The Bats Are Watching You: Moving Eyes Optical Illusion

Also known as Mona Lisa eyes, these bats’ eyes follow you no matter what angle you look them. It is an optical illusion, which according to instructables.com works by:

…receding the eyes below the surface of the picture. The depth of the eyes allows the edges of the eye sockets (which are not receded) to hide the whites on the side it is being viewed from, just as would happen if an actual person was turning their eyes toward you.

Interestingly enough, while many claimed that Mona Lisa’s eyes follow you, there are also those who claimed that it’s a myth. That is not to say the illusion does not work, it was just that Da Vinci did not apply the technique to his famous work. After staring at the famous painting at different angles on my screen until my eyes hurt, I am more unsure than ever!

What do you think?


To create the Mona Lisa eyes in our bats, we “puffed” up the head to create depth needed to replicate the illusion.

Materials


Print and color the template. Please note that we did not color the head on Figure B so that the sclera (which according to Google is what the white part of the human eye is called) would be white. My two year old, who made the bat on the lower right, unfortunately did not get the memo…


Cut out Figures A and B. In Figure A, also cut out the eyes and the two slits on the cheeks.


Overlap the slits to puff up the bat’s head in Figure A. Add glue where indicated and gently glue together the slits to create the “puff”.


Glue the head from Figure A onto Figure B. Dab glue on the chin and ears as indicated on Figure B. Align the head cutout from Figure A with the chin in Figure B and gently pressed down to glue. Then glue down the ears.

Please note that the head in Figure B is smaller than Figure A, so it is important to align the chin first. The ears from Figure A will not align with Figure B, but that is okay.

Here’s a look from the back. As you can see, the ears do not line up and that’s ok!

Do not flatten the head; it should remain raised. That little “puff” we made on the bat’s head created the depth needed for the optical illusion. Now no matter which way you look, the it is always looking at you!


The Dumpling and I made a similar craft last Halloween with a cat which can be found here.

Christmas Tree Lighting

We inaugurated the holiday season by putting up our Christmas tree, so it was only fitting that we kicked off our crafting with that as well.

Behold…my paper version of it:


Materials


Print and color the template. Note that the tree insert (page 2) does not visually make sense when viewed on its own; color only the sections where the tree is visible.


Fold the tree (page 1) vertically in half, then cut along the solid lines. Start cutting from the fold but do not cut all the way across to the edge of the paper.


Cut out the tree insert (page 2) and weave it into the slits of the tree (page 1). I started from the bottom, so the insert went over, then under, over under, etc.


Using the dotted lines on the insert as reference, align the insert so that the ornaments are hidden behind the slits of the tree.


Pull the insert down to “light” the tree.

My kids’ Christmas trees: my 15 month old only wanted to paint in purple, while my five year old wanted a rainbow tree.

A Not So Typical Book About Daddy

For Father’s Day, I made “A Book About My Daddy” workbook for the Dumpling to fill out as a personalized gift for jigg. The template contained typical sections to fill in her dad’s name, age, eye color, reasons she loves him, etc. Unlike typical “feel good” versions, however, I made sure mine contained opportunities to have a few laughs at my husband’s expense. She got to rate jigg’s skill in various categories, compare his abilities with mommy, and divulge what he sucks at doing.

Excerpts

The Dumpling’s brutal honesty did not disappoint! My kid is savage. Never ask her any questions that you do not want to know the answers to.

Seems like jigg needs to lose some weight.
It’s quite obvious who the favorite parent is.
jigg refused to accept his two-star rating for hugs. After some questionable interrogation tactics, he got the Dumpling to change the rating to five stars…
Sounds about right.
In an earlier page, the Dumpling thought that jigg is bad at earning money, but he is very good at spending it!

Template

A number of people has asked me to share the book template, so here it is! I made a few edits to my original version so that the questions and answer options can be applicable to more people. Even though Father’s Day is over, this would make a funny birthday gift for dads as well.

Journey Into Our Solar System: A Tunnel Book

As part of our homeschooling curriculum, the Dumpling and I have been learning about space the last few weeks. When I say homeschool, I really mean watching YouTube videos on the subject…the same ones over and over and over again. Repetition is key, folks! Even better if the information is in a song.

For the art and craft portion for our theme, we made a tunnel book of the solar system. I was inspired after seeing one on Pinterest, but it had no tutorials so I’m sharing mine.

According to Wonderpolis.org:

“Tunnel books are made up of a series of pages that are held together by folded strips of paper on each side. In fact, the sides of a tunnel book might make you think of an accordion. The overall effect of a tunnel book is to create the illusion of depth and perspective.

Tunnel books are “read” through a hole in the cover. Each page features openings that allow the reader to see through the entire book to the back cover. The images on each page work together to form a three-dimensional scene inside the book that helps to tell the story.

https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-a-tunnel-book
The 3D format made us feel like we were traveling into our solar system as we flipped through the pages.

