Indoor Play & Activities: Recap of August 2018

Summer in Hong Kong is absolutely miserable—contstant rain, high humidity, or terrible air quality has forced us to stay indoors for most of August. As a result, the Dumpling and I have been extremely busy at home.

Below is a recap of all the indoor activities we have done in August. Most of them involve common household materials! I also included links to external tutorials and recipes I used.

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Create Faux Sea Glass

Apply Elmer’s glue mixed with food coloring onto glass bottles or vases to create a faux sea glass effect. Once dried, the stained glasses cast the prettiest light shadows in the sun!

Decorate a Cardboard Picture Frame

Cut the shape of a picture frame out of cardboard and wrap it with white paper. Decorate the frame with paint, pom poms, feathers, stickers, etc.!

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Decorate Cookies

I’m not much of a baker, but everything tastes better when we add sprinkles.

Turn Chopstick into Wands

I hoard “trash”—cardboards, plastic trays, bottles, even takeout chopsticks. I knew the last item would come in handy one day because they made wonderful wands!

Paint with Droppers

Another odd thing I save is kiddy medicine droppers because they can be converted into coloring tools. Combine water and food coloring in a small container and use the dropper to squirt the colored mixture onto paper towels or baby wipes.

Decorate Cookies with Puffy Paint

This three-ingredient puffy paint recipe (made with flour, salt, and baking powder) is my absolute favorite—I always have a batch stored in the fridge. The paint is actually puffy and stays puffy and it can be air-dried or microwaved dried.

Turn Colored Transparencies into Stained Glass or Lanterns

Similar to the faux sea glass activity, apply Elmer’s glue tinted with food coloring onto plastic transparencies to make stained glass or suncathcers. I also taped the sheets together to make a lantern and lit it up with my phone flashlight at night.

Paint with Toy Cars

Squirt some paint on a piece of paper and run toy cars through the paint.

Have a Soap Bubble Tea Party

Pouring stations are always a hit with the Dumpling. I added pom poms and foam soap for her to scoop into our “tea”.

Mix Baking Soda and Vinegar

Add food coloring to vinegar for a colorful eruption.

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Create a Popsicle Stick Puzzle

The Dumpling loves looking at herself, so it’s no surprise she was really into solving a puzzle of herself. This classic craft is made with a photo glued onto popsicle sticks using mod podge.

Bust Out the Play Dough for Open Ended Play

I usually make a HUGE batch of fresh play dough every few months, store them in separate ziplock bags in the fridge, and bust one out whenever I’m in a bind.

I rotate the accessories that I put out with the play dough—different cookie cutter shapes, lego blocks, scissors, etc. If the dough is on its last legs, I let the Dumpling mix in all sorts of stuff…like coffee grind.

Jump On An Oobleck Muddy Puddle

Oobleck (cornstarch mixed with water) is one of my favorite messy play materials. Being seemingly both solid and liquid at the same time, the Dumpling is endlessly fascinated by it.

I set up a Peppa-themed activity with her Peppa toys, muddy puddle made out of oobleck, and bubble bath made out of foam soap…I think all of the Dumpling’s Peppa dreams came true with this one.

Jump On Real Puddles

Sometimes cabin fever can only be cured by escaping to the outside world. We just put on our boots and embrace all that the heavy rain has left behind.

Seven Summer Fruit Art For Kids

To celebrate the arrival of summer, the Dumpling and I created an art series featuring a few of our favorite summer fruits! We experimented with a different technique for each—from making paper mosaics to coloring with makeup to stamping prints out of various household materials. While we did the activities side-by-side (with me adding the finishing touches), the dissimilarities in our work are quite telling of how differently we approach each task!

1. Paper Cutout Watermelon

Paper cutout watermelon.

Directions:

Although this was a straightforward activity, working with my two and a half year old brought an interesting twist because her imagination isn’t yet fully bound by how a watermelon (or anything really) is supposed to look like. As a result, our compositions were as literal or abstract as we wanted it to be.

2. Paper Mosaic Pineapple

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Paper mosaic pineapples.

Directions:

  • Print the pineapple template.*
  • Cut yellow and green colored paper into approximately quarter inch tiles. Optional: Use different shades of the same color to create contrast.
  • Glue or tape colored the pieces on. (I used double sided tape.)

This was a perfect example of how the Dumpling and I diverge in interpreting directions—of me giving them and of her following. Instead of placing the pieces one-by-one, she just dumped everything on. It didn’t create the pixelated effect I was aiming for, but she did complete the activity…and it does look like a pineapple.

