even if I have no idea if she’s sick or not.
5. Make your own stationary. Remember when I talked about stamps? Use stamps to make stationary.
5.a. Draw your own stationary. I had an artist friend who would do this. It was so cool to see her art work.
6. Send stickers. Everyone loves stickers! I still send stickers to my friends.
7. Send homemade art. Same artist friend used to send me her art too. My dad has an old friend who is a cartoonist and would send my dad a cartoon every once in a while.
8. Send homemade bookmarks.

Send mail. It’s fun.

More to come! Stay safe. Stay sane.

Easy Crafts: Origami

First I suck at folding; so when I tell you it’s easy, believe me. Like I can’t do the crane that everyone does. “It’s so easy.” No, it’s not. “See, just fold here and here and here.” And they lift up this beautiful crane, and I lift up a colorful wad of paper, perfect for making baskets with the trash can.

It’s why I keep all the cranes kids make for me. Only in high school, the kids make them out of tiny candy wrappers. And I’m doubly-impressed. Also as high school teacher, you don’t get many gifts or pictures, so you really treasure the ones you do get.
When I was a cool teenage babysitter, this was always a fun craft. I would fold pieces for the kids, and we would make all sorts of stories and plays. As my chargers got older, I taught them how to fold the simple pieces…. until they learned to fold cranes and laugh when I would be at a loss as they tried to teach me.

My nemesis, folks, paper cranes.

Some easy one origami.
1. The dog. (a favorite among babysitting charges and Cub Scouts)
2. The cat. (Another favorite)
3. The whale.
4. The fox.
5. The elephant.
Here’s a site for them: https://www.origamiway.com/easy-origami.shtml
7. The house. I would fold this for a set piece, but I don’t remember if it was easy or not.
8. The prince.
9. The princess.


My original origami book that I had as a teenager is in deep storage. I cannot find a site for the prince and princess. For many days, I looked. I kept folding the paper in different ways until I figured it all out again.

So coming soon. Pictures and directions.

If you don’t have fancy paper, cut a square out of regular paper. I don’t recommend construction paper.


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

More Bookmark Crafts

I told you that I had more.

I meant to post this on Monday, which means I had to get it together on Sunday, but I was buried in school work. This emergency remote teaching is so hard and time consuming. Then I spent most of my weekend with a body that was like screw-this-you-need-to-nap. I hate it when my body betrays me.

But crafts! And bookmarks!
1. Craft foam and foam stickers. I don’t like these much because they are too thick. Try regular stickers.
2. Duct tape and cardboard. I mean the cool, fun duct tape. But sure, you can use the silver kind. I bet with some stickers it would look cool.
3. Ribbon with a few beads. Knot both sides of the beads to keep the beads from sliding. I made some sophisticated ones with clamps and charms.
4. Popsicle sticks. Paint them. Use markers. Make them look like minions. Use duct tape.


5. Collage. Take a piece of card stock or cardboard and just glue on cool pictures and words.


6. Black out poetry. Cut out a page of a horrible book or an article. Circle a few words for poetry, black out the rest. Cover with clear packaging tape or contact paper.


7. Ribbon breads or friendship bracelets.


8. If you have random piles of fabric or scrapbook paper, let your kid roam through that to make cool bookmarks.

Happy Reading!
Good luck! Stay safe! Stay sane!

Bookmark Crafts! Part 1

Did someone say bookmarks?
Nobody ever says bookmarks. Sigh. (I hope you had a sight gag in your mind for that, and then me shaking my head sadly.)

But I have 2 days of bookmark crafts. Because they’re easy. And I think they’re fun. My boys did too…. once… before it became a huge thing. They make great gifts for readers. And they’re easy to mail in an envelope to cheer someone up.
1. Stickers and construction paper. Easy. Fancy it up with covering it with clear contact paper or clear packing tape. Punch a hole; add ribbon.
2. Paint samples and stickers. Easy. Fancy it up with covering it with clear contact paper or clear packing tape. Punch a hole; add a ribbon.
3. Paint samples and cool hole punches. That is if you have a cool hole puncher. Why do I own random stuff? Maybe you could make cool designs with a regular hole punch….


