The first time I saw embroidery hoop art pop up on Pinterest or some other artsy site I was browsing instead of making dinner or doing other productive things, I thought, “What a great, cheap idea!” I have a billion scraps of fabric and just as much, if not more, empty space on the walls (coincidentally, I also have a stack of picture frames that “I’ll put up this weekend” shoved in a corner of the apartment somewhere), so I figured the next time I was at the store I’d just grab some embroidery hoops and then, voila, I’d be hip and modern with my super-trendy wall art.
One day I went to the craft store and looked at the embroidery hoops. I don’t remember what store I was in, but it must have been some upscale place because the price of the wooden embroidery hoops suggested they were made out of ancient, ten thousand year old rare trees. It was wood! Why was it so expensive? I picked up a plastic hoop and decided that it, too, must have been made out of ancient, ten thousand year old rare neon blue plastic for the price. Flabbergasted, I returned home and stuffed my fabric back into its bin. I wanted trendy art but not for that price!
I swung by Goodwill a few weeks ago to look for some cheap t-shirts for my kids. Way in the back of the store there was a little shelf marked “Crafts, Sewing, etc.” I hadn’t recalled seeing that before and wandered over. Immediately, wooden circles caught my eye—embroidery hoops! They must have been made out of normal, mortal-realm wood because the price was just as thrifty as I’d hoped. I brought them home, pleased that I would finally have something Pinterest-y in my home.
So I like to sew. I have a cheap plastic sewing machine, and what feels like a 5000 lb vintage cast iron sewing machine, and between the two of them I can usually sew whatever I need to, unless it’s something like a king size quilt, because we don’t have room for a quilting machine in our apartment because dumb things like the stove and refrigerator are in the way. But, sometimes I need to hand sew something a little more delicate, or I’m just way too lazy to clear off the dining table and yank out the sewing machine and all the STUFF that goes along with it. One day, I was repairing a small hole on the seam of a sweater by hand, squinting and remembering that once long ago I wore glasses and whatever happened to them anyway?, when my 2 year old came over and asked what I was doing.
“Sewing up a hole in Mommy’s sweater,” I explained.
She stood up tall and declared in the way of two year olds, “Ok. I sew too.”
Now what? I had some large, dull embroidery needles and some yarn. Sewing/threading boards are all over the place—wooden or plastic boards with large holes in them that kids can practice sewing on—but we didn’t have one. So, I put my sewing aside and declared that it was now time for an art project.
Soon, it will be the holidays.
Soon, hundreds of thousands of families will pack their kids up and travel.
Soon, parents will be rubbing their temples and buying headache medication in giant Costco-sized containers.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. Parents hit the road (or sky), not necessarily because they want to, as in during the summer, but because of family obligations and gatherings. It can be hard enough to entertain a child when you’re at home surrounded by their favorite toys, but how to do so while travelling, possibly cramped in a small vehicle for hours at a time, without resorting to gluing your kid to the iPad for 6 straight hours? Thankfully, some smart parent before me has solved this problem with the invention of “busy bags”—small bags with a travel-sized activity to keep your kids busy. While there are a million different types of bags you can put together, here are three easy, low-budget ones.
My two year old is currently obsessed with the moon. She’s always liked looking at it when it’s visible, but it was always more of a “Oh look, a moon, hey a worm on the ground, Mommy can I have apple juice?” sort of thing. Then one day I grabbed a science preschool moon book off the shelf at a thrift store to keep her quiet. Best $0.79 I’ve spent in a long time—it became her nighttime “Again, again!” read. She learned all the phases of the moon and eagerly ran to her window before bedtime to see what the moon looked like that night. She pointed out the moon in every other book or video she had. Everything was suddenly all about the moon, all the time.
We pulled out a book of nursery rhymes one day and read “Hey Diddle Diddle.” My daughter pointed to the picture and said, “The cow is jumping da moon? What, dat’s SILLY.” It was the most hilarious thing she’d apparently seen in a long time. So, we made a cow-jumping-over-the-moon craft, made out of simple shapes and supplies so my 2 year old could do as much as she could on her own.
- A white circle. A paper plate would work perfectly for this, but we were out so we used a circle of construction paper instead
- A piece of paper to make spots for the cow, if your cow is the spotted kind.
- More paper to make the cow’s head and legs
Like many kids, my toddler loves playing with cloud dough. However, her baby brother has begun playing with her and of course, he’s in the stage where he assumes everything is edible.
Starting your baby on solid food is a strangely controversial milestone. Many people recommend spoon feeding rice cereal starting at age 4 months because “it will help them sleep through the night.” On the far other side of the spectrum, parents exclusively nurse until their child develops a pincer grip around 9 months and then feed them nothing but organic, homegrown fruits and veggies. Plenty of Internet Wars have begun over these differences. Friends have become enemies. Countries have been decimated.
