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.

Colorful Ice Hearts

The Dumpling recently painted on ice as an activity in one of her playgroups and absolutely loved it. To replicate the activity at home with a Valentine’s Day twist: I set out to make heart shaped ice. I didn’t have ice molds, so I experimented using my trusty cookie cutters instead—seems like I have done everything except bake with them!

Materials

  • Shallow plastic tray that is bendable (I upcycled a plastic food tray)
  • Plastic heart cookie cutter
  • Water

Instructions

Step 1: Pour several millimeters of water into the plastic tray with the cookie cutter inside. Please note that using too much water will make it hard to break off the excess ice later.

Step 2: Freeze on a flat surface.

Step 3: Gently break off the ice along the outside edge of the cookie cutter. The entire sheet of ice should come off the tray easily but be careful not to remove the cookie cutter.

Step 4: Put the cookie cutter back in the tray and add more water to the inside of the mold. It’s okay if some water leaks out. Optional: Add the ice that was broken off from the previous step to create a jagged effect.

Step 5: Freeze on a flat surface.

Step 6: Clean off the ice around the heart and gently wiggle/bend the mold free. If it’s stuck, wait a minute and try again.

Activity Ideas:

Color the Ice

Instead of painting directly on the ice, I also sprinkled salt over it at the start of the activity. Salt lowers the ice’s freezing temperature, so crevices will form where the ice starts melting. When the Dumpling painted food coloring on, the colors ran into the cracks for a beautiful effect.

Once the ice started turning brown, I rinsed it with water for a clean slate again.

Color with Ice

Once the ice soaked up enough food coloring, I asked the Dumpling use it as an “ice crayon” to color with it on paper.

Or just add food coloring before freezing.

DIY Party Doesn’t Mean Doing EVERYTHING Yourself

A nice thing about throwing a party for my two year old is that the Dumpling is still too young to realize that the festivities are for her. That meant I had 100% say in the theme and got to live vicariously through my daughter. The result was a mint green, pink, and gold celebration that I would have liked if I were two going on 32.

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The Dumpling’s mint green, pink, and gold party!

I love making my own party decorations because I can customize every detail on a budget. But I sometimes take the DIY aspect a bit too far—to a point where I thought “doing it yourself” meant doing everything yourself. For example, I was so stressed planning the Dumpling’s first birthday party last year that I had anxiety attacks (and poor jigg was on the receiving end of most of them) because I was pressed for time.

To ensure that I enjoyed every moment of my party crafting this year, I made a list of everything that needed to be done, took on only the projects that I wanted, and sought help for everything else—tasks that I didn’t want to do, am not good at, or were time-consuming and didn’t provide value. While I gained convenience and time at the expense of higher costs, the trade off made sense given my hectic schedule.

Have Someone Else Do the Set Up and Clean Up

On the top of my list was renting a venue because after hours of prepping followed by several more of hosting, the last thing I wanted to do was cleaning. We rented out Good Day Play Cafe, an indoor playroom that was perfect entertainment for our little guests and parents. Their tiered party packages and a la carte options offer a variety of services across different price ranges. The staff was phenomenal and helped with the set up, provided food for the kiddos, and of course, the clean up.

Playroom at Good Day Play Cafe.
The staff helped set up and provided fun table cloths and utensils to match my theme.

Budget friendly thought: Host the party at home and hire cleaners to come afterwards.

Delegate Your Weakness

My strength is in design, not baking. When it came you dessert, I was more than happy to seek professional help rather than spend time learning to bake and sculpt gum paste (and worry whether my creations would be edible).

By chance, I was browsing through Instagram three days before the party when I saw my  my friend’s gorgeous dessert creations and immediately fell in love. I gave her free reign on the design and was ecstatic with the results! One of the beauty of hiring a professional is that she knows what she’s doing and didn’t need much guidance from me.

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Custom handcrafted green, pink and gold cupcakes to match my party decorations
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Add personalized banners and flags to cupcakes for a custom look.

Budget friendly thought: Decorate plain cakes or cupcakes with personalized banners and flags.

Use Pre-Made Decorations

How housewives felt about instant cake mixes back when the product first came to market was how I initially felt about pre-made party decorations: it’s cheating. Then I realized that I didn’t want to spend hours cutting up tissue paper, so I bought a pre-made (but unassembled) party kit from Amazon that came with tassels, decorative straws, and pom pom.

Budget friendly thought: Amazon offers a variation of what is included in their party kits, so explore their sets rather than buying pieces individually.

Focus on the Fun Part!

Delegating out certain tasks freed up more time for me to focus on designing.

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Invitation to the Dumpling’s Birthday and Halloween play date. 
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I realized after the party that I forgot to make a banner with her name. Oops.
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Flags and pom pom wands.
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Favor bags for the little guests.

Remember that Time is Valuable!

People often asked me where I found the time to throw a DIY party as a full time working mom. If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s time management. When “free time” is scarce, I made sure the it was used efficiently by focusing on my strengths and what made me happy; everything else was a distraction. Crafting is supposed to be fun and therapeutic and I intend to keep it that way!

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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