Monthly Archives: August 2011

10 Ways to Make Today Magical

Happy Wednesday!  We need magical ideas on more days besides Mondays, right?  😉  That’s my excuse for being a bit of a slug and being so late this week!

Here’s a few ways to make some magic with your kiddos this week…

1. Let the kids pick out several yards of clearance fabric in glamorous, funky and fun patterns.  Help them make their own scarves, doll clothes, dress up clothes, throw pillows and more.  Iron on fusible tape instead of sewing seams, if you like (you do this part for younger kids, obviously).  If you’re short on money, let them use old clothes or sheets instead and decorate with permanent markers.

2. Heat up a plate in the microwave and show your child how to draw on it with crayons.  We’ve done this on paper on a griddle before but I never thought of just heating the plate in the microwave.  Brilliant!  Head to Play Create Explore for the fun directions.

3.  Eat supper with all sorts of weird props– eat off lids and frisbees, use ladles and tongs to eat with, serve soup from a tea pot, drink from clean ketchup containers…  Get creative!

4.  Clear out a back closet or other out of the way place to become a secret hideaway for each child.  Stock them with flashlights and let them decorate as they wish.

5.  Leave squirrel treats.  Gather up some fallen nuts or splurge on some bulk peanuts and leave little platters of them for the squirrels.  Hide someplace and watch them come to spirit them away.  Want to make it really fun?  Make them work for it!  Squirrels are brilliant at getting to even the trickiest of treats.  Some families have even rigged up obstacle courses for their furry visitors.

6.  Harvest acorns and roast them.  It’s a lot of work but our family loves this early fall tradition.  Here’s how we do it.

7.  Start a family poem.  Put up a large piece of paper on a door and put a pen nearby.  Ask every family member to add a word every time he or she passes.  It can be silly or serious.  Save the finished poems in an album or scrapbook.

8.  Make mud pies together.

9.  Set up a mall logic scavenger hunt. I love this fabulous idea from Toad Haven!  I’m afraid our version would not be nearly as elaborate but I’m so inspired and tickled at the idea.  :)

10.  Drape some blankets over a clothesline, tree, tent poles or other props in the back yard and make some impromptu forts.  Stock the insides with some fun books, games, snacks, a flashlight, whatever, and see what fun the kids dream up to have in their new fun space.

We’re off to Iowa tomorrow to spend a few days exploring caves, checking out some little towns and taking part in some nifty activities at the Seed Savers farm (there’s a rotten tomato toss and ketchup making for the kids, a salsa contest and tomato tasting and all sorts of fun!).  It should be a neat little trip.

(Are we weird that a tomato festival and cave explorations sound like fun to us?  You probably shouldn’t answer that!)

Have a wonderful week!





Filed under Ways to make today magical

Update: Puffy Paint in a Regular Oven

I posted about our puffy paint craft yesterday and several folks asked here and on Facebook if it could be done in a regular oven.

I looked online and couldn’t find anybody who knew if it could be done without a microwave, so we did a little experiment ourselves this morning.

The answer — yes!

We had some leftover puffy paint mixed up from last night and I put some dabs on a scrap of cardboard.  I put it in the oven at 350 for about 3 minutes. 

The paint puffed up and hardened pretty much the same way that it did in the microwave.

The paint also got a little bit darker than it was originally (the microwaved stuff seemed to retain its original colors).

WARNING:  The cardboard got quite hot after only 3 minutes.  Please watch very closely if you do this in an oven!

Our puffy paint was rather thick since it was leftover from last night (Alex had some fun squirting water in it so it then so it didn’t all dry out overnight).  Thinner paint might need another couple of minutes in the oven.

Be sure an adult does this portion of the craft.

Someone else asked about whether this would work drying out in the sun.  We don’t have much for sun today so I’ll leave that for someone else to experiment with.  🙂


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Easy Puffy Paint!

I’ve seen recipes for homemade puffy paint many times over the years, but I never took the time to make it with the kids until today.