3. Thumb Print Strawberries

Thumb print strawberries.

Directions:

  • Apply lipstick (paint or stamp ink would work as well) on your thumbs and stamp to create heart-shaped prints.
  • Outline the prints with a mixture of rounded triangles and hearts.
  • Add leaves and speckles for seeds.

4. Wine (or Juice) Stained Grapes

Wine stained grapes.

Directions:

  • Download the grape template* and color each grape with blue, red, and/or purple watercolor pencils.
  • Blend colored grapes with a brush using red wine or juice (instead of water).
  • Drip red wine or grape juice onto the drawing for added effect. If you don’t have a dropper, soak a cotton ball and squeeze the liquid out onto the paper.

(This was a solo activity because I was that possessive of my wine…and I didn’t have grape juice.)

5. Bottle Cap Stamp Cherries

Bottle cap stamp cherries.

Directions:

  • Apply red paint on water a bottle cap and stamp.
  • Add stems and leaves on the berries after the paint dries.

Midway through our fruit series, I realized that I’m learning from the Dumpling as much as she’s learning from me. While I was carefully laying the cap on my sheet of paper in attempt to create perfect circles, the Dumpling just slathered a ton of paint on and stamped away. She used both ends of the bottle cap, creating a combination of outlined and colored-in circles—it was something that I didn’t think of until she showed me!

6. Pom Pom Smash Blueberries

Pom pom smash blueberries.

Directions:

  • Soak pom poms into blue and purple paint and smash them with a toy hammer. To limit the splash radius, cover the pom poms with clear plastic wrap.
  • Draw star on the berries to from the calyx once the paint dries.

7. Bubble Wrap Print Raspberries

Directions:

  • Cut a piece of bubble wrap into an oval-ish shape and glue onto a large beverage cap.
  • Apply pink and/or red paint onto the bubble wrap and stamp.
  • Draw circles to form drupes once the paint dries.

Like the cherry bottle cap printing exercise, the Dumpling’s unstudied approach uncovered another technique that didn’t occur to me. She just stamped and re-stamped over and over again—often on the same spot, which gave her raspberries a layered effect!

This project taught me that I should act more like a kid sometimes. I tend to over-think, over-plan, and over-analyze…while my toddler just does it. She keeps trying and experimenting until she runs out of paper or paint, whichever comes first. While my artwork often turned out as expected, the Dumpling’s carefree method often led to serendipitous effects. In the end, it was my toddler who taught me a thing or two!

* The printables look differently than my photos because my fruits were all initially free drawn; the templates were created after.

Turn Your Child’s Artwork Into Colorful Text Prints (Part 1)

I recently created a bunch of alphabet coloring sheets for the Dumpling, and we went on a coloring rampage with all sorts of materials—watercolor, chalk, craft paint, shaving cream, etc. I thought her application and choices in colors were spot on, so I cleaned up a few of her pieces in Photoshop (I helped her “color within the lines”) to create these beautiful alphabet prints!

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I received several inquiries on how the prints were created, and I was bummed out to tell others that they needed Photoshop. To make the project accessible to those who don’t have the program, I made two “electronic stencils” so they could be layered over existing artwork to replicate the same effect in PowerPoint. Since I needed “abstract” pieces for this method, it turned out to be a great way to give a few of the Dumpling’s old paintings a second life!

Alphabet-Stencil-Preview

 

Learn how to create them in PowerPoint by first downloading my “electronic stencils” and then watching my video tutorial below. I’ll demonstrate how the stencils are created from scratch in my next post!

 

Downloads

Alphabet Print Video 14
Electronic Stencil – Lowercase Alphabet
Alphabet Print Video 14
Electronic Stencil – Uppercase Alphabet

Make a Doggy Layer Puzzle

These were the instructions that someone once used to teach me how to draw a dog:

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My ten year old self thought it was the most awesome drawing tutorial ever! Actually, it’s still awesome because it’s the same set of instructions I give myself whenever I draw a dog today…which is often since it’s a regular request from the Dumpling.

I wanted to share the story with my toddler because this wisdom must be passed on to future generations! Having been tinkering with layer art recently, I thought making a layer puzzle would be a fun way to get her involved.

Materials

  • Printable template
  • X-Acto knife
  • Scissors
  • Seven sheets of cardstocks (Color choices are based on preference; I used black, beige, blue, white (2), light brown, brown)

Instructions:

Step 1: Print the template onto the cardstocks. 