Making one is actually easier than it looks. My version, however, differs from the traditional form because it is only bounded on one side. I left the right side open so that we could flip though it like a book.


Materials

  • Cardstock (8.5″x 11″):
    • Blue cardstock (10x): we used a mixture of different shades
    • White (1x)
  • Scoring tool (alternatively, an old credit card, ruler and towel would work as well)
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Coloring materials (we used craft paint)
  • Scissors and/or X-Acto knife (recommended)

Print out the templates — “solar system” template on white cardstock and “orbit” template on blue cardstock.

* Please note that while the templates include a page for the sun, I decided to exclude it from my book (I used my phone’s flashlight to represent our star instead), so you will not see it in my pictures.


Color and cut. We used craft paint and also splattered/smeared some white on the blue cardstock to represent faraway stars. Only cut the shaded circles from the middle of each page on the “orbits” template (an X-Acto knife is recommended). Mark the page number, which are in brackets, for each cut item with a pencil for future reference.

DO NOT CUT OUT THE CIRCLE FOR THE SUN on page 9 of the “orbit” template.

We explored textures while painting the planets by using sponges, plastic wrap, and brushes.

Glue the planets onto the orbit circles by matching the page numbers. Play around with placement — spread them around so that they are not bunched together and have at least 50% of each planet “stick out” of the circle cutouts. The goal is to have all eight planets visible from the front page.

Glue the sun cutout in place as indicated on page 9 of the “orbit” template.


Create the spine. Using the last blue cardstock placed in portrait orientation, draw vertical lines that are 0.5″ apart and score along the lines. Scoring is extremely important when working with heavier paper because it helps create clean, crisp folds. If you do not have a scoring bone, place the cardstock on top of a towel, align a ruler along the lines, and run an old credit card along the ruler to create a score.

Make accordion folds along the scored lines.


Glue each page onto the spine. Start with Neptune on the first page and work your way back. Imagine each accordion fold as a hill, and glue the pages onto the downward slope.

Since I omitted the page for the sun, I have an empty slot on my spine.

No Waste, Biodegradable Easter Eggs

I always bear a tinge of guilt whenever we use food for play because it feels so wasteful. My mind goes through an internal debate, taking into consideration such things as how much food is used, what the alternatives options are, and whether there is replay value, before I either move forward or pass up such activities.

Decorating real Easter eggs has never made my “move forward” list because the eggs normally go straight to the bin after the egg hunt — I personally would not eat them since not all dyes are edible and the eggs may not be safe for consumption after sitting in room temperature for so long. As alternatives, we have used plastic and styrofoam eggs in the past, but they are not the most environmentally friendly options either.

This year, we moved onto no-waste, biodegradable Easter eggs by decorating just the egg shells. We poked a small hole into raw eggs with a pointy scissor, emptied the contents with a few shakes (which we kept for cooking later), and rinsed the insides of the shells.

Due to their fragility, we opted for a gentler decorating method that did not require too much handling. I did not want to just soak the eggs in food coloring so we dyed them with bleeding tissue paper instead. Bleeding tissue paper is colored tissue paper that “bleeds” its color when wet. This is not some fancy art material as many regular tissue papers do this.

Tip: Stand the eggs on bottle caps to keep them from rolling around.

The Dumpling cut up strips of tissue paper and layered them onto the shells.

We occasionally coated the shells with a light spray of water so the tissue papers stuck on better and continued wrapping until the eggs were completely covered with several layers.

We waited overnight for everything to dry and unwrapped the tissue paper to find beautifully dyed eggs!

The shells endured under the hands of my four year old better than expected because only one broke after several rounds of egg hunting.

Odd and Even Numbers Magnetic Game

WARNING: This activity uses small magnets, which can pose a serious choking hazard. If swallowed, they can cause serious injuries and even death. Adult supervision is required.

I made a self correcting game to help the Dumpling identify odd and even numbers using upcycled bottle caps and magnets.

This works because magnets have two poles, a negative and positive one, that either attract or repel each other. Opposite poles attract while the same poles repel.

While the game was designed to help her memorize odd and even numbers, it was also important that we discussed what the concept means. I explained that an even number is like when everyone buddies up and has another person to play with. When there is an odd number, however, there will always be someone who is by himself — the odd person out. We were eating breakfast during this math lesson, so I visually demonstrated with a handful of Cheerios on the table and grouped them in pairs to determine whether there was an even/odd number. Once she understood that, I told her the shortcut was just to memorize which numbers are odd and even…and mommy made a game for it!


