Thursday, July 26, 2018

Educational Activity with Play Dough & Beads (toddler-early elementary)

Back before my daughter was born, I killed it with the creative fun, educational activities for my son.  Now that I have two I mostly just try to find some way to keep them both busy so I can go pee for a second alone (keep dreaming Kelsie...).  I feel bad that I don't have the same thriving creative environment that I had before so I'm always looking for easy activities that work for both kids at their very different skill levels.

I'm guessing you might be interested in this too, so let me share with you my FAVORITE "go-to" activity.  Whenever I need to keep their hands and minds occupied, this always works. It's a winner for them and for me!  The best part?  There are so many different ways to play it, that it creates a stimulating learning environment for everyone from very young toddlers all the way to early elementary aged kiddos.

[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links provides me with a small commission at no extra charge to you. This helps me pay for supplies so that I can keep bringing you more awesome content! Thank you for supporting my blog.]

Here's all you need:
- Play-Doh
- Spaghetti Noodles (uncooked)
- Pony Beads (mixed colors)
- Letter Beads (for older kids)

The concept is so simple, you won't believe how much the kids will love it! Simply take Play-Doh and smoosh it into a sort of biscuit shaped lump.  Then grab your uncooked spaghetti noodles, break them in half (or keep them tall for extra stacking ability!) and shove the ends down into your play dough.

Next you set out your beads and let the kids have at it!  If you think your little one might throw an entire container of beads all over the floor, set out just a few into a smaller cup.  (We like to use these  Silicone Baking Cups for times like this but any little cup will do) Remember: beads are choking hazards. It's always a good idea to keep an eye on kiddos while they play with small beads, especially if they put things in their mouths!

My almost 4 year old likes to take extra noodles and create elaborate works of art.  He also really enjoys using the letter beads to make words and names. My 1.5 year old just enjoys stacking the beads in random order.

{look at those final motor skills at work!}

So what can they do besides stack?

Here's a list of EIGHT different ways to use this activity to meet the needs of a variety of skill levels (each black stick on the images is a spaghetti noodle):

The most basic level is simply stacking the beads in random color order. This helps young kiddos work on their fine motor skills, concentration and associates them with the different colors and textures involved.

Next up is letting them stack by color.  This helps them see different shades and teaches them to identify the different colors.

A little more advanced is patterns. Let them make up their own or give them a pattern to follow (for example: pink, green, pink, green, repeat)

If you have a variety of Shapes Beads, have your kiddo stack according to shape.  You can also have them do "patterns" like the above option but with shapes instead of different colors.

This activity is also a great visual for learning how to count. Being able to physically put on the beads themselves helps young kiddos recognize how many "2" is, or how "3" is more than "1".

After they've mastered numbers, you can use the noodles lined up to help them visualize and practice addition.

...and subtraction.

My son is a big fan of Letter Beads (basically anything letters) right now. I like to do this activity with him as he learns the letter sounds and how to make words.  The only tricky part about this is that you have to put the beads on in reverse order!  So I like to have him make the word flat on the table, then he can "build it" when he's done.

This is one of the kids' favorite activities to play and I love that it's not just mindless entertainment.  Not only that, they actually get to practice their fine motor skills, colors, patterns, shapes, math and spelling! Whew... that's a lot for one easy little thing.  Can you think of anything else they could learn by playing this? I'd love to hear your ideas and see you using this at home or even in your daycare/preschool settings!  Please share any photos you have on my facebook page, as I love seeing my ideas being used by others!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Custom Letterboard Accessories (made from Shrinky Dinks)

Some toys are just classic.  We all remember playing with them as kids and they are equally as fun as adults.  One example of this is the ever classic: Shrinky Dinks.  I remember making charm bracelets and fun little designs out of the simple but irresistible craft material.  However, this week I stepped my Shrinky Dink game up a notch and did some crafting- adult style!

Did you know you can make custom letterboard accessories from Shrinky Dinks? I use my letterboard for home decor and also for featuring sales and news on our business page.  Accessories such as symbols and even things like coffee cups, special words and emojis can be purchased online or in store but the options are limited.  You also can't buy them with your custom logo on them.  But now you CAN make them... (and it's easy too!)

[Disclaimer: I have received free product from Alex Brands in exchange for a DIY post and honest review of Shrinky Dinks.  All opinions and ideas are my own.  Any links to Amazon are affiliate links and I receive a small commission when your purchase from these links at no extra charge to you.  This helps support my blog and fund future craft projects. Thank you. Any reference to Chubby Bunny, Happy Home or "my business" directs you to my personal business's social media pages.]