  • Black: Layer 1 (Please note that I just hand wrote the title in with a marker.)
  • Beige: Layer 2
  • Blue: Layer 3
  • White: Layer 4
  • Brown: Layer 5
  • Light brown: Layer 6
  • White: Layer 7

Step 2: Use an X-Acto knife to cut out the shaded areas. I’m not that dexterous so I used scissors to clean up the frays and trimmed off any borders peeping from the previous layer(s).

Step 3: Layer the cutouts in numerical order and share the story! I also numbered the sheets so that the Dumpling can solve the puzzle on her own by applying her number sequence knowledge.

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My Halloween Mommy Fails

Halloween was never a big deal in my family while I was growing up, so I’m having a tough time being a spook-tacular mommy. My attempts in doing a few Halloween activities with the Dumpling didn’t end quite well, but that’s parenthood! You win some and lose some.

I thought the costume just ran small
I bought a Tigger costume for the Dumpling back in September and never took it out of the bag until this weekend. When jigg was trying to put the outfit on our daughter, he called me over because he was unable to button the bottom of her one-sie. I looked at the size on the hanger again, which read 12-18 months. Odd…it should have fit the Dumpling perfectly since she’s on the tiny side.

It was too late to pick up another costume, so we improvised by leaving the bottom flaps unbuttoned and tucking them into a pair of brown tights we found in the Dumpling’s closet. Other than the sleeves looking a bit short, we couldn’t tell that anything was off.

Fast forward to later that night when I was taking off the Dumpling’s clothes for her bath…and saw the tag label that was sewn onto her costume; it read 3-6 months.

I made pumpkin decoration boring
Three days before Halloween, I realized that I needed to put up a pumpkin. I had zero intentions of carving it because de-seeding is too much work. My plan was to stick pom poms on as a mess-free activity.

The problem was that I didn’t have pom poms. After a bit of improvising I made a few dozen by breaking apart a cotton ball and reassembling them into smaller ones. I wrote”BOO” on the pumpkin with a glue stick and asked the Dumpling to help me stick the “pom poms” on. It was a fail-proof in my mind because it really didn’t matter where she aimed; the cotton would only stick to where the glue was applied.

The Dumpling was not impressed; she did one and wanted nothing to do with the pumpkin decoration afterwards.

The Dumpling can’t have her cookie and eat it too
My local bakery sold un-decorated Halloween cookies that came with a “paint palette” the kids can color in themselves. This activity, I assumed, would be a guaranteed hit with the Dumpling because she loves to paint and eat!

Unfortunately the Dumpling thought she was going to paint and eat the cookie at the same time. Waterworks ensued when I explained the sequence of events again, but she assumed I was being the evilest mom in the world: dangle a treat and won’t let her have it.

I had to bribe her with animal crackers before she willingly picked up the paint brush. I guess she got her cookie and ate it too.

My decoration looks almost Christmas-y
I dug out two old “ghost” night lights from Ikea to set the spooky mood. The lights were green and red and way too cute.

Finally a win with the “Cheerios Halloween Play Book”

Grandma saved the day by bringing over a fun Halloween-themed Cheerios Play Book. The premise was to fill any missing graphics with Cheerios. We had a lot of fun finding the missing “O”s, counting, and building up the Dumpling’s Halloween vocabulary words.

Finally there was an activity with instant gratification where the Dumpling can eat and do at the same time.

Best Party Favor For Under $1

Finding the right gift to use as a favor has always been one of my biggest party planning hurdles. It feels like I’m searching for a unicorn when I’m looking for something that meets ALL three of my following criteria:

  1. Practical: The gift should be useful, not something the kids play with once and toss into recycling.
  2. Fun for most ages: Since my guests range from babies to toddlers to young children, the gift should ideally be appealing to a wide demographic.
  3. Affordable: My goal is to keep each item under $3.

My strategy is to come up with a list of things that I use with the Dumpling on a regular basis, then filter out items that are too age specific, and try to purchase them in bulk for volume discounts.

For example, I gifted headbands and bow ties for the Dumpling’s first birthday last year. Both have re-use value, are available in sets, and can be used with children of all ages. (I use the Dumpling’s headband as a scrunchie …and I’m 32.)

Cookie Cutters Are Useful, Fun, and Cheap!

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I dropped a cookie cutter into a handmade gift bag labeled with the child’s name.