Materials

  • Flat magnets (12x): Need to be small enough to fit in the inside of the bottle caps. I purchased mine at a local craft shop; similar ones can be found on Amazon.
  • Bottle caps (12x)
  • Strong tape
  • Sharpie

Label the bottle caps “0”, “1”, “2”, “3”, “4”, “5”, “6”, “7”, “8”, “9”, “odd” and “even” with a sharpie.


Arrange six magnets with the positive side facing up and six with the negative side facing up. To do so, first stack all 12 magnets together. Next, pull apart six so that you have two stacks. Then, flip one of the stacks over. Now you have one stack that is positive and one that is negative.

Take one of the stacks and separate each magnet about an inch apart — let’s call this Group A.

Do the same thing with the second stack — this is Group B.


Secure magnets onto the insides of the caps with strong tape. Bottle caps labeled “1”, “3”, “5”, “7”, “9” and “even” (yes, “even”) get Group A magnets. Bottle caps labeled “0”, “2”, “4”, “6”, “8”, and “odd” get Group B magnets. Make sure the magnets are securely attached though, because the attraction can be strong enough to pull the magnets and tape off!


Hover the caps labeled with “odd” and “even” over the numbers and watch as they either attract or repel each other. Please note that the “odd” and “even” caps need to be held with the text facing down — meaning the inside of the cap faces up.

Making Music With the Dumpling

During the height of the Dumpling’s obsession with Baby Shark, I thought it would be a fun idea to teach her how to play the song on the piano. It was an idiotic move on my end because the main tune, which only consist of four notes on repeat, was even more annoying without lyrics…especially when played incorrectly, as my then three year old did regularly.

The Dumpling was only interested in replicating the melody, so I helped her identify the keys by writing the name of each note, starting with middle C and ending with high C, on painter’s tape and taping them onto the keys. Our “lessons” were unstructured, a few minutes long, and on an impromptu basis. My goal was to expose her to music, not formally train her. Repetition was essential. For the first month, I listened to her play Baby Shark on repeat until my ears bled.

Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…”

Luckily she also learned Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to give me a bit of variety.

Her enthusiasm for the piano soon stopped just as suddenly as it started, and a year would passed before we made music together again. This time around, her instruments of choice were an out-of-tune toy xylophone and a set of handbells. With a little refresher, it was not long before I found the same two songs on an infinite play loop again.

Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…”

The Dumpling claimed that she could actually play five songs because The Alphabet Song (ABCs) and Baa Baa Black Sheep share the same tune as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. While technically true, it was nevertheless a good time to add new ones to her repertoire.

Handbells: I found handbells easier to work with than the piano. First, they look more fun and can be either rung or struck with a mallet (although the sound is a bit muffled). In addition to the labels on the handle, the different colors provide an easy identifying visual. Finally, because the Dumpling must deliberately select a bell and ring it, this prompts her to be more careful. The biggest downside, however, is that we are limited to working with only eight bells.

Using the bells in practice exercises, we shuffled and arranged them in proper order. We also compared the sounds of two or three randomly selected bells to determine which was lower or higher. Our collaborative playing, where the Dumpling and I took turns being responsible for ringing different notes, was probably my favorite part. For example, she would have bells C and D while I would have E and G on Mary Had A Little Lamb, then we would switch off on the next round.

Collaborative playing keeps both of us on our toes!

Noteflight: Most of the music sheets I found were too complicated for what we were trying to do, so I re-arranged my own using Noteflight. I kept only the notes (I also included note values, but have not gone over the concept with the Dumpling yet) and the corresponding note names. Everything was enlarged and spaced out for easier reading. The premium version of the website also provides color coding, but I opted to only use the free version.

I am not sure how long this round of the Dumpling’s musical aspirations will last, but I might as well make the most of it. In the meantime, if you cannot beat them, join them! “Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…”

Making Messes in the Kitchen

When the Dumpling was around two and a half years old, there was an incident that forever changed how cooking was done in our household. My toddler was then looking for me, found me standing in front of the kitchen stove, and became thoroughly confused.

“Mommy, what are you doing?” she asked.

“Cooking,” I replied.

“No, mommy,” she said shaking her head. “You cook over there.” By there, she pointed at the microwave.

Kids say the darndest things.

In my defense I did proper cooking — from scratch with fresh ingredients. The only opportunity for me to do so back then was while she napped, so she almost never saw me in front of the stove. My M.O., however, was to make a giant batch and eat leftovers for the next several days. So whenever the Dumpling saw me in the kitchen, the chances of me being in front of the microwave were high. Very high.

After the Dumpling’s savage microwave shaming, I realized that I needed to show my toddler there was more to cooking than reheating leftovers. As I attempted to prepare fresh meals more frequently, I also got her involved in the process. At first I asked her to help with her own snacks, such as:

Peel boiled eggs: It was her chance to finally break something without getting in trouble. For easier peeling, soak the egg in cold water first.

