Aluminum Foil Embossing

DIY metallic embossing — with embossing powder, special ink, and heat gun, has always sounded complicated and messy to me, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that a kid-friendly version can be created with aluminum foil. This project allows lots of room for error, so it is great for toddlers still working on their fine motor skills.

Materials

  • Aluminum foil
  • Thick string or twine
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Black cardstock (optional)

Draw or print a design on a piece paper. Simple images without much detail work the best. Click here to download my leaf design.

Trace design with glue. Smudges are okay since everything will be covered up by the foil anyways.

Glue string/twine onto the design. For my leaf design, I cut the string into varying lengths beforehand and let the Dumpling chose which ones to use. I was not picky about placement. If you are, however, the strings can easily be re-arranged since the glue took a while to dry.

Apply more glue surrounding the image and on top of the string, cover with a sheet of foil with shiny side up, and gently rub on the raised image.

Let dry, cut along the outlines, and glue the leaves onto the black cardstock. Any color paper can be used, but I preferred black since it brought out the metallic silver.

Bonus: Turn the leftover foil into abstract art. Crumples, rips, and wrinkles are interesting textures, so fold the leftover foil into strips of varying lengths and widths. Then ask your toddler for their expert arrangement to create a piece of abstract art.

Shrink Plastic Crafts

One of my favorite craft materials lately is shrink plastic (a.k.a. Shrinky Dink), which is a type of clear plastic (#6 to be exact) that once heated, thickens and shrinks to approximately half of its original size. It is great for making personalized crafts and gifts since we could essentially draw or trace any design on it.

The Dumpling and I have turned our plastic trinkets into wind chimes, ornaments, accessories, name tags, and key chains, just to name a few.

Original (left) vs. shrunken (right)
A name tag for the Dumpling’s book bag.
An Easter-themed wind chime.

Materials

  • Shrink plastic sheet
  • Color pencils, permanent markers, or acrylic paint
  • Oven safe tray
  • Oven mittens
  • Hole punch (optional)
  • Clear nail polish (optional)

Draw or trace your image onto the smooth side of shrink plastic sheet with permanent marker. My sheets came pre-sanded on one side and smooth on the other, so check carefully. Size the images accordingly as they shrink to half of their original size once heated.

Sanded side (left) vs. smooth side (right)
Trace or draw on smooth side. I have a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol ready on the side to wipe away small smudges or mistakes.

Color on the sanded side of the plastic. Flip the sheet over and color on the sanded side — the rougher surface makes it easier for the pigments to grab on. Coloring on this side also ensures that the color doesn’t cover the design outline.

Color on sanded side. The colors may look light, but they darken slightly once heated.

Cut along the outline. Be gentle as plastic can rip easily.

Punch hole(s) on where you want to string the shrink plastic.

Pre-heat oven to 175°C and then bake cutout for approximately 3-5 minutes in oven-safe tray. The funnest part of this activity is watching the plastic curl and then flatten into a miniature version of itself. The first time I did this, the cutout did not flatten properly — my guess was that I did not wait for the oven to pre-heat to the right temperature, so be patient!

The plastic curls and shrinks to approximately 50% of its original size in the oven!

Let cool and varnish with clear nail polish.

Mini Easter Activities Book Printable

For the Dumpling’s school Easter party, I made a mini activities book that I am sharing as a free printable. I love using this template because the book is printed single-sided on a regular piece of copy paper and is assembled without any gluing or binding — just fold and cut.

Materials


Download the template.


The content is appropriate for pre-schoolers and kindergartners with adult guidance.

Print. Under the print options, select “Fit” under the Page Sizing section. This ensures that no matter what size paper you’re using (whether A4 or Letter), the entire image would be scaled appropriately to fit within the print area.

(Confession: I actually forgot this step and my books came out slightly cut off on the edges.)


Fold and cut. Cut along the solid lines and fold along the dotted lines according to the guide below. Remember to trim the rectangular border on the perimeter of the sheet as well.


