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.

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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“Ma-Nye!”

“Ma-Nye! Ma-Nye!”

That’s what the Dumpling calls me no matter how many times we correct her, “It’s mommy. Mom-ME.”

The obvious reason for her mispronunciation is that she’s only 20 months old. A small part of me, however, thinks that my daughter is being deliberate. “Ma-nye” is her own made-up word, a combination of “mamma” and “nye nye”, the Chinese word for milk. The Dumpling has always seen me as the food source, and she has heard both words frequently and in close proximity with each other since she was born.

My theory led me to wonder how being raised in a bilingual household has affected the Dumpling’s language development. Currently jigg and the grandparents speak exclusively to her in Chinese, while I and her daycare caregivers focus on English. Our thought process is that she would associate one set of language with certain people and communicate accordingly. That didn’t exactly play out as hoped, however, as daycare used to comment that they couldn’t understand her when she spoke Chinese.

I wanted to gain a better understanding of the Dumpling’s communication skills, so I enlisted jigg’s help to gather data. Our goal was to track everything our daughter said over a weekend and make note of any interesting observations. As a preliminary exercise, I wrote down all the word that she knows, so that we could simply tally it off the list. My criteria for a word is something she can verbally say, even if it’s mispronounced, as long as she understands its meaning. For example, if she said “yeyow” and pointed to an object that is indeed yellow.


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Result of our experiment in a word cloud.  It appears that I’m competing with cats (“mao mao”), bears, and daddy for her affection.
The Dumpling has a vocabulary of around 80 words with almost a 50/50 split between English and Chinese. She used 74 unique words throughout the weekend and averaged about 262 words per day. I also noticed that she can say something only in one language, not both. My guess is that her preference is for whichever is easier to pronounce. For example, the Dumpling cannot say “flower” in English, but she can say “fa” in Chinese probably because it’s one syllable versus two. If this were true, learning two languages has actually helped expand rather than limit her vocabulary.

The Dumpling repeats herself until she gives up on (or I give into) what she wants. The Dumpling loves watching animal shows (a few of her favorites are Secret Life of Pets, Thunder and the Magic House, Kung Fu Panda, Zootopia, and Masha and the Bear), so it’s not surprising that she frequently said “bear,” “woe woe” and “mao mao” (Chinese for dog and cat) to get us to turn on Netflix.

The Dumpling’s speech is often reinforced with body language. She probably relies heavily on nonverbal cues out of necessity to work around the language barrier between her and her various caregivers. The Dumpling consistently pointed to things, shook or nodded her head, or led us to what she wanted. If she wanted to go out, for example, she would bring us her shoes, stand by the door, and say “guy guy” (Chinese for street). If she wanted a cookie, she would say “ban ban” (Chinese for cookie), lead me to the kitchen, point to the cabinet where they’re stored, point to her mouth and then her stomach.

The Dumpling is a chatter box at home and a mime outside. My only guess is that she’s more shy around strangers.

The Dumpling understands more than she can verbally express…whether she chooses to listen is another story. I often wonder how much the Dumpling gets away with ignoring me under the pretense of not understanding. I caught her last weekend when I repeatedly asked her to sit with her 11 month old cousin for a picture, but she just continued running around as if I were talking to a wall. I then took out her animal crackers and told her she could have one if she sat down. Magically, she understood everything I said.


My takeaway from this exercise is that cookies and crackers work wonders for her language development…and it gave me an idea!

“I’ll give you a “ban ban” if you say “mommy.”” I held a cookie in my hand as proposition. 

“Um! Um!” The Dumpling opened her mouth and pointed to the cookie. “Um um” is the sound she makes when she wants to eat. 

“Say “mommy” and I’ll give you the cookie.” I realized that I’m not beneath bribery at this point.

“Ban ban! Ban ban! Ban ban!” The Dumpling didn’t even bother waiting for my reaction. She ate the cookie off my hand and ran off.