Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"My Favorite Books" Themed Birthday Party

My baby big boy turned 2 this week and I wanted to share a few of the elements from his birthday party.  We follow the AAP's recommendations on screen time (no screen time before age 2) so we had some trouble thinking of a "theme" for his party.  Sure, he loves all things Elmo (he's going to flip when he sees Elmo talking on TV for the first time!) and he thinks he likes Dory and Monster's Inc. and Mickey Mouse because they are on his underpants.  None of these are his favorite though.  He's also crazy for tractors but I don't see that trend going anywhere so why have a tractor themed party when we'll have 5 more over the next several years?  So what does he really truly love more than anything?  Books.

Books are the answer.  But how to theme it creatively?  If you've got a reading-loving-kid this book party is easy to put together and personalized just for them!

[Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  Purchasing items through the links gives me a small commission with no extra charge to you.  I only link up products I personally use and trust.  Thank you for supporting my blog.]

"My Favorite Books" Birthday Party

The food was themed to fit each of his favorite books and his *slightly less but still obsessed* favorite books were used in decor around the house.  We also came up with table decorations that served as activities or information about the birthday boy!

Here are a list of his favorite books and how I related them to food.  Of course, use your child's favorites and get creative (Hint: Dips and Punches can be re-named anything you want if you are struggling to come up with a tie-in!)

- A Tale of Two Beasts - "Strange Beast Party Punch"

101 Dalmatians - "Puppy Chow" Chex Mix

Babybug - "Goldfish" (On the label, I quoted one of the lines from his favorite mini-story in the book- 'and a happy goldfish coming home with me!')

Old MacDonald Had a Farm (this is the BEST version of this book I've ever seen!) - "Wiggly Jig Pigs in a Blanket"

-Bear in a Square - "My favorite shapes" Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

-Caps for Sale - "Monkey Business" chips and dip

-Blueberries for Sal - "Sal's Blueberries (and other yummy fruits!)"

Easy DIY personalized decorations too!

It's important to me that birthday parties tell the story of the person who is having the birthday.  It's all about them because well- it's their birthday after all!  So on each table I included the following decorations/activities:

{A special note for the Birthday Boy}

Using the same tutorial that I did in THIS POST I created a dry erase board out of an old frame and asked guests to write the birthday boy a special message that will later be put into his birthday scrapbook.  I presented it next to his Melissa & Doug Animal Rescue Shape-Sorting Truck (which he loves but calls his "ambulance") with blank cards on top and a stack of pens.

Once guests were finished with their messages they could drop them through the shape-sorting slots in the truck!  I loved how one of his favorite toys could be used as a card-holder!

{Before and After Photos}

On another table I printed off two photos of my son at age 1 and two photos at age 2.  I put them into a small swivel frame (which I think was purchased at the Dollar Store!) so that guests could rotate them back and forth and see what a difference a year makes!

{I apologize for the coloring in many of these photos.  We have the darkest house in the universe which is exactly why I have to stage so many of my craft projects!}

{"My Favorite Things" List}

Sure the party is about his favorite books, but what are his other favorite things?  Using a tutorial (which I'll share next week) in how to make this frame in under 5 minutes I simply wrote in all his favorites at age 2!

{Mantle Decoration}

This was initially going to be the backdrop for photos of my son blowing out candles but again- my house is insanely dark and I didn't think they would turn out.  Nonetheless it made for nice decor. (Again, sorry for the terrible lighting!)

Then on each side I stood up some of his other "favorite" books that didn't make the "very favorites" list for food.

The "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" is very easy to make.  Here's how:

Step 1: Find empty glass jars in varying sizes (some were large Mason jars, some jelly jars and some salsa jars)

Step 2:  Cut your letters from cardstock (Recollections is my favorite brand.  They come in a variety of color packs and cut like a dream on my silhouette!)

(optional) Add stickers to the "holes" of the letters if you didn't cut them out.

Step 3: Using hot glue, apply thick globs onto the top of your jar.  Quickly stick the bottom of the letter into it and hold upright until the glue dries (it doesn't take long!)  Apply more glue to help it stand if needed.

{Hot glue is awesome on glass because it holds up as needed but is also *very* easy to remove.  Once you're done with this project just pull the letter and glue right off with your hands to reuse the jar!}

Step 4: Crumple up tissue paper and shove inside the jars.