Inspired by one of my favorite crafters, Hello Wonderful, I also attached mini chocolate eggs to the bunny on the front page using double sided tape. Check on their version of an Easter bunny egg holder!

Easy DIY Birthday Coloring Book With Printable

The Dumpling’s kindergarten is throwing a birthday party for all November babies at the end of the month. Since she’s one of the birthday kids, I wanted to do something extra. So along with treats, I also made her classmates a coloring activity book as a party favor that I’m sharing as a customizable printable!*

The book is super easy to make because it’s printed single-sided on a regular piece of copy paper without any gluing or binding. While the customizable version provides the option to include a short message, I have also made a generic version with a simple “Happy Birthday” on the cover. The content is suitable for pre-schoolers and kindgardeners.

Materials

Customize the cover text in Adobe Reader (skip if using the generic template )

Open up the PDF file in Adobe Reader and click on the form fields (highlighted in blue) to edit the text.

Print. Prior to hitting the print button, select “Fit” under the Page Sizing section. This ensures that no matter what size paper you’re using (whether A4 or Letter), the entire image would be scaled appropriately to fit within the print area.

Print Setting

Trim the page border. Although this step might look extraneous, it ensures that all your pages will be of equal size.

Fold and Cut.

I managed to whip out 20 of these within the hour…mom-life is hard work!

 Please note that the two graphic elements in the template are different than the version featured in the video—the font used on the cover and the balloon design on the letter tracing spread.

The Dumpling Turns Three: Cake, Cake, and More Birthday Cakes!

In what felt like a blink of an eye, the Dumpling turned three last week. It was the first year that she understood what a birthday is, and ironically, it was also the first time I didn’t throw her a party. (My rationale was a bit complicated—something to do with me no longer feeling guilty about us not spending enough time together.) Instead we did a few birthday-themed activities leading up to the big day and took a family trip to Disney Hong Kong for the grand finale.

Blowing “candles”

The Dumpling’s lungs got a workout as she practiced blowing out pretend candle made out of marker caps. We even played a bit of “air bowling” by arranging the caps like bowling pins and trying to knock them all down in one huff.

Scrap Paper Cake

We used pieces of scrap paper that were cut into varying lengths to build our first cake. I even managed to sneak in a numbers exercise by labeling the strips 1-10 and asking the Dumpling to glue them in chronological order.

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3D Styrofoam Cake

For our second cake, we painted styrofoam circles and stacked them to create a 3D layer cake.

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Birthday Breakfast of Champions

On the morning of the Dumpling’s birthday, I made her favorite breakfast food—pancakes. I added a candle because pancake is a cake…right? Those candle blowing exercises paid off because she kept blowing the candle out before I could snap a picture!

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The actual birthday cake

The Dumpling wanted a chocolate cake, so I asked jigg to pick up something cute at Harbour City since the selection is somewhat limited in Discovery Bay. While I was expecting cartoon characters, he came home with this chic gourmet dark chocolate cake from Paul Lafayet. Even though the Dumpling gobbled it up, I think jigg and I need to recalibrate our definition of “cute” in the future.

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Disney Hong Kong

Despite talking about going to Disney for months, the Dumpling was absolutely miserable when we got there. She only smiled on the “Small World” ride and was Miss Grumpy Pants the rest of the time. Womp womp.

Halloween Activities: Toilet Paper Roll Creatures

Did you know that toilet paper rolls in Hong Kong are white, not cardboard brown like they are in the U.S.?! This is a game changer for a crafter like me because the rolls are essentially perfectly primed canvases.

I had a half a dozen toilet paper rolls saved up that were itching for a second life as pieces of art. A quick Google search for “toilet paper roll Halloween crafts” returned hundreds of great ideas—using these as my starting point, I turned my paper roll crafts into lanterns so they are cute creatures during the day, but spooky monsters at night!