What a shame I waited this long!

The kids had a blast and developed lots of ways to use it.

Even Harry Potter crests and pendants!


The original instructions were to mix one tablespoon self-rising flour, one tablespoon salt, food coloring and enough water to make a paste, once for each color.

Since I made up little cups for four different children (life is too short to listen to “Mom, Alex mixed all the colors into brown!” and “Hey!  Victoria used all the red up!” all day!), I soon realized that it made much more sense to just mix up:

  • One part self rising flour
  • One part salt
  • Enough water to make a paste

and THEN divide it into muffin tins or ice cube trays and add food coloring!

Either way, all you do is give the kids Q-tips or paint brushes and instruct them to dab it on cardboard.

We used recycled Priority Mail boxes for our canvases, cut into small squares.  You want a nice sturdy canvas.

When the picture is finished, microwave it for about 10 seconds (we did 5 second intervals and occasionally needed longer for really thick and wet paintings).

All four kids had a blast using this stuff and they used it off and on the whole day and into the night.


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10 Ways to Make Today Magical

It’s still officially summer time and still rerun season, right?  In honor of that (and a current state of pregnant sickness and needing to take it easy for a bit), I’m running a rerun of ways to make the day magical.  🙂

Some of you may know that I’ve been doing these lists for years now.  In the beginning, they were part of Magical Childhood newsletters that I sent out. 

So here’s a list I put out when my girls were little and I was pregnant with Jack — in August 9 years ago.  I suddenly feel so old!  🙂

10 Ways to Make Today Magical……

1.  Cut old sheets, curtains, skirts or spare material into long strips and pin them onto the kids’ clothing.  Let the kids run through the yard with their streamers and fasten some to sticks to ribbon dance with.  If they’re plain white and you want to add art, use markers to decorate.

2.  Plan a special afternoon with each child and tour a local art museum.  Take your time and talk about works you each like and why.  See if there are some techniques you guys would like to try at  home.  We went to a great exhibit of an Ethiopian artist at a tiny nearby museum and the kids were delighted to see that some of  his paintings were done with materials like yarn and scraps of paper glued on.  The quiet atmosphere and slow pace is perfect for conversations.

3.  Start reading a book series together at a special time each day.  Ask your librarian for suggestions or check out any of the great book lists online.  Victoria and I are up to book #10 in the Magic Treehouse series and she and Annalee now play act the characters.  It’s become a special saga for all of us to keep up on.  Check out Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook for suggestions of marvelous books to read aloud for each age.

4.  Invent a secret handshake or special good-bye.  A darling family on Oprah demonstrated incredibly convoluted “handshakes” that the father shared with each child every morning before school.  What a special way to start the day and know you’re loved!

5.  Have a No No Day.  No “no’s” allowed!  For one day, make it off limits for either you or your child to say the word no.  Make up funny punishments for slipping up or put fun things in a jar as punishments (some of mom’s: cuddle with me for 10 minutes on the couch, wear that darling outfit that you make faces in… some of the kids’: read us 3 books, play frisbee in the back yard…).  Find creative things to say instead of no, like “That sounds like fun but maybe instead of ice cream for supper we could make supper look like ice cream” or “I don’t think we can do that but we could ____ instead” or even (gasp) “yes”!

6.  Brainstorm on creative ways to do 10 dreaded cleaning chores.  For instance, see if the kids can clean the full length mirror behind their backs, make their beds with their eyes closed, or “sweep” the hallway by repeatedly pressing a big piece of old contact paper on it.  🙂

7.  Sit down with the kids and help them write several manufacturers of products they like.  Advise the kids to write what they like, what (if anything) they don’t like, and any suggestions they have for improving them.  Mail them off and talk to them about how maybe they’ll get a letter back and how their opinion could help change the product.  Don’t tell the kids, but be on the lookout for free coupons when they write back!  Kids can also do this with stuff they don’t like.  Victoria called a cookie mix company last week with my help and said how sad she was that the sprinkles on the cookie picture didn’t come with the mix.  It can be empowering for kids to feel like they’re taken seriously as consumers!  And free goodies are never a bad thing.  🙂

7. Start making toasts every night at supper.

8.  Mail your child a long letter telling her special memories you have of him and reasons you’re proud of him.  If you have a teen, start leaving notes for each other to talk.  Sometimes older kids have an easier time addressing things through letters.

