Making Tissue Paper Suncatchers With a Toddler

I love asking for the Dumpling’s help in my arts and crafts because it’s a great way for us to work together…even if she’s more troublesome than helpful most of the time. Now that she’s older, I began involving her in more steps throughout the process whereas in the past, she was only responsible for only one task (or the entire activity consisted of only one task).

One of the first “big girl” projects we did was making suncatchers out of tissue paper for Valentine’s Day. There are many tutorials online—I just tweaked and combined steps from various ones to suit the needs of working with a two year old.

Materials

  • Tissue paper cut into squares
  • Scissors
  • Plastic tray or plate (make sure it’s bendable)
  • Elmer’s glue diluted with equal amounts of water

Notes Before Starting

Whenever the Dumpling is involved, I always do the prep work behind the scenes beforehand. For example, I had the tissue paper cut and the glue diluted at the start of the activity to avoid dealing with my daughter growing impatient.

I brought out only the supplies needed at each step. For example, I had the tray and tissue paper out during step one and kept the glue hidden until step two. Otherwise the Dumpling would fidget with the glue prematurely.

I also learned that activities often don’t go as planned with a toddler. If I ask the Dumpling to do X and she ends up doing Y, then Y it is! Even though it’s frustrating at times, I have come to accept that exploration is more important than results at this stage.

Step 1: Layer the pieces of tissue paper onto the plastic tray

This was actually a good exercise for the Dumpling to practice her fine motor skills since the tissue paper required gentle handling—she crumpled and ripped a few, but casualties were expected. I was on the sidelines spreading clumps apart, filling in thin areas, and putting the pieces back into the tray because she kept taking them out after she was done.

Step 2: Drench the tissue paper with the glue mixture

I put the diluted glue in an old plastic sauce container for the Dumpling to pour in. To prevent her from taking the now wet tissue paper out (yep, she was still at it), I took the tray away immediately and thanked her for a job well done. Yay!

Yes—that’s it. She helped with two steps.

Step 3: Let the tissue paper dry completely and peel off

The entire sheet should come off easily without tearing.

Step 4: Cut into hearts or other desired shapes

The Dumpling was quite pleased with the results, but it took her a while to realize that these are fragile (the epiphany came after destroying the fourth one) and needed to be handled with care.

Craft Idea #1: Instead of taping the hearts on a window like traditional suncatchers, I strung them into a mobile and hung it inside the Dumpling’s tent.

Craft Idea #2: Use them in Valentine’s Day cards.

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!)

Painting with the Dumpling: Difference Between Modern Art and Smeared Crap

The Dumpling recently showed interest in learning colors, so I set up a series of activities to help explore her newfound curiosity. I have been waiting to paint with her for some time but have held off in fear that more of it would end up in her stomach than on paper.

The four ingredients used in the homemade finger paint recipe were flour, water, salt, and food coloring.

I set out to make my own edible finger paint because I found comfort in knowing that whatever the Dumpling could potentially put in her mouth was indeed familiar and non-toxic. I also purposely stayed away from any recipe that required sugar as an ingredient – just because the paint was edible didn’t mean I want to encourage the Dumpling to eat it!

The Dumpling at work.

I kicked off the art session by naming each of the four paint colors available and showed the Dumpling how to dab paint with her fingers onto a piece of card stock. At the beginning, her art seemed promising with bright splashes of color that channeled Pollock. To encourage dialogue, I offered her only one color each time and kept the other jars of paint out of her reach. This restraint forced her to ask or point to a different color she wanted to use.

The fine line between art and a colorful mess.

The Dumpling eventually got tired of dotting paint and started smearing globs of it on her work area, face, and arms. In the end, I had a very colorful child to clean and a painting the resembled smeared crap on canvas. I mean that in a quite literal sense because everything just turned brownish.

While the Dumpling learned about colors through this activity, I got a refresher on color theory and how brown is made, which apparently is all the colors mixed together based on empirical observation. I also discovered that timing is the difference maker between my daughter creating art versus something that looked like doo doo. The key was to switch to a fresh piece of paper before she had the opportunity to turn everything into a mess.

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Super Mario Party (top); Murky Water (middle); Waves Crashing on a Beach (bottom)

From the onset, I was excited to finally start my very own collection of bad kid’s art. When I framed her work, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the finished products actually looked!

Even though I was careful about not letting the Dumpling eat paint, I’m now eager to see if she would have rainbow colored poop tomorrow.