{I can use my DIY accessory as a way to include my logo into every business photo I post such as this one for our monthly bow subscriptions}

You don't need much to make a slew of these fun accessories.  All you need is:

Shrinky Dink Sheets (I used crystal clear but I think I'd go with white next time)
Sharpie Markers
- Scissors
- An oven
- Printer or image of your logo that you can use for tracing.

Let's begin!

I didn't just make our business logo, I also made some "leaf" pieces that can be used to create wreaths or just arches around my words. I made 6 of them all facing one direction and 3 additional ones in the opposite direction for when I wanted them to both curve inward with the leaves pointing up.  I free-hand drew the first one and then used it as a template to trace all the others so that they were the same exact shape.

I used black outline on all of them to make it look a little more crisp but that is personal preference.  I also made sure to angle the ends so that the pieces could fit against each other when places together in a "wreath".

Keep in mind that your colors will get MUCH darker in the oven.  Also- be careful when cutting out more intricate designs such as these leaves.  The first one I made ended up with a lot of break marks where the plastic split because it put too much pressure on it as I tried to cut into corners. (changing the direction I cut fixed that problem).

As you can see, the piece on the left had several of those "break marks" and the piece on the right did not.  I thought the breaks might just melt together and fix itself but it does not (see photo below).  As a matter of fact it made them even bigger!  So be aware of how you cut and try to keep it clean.

It still works fine but it doesn't look as nice close up.

I also made a few flowers and will probably make about a dozen more in different styles when I have some more time.  I love the "texture" that is made from the sharpie getting shrunk.

As I mentioned in the materials section, I used the "crystal clear" sheets because I thought it would be the best for tracing.  However, it really does make the pieces transparent (even with the sharpie on it).  When placed on the dark, lined letterboard, the pieces were difficult to see.  I ended up taking white paint and painting on the back of every piece to make the colors shine a little brighter and to keep the letterboard from peeking through.

Here's the difference between one that has been left unpainted vs. one that has been painted with a white back:

This wasn't difficult to do but it might just be easier to start with the white sheets to begin with. I think they are probably still see-through enough that you could trace just fine.

What about my custom logo?

Now onto the really cool part.  I've seen tutorials online that show various ways of making your own "letterboard accessories" but they all stem around using paper of some sort.  It seems to me that paper would get bent, torn and let's admit it... we've all spilled our coffee a time or two while setting up our letterboard *No? Am I the only clumsy one here?*  which would immediately destroy it.  Plus it just doesn't have the nice thick plastic look that all the alphabet pieces have.

Have no fear, Shrinky Dinks is the best solution to this problem!  

Here's how I made mine:

Step 1: Print off a photo of your logo to use for tracing.  (You can also buy printable Shrinky Dinks sheets but I opted out because my printer is not very good at all!)  Make sure that you make it 3x bigger that you want your finished logo to be.  I sized mine to about 9x9 so that the finished piece would be 3x3.

Step 2: Place a Shrinky Dink sheet over your printed paper and trace your image.

Step 3: Cut it out and bake it! (use directions on the packaging. It only takes a minute or two).

Tip: When it says use parchment paper, use parchment paper. I thought this foil baking sheet would work fine but because of the circle shapes on it (and that it's kind of beat up) it made my design shrink in a funny way.  You can see how much better it turned out when I used a regular cookie sheet with parchment paper on top:

I opted out of painting the back of this piece because I couldn't get it to paint without streak marks (and since there is so much clear it was very obvious). I attached a piece of white paper to the back of it instead.  I don't love that there is still paper involved, so I'm going to try the white sheets next time and make some more, but it works great for now.

To make all of the pieces fit into my letterboard slots I simply cut 2-3 small rectangle "tabs" of shrinky dink material, glued them together (so that it was twice as thick) and glued that to the back of the shapes I made. (See the back of your store bought letters for a guide on how big to make them) For the "leaf" pieces, I used cut up safety pin chunks so that the part that went into the board was a circle instead of a long rectangle (and thus can be placed in any direction on the board). I wouldn't recommend doing that for all the pieces, only ones that wont always be straight up and down.

The first time, I cut rectangles and shrank them in the oven to make sturdy tabs.  This made them *too thick* to go into the slots on the board. That is why I recommend using unbaked pieces instead.