Peel clementines: Clementines are small and have thin skin, making them easy to hold and peel with little hands. I rolled them around my counter first to help loosen the flesh from the skin.

Slice bananas: It was a bit scary to see my kid with a knife…even if it was just a butter knife. Luckily no one got stabbed. As with all activities, adult supervision is required.

Pick grapes: I still slice grapes in half before serving them, so I would ask her to help me pick them off the stems and soak them.


Kid-friendly recipes

As she grew older, we started experimenting with various recipes — mostly dessert-related because they are enticing motivators. Below are a few of my favorites. Depending on their complexity, I separated the steps into multiple activities or only involved her in what she was able to do (ex: whisking/sifting flour, mixing ingredients, kneading dough, etc.).

Ice Cream Without Machine: A three ingredient recipe (heavy cream, condensed milk, and vanilla extract) that is super easy. We were amazed to see heavy cream turned into whipped cream before our very eyes!

I actually found the recipe overly sweet the first time we made it, so I subsequently decreased the amount of condensed milk, and it came out delicious!

Sugar Cookies: We bake sugar cookies three to four times a year because the Dumpling loves decorating them. I stretched this into three separate activities: 1) making the batter ; 2) cutting the shapes and baking; and 3) decorating.

I purposely used tiny cookie cutters to trick ourselves into eating less; it has not worked.
We used to make our own royal icing but have since moved to store bought ones that come with writing tips.
According to the Dumpling, “you can’t have too much sprinkles!”

Pro tip from my local baker is to decorate whatever you need in an oven tray covered with a clean kitchen towel. The kitchen towel will catch the sprinkles and not allow them to jump everywhere.

Oatmeal Cookies: This is such a versatile cookie because I can add whatever in there (nuts, chia seeds, etc.) and the Dumping would eat it without questioning.

This won the Dumpling’s “favorite batter to lick” award.

Banana bread: This bread could be made without an electric mixer. Overly ripened bananas were easy to mash and the batter could be mixed by hand.

Rice: It is a fun water and scooping activity. I had a strainer on hand in case half the rice got poured out during the rinse.

Jello: I absolutely hate jello, but felt the need to add it to my list. I made this once with her, hated it so much, and ended up using the rest of our gelatin to make plastic.


Although I enjoyed having the Dumpling as my little sous chef, our culinary endeavors were not all picturesque Instagram moments…and they should not have to be. There were often huge messes, a few failures, and occasional bouts of frustration. If the activity went awry, I would sacrifice a small portion of the ingredients to let the Dumpling have her way while I finished up. Sometimes I questioned whether something was safe for human consumption after the Dumpling manhandled whatever she was “cooking”. Luckily no one has gotten food poisoning…yet. In the end of the day, the most important thing was not how delicious our creations were, nor how fun, educational, or enriching cooking can be; it was that I have successfully disassociated mommy’s cooking from the microwave.

Two-Ingredient Faux Stained Glass Paint

The Dumpling and I have experimented with several methods of making faux glass paint, and this simple two-ingredient recipe has consistently been my go-to. It is easy to make with materials readily found and is washable, which is always a plus when working with young children.

The mixture tints clear plastic or glass a with translucent layer of paint that glows with gorgeous colors under direct light. Originally used in a project to make sea glass bottles, the Dumpling and I have applied this “glass paint” to create lanterns and sun catchers as well.

Our “stained glass” mermaid tails and their colorful projections from our window.

So what are these two magical ingredients? Elmer’s glue and food coloring!

Materials

The “stained glass” glue consist of only two ingredients: Elmer’s glue and food coloring.

Trace image onto the plastic sheet with black fabric paint or sharpie. Print out the mermaid tail or draw something of your own. If the latter, start with an image without fine details because the viscous consistency of the paint mixture makes painting small areas difficult. It is like painting with Elmer’s glue…because we are painting with Elmer’s glue!

Either fabric paint or sharpie could be used to trace the outline. I prefer fabric paint because the raised outline helps contain the paint. (Hint: Draw thicker lines for younger children to help them “color within the lines”.)


Mix glue with food coloring. I used one drop of gel food coloring for about a tablespoon of glue. The more food coloring used, the more intense the color. You want the paint to dry opaque so do not go overboard.


Paint the image with colored glue mixture and let dry. The color will lighten/fade — this is normal.

Mermaid tails when the colored glue was wet. The Dumpling’s mermaid tail (right) had so much paint, the colors bled into each other and covered the outline — this fixed itself once everything dried.
Once the glue dried, the colors faded and became opaque. Even if the paint covered the outline, just flip the plastic sheet over.

Place the images in direct sunlight or under a flashlight in the dark.

The “stained glass” under direct sunlight.
The “stained glass” under a flashlight in the dark.