Cookie cutters made the cut for the Dumpling’s party favor this year because they knock all three criteria out of the park. I thought of the idea after an old set unexpectedly received a lot of mileage in our household recently. While prices range drastically depending on shapes and materials, I opted for a box of 24 stainless steel cutters for a whopping $8.50 on Amazon. (I didn’t purchase a replica of what I have since I didn’t need 100 cutters!) Because the package comes in an assortment, I labeled each gift bag with the child’s name and assigned a pattern for everyone. This ensured that the design is gender appropriate and siblings do no get the same thing.

The cost of each favor came out to $0.35 each!

My original set of 100+ cookie cutters.

Activities With Cookie Cutters

Teach ABCs, Shapes, Numbers, Etc.

I initially dug my cookies cutters out because the set contains plastic molds of all 26 letter that I wanted to use as alphabet “blocks” with the Dumpling. They served my purpose because 1) they look enough like toys to pique my toddler’s interest; 2) they are light and easy to grab; and 3) they are movable to form short, simple words.

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The Dumpling is starting to get into her ABCs.

Cut or sculpt food

I subsequently found myself using the other shapes to make meal time more interesting. They can be used to cut through bread, pancakes, cheese, sliced fruits, or anything soft.

Cut heart shaped sandwiches for a ladies’ tea party.
Make heart shaped pancakes.
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Mold rice into fun animal shapes.

Stamp and Stencil

The Dumpling used the shapes as stamps to create repeating pattern with finger paint.

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Simple shapes work well.

Ideas from Around the Web

Turn cookie cutters into ornaments

Hang them up as they are (thediydreamer.com)
Wrap the cookie cutters in baker’s twine (cutesycrafts.com)
Add washi tape for decorative effect (anightowlblog.com)
Add some decorative background with festive prints (itallstartedwithpaint.com)

Use cookie cutters to shape other materials

Shape pipe cleaners to create bubble wands (redtedart.com)
Shape pipe cleaners to grow crystals (onelittleproject.com)

Use cookie cutters as molds in other projects

Upcycle old crayons (onelittleproject.com)

 

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Kid’s Birthday Parties Are Stupid But I Keep Throwing Them!

The Dumpling is turning two years old in less than a month, and I’m currently in a full party planning frenzy. My dining room table is taken over by scraps of paper, half assembled favor bags, and experimental decorations that are at the edge of becoming either Pinterest wins or fails.

I often question why I invest so much effort into something that the Dumpling won’t remember. Before becoming a mom, I thought that kid’s birthday parties are stupid. Now that I have a little one, I still think they are. jigg is personally against the social extravagance and wants nothing to do with them. As a result, leaving me alone and babysitting the Dumpling are his forms of support.

A Look Back at the Dumpling’s First Birthday

Planning the Dumpling’s first birthday was my first DIY project after an almost two year hiatus. It was also a personal test to see if I still have any creative juice left after exhausting all my energy into motherhood. I always thought having children was another milestone to a fulfilling and meaningful life, but motherhood ended up feeling more like a chore. Since giving birth, my days revolved around nursing, pumping, changing diapers, and working. In a depressing reality that I didn’t want to admit, I felt tied down because of the things I gave up to make room for my daughter. I never thought of myself as an “I can’t” person, but I became one.

“I can’t go to happy hour because I have to go home to take care of my daughter.”

“I can’t meet you for dinner because the Dumpling’s bedtime is 7pm.”

“I can’t go shopping because I have to pump/nurse every three hours.”

“I can’t meet you in the city because I can’t carry the baby, the stroller, and the diaper bag on the train.”

“I can’t leave the baby at home because I want to spend more time with her.”

“I can’t take on this project because I don’t have time.”

“I can’t [insert activity] because I’m so tired.”

Even as I revisit my reasons now, I still believe they were legitimate and can sympathize with my past self. However, I knew that if I didn’t drag myself out of this mentality, I would eventually lose myself.

My road to self re-discovery started with crafting because it didn’t violate my “I can’t” reasons; I had no excuses. Honestly it could have been anything – cooking, baking, photography, writing, piano, etc. I used the Dumpling’s birthday party as my objective and immersed myself into making it happen. Again, it could have been any occasion; it just happened that the Dumpling’s birthday was around the corner when I had the epiphany. I took every opportunity during the Dumpling’s nap times on weekends to create banners, tassels, favor boxes, and other party decorations. I could have easily bought everything on Amazon or Etsy, but I was insistent on making my own. In the end, I managed to pull together a not-so-scary Halloween-ish themed orange and black celebration.