9.  Take a field trip to tour a nearby factory.  I still remember touring the Paul Mason winery near our house in California when I was little.  We got lollipops at the end (wine for grown ups!) and we sat and watched the fountain light up.  Even the most mundane factory can seem enormous and fascinating to a child.

10.  Give your child a flower petal bath.  Gather some flower petals from flowers like roses (any will do though!) and scatter them on the bath water.  If you like, you can add a couple of drops of some essential oils like lavender.  You can make it more elaborate and make it a magic bath– tossing in a handful of epsom salts for strength, a teaspoon of baby oil for luck, and so on.  Invite your child to create her own symbolism for what the petals represent.  Or they can mean nothing at all.  No matter what, it feels luxurious and fun!

And with that, my dears, I’m off to see if I can convince someone to give me a foot rub! 

Hug your kiddos, count your blessings and don’t forget to take care of you!



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Boxing Day

I won a fabulous outdoor chair recently and it was delivered in a giant cardboard box.  I love my chair, but I was also really tickled by how much my children loved the box!

Thirteen year-old Victoria claimed it right away, sneaking out to it with a book, a snack and some water before the other kids knew that it was in the yard.

Before long, she and her fantastic new home were discovered.  Luckily, there was a smaller (but still fun sized) box for smaller children.  Anna moved into that one with her own book and snacks, and then Jack moved in after she tired of it.

Then, Victoria’s quiet reading time in her hiding spot was foiled when four year-old Alex discovered her.

Luckily for Alex, she’s a good sister!

The kids hung out in their boxes for a good part of the afternoon!  There was something about a quiet, shady secret spot on a summer day that was apparently the perfect retreat.

Sadly, the younger kids loved the boxes to death by the end of the day and they’ve since been hauled to the recycling bins.

I think a trip to an appliance store for a refrigerator box might be in our future….  🙂




Filed under happy stuff

Childhood Doesn’t Wait

Here’s a sweet poem with some important reminders for all of us…

Childhood Doesn’t Wait
(Author Unknown)

I was sitting on a bench
while in a nearby mall,
When I noticed a young mother
with two children who were small.

The youngest one was whining,
“Pick me up,” I heard him beg
but the mother’s face grew angry
as the child clung to her leg.

“Don’t hang on to me,” she shouted
as she pushed his hands away,
I wish I’d had the courage
to go up to her and say…

“The time will come too quickly
when those little arms that tug,
Won’t ask for you to hold them
or won’t freely give a hug.

“The day will sneak up subtly
just as it did with me,
When you can’t recall the last time
that your child sat on your knee.

“Like those sacred, pre-dawn feedings
when we cherished time alone
Our babies grow and leave behind
those special times we’ve known.

“So when your child comes to you
with a book that you can share,
Or asks that you would tuck him in
and help him say his prayer…

“When he comes to sit and chat
or would like to take a walk,
Before you answer that you can’t
`cause there’s no time to talk”
Remember what all parents learn
so many times too late,
That years go by too quickly
and that childhood doesn’t wait.

“Take every opportunity,
if one should slip away
Reach hard to get it back again,
don’t wait another day.”
I watched that mother walk away
her children followed near,
I hope she’ll pick them up
before her chances disappear.


Filed under quotes

10 Ways to Make Today Magical

Happy Monday!

We’re back from the wilds of Nebraska and settling back into normal life.  It was a fun time but it’s good to be home.