Toilet-Paper-Roll-Creatures

Materials

Additional materials depending on the creature

  • White masking tape (mummy)
  • Bubble wrap cut into approximately 4″ x 4″ (zombie)
  • Brass fasteners (zombie)
  • Pipe cleaners (cat)
  • Push pin/tack/needle—optional

For All Toilet Paper Roll Creatures

Draw the eyes, noses, and/or mouths on the toilet paper rolls with a pencil and cut the shapes out with an X-Acto knife. The basic premise is to create openings so that light from the candle can shine through. To add additional designs, puncture small holes on the roll with a push pin—they can be anywhere, but a safe approach would be to follow the shapes of the eyes, mouths, etc.

Color in each creature (where applicable). The Dumpling and I used both watercolor and craft paint, but I found that watercolor latched onto our rolls better and didn’t flake off as much once they dried.


Ghost

Because my paper roll was already white, I pretty much left the ghost as is. The little ones can opt to glue on cotton balls or strips of white tissue paper as additional decoration.


Jack-o-Lantern

Cutting this was the closest as I’ll get to carving a pumpkin this year. Mine is just as cute as any real jack-o-lantern, but without the mess!


Mummy

I don’t know what it is with toddlers and tape. The Dumpling could spend 30 minutes peeling, cutting, and sticking tape on anything!

Peel masking tape and stick it onto the toilet paper roll. There’s really no wrong way to go about this—it doesn’t matter which direction the tape goes on, how uniformed the tape is ripped, or how much tape is used—all these “imperfections” give the mummy character. The Dumping ended up putting on so much tape, she blinded our mummy so I had to cut out the eyes again!


Zombie

Puncture a small hole on each side of the head (roughly where the temples are located) to insert the brass fasteners. 

Paint the bubble wrap pink, roll it roughly into an ovoid with the bubbles facing outward, and insert it on top of the toilet paper roll where the zombie’s brain would be. Have extra bubble wrap on the side because the Dumpling and I couldn’t stop popping them! Warning: The craft paint flaked off everywhere once it dried. Unless you’re coloring with something that is more permanent, the brain is mostly for decorative purposes and less for play.


Cat

Fold the top halves of the toilet paper roll inward to create the ears. This should preferably be done prior to coloring the cat.

Cut two pieces of pipe cleaner and fold them in half. The length depends on how long you want the whiskers. Mine were approximately 2 inches before they were folded in halves.

Puncture a small hole on each cheek where the whiskers would be and insert the pipe cleaner with the “v” side going into the toilet paper roll. 


Owl

Fold the top halves of the toilet paper roll inward to create the ears. This step should preferable be done prior to painting the owl.


I found a color changing LED candle (from the Dumping’s old Mickey balloon we got at Disney) and tucked it inside one of the creatures. Doesn’t my toilet paper roll gang look like they’re having an awesome party?

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Halloween Activities: Crafting with Fabric Paint

I recently scored a free bag of puffy fabric paints from a crafter giving them away on Facebook, so the Dumpling and I have been experimenting with this new material (it’s new to us!) all week. After a quick search online, it’s quite a versatile medium for crafting!

Puffy Fabric Paint Window Cling

Window clings are like stickers, but puffy and not as so annoying to peel off (I hope). The Dumpling had fun sticking and re-arranging these not-so-spooky decorations all over. We discovered that they actually clinged not only to glass, but to any flat non-porous surface!

Materials:

Draw an image onto the ziplock bag with puffy fabric paint—that’s it! You can either free draw or trace the image by placing the design printout under the bag. I tested this step on several types of plastic (ziplock bag, polypropylene plastic bag, and clear plastic presentation cover) but the ziplock bag was the obvious winner in terms of ease of use.

Let the paint dry completely (about 24 hours) before peeling the images off. Waiting was probably the hardest part. Due to my impatience, I actually ruined a few—don’t be like me.

Puffy Fabric Paint Stamps

This was a fun way to make custom stamps, but I found that they didn’t produce the cleanest impressions. They were sufficient for the Dumpling, however, since she didn’t really care about smudges and was just amused by the whole stamping process.

