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.
So what are these two magical 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.
Place the images in direct sunlight or under a flashlight in the dark.
It 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.
To replicate a similar effect in our cat, we “puffed” up its head to create depth with a simple technique.
Color the cat. Please note that the color applied on the cat’s head on Page 2 will be the color of the cat’s eyes.
Cut out the cat’s head, eyes, and the slits on the side of each cheek.
Overlap the slits to puff up the cat’s head. Add glue where indicated and gently glue together the slits to create the “puff”.
Glue the head onto the body. Dab glue on the tip of each ear and chin as indicated on Page 2 of the template, align the head cutout onto the dotted lines, and gently press only where glue is applied. Do not flatten the head; it should remain raised.
That little “puff” we made on the kitty’s head was enough to create the depth needed for the optical illusion. Now no matter which way you look, the cat is always looking at you!
Even though fall is here, it still feels like summer in Hong Kong. The temperature swelters around the 90s and there are no hallmarks of a typical New England autumn — gradient colored leaves, apple picking trips, Halloween decorations, or pumpkin spiced anything!
Despite living in a foreign land, it is important that the Dumpling is still exposed to American traditions and celebrations, so I took it upon myself to make the leaves change color…with an agamograph!
Agamographs are pictures that show a different image depending on the angle that they are viewed. They make versatile projects because the process can be adapted for different age groups — from coloring for the littlest ones, to cutting and gluing for pre-schoolers, to applying math for school-aged kids.
Scoring tool (optional, suggested if using cardstock)
Paper 2x (if using template without guidelines)
Print the template. The version with the guidelines is a straightforward color, cut, and glue activity while the version without guidelines will require additional math and ruler work later.
When printing, select “actual size” under the ‘Page Sizing & Handling” section.
Color the trees — the first page with the hues of summer (ex: shades of green) and the second with those of fall (ex: shades of yellow, orange, red, or brown).
Cut the trees into strips. Cut along the solid lines in the version with the guidelines (pages 1 and 2). Cut and discard the excess strips located on the left and right margins of each page.
If using the version without the guidelines, divvy and mark the pages into equal parts (I used “0.75”) with a ruler before cutting. Label the back of each strip chronologically, using the alphabet letters for one page and numbers for the other. See the guideline template version for reference.
Create the base backing. In the guideline version, place the base pages (pages 3 and 4) in landscape orientation and tape them together. In the version without guides, tape together two pieces of paper in landscape orientation.
If using heavier paper stock, score along the dotted lines or the same width as the strips. This would make folding the paper easier later.
Arrange the strips in alternating order and glue them onto the base.
Fold the base like an accordion. In the guideline version, fold along the dotted lines. On the version without guides, use the strips as reference for the fold.
My latest project with the Dumpling is to make trendy animals (ex: llamas, flamingos, narwhals, etc.) from the past and present. Owls, of course, made the list because they were everywhere back in the early 2010s due to Harry Potter mania. The birds were inescapable, being featured in clothes, home decor, and toys and even becoming popular household pets.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about owls are their eyes, so the Dumpling and I made ones that blinks and winks…among other expressions.
2. Glue two pairs of eyes together. Select two pairs of eyes from the template (or draw your own) and hole punch where indicated. Position one pair in front of you, then vertically flip (very important!) the eyes over to glue the second pair onto the backside.
3. String a thin wire through the eyes and tape the wire in place on the back of the owl. (I only had floral wire…that’s why it is green!)
The photos on my phone are an un-curated mess, filled with blurred, unflattering, or accidental shots that should have been deleted long ago. As a result, the Dumpling and I would often get distracted by the 10,000+ images other than the ones I want to show her.
After our recent family vacation, I printed a few photos that highlighted our trip and bound them into a miniature book. Sharing real, physical pictures was such a refreshing experience in this digital age. The format helped the Dumpling better recount the events in chronological order and served as a keepsake of our holiday.
The photo book, which measures 3″ w x 4″ h, was made from folding a standard 6″ x 4″ photo in half. The below tutorial shows how to print two images per spread. To create one image per spread, just print directly from your phone.
1. Adjust slide size to standard 6″ w x 4″ h photo dimensions in a blank PowerPoint presentation.
2. Delete any text boxes on the slide. PowerPoint inserts the title and subtitle text boxes on the first slide by default, so select both and delete.
3. Insert 3″ w x 4″ h rectangle on the left half of the slide. PowerPoint uses a blue rectangle and black outline by default. While it does not matter what the fill color is, remove the shape outline. This is where the picture on the left spread will be.
4. Duplicate the rectangle and place it on the right half of the slide. This is where the picture on the right spread will be.
5. Fill the rectangles with photos. Instead of filling the shape with a color, select the option to fill it with an image. Repeat steps 3-5 on additional slides until reaching the number of desired pages (my recommendation is approximately 10-20).
(Pro-tip: Add text on top of the photos to tell a story!)
6. Convert the slides in JPGs. My local print shop only prints photos from JPGs or PNGs, so I had to convert my PowerPoint file into the acceptable format. I could not figure out how to export the images without compromising on the resolution (even though I checked all the settings!), so my workaround was to first save the slides as a PDF.
8. Score and fold each printed photograph in half. Scoring creates a cleaner fold, especially on thicker paper stocks. If you do not have a scoring board, layer a folded towel under the photo, place a ruler on where the score line should be, and run the edge of an old credit card along the ruler to create the score line.
9.With the edges aligned, tape the back of the photos together using double-sided tape. I applied tape on the top, bottom, and outer margins of the photo, but not the inner margin located along the fold.
Once the photos are taped together, they form the inside pages of the book and the folds make up the spine.
10. Press the photos together under something heavy (i.e. textbooks) for about 24 hours. This limits the pages from puffing open on their own.
11.Tape the spine tightly together and then measure its width. This width varies depending on the number of pages, weight of the photo paper, and how well the pages were compressed together. For example, the width of my spine was approximately 0.5″. If unsure, add no more than 0.125″ to the measurement.
12. Create the book cover in PowerPoint. The process is similar to creating the inside pages of the book as demonstrated above, so I did not splice the demo video up into individual steps. In summary, adjust the slide size to US Letter dimensions (11″ x 8.5″) and insert a rectangle with the following dimensions: (6″ + width of spine spine) x 4″. For my example, it would be 6.5″ w x 4″ h. The rectangle should be placed at least 0.25″ away from the edges of the slide to prevent the image from being cut off during printing.
I have also added lines (at the 3″ and 3.5″ mark) to help indicate where I needed to score the book spine.
When “filling” the the rectangle with an image, PowerPoint automatically stretches the picture, so manually change this setting by switching to “Fit” under the “Crop” drop-down. To enlarge or shrink the image proportionally, click and drag the white circles on the corners AND hold down the SHIFT key simultaneously.
13. Print. I used standard 8.5″ x 11″ card stock. When printing, select “Actual Size” in the setting to prevent the printer from changing the image size.
14.Score and fold where spine ought to be, then cut out the cover.
15. Tape the cover onto the first and last page of the book. Again I only taped the top, bottom, and outer margins. Do not tape the spine of the book onto the cover because there needs to be wiggle room for the book to open and close.
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.
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.
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.
Color pencils, permanent markers, or acrylic paint
Oven safe tray
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.