4. Card stock/paper and thumbprints. Just random thumbprints. Or make cool pictures out of thumbprints like flowers, birds, or monsters. Fancy it up with clear packing tape or clear contact paper. Punch a hole; add a ribbon.


5. Glue pressed flowers on a card stock. Cover with clear packing tape or clear contact paper.


6. Clear contact paper and confetti or cut pieces of colored tissue paper. To fancy it up, punch a hole, and add a ribbon.


7. Have the child draw a drawing. Take a picture. Adjust the size and print it out. (hell, just have the kid draw on a piece of paper and add a ribbon.)


8. Craft foam and markers.


More to come. Like seriously, I have more of these. At least another day. I’m sure if I went though my notebooks, Pinterest, photos, and old posts, I would have more.

Stay safe. Stay sane.

Canned Crescent Roll Ideas

How many of you are getting bored with eating the same old thing? How many of your kids are getting bored eating the same thing? How many of you are bored with making the same thing?

Some of us don’t have the time, energy, or know-how to make gourmet meals right now. Here are a few ideas on using canned crescent rolls. All kid approved. It’s also a great way to start with some light cooking. Let the kiddos help. I find they are more likely to eat something that they made themselves.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Open up your rolls, spread them out, and add the ingredients. Roll them up and bake them like the directions say.

1. Spread cream cheese and sprinkle your favorite seasoning. I prefer garlic. To add extra flavor, brush melted butter and add a sprinkle of seasoning.
2. Half a stick of string cheese. To add extra flavor, brush on melted butter and sprinkle dried garlic or Parmesan cheese.


3. Half a stick of string cheese and few pepperoni slices. To add extra flavor, brush butter and sprinkle garlic, Italian seasoning, or Parmesan cheese. Add tomato sauce as a dip.


4. A few chocolate chips. I went a little crazy and made and added chocolate shavings.


5. Nutella. Chocolate shavings on those too.


6. Butter cinnamon and brown sugar.

7. A friend recommended ham and cheddar. Her son loves them, so she makes them and freezes them two in a bag.


Somethings we haven’t tried, but I want to. Cheddar. A slice of turkey or ham and cheese. A slice of apple. Jelly.

Good luck. Stay safe. Stay sane.

Stamps! Create your own stamps!

Kids love working with paint and ink. It’s fun. Try it.

So why do I have so many ideas? Because I have been working with kids for a long time and busy kids are happier and less trouble than bored kids. Even as a teenage babysitter, I did crafts with the kids.

The more you do with your kids, the more memories you make. But really it’s about keeping them from destroying the house and your sanity as well as keeping the next battle to the death from happening. Art is good for the soul. For the kids and you.
1. Yesterday I mentioned using leaves and paint for stamps.
2. Potatoes and Paint. Cut a potato in half; it doesn’t matter which way. Toddlers don’t care if you leave like that. Just make sure they are stamping cut side down because toddlers don’t care. Older kids will figure it out. You can carve the potato into a shape. You can carve something into the potato bottom, like a smiley face. Or get really good and carve out something from the potato.
3. Apples and paint. I’ve always cut horizontally across the apple. But now I wonder what vertical apples do. You can carve a shape, but the seeds and the shape of the apple are cool. Apples are more slippery to hold than potatoes.


4. Sponges and paint. Sure, you could stick with rectangles. Or you could cut sponges in all sorts of shapes. I used hot glue to create handles on mine to help toddler hands.


5. Craft foam and paint. You can cut craft foam into shapes and then use them to stamp. I glued the individual shapes onto squares of craft foam to give a better grip to the stamps.


5.a. Craft foam stickers and pant. Stick the stickers on craft foam squares or blocks of wood. Or you could stick them onto lids from milk containers or soda bottles.


6. Hands and paint. The internet is filled with cute things you can make with hand prints. You can just leave it has hand prints or you can decorate them into objects and animals. Everyone remembers The Turkey. I have had my boys put hand prints on shirts, towels, tiles, and Christmas ornaments. It’s also fun to just play with paint and hands. Ink is cool, but there’s something about the feel of paint squishing between your fingers.


Bonus. A great time to go over those hand washing skills!
More to come! Stay safe! Stay sane!