Agamograph of Trees Changing Color

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.


Materials

  • Agamograph tree template (with guidelines or without guidelines)
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • 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.

Download template with guides
Download template without guidelines.

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).

We used a combination of our fingers, brushes, and sponges to color in the leaves.

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.


Experiments With Homemade Faux Alcohol Ink

Alcohol ink is one of the most fascinating art media I have ever seen. It seems to have a mind of its own, blending and repelling itself into mesmerizing abstract patterns.

I have been wanting to get my hands on a set, but decided to make my own by following a simple recipe using markers and rubbing alcohol. The idea of using rubbing alcohol has never occurred to me, so I further experiment with mixing it with other household dyes to see what happens — some yielded interesting results…some not.


Materials:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Gel food coloring
  • Washable markers, both dried-up and usable ones
  • Glossy photo paper or yupo paper
  • Dropper/pipette

Experiment #1: Marker ink mixed with rubbing alcohol

My first attempt was following the recipe I found online where I clipped off the caps from a set of dried up markers (perfect upcycling project!) and soaked the ink pads in rubbing alcohol overnight.

Upcycle dried up markers by turning them into alcohol ink.

We used a dropper to apply the inks onto the photo paper and watched the colors mixed and repelled each other — just like real alcohol inks. The recipe worked!

The layers of color mix and repel each other at the same time.

We experimented with adding ink on top of an almost dried layer and un-dyed rubbing alcohol, which diluted the colors of existing layers.


Experiment #2: Food coloring mixed with rubbing alcohol

In my next experiment, I replaced marker dye with liquid water color. Unfortunately, the solution clumped up so I added gel food coloring instead.

This still ended up being a failure in my opinion because the inks had both watercolor and alcohol ink properties — but were neither here nor there. Eventually everything started turning brown after several rounds of layering.

The Dumpling did not want to create abstract art, so I pre-printed rainbows and unicorns on photo paper for her to color instead. Unicorn image downloaded from Freepik.

Despite the inks not turning out properly, we added the remainder onto a piece of photo paper and tilted it to let the colors run downwards. The results reminded me of corals so I digitally overlaid a doodle of underwater botanicals on top. Pretty cool right?


Experiment #3: Dropping rubbing alcohol on marker ink

For our final experiment, we colored on photo paper with regular markers and added un-dyed rubbing alcohol on top. Even though the Dumpling’s coloring were rough, uneven scribbles, this method seamlessly blended everything together.

(Click here to download crystal image (4″ x 6″))

Images colored in with regular washable markers.
After adding a few drops of rubbing alcohol, the ink on the markers started blending together.

Out of the three methods, the first one replicated the basic properties of alcohol ink the best. Although the homemade recipe was inferior to the real thing, it worked well enough for me to make the faux version again if I have any old markers around.

Blinking-Winking Owl Craft

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.

Materials

  • Owl template (click here to download)
  • Card stock
  • Thin wire
  • Tape
  • Hole punch (1/8″)
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife (optional)

1. Print the owl template on card stock and cut.

Tip: It is easier to cut out the eyes from the owl with an X-Acto knife!
We colored our owls by stamping them with bubble wrap.

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!)

Learning Chinese Alongside My Toddler

I did not think it would happen so soon — the Dumpling is now learning Chinese words in school that is beyond my elementary knowledge of the language. Frankly my exact reaction when I saw her second semester vocabulary list was “WTF?!”

Semester 1 vocabulary list: 大, 小, 人, 口, 月, 手, 貓, 狗, 魚, 車, 門, 山, 男, 女

Semester 2 vocabulary list: 花朵, 青草, 杯子, 新年, 米飯, 牛奶, 兔子, 樹木, 刷牙, 洗手, 雨天, 跑步, 打球, 游泳, 爸爸, 媽媽

While she is not expected to write at three years old, her current curriculum requires her to recognize characters. Feedback from the school’s initial progress report stated that she “needs more practice”.

I dislike the competitiveness, methods, and intensity of the Hong Kong school education system (her current kindergarten is actually considered lax by local standards), so I am unwilling to deploy any tiger parenting tactics that would add additional pressure. That means I do not intend to enroll her in after-school tutoring or various extra-curricular courses so she can “get ahead.” I believe that learning at her age should be done seamlessly through play; anything extra should be purely based on her interest level. For example, I will only sign the Dumpling up for additional classes because it is an activity she loves to do—not something I want her to learn.

My challenge, therefore, is integrating Mandarin into our daily routine without making the process feel like a “lesson.” Despite living in Hong Kong, English is the primary and dominant language in both our household and expat community, so Mandarin is actually a very foreign sound. In order to do that, however, I first have to learn the words myself. Google Translate has been my BFF, and I have been practicing the activities below alongside the Dumpling (and pretending like I know what I am talking about).