Materials

  • Puffy fabric paint
  • Cardboard or styrofoam (I preferred styrofoam because I got a few uses out of the stamps by rinsing the paint/ink off afterwards)
  • Bottle cap
  • Glue
  • Stamp ink or paint

Draw your design onto the cardboard or styrofoam to create the stamp. After I drew the initial image, I traced over it again with additional paint to create a deeper emboss.

Once the paint dried, cut a square or rectangle around the image to form the stamp base.

Glue a bottle cap onto the back side of the stamp. Creating the knobs is completely optional, but we found that the stamps were easier to handle with them.

Use a stamp ink or apply paint directly onto the stamp with a brush. I found that the latter method created cleaner outlines.

Puffy Fabric Paint Masquerade Mask

The Dumpling has an upcoming masquerade at school, so I wanted to make her a mask for the party. While using fabric paint was a good way to create custom designs, the material ended up being too delicate for toddler hands since she would be pulling the mask off and putting it back on every two minutes.

Materials:

  • Puffy fabric paint
  • Ziplock bag
  • Tulle or mesh fabric
  • Tape
  • Printout of mask design
  • Scissors
  • Elastic long enough to snuggly fit around your head.

Draw or print the mask template you would like to use. Alternatively click here to download my design, but please be aware the mask dimensions measures approximately 10″ by 5.25″ so it might not fit you! I actually scaled the image in several different sizes on screen (one is wider, another is shorter, etc.) and chose the version with the best fit from the printout.

Tape the mask printout onto your work area, then tape the ziplock bag onto the printout, and finally tape the tulle or mesh fabric onto the bag. You really really really don’t want anything to move.

Trace the image with puffy fabric paint.

Let the paint dry (about 24 hours) before peeling the mask off the ziplock bag.

Carefully cut the tulle or mesh fabric following the outline of the mask. Leave a piece of fabric uncut around both ends of the mask that are closest to your ears. The fabric needs to be large enough to make a small slit to string the elastic through.

Halloween Activities: Geometric Tape-Resist and Shadow Puppets

It seems like the Dumpling and I have been waiting for Halloween to come since Janaury! While she still doesn’t really understand what Halloween is, she associates it with ghosts, witches, zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc…all thanks to watching videos on YouTube. Even though All Hallow’s Eve isn’t until the end of the month, we are pretending it’s a month-long celebration in our household.

For our first week of Halloween, we did light and shadow play with some not-so-spooky silhouttes and got super messy with another tape-resist project!

Halloween Shadow Puppets

Materials

  • Halloween shadow puppet printable (click here to download)
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Small safety-pin or thin needle
  • Towel
  • Scrap cardboard
  • Phone flashlight

Protect your work area by covering it with scrap cardboard.

Lay the printable on top of a towel and puncture the image outlines with a pin or needle. I initially used a pin with a thick point and some of the details got lost as a result, so I would recommend using something thin. While the space between each hole isn’t fixed, I eyeballed the distance to approximately 1.5 mm of space apart.

Cut out the circle card for each image.

With your phone’s flashlight on, place the toilet paper roll directly on top of the light (encircling it completely) and then lay a card on top of the roll. It’s best to do the activity in total darkness and cast the images on an empty wall or ceiling. The Dumpling and I did this right before bed and made up silly one or two sentence stories with the silhouettes.

I don’t really understand the science behind it, but our images were casted upside down (I rotated them right side up in my photos below) and we sometimes saw double outlines. Once the Dumpling is older, we can explore the hows and whys…but for now, it’s all magic!