The truth was that the party was as much for me as it was for the Dumpling. It boosted my confidence and helped me rediscover the things I loved before my daughter overtook my life.

It turned out that I can!

As I undertook new arts and crafts projects, I began merging my hobbies with spending time with my daughter so that I was able to derive fulfillment simultaneously in both. I sculpted with play dough, built a cardboard theater, penned a silly poem, made a board book, turned my daughter’s finger painting into a coffee table book, and started writing again. One project led to another, and I’m now an aspiring mommy blogger who sees the Dumpling as my muse.

As unnecessary and extravagant as I still think kid’s birthday parties are, I will continue throwing them as yearly celebrations of everything my daughter and I have achieved together. I also look forward to the day when the Dumpling is old enough plan and bring her own parties to life. The task my seem daunting for a little girl, but I will be able to teach her that she also can!

Splashes, Smudges, and Spills: The Dumpling is Now a [Self-] Published Artist 

When the Dumpling first started finger painting, I didn’t have high expectations after seeing that her primary techniques consisted of slapping, smearing, ripping, and crumpling paint and paper together. She proved to be a prolific artist and whatever survived the production process was whimsically lauded as “abstract art.” jigg and I proudly framed and shamelessly shared our daughter’s colorful messes with family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who was willing to admire them. They played along in our ruse by comparing her work to modern artists, asking for copies, reserving future pieces, and even offering commission.

Since everyone seemed to be on-board the “fake it until we make it” boat, I wanted to take the game to the next level: convert the Dumpling’s work into a book and enable her to claim the title of being a published artist. Besides, I have been looking for a good coffee table book lately.

After laying each painting out, I saw how much of the Dumpling’s personality embodied her work, from her obsession with a particular color (she went through a phase where she only wanted blue), to her impatience with dotting paint (she preferred pouring it), to her stubbornness to follow my instructions (hence the mess). The compositions also showed an amusing progression in her thought process. The amount of paint used was indicative of her interest level; white space showed trepidation while total color coverage signified her full embrace of the medium. In one instance, the Dumpling was looking for fresh space as every inch of her work area was used. Without missing a beat, she flipped over her existing piece of paper and continued on her newfound, blank canvas. Although unintentional, it produced an unique effect.

My DIY book binding project.

What started out as ordinary toddler art turned out looking like a legitimate portfolio. In hindsight, we never had to fake it. It just took my mommy goggles time to focus, some proper image cropping, and several hours of my labor (which mommy normally charges a pretty penny for) to bring out their fully glory.

To capture the spirit of her work, I titled her book, Splashes, Smudges, and Spills.

Click here to read Splashes, Smudges, and Spills

I already have plans to have the next edition of her book professionally printed in hardcover. Let me know if you want to get in the pre-order.

(I’m being serious!)

Mrs. jigg’s Lollipop Theater

The Dumpling got into nursery rhymes lately after watching The Mother Goose Club. To make storytelling a bit more interactive and personal, I decided to write my own and narrate it through a homemade cardboard stage. The plot is based on true events, although names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

(Visit my Instagram for videos.)

The Bunny Who Refused to Nap

There was once a little bunny who refused to nap.
He ran around the meadow and drove his mother mad.
He hopped with a frog.
He pranced with a deer.
He climbed with a squirrel.
He fished with a bear.

His poor mother chased him all around.
She couldn’t get a break
Because her little bunny wanted to stay awake.

The little bunny was finally tired by nighttime
And hopped straight into bed.
His mother opened a bottle of wine
And poured herself a glass…or three of red!

 


Behind the scenes:

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Building the stage: Cut open a side of a cardboard box and attach strips of self-adhesive velcro (side “A”)  to the back. Poke holes on the bottom.
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Gathering the talent: Print and cut out desired backgrounds and characters. (Freepik is an amazing resource.) Add strips of velcro (side “B”) to the back of the backdrops and cutouts. Wrap velcro (side “A”) around lollipop sticks and insert them to the bottom of the stage. Fasten the characters onto the sticks and let the show begin!

The Dumpling kept grabbing and putting the props in her mouth, so I ended up ditching the stage altogether and moved the characters around with my hand. She eventually succeeded in gouging the bunny’s eyes out and then kidnapping him altogether. I spent the next few minutes chasing her around the coffee table to rescue my blinded actor.

This play has indeed become a tragedy.