I wrote out a list of ten ways to make the day magical while at a science museum in Nebraska last week, but I seem to have accidentally left it in the play area.  Someone else must have stumbled onto a very strange little to-do list written in colored pencil.  🙂

I’ve forgotten all of those ones, so I’ll have to dream up some new!  Here’s some ways to make a little magic with your kiddos this week…

1.  Make a marble circus.  Paris Bourke has a printable you can print, color and cut, then attach to a shoe box.

2.  Do some campfire science.

3.  Make glow stick lanterns by simply breaking glow sticks and pouring them into glass jars (mix colors for extra fun).  Lil Blue Boo has the simple instructions.

4.  Make a mix of songs that all have meaning for your child — songs with her name in it, songs about the state you live in, favorite animals, you name it.

5.  Create an altered cookbook.  Take a lousy cookbook and assign this challenge– kids must pick a recipe from it and change 3 items in the ingredients to form a new family recipe.  Write over the recipe with a funky colored pen (each family member gets her own color) to make changes.  Try to make the recipes as different from the original as possible, and tastier.  After tasting the final creation, the family rates the recipe and writes that in next to the entry.

6.  Make some colorful catapults.  Family Fun has simple instructions or design your own.  My four-year loves to use everything from forks to rulers to make up homemade ones.  🙂

7.  Use washable markers to give each other temporary tattoos.

8.  Have a sack race.  Pillow cases work well.  Everybody hop to the finish line.  Older kids and grown ups can hop backwards.

9.  August is a great time to “catch” falling stars.  Lie outside on a blanket together and wait to see if you can spot any.  While you’re waiting, it’s a great opportunity to just talk.

10.  Teach the kids to do the macarena and then video tape the fun.  You join in too!

And with that, I’m off to a prenatal appointment and a play date with a certain 13 year-old. 

Kiss your babies (even the big ones), count your blessings, and don’t forget to take care of you!


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10 Fun Links

It turns out that by the fifth child, I’m a terrible blogger!  😉 

Apologies for my lax blogging lately.  Hopefully you and your kiddos have been busy making some last minute summer magic of your own.

We’ve been busy and I’m keeping up as best as I can with my giant belly.  I’m getting rather old for this pregnancy business, I think!  I’m no longer a spring chicken and with this heat and four kids to chase, I’m not exactly one of those bouncy, skinny-except-for-the-belly, super active pregnant mamas who reorganizes the house and does yoga till the birth date!

Nonetheless, I’m enjoying this last hurrah of baby-making.  The kids are having fun playing “chase the baby part” on my belly and they’ve been wonderful at giving mama foot rubs and helping with housework (Daddy too, of course). 

We’re leaving today to visit Magical Mama Tiffany and her gang in Nebraska.  There will be some other fun families down there, too, so it should be a noisy, grand old time!

In the meantime, here’s 10 links that caught my eye lately (a few are ones I wrote up elsewhere).  See if there’s any fun that catches yours….

1.  Black magic art

2.  30 Days of August fun with your kids

3.  The A-frame play tent

4. Spaghetti and play-doh

5.  50 things to put in sand and water tables

6.  DIY chalkboard paint (Instructions from elsewhere: Outdoor Chalkboard: Get a 4 x 8 plywood sheet and mix a chalkboard-colored outdoor paint with unsanded tile grout: 1. Pour 1 cup of paint into a container. Add 2 tablespoons of unsanded tile grout. Mix with a paint stirrer, carefully breaking up clumps. 2. Apply paint with a roller or a sponge paintbrush to a primed or painted surface. Work in small sections, going over the same spot several times to ensure full, even coverage. Let dry. 3. Smooth area with 150-grit sandpaper, and wipe off dust. 4. To condition: Rub the side of a piece of chalk over entire surface. Wipe away residue with a barely damp sponge. )

7.  Easy homemade doctor’s kit

8.  Glow in the dark sensory tub game

9.  Tube and funnel peg board

10.  Glow in the dark wall

And with that, my sweets, I’m off to the wilds of Nebraska!

Kiss your babies, count your blessings, and don’t forget to take care of you!









Filed under crafts