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Hot Rocks and Old Crayons

An easy art project for all ages.

An easy art project for all ages.

Got some old crayons laying around? Turn them into masterpieces!

Heat rocks from your garden in the oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. (Smooth rocks work best.) The rocks will be hot to the touch, but not dangerously so. Use hot pads just in case, to protect your kitchen table.

Then color with old crayons. The wax will melt on contact, producing a beautiful paint-like effect.


Corking with your Knitting Nancy

Corking materials, ready to go!

Corking materials, ready to go!


Corking, aka finger knitting, aka using a knitting Nancy, aka knitting with a tower, is a fun way for kids as young as four to develop the fine motor muscles needed for good handwriting. It’s also a great activity to occupy children on long car trips.

We have the  Camden Rose Knitting Nancy) as well as the book Corking (Kids Can Do It) by Judy Ann Sadler.

The book has a bunch of ways you can make DIY corkers using cans and nails. But knitting Nancy’s aren’t that expensive to buy.

The hardest part is getting the Nancy going. (Um… that came out wrong!) Here are some pictures to help you get started:

Step one: hook a slip-not over the first peg. Pull the tail of the yarn through the knitting Nancy.

Step one: hook a slip-knot over the first peg. Pull the tail of the yarn through the knitting Nancy.

Step two: pull yarn straight back and then front.

Step two: pull yarn straight back and then front.

Step three: keep going back and then front until all of the pegs have a loop on them.

Step three: keep going back and then front until all of the pegs have a loop on them.

Step four:  pull the yarn over the loop on the first peg.

Step four: pull the yarn over the loop on the first peg.

Step five: pull the bottom loop over the top. Repeat on the following pegs!

Step five: pull the bottom loop over the top. Repeat on the following pegs!

This feels very similar to “finger weaving” which I used to do in Girl Scouts. The only main difference is that with corking, you end up with more of a hollow tube creation. You can stick pipe cleaners up the yarn to make fun shapes.


A Gift Idea Kids Can Make for Grandparents

Hello readers! I’m very excited to share a guest post today from Darlene Beck Jacobson. 

You can find more of Darlene’s crafts, recipes and activities for children by visiting her Blog: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com  Website: www.darlenebeckjacobson.com or on Twitter @dustbunnymaven .

Darlene’s Middle Grade Historical book WHEELS OF CHANGE is coming out in 2014 with Creston Books.

(Photo curtsey of Darlene Beck Jacobson)

(Photo curtsey of Darlene Beck Jacobson)

Here is a great last minute gift idea your kids can make for grandparents:


Take 1 cup of cinnamon, 1 cup of applesauce and 3 tablespoons of white glue. Mix it into a dough . Roll it out and cut into festive shapes with cookie cutters. Poke a hole in the top with a straw to put a ribbon through. Let them dry over night. When dry, you can wrap them as is (they smell heavenly) or paint the front with glue and sprinkle with glitter for a “sparkly” touch.

I made these with my children years ago and they still smell great every Christmas when I hang them on the tree.

Food for thought: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song. ” Lou Holtz

During this holiday season, tap your “inner bird” and sing!

Cinnamon star ornaments are a fun craft to make.

Easy Halloween Game

All you need is cardboard

All you need is cardboard

Here’s a fun idea from my son’s Cub Scout book. You take a cardboard box, and set it up so that it becomes a pumpkin toss game.

Then grab some pennies or an old bean bag, and you’re all ready to play!

P.S. If you count the pennies as they go into the pumpkin’s mouth, then this becomes a learning activity for preschoolers.


Remember when my daughter and I started our fairy-house village? (It has since expanded, btw.)


Another thing we did that day was make sunprints. That was one of my favorite types of art to do when I was little. The only problem back then was, acquiring the sunprint paper.

Now of course, Amazon makes everything easy:

Step #1 is to put flowers down on your paper.  I don’t have a picture of that part.

Step #2: Out in the sun for 5 minutes.

Step #2: Out in the sun for 5 minutes.

Step #3: Rinse with cold water.

Step #3: Rinse with cold water.

Step #4: Dry

Step #4: Dry



My son is itching to try making sunprints with negatives. Good luck finding those!  So we’re waiting on Auntie to mail us some when she gets the film in her old fashioned camera developed.

I actually had a very funny conversation with my 8-year-old explaining to him what negatives were.  I feel old…

Logic Cards for Preschoolers

Here’s a fun, fun game our whole family played at dinner tonight.

Putting one card at a time in the middle of the dinner table, I gave the prompt: “Which one is different?”  Jenna(3) gave the answers.  Bruce(7) was the person who got to say “You are correct!”

(If you click on the pictures they will get bigger.)

The cards got progressively harder, but only a few of them were too hard for Jenna.  She loved this activity.