Step 5: Set up across your mantel or table and enjoy!

{Balloon Garland}
This is so easy and was my son's favorite part.  The morning of his party he saw it and stopped dead in his tracks, looked up and it and said "wow... wow...." over and over!  Toddlers are so easy to please!

Those are the clear confetti balloons from the Dollar Store and I made the tassels out of the same tissue paper from the mantle craft.  Easy peasy.

{Personalized Shirt}
Are you still with me?  I swear this is the last thing!  Of course we had to get Russell his own special birthday shirt!  After asking around online a friend suggested the phrase 'Tickled to be Two" and I loved it! Perks of owning your own t-shirt business is that you can make your own shirts last minute. (Downfall of owning your own t-shirt business- you wait until the last minute and realize the only raglan style shirt you have on hand is a 3T- oops!  He'll grow into it... maybe).

What a cheesy little grin! If you love this shirt, feel free to message us on facebook or request a custom order in our etsy shop and we can make one up for you!  It's not listed yet because we're working on a whole series but we'd be happy to dress your little one for their upcoming birthday so please just ask about it!

{Wow... that was a lot!}

I threw a lot of information at you there.  This was actually a pretty simple party with a few special elements that made it fun, unique and personalized.  What do you think about a "Favorite Books" theme for your little one?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Personalized "Paper" Dress-Up Doll

Show of hands- who played with paper dolls when they were younger?  I loved paper dolls.  As I have grown, my love for them hasn't quite disappeared and I use any opportunity I can to make or play with them again.  When I worked as a traveling social worker, I purchased a set of magnetic dress up dolls (at the dollar store!) for my 'kids' to play with in the car.  You might also remember a post from 2014 where I created felt dress up dolls for a little girl I know who was going through cancer treatments.

See the details and get the tutorial for the felt dress up doll HERE.

I had almost forgotten about another dress up doll I made until my 2 year old son found it and has been obsessed every since.  It's seriously his new favorite thing to play and I think it makes it extra fun for him that the "doll" is actually his mommy!

I made this Velcro "paper" (photo) doll back in 2006 for my Consumer Clothing notebook as part of one of my 4-H projects.  I wanted to demonstrate the different ways my consumer clothing outfit could be worn with other articles of clothing that I owned.  This idea was very popular in the project in our county and state level and apparently has also won over the heart of my toddler.

What makes this project so special is that your child (or students, or whoever!) can dress up mommy or daddy, grandma, friends or even themselves!  It is also very inexpensive to make and would make for an awesome personalized gift that they are sure to treasure.

Here's how you make it:

Step 1: Pick out several outfits that include a shirt, pants/skirts and shoes.  Include some dresses, hats or other accessories for extra fun!

Step 2: Set up a timed camera or have someone else take photos of you in each outfit.  Make sure you are standing in the exact same spot and position for each photo.  It doesn't matter that your pieces match in the photos because you will be cutting them apart anyways.

Step 3: Take 1 photo of yourself in a swimsuit.  I mean, you could take one nude but I'm not sure you want that floating around as your kid plays with it!  haha This will serve as the "bare model" that can be dressed in different outfits.  You could also use other pieces of clothing as long as it wouldn't "stick out" past any of the outfits that are being dressed on top of it.

{I must really love sharing my crafts with you or I would never post this photo on the world wide web! Eek!}

Step 4: Print your photos and carefully cut around each piece of clothing. [My favorite places to print photos are or if you need them quickly, your local CVS.]

*Feel free to check out a list of my favorite crafting resources here*

Step 5 (Optional): Glue the doll to a scrapbook paper, board or whatever you want as your background piece.  If you wish to keep the doll loose that should be fine too.

Step 6: Attach sticky Velcro dots to the back of each article of clothing (you may have to cut them down for the shoes or other small accessories) and to the front of your doll.  If you are using a board/paper background, include Velcro pieces to hold all the items of clothing. Make sure you use the different "sides" of Velcro so that the clothing sticks to the doll/background.