Colored Bubbles with Geometric Tape-Resist Halloween Silhouettes

Materials

  • Geometric cat and ghost printable (click here to download)
  • White heavy copy paper or drawing paper (the stock needs to withstand the bubble solution but thin enough to see through)
  • Bubble solution (use different bottles or separate into smaller containers for each color)
  • Bubble wands
  • Food coloring (we used a fall colored palette of red, yellow, orange and brown)
  • Painter’s tape (approximately 1/8″ wide)

Lay your copy or drawing paper on top of the printable. You need to be able to see through to the bottom layer as if you’re about to trace the image. You may also want to paper clip the pieces together so they don’t move.

Apply painter’s tape on top of the lines. Before investing the effort in applying all that tape, test peeling off a small strip to see whether it tears your paper. If it does, tape the strip on your shirt first to remove some of its adhesiveness.

Mix food coloring into the bubble solutions.

Blow the bubbles on top of the taped image. I would have preferred to have done this outdoors because it got super messy! Since we don’t have a yard, we did this in our bath tub and I sprayed everything down afterwards. With colored bubbles popping everywhere, the red and brown splatters made our bathroom looked like a murder scene!

Peel the tape off once everything dries completely.

Indoor Play & Activities: Recap of September 2018

September has brought about a stretch of dry weather in Hong Kong, so the Dumpling and I have been spending most of our afternoons outdoor. For the days that we stayed in, our activities have centered around reviewing the Chinese words that she’s been learning at school, celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, and discussing the aftermath of the typhoon that hit our city midway through the month.

Learning Chinese 

Ever since the Dumpling started kindergarten, I wanted to increase her exposure to Mandarin at home to reinforce what she’s learning at school. I tried reading Chinese children’s stories with her, but the words sounded so foreign that she exasperatingly asked, “Mommy, what are you saying?!” When I switched the language of her Netflix shows from English to Chinese, it solicited such a visceral reaction that I quickly reverted everything to its original state.

Eventually I backed off…until one day, out of nowhere, she muttered her first Mandarin words at home. At first it was counting to five, then to ten, and now a few words and broken phrases. She was so proud of herself at times that she wouldn’t shut up! I quickly capitalized on her newfound interest by creating several puzzles to further engage her through play.

Chinese and Arabic Number Puzzle Match

Click here to download.

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I created this puzzle to help the Dumpling recognize Chinese numbers and associate them with their Arabic counterparts.

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Directions: Glue each printout to a piece of cardboard. Carefully cut out the puzzle pieces with an X-Acto knife. Finally (and optionally) cut a semi-circle at the bottom of each piece so that it’s easier to pull off from the puzzle board.

Self-Correcting Chinese Vocabulary Puzzle

(Sorry, folks—because I used stock illustrations* to make this puzzle, I do not have the license to re-distribute this as a printable.)

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The Chinese characters used in the puzzle correlate with the vocabulary words the Dumpling is learning at school. I don’t expect her to read yet, so I just sound out each character as we match the pieces.

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* Some illustrations used in this puzzle were stock illustrations downloaded from Feepik.

Chinese Color Match Memory Game

Click here to download.

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To play, lay the pieces with their backsides facing up. Flip over two pieces on each turn with the goal of finding two matching colors in as few moves as possible. Again, I don’t expect the Dumpling to read just yet; I just say the colors aloud as we play. We initially started playing with only two colors and have currently built up to six.

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Directions: Make two copies of the printable, glue the sheets onto pieces of cardboard, and cut out each color circle.

Celebrating Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

The Dumpling and I experimented with different methods of making lanterns throughout September. Details can be found here.

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Dealing with the Aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut

Typhoon Mangkut was supposedly the fiercest storm to hit Hong Kong in the last 30 years. For a few hours, our windows and door shook violently and rainwater leaked in non-stop.

The next morning, the Dumpling and I ventured outside to assess the damages. There were lots of downed trees and foliage as expected, but to our surprise there were also shattered seashells outside our flat! We live less than a quarter of a mile away from the beach, but we are also situated on a hill approximately 80 feet above sea level so these seashells were a long way from home. The Dumpling and I managed to find several intact ones which we brought home and painted.

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Our souvenirs from the typhoon.