My daughter loves being in the kitchen. Whenever my husband or I walk in there—even if it’s just to grab a glass of water—she charges in, climbs up on her learning tower platform and eagerly looks at the counter, waiting for the tasty things that often happen there. I love encouraging her love of cooking, measuring ingredients and eating them as well, but sometimes I just don’t want to cook. Or, it’s 9am and she just finished breakfast five minutes ago. This paint project is created and cooked in the kitchen, and is edible, though not recommended, just in case your little one sneaks a taste. And, honestly, they ALWAYS sneak a taste, don’t they?
Cruising through Pinterest and ignoring the pile of dishes in the sink, I came across a neat idea—water walls! Parents stapled and glued funnels, tubes, and old soda bottles to boards and fences in the backyard, so kids could pour water in one end and watch it flow, trickle, and sprinkle down to the ground. It was a great idea and my toddler loves playing with water—but there was one problem. Backyards tend not to exist when you live on the top floor of a city apartment, so I tried to think creatively. Man, if ONLY we had an indoor wall that could get wet, and a way to easily drain the water so it wasn’t all over the floor…
Oh. Right. The bathtub.
I remember bounding up to the front of my kindergarten class one breezy fall morning. I was super excited and had bounced in my seat in the car on the way to school until my mom told me to stop because I was shaking the whole car. It was my birthday, and now I was five, but I didn’t care about that. What I wanted was my book. See, my kindergarten teacher had a huge box of shiny new books she pulled out on every child’s birthday, and you got to choose whatever book you wanted. Then she’d smile, and with a blue Sharpie write, “Happy birthday! Love, Mrs. O,” on the inside cover. I had watched other children beaming as they slid their chosen book into their backpacks—of course, there were a couple of kids who tossed their books in, hardly looking at them, which I never understood—and stared longingly at the box of books as Mrs. O tucked it back into her cabinet until the next birthday. I knew exactly which book I wanted, and when Mrs. O started morning circle by saying, “Let’s all sing to the birthday girl!” I instantly forgot the classroom rule of walking nicely around people and plowed straight through my classmates and yelled, “I want Chicka Chicka Boom Boom please!” I don’t even remember the rest of the day, if I had cake or ice cream or any of the other presents I’m sure I received. I just know I hugged Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to my chest with a giant smile on my face.
If you’re a child, you might look outside and see skies that are a little more blue, breathe in air that’s a little more fresh, hear a few more birds chirping, and see the bright green buds of flowers unfurling from the ground. The world is changing and full of wonder. If you’re an adult, you might look outside and see sunlight still streaming through your child’s windows at bedtime, breathe in air that makes you sneeze, hear the incessant screech of birds at 5am, and see the unwelcome buds of flowers that promise to spray pollen at your nose every time you walk by. The world is changing and full of minor annoyances that only exist at this time of year. However you look at it, spring has arrived.
One fine spring morning, I decided we’d drive to the local university to see the cherry blossoms blooming on the trees. Then I actually pulled up the blinds and saw the dark clouds rolling towards us, plump with rain. The next day was the same, with an added bonus of extreme wind. The third day I was getting a little desperate and tried to point out the blossoming trees you could kind of see from our top-floor apartment window. My two year old glanced out, blandly noted that a city bus was driving by, then continued painting her limbs purple with a jar of tempura paint. I gave up and decided if we couldn’t go see spring blossoms, by golly we’d make our own.
- Tissue paper or colored coffee filters
- Sticks or branches
- Construction paper
- Glue strong enough to keep sticks on the construction paper
Many parents proudly proclaim that they and their kids “went on a nature walk today!” Living in the downtown area of the city makes nature walks a little harder to do. I can’t even get to a park without driving there or walking ten blocks up a steep hill (hence, the driving). Rather than going on a “nature walk,” it’s more like “we went on a walk and accidentally ran into nature along the way.” Don’t get me wrong, I love that my toddler daughter likes to explore and learn what bits of the world aren’t just never-ending traffic and sirens and pavement and the skyscrapers she calls “da big, big houses!” But everything she finds comes home with us. Flowers? Rocks? Sticks? A worm? Bottle cap? They all come home tucked away in her crevices of her carseat, or pockets, or shoes, or the diaper bag; her hoarding is evident everywhere. The other day she carefully poured a scoopful of dirt into my pocket because she had no room for it in her own stuff.
One day, while browsing Pinterest (of course), I came across a project someone did for her daughter she named the “Fairy Loom.” It was the perfect solution to the nature hoarding issue, although I renamed it the “Nature Stick” for my daughter since she doesn’t care about fairies, but loves sticks. It works well as a storage solution, a toy, and a decoration.