{You can see how I used the Velcro dots behind the shoes.  Ignore the missing white flip flop and pen marks.  That's what happens when you give it to a toddler!}

{He loves it!}

That's it!  
Get as creative as you want with the board design and with how many outfit options you have.  I think it would be fun to even have other scenery like your pet, or household items that can be used to "decorate" the room/back board.  Go crazy and get creative!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

DIY Educational Toy Disks (for all ages!)

If you are a mother, father, grandparent, guardian, teacher, daycare worker, social worker or anyone that spends time around children this post is for you.  Today's craft can be made to help children learn their colors, letters, numbers, shapes and more- it can even be used as a sensory activity!  Best of all?  It's so easy to make and only takes a few minutes to put together.

[Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  Purchasing items through the links gives me a small commission with no extra charge to you.  I only link up products I personally use and trust.  Thank you for supporting my blog.]

I first made these several months back in the painted style and then today decided to try it with felt!  My toddler LOVES this shape book that he has and is super into "colors" and "shapes" right now so I wanted something new for him to play with that would allow him to practice those areas.

He loves telling me what the shapes and colors are and I love hearing him tell me.  I also love when such as easy project is "a winner" for my kiddo.

Here's how to make your own.  It only takes a few materials and 3 steps (okay, really 2!)

All you need to have is:

- Felt (Joann Fabrics has tons of solid colors and cool prints in 8.5x11 size for cheap)

- Mod Podge (I used glossy but it's being used as a glue so it really doesn't matter)

- Paint brush

- Scissors (If you are planning on working with fabric in the future, I recommend buying Fabric Scissors to use strictly for cutting fabrics. This is my favorite kind.)

Wood "disks" (I used 1.5 inch size.  It's perfect for my toddler's hand.  If you want to go larger for fear of choking risks, they have many sizes available)  Get the kind without any holes punched out.

{Here's how big the 1.5 inch disks look in my *on the pretty small side* almost 2 year old's hands}

Step 1: Cut out shapes

Using different colors, cut basic shapes small enough to fit on top of your wood disks.  [Hint:  Don't use marker to draw your design before cutting.  I didn't think it would show through the backside but it did!  My toddler doesn't care but if you want it to look nicer- just freehand it or using something lighter!]

See what I mean about the marker showing through?  

Step 2: Glue felt to wood disks

Using Mod Podge, lightly brush the back of the felt with Mod Podge and stick to the wood disks. Press down the edges to make sure it sticks.  Set aside until dry.

Don't worry if the Mod Podge shows through your felt.  It disappears once it dries!  Still, you only need a small amount to get it to stick.

Step 3: Play!

I felt like I couldn't stop at two steps, but that's it!  Once everything is dry, let the play begin!

If you've got a little bit more time, consider painting some of the wood disks for more detailed designs.  Instead of making a matching game like the felt one above, I made double sided disks that teach colors and numbers as well.

Using a stencil (I made my own from vinyl using my Silhouette CAMEO) or by drawing free hand (which I cannot do... at all!) paint splotches of color on one side and the name of the color on the other.  My son actually knows all the colors but can't read yet so someday we can use them again to recognize the word. Love when toys can be re-used!

I finished off the wood with a mineral oil, which is why it appears darker than the felt game pieces.  I did this to better seal the design and prevent chips in the paint (and it just looks nice).  Make sure that you use non-toxic paints and natural sealers if giving this toy to a little one that might stick them in their mouth!  Be smart, be safe & have fun!

You can also make the reversible disks to help your little ones learn to count.  I again used paint and vinyl stencils that I created but wish I was better at free hand drawing because that would have been a lot easier!  Put numbers on one side and then that amount of whatever design you want on the other.  I also sealed these disks with mineral oil.

You can get as simple or as detailed as you want...

Best of all- you can make these in any size, design, game (matching pieces, flip over to learn, etc) and topic you want.  They don't take up much room at all and travel great.  Just toss them in your bag and go!  I also sewed up some muslin bags that close with Velcro for easy storage.  They measure around 6x4 (add an inch to each side when sewing) and can fit up to 20 of these pieces in them (although that's just about the most it'll fit).  I added the words out of heat transfer vinyl.

I love how these all turned out- I can't pick a favorite!

Your Turn!
What game would you make? How fun would these be to have in a large classroom setting?  I love to see your finished projects so feel free to share on our facebook page as well (and give us a "like" if you haven't already).