None of the cards were too hard for Bruce.  He was kind of disappointed that I didn’t have a set designed for him, so that’s my goal for tomorrow.

The cards were super easy to make using these stamp thing-a-ma-jiggers that Jenna got for Christmas.  She did art while I made a bunch of learning tools for the future.

One final note.  Anyone familiar with the CogAT can probably see the way my mind is working…

Preschool Art and Self Portraits

Do you keep track of how your preschooler sees herself?  In March I did a post about Preschool Self Portraits.  Here it is six months later and you can already see a lot of progress.  Now Jenna is drawing head shapes, hair and two people on one page!

Jackson Pollock for kids

Here’s the next to the last “Art on Monday” activity from my A STEM Summer plans. (When life gets less crazy I’ll go back and update the rest, so they will be all ready to go for people next June.)

Today’s activity from Irene Luxbacher’s book 123 I Can Paint, was definitely Jackson Pollock inspired. Thankfully the weather cooperated and we could do this project outside. First we taped off sections of our paper, and then we splattered away. The vocabulary word of the day was “technique”.

Things got really messy! It’s been a long time since I have had to physically carry my son Bruce(7) up to the bath, but I did not want to get paint on my white carpet.  Jenna(3) even had paint in her hair!

But all of that mess was worth it, because we had so much fun.

Normally I share who painted each piece, but this time I’ll let you guess!

Art on Mondays, Day 5

Full confession. My A STEM Summer right now is looking more like AAAAAA! That’s because our family has been hitting the trails, spending time in the backyard, and trying to escape the heat because it is finally hot. None of us are use to 90 degree heat, but maybe it will be good for my tomatoes.

The Bardsley men climbed Mt. Si last week when it was still cooler. We are all pretty impressed for Bruce(7) hiking the whole 8 miles without one complaint! When they got to the top, my husband harnessed Bruce up and he even climbed the “haystack”.  I’m glad I wasn’t there to freak out!

It was fitting then, that our latest 123 I Can Paint art lesson had to do with painting mountains. It was also a big “a ha” moment for Jenna(3) because she happened upon making pink paint for the first time, and was very proud of herself.

Here’s Jenna’s work. She’s 3.

Here’s Bruce’s work. He’s 7. Can you see how much he is improving?

Here’s my result. Whoo hoo! I finally seem to be teaching these kids something about art even though I don’t know what the heck I am doing.

Finally, I wanted to share this fabulous front page article from the Sunday Herald yesterday about plans to expand North Cascades National Park. It’s too bad that my days of writing letters to the editor are over! My father-in-law was president of the North Cascades Conservation Council for 17 years, and so all of us Bardsleys are really excited for the public to know more about how beautiful North Cascades National park is, and why it is worth protecting.

Art on Mondays, Day 4

Egads! It was Monday again and time to paint. My kids have been asking me every day to “do art” and I kept holding them off until Monday because I’m pathetic, and start hyperventilating when I think about the mess it’s going to create. But at least with Irene Luxbacher’s 123 I Can Paint, I have a plan.

Lesson #4 (pp 12-13) is called “Busy and Bright” and it teaches the vocabulary word complimentary colors. It also uses a technique where you squirt blobs of paint on your background color, and then use scraps of cardboard to pull down the paint and make them look like buildings.

In retrospect, I can see what I did wrong as the art teacher this time. (That’s an improvement, because normally I can’t even figure out what I did wrong as an art teacher, even though I clearly messed up.) This time, I didn’t squirt big enough blobs of paint on the background. So when Bruce tried to pull down the skyscrapers, they were really sparse. He of course freaked out, and then I had to cajole him back to the table with a lot of Mindset coaching. “Well of course it will look awful if you give up half way through. Stick it out and it will look better. I think this is hard too, but that’s what makes it so fun”. etc.

Bruce did make it back to the table, and I think his end was result was pretty good. All of the drama meant that I never actually introduced the concept of complimentary colors and we also never put the finishing touches on our paintings which were supposed to include a road, people and cars. Whatever. Don’t’ blame Irene Luxbacher. This was all my fault!

This is Jenna’s. She’s 3.

Here is Bruce’s work.  He’s 7.

Here are my results. I would appear that I am an 8-year-old painting, but really I’m in my 30s. 🙂

Art on Mondays, Day 3

Once again my usual disclaimer: I AM SO NOT AN ART MOM!!!! Irene Luxbacher’s 123 I Can Paint is helping me change this (hopefully) and give my kids a chance to get messy. (Here are my Week 3 plans for A STEM Summer.)