For more awesome DIY ideas, follow the Shrinky Dinks Instagram page or if you prefer, they also share ideas on their FacebookTwitter or of course Pinterest.  For easy to follow VIDEO tutorials, head to their YouTube channel.

To see some of my past Shrinky Dink projects, check out the links below:

Custom necklace DIY

Scrapbooking Hack
Dimensional card making

I plan on making even more custom letterboard accessories in the weeks to come.  I'm thinking a fancy font of our last name, a giant "sunshine" that goes around the letters and some tools for my son's upcoming "tool" themed birthday party (maybe with his name/age on them for extra customization)!  What would you like to make?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Super Shop Shout Out! ['Moldy Goods' String Art Sign]

I'm a sucker for tradition. Overall, I'm a pretty contemporary in my living and thinking but there's just something about the "traditional" that keeps me coming back. One way that this happens is with our wedding anniversary. For those who don't know, every "year" of marriage has a type of gift associated with it and each one has a "traditional" and a "modern" option. For example: Year one is either paper (traditional) or clocks (modern). Year two is cotton (T) or China (M), and so on. See a full list of them here

[photo credit: jhendonphotography]

Because I'm a crfty person, I usually like to DIY a gift for my husband. We don't usually give gifts (even at birthdays or Christmas) so this is my time to shine. I made a Photo Anniversary Map (my most popular blog post ever!) for our 1 year [paper], custom cornhole bags [cotton] for year 2, a travel bag [leather] for year 3, planted landscaping [flowers] for year 4, and we went hiking [wood] for year 5.

But this year- year 6 was a toughie. IRON. My husband doesn't really like decorations and any sort of garden or landscaping sign would just be in his way for mowing. While searching on Etsy I stumbled across this string art design with a barn on it and it all came together! I'd have a sign made for his tool shed! It's decorative yes, but in a special kind of way in his special building. I have experimented with string art before and it's harder than it looks so I opted so hire this one out.

[This is not a sponsored post. I just happened to find this seller online and paid full price for my item. I am blogging about it only because I was so impressed and wanted to share it with you all. If you need a custom sign made, consider supporting this shop!]

I'll be honest with y'all, I was a little skeptical. The seller had just joined etsy and didn't have any sales yet. But her work looked so beautiful that I gave her a shot and I am SO GLAD I did! I chatted with her about what I thought I might want (a sign that said "Tyler's tool shed" and maybe a little wrench or tool on it to add something besides words). She got back with me right away and offered her thoughts. She ended up saying she could cut the wood INTO THE SHAPE of a wrench if I wanted! I was blown away. That was going to look so cool! We continued to chat more about colors and string/nails vs. painted on words. I commented that I need to have something with nails on it because it was a gift for our "iron anniversary" and even though most nails aren't made with iron anymore, I was accepting it as my loophole!

Do you know what she said? She responded, telling me that now she HAD to include at least a few real iron nails just so I could have some iron on it. I had accepted my "loophole" and she was willing and offered to go out of her way to do this for me at no extra charge. She ended up findind some iron hooks and used those instead. Talk about above and beyond customer service! This woman could have just said "that's so funny, what a good idea to get that 'close enough' to iron" but instead she offered ways to make it real for me.

She also took extra time to mix a little black paint in with the red to make it more distressed looking since we were going with that sort of "barn feel".

Her communication was quick, her customer service was exceptional and her work is just amazing. Like I said, string art is harder to do than it looks and she did an awesome job. My husband (who is not easily impressed with stuff like this) was amazed at how she was able to make different fonts out of the nails and string. He said "it's perfect, I love it" (which is a pretty big compliment from him!) Did I mention that she worked super fast to get it done? (she was going to hurry and get it to me before my anniversary but being as it was like 2 days away because I procrastinate I told her to just get it done whenever no rush- ha!) and shipping ended up being about half of what she thought it would be (and about a third of what I had originally thought it might be) so she obviously didn't fluff the shipping up or anything.

Oh, and my kids AND husband really enjoyed popping the bubble wrap she used! tee hee hee #thegiftthatkeepsongiving

I don't think I have ever written up an entire blog post about a product that I have tried that was just stumbled upon, unsponsored; I love this shop that much. If you are in need of a custom sign, don't hesitate to message Koa (shop owner of Moldy Goods) and support her etsy shop. ;)

What do you and your spouse do for your anniversary? Do you make or give gifts? Go on experiences/adventures to celebrate? or something else? I better start thinking about next year's gift already, it's a tricky one too (Copper). Maybe I'll go with the UK traditional gift of Wool and adopt a pet sheep!