Lesson #3 (pp 10-11) is called “Warm and Friendly” and it teaches the concepts warm colors vs. cool colors . I don’t know what went wrong with this activity. Things were going okay, but then we all ended up with way too much paint on our paper.  When it dried, Bruce’s flowers all melted together. Clearly I do not know what I am doing as an art teacher! On the plus side, we are learning about blending colors and the different shapes and brush strokes you can make with different brushes.

This is Bruce’s final product. He’s 7.

This is Jenna’s work. She’s 3.

Here are my results. I would appear that I am an 8-year-old painting, but really I’m in my 30s.  🙂

Art on Mondays, Day 2

I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again:  I AM SO NOT AN ART MOM!!!!  Oh my goodness this summer is really pushing me out of my comfort zone.  We didn’t even own any paint before I started my A STEM Summer plans.  Irene Luzbacher’s 123 I Can Paint is the perfect, inexpensive book for me because it is holding my hand through the whole process. (Here are my Week 2 plans for A STEM Summer.)

Lesson #21 (pp 8-9) is called “Light and Dark” and it teaches the vocabulary word tone.

This is Bruce’s final product. He’s 7.

This is Jenna’s work. She’s almost 3.

Here are my results. I’m 30-something. 🙂

Chihuly for Kids

Last weekend my family went to visit the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. Afterwards we ate lunch at Collections Cafe, which is part of Chihuly Garden and Glass and located right at the base of the Space Needle. In all honestly, it was the most pleasant meal my family has had in recent memory.

The weather was nice, we were seated outside, there was live music off in the distance, and my children were (for once) well behaved and ate everything on their plates. Bruce and Jenna shared grilled cheese, French fries, watermelon, berries, cookies and milk. I had an excellent gluten free chicken salad with pear cider, and my husband ordered a hamburger. We paid about $15 more than if we had eaten in the nearby food court, but this was money well spent.

The surreal moment for me as a mommy-blogger, was sitting at our table and using my husband’s smart phone to look up a blog post on Exploring More that shared ways to teach your children about Dale Chihuly. My seven-year-old was instantly hooked by Mr. Chihuly’s eye-patch and wanted to learn more. So the next day we did our own Chihuly inspired art project, taking our directions from the Boston based author of Exploring More .

For our version, we painted white coffee filters with finger paint. Then we arranged the filters over plastic cups to dry. While they were drying we gave them a good dose of spray starch which I purchased at Fred Meyer for about $2. The filters were so wet by this point that it took a full 24 hours for them to dry.

Once the filters were dry I (the adult) used a hot glue gun to attach them all together, and finish our “installation”. This ended up being a family art project, because it took all of our filters together to create one piece.

My mom and some out of town guests have already visited the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit and absolutely loved it, but Grandma cautioned me that it would probably not be a very fun place to take children who “had a hard time containing themselves”. Since my own kids make me nervous just standing next to my china cabinet, I don’t know if I’ll be taking my kids to the Glasshouse anytime soon. We will certainly be going back to the restaurant however! 🙂

Art on Mondays, Day 1

Can I just confess that I am soooooo not an “art mom”?  But when I read things like Raising Artistic Children on blogs like Exploring More I get inspired.

For the Art on Mondays segment of my A STEM Summer plans, I needed something really basic and teacher-proof (although I HATE that term).  Irene Luzbacher’s 123 I Can Paint is the perfect, inexpensive book for me because it is holding my hand through the whole process.  (Here are my Week 1 plans for A STEM Summer.)

Just unleashing my two-year-old with finger paint inside my house is scary to me.  But I’m coping.

Lesson #1 (pp 6-7) is called Mix it Up and it teaches the terms primary and secondary colors.

This is Bruce’s final product.  He’s 7.

This is Jenna’s work.  She’s almost 3.

Here are my results.  I’m 30ish.  🙂

A Really Cool Art Book

Normally I have harsh words for so-called educational workbooks you find at Costco. (The phrase “soul-crushing” comes to mind.) I’m not a big fan of workbooks in general, unless you are going to be trapped with your kids on an airplane, and in that case –load up! But Let’s Make Some Great Art, by Marion Deuchars is different.

Repetitive sentence-phrasing alert! Normally, I don’t include pictures of the insides of books because I try to stay vigilant about not infringing on copyrights, but you really have to see inside Let’s Make Some Great Art to see why I like it so much.

There are lots of “how-to” drawing tutorials…

…as well as several art history lessons and introductions to famous artists.

I was actually quite tempted to buy two of these books; one for Bruce(7) and one for myself. But since I’m not exactly sure when I would find time for myself to draw, I just bought one book and put it in Bruce’s summer basket.

As it turns out, my mom had purchased Marion Deuchar’s Let’s Make Some Great Placemat Art to keep at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. It’s a lot less educational, but still fun. Let’s Make some great Placemat Art would be a good choice for an emergent reader…or anyone facing a long car-trip this summer with kids in the backseat.