Flash Cards

I made flash cards and taped them on relevant or highly visible places around the house. For example, 花朵 (flower) was taped right next to my vase of flowers and 牛奶 (milk) was taped on the fridge. Sometime we would play a “scavenger hunt” for the words or we just pointed to them as we went about our day. Those few seconds of daily exposure added up — by mid-semester, the Dumpling’s progress report improved to a “well done!”

Images used in puzzle are downloaded from Freepik.
The flashcards were taped next to relevant objects around the house.

Coloring Sheets

I made coloring pages of her vocabulary words in PowerPoint, which can be done with just a few clicks!

Turn any text into outlines in PowerPoint to create coloring sheets.

Instead of using just markers and crayons, below are few ideas to keep the activity fresh by “coloring” with different materials.

  • 花朵, 青草, 樹木: Scavenge for small flowers, grass, and branches to glue onto the characters
  • 米飯: Glue rice (I dyed mine with food coloring)
  • 兔子: Glue cotton balls or white pom poms
  • 刷牙: Paint with toothpaste (preferable a colored one) on with an old toothbrush
  • 洗手: Paint with colored foam soap/shaving cream
  • 雨天: Draw raindrops with white crayon and paint over with blue watercolor (wax resist)

Below are a few other learn-through-play activities I have done with the Dumpling in the past:

Self Correcting Puzzle with Vocabulary Words

The Chinese characters used in the puzzle correlate with the vocabulary words from her Semester 1 vocabulary list.

Some images used in puzzle are downloaded from Freepik.

Chinese and Arabic Number Puzzle (Click here to download)

I created this puzzle to help the Dumpling recognize Chinese numbers and associate them with their Arabic counterparts.

Directions: Glue each printout onto a piece of cardboard. Carefully cut out the Chinese number puzzle pieces with an X-Acto knife. Lay the Chinese numbers sheet on top of the Arabic numbers sheet.

Missing Number: 1 – 10 (Click here to download)

This was another puzzle to help the Dumpling get familiarize with Chinese numbers. When we first started the activity, the Dumpling actually lacked the coordination and strength to pinch the clothing pins open, so clipping them on became an exercise in itself.

Directions: Cut the strips along the solid lines. Label clothes pin with numbers 1-10 in Chinese characters.

Memory Game with Colors (Click here to download)

To play, lay the pieces with their backsides facing up. Flip over two pieces on each turn with the goal of finding two matching colors in as few moves as possible. Again, I do not expect the Dumpling to read just yet; I just say the colors aloud as we play. We initially started with only two colors and have currently built up to six.

Directions: Make two copies of the printable and cut out each color circle.

Mini Easter Activities Book Printable

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.

Materials


Download the template.


The content is appropriate for pre-schoolers and kindergartners with adult guidance.

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.


Inspired by one of my favorite crafters, Hello Wonderful, I also attached mini chocolate eggs to the bunny on the front page using double sided tape. Check on their version of an Easter bunny egg holder!

Easy DIY Birthday Coloring Book With Printable

The Dumpling’s kindergarten is throwing a birthday party for all November babies at the end of the month. Since she’s one of the birthday kids, I wanted to do something extra. So along with treats, I also made her classmates a coloring activity book as a party favor that I’m sharing as a customizable printable!*

The book is super easy to make because it’s printed single-sided on a regular piece of copy paper without any gluing or binding. While the customizable version provides the option to include a short message, I have also made a generic version with a simple “Happy Birthday” on the cover. The content is suitable for pre-schoolers and kindgardeners.

Materials

Customize the cover text in Adobe Reader (skip if using the generic template )

Open up the PDF file in Adobe Reader and click on the form fields (highlighted in blue) to edit the text.

Print. Prior to hitting the print button, 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.

Print Setting

Trim the page border. Although this step might look extraneous, it ensures that all your pages will be of equal size.

Fold and Cut.

I managed to whip out 20 of these within the hour…mom-life is hard work!

 Please note that the two graphic elements in the template are different than the version featured in the video—the font used on the cover and the balloon design on the letter tracing spread.

Halloween Activities: Crafting with Fabric Paint

I recently scored a free bag of puffy fabric paints from a crafter giving them away on Facebook, so the Dumpling and I have been experimenting with this new material (it’s new to us!) all week. After a quick search online, it’s quite a versatile medium for crafting!

Puffy Fabric Paint Window Cling

Window clings are like stickers, but puffy and not as so annoying to peel off (I hope). The Dumpling had fun sticking and re-arranging these not-so-spooky decorations all over. We discovered that they actually clinged not only to glass, but to any flat non-porous surface!

Materials:

Draw an image onto the ziplock bag with puffy fabric paint—that’s it! You can either free draw or trace the image by placing the design printout under the bag. I tested this step on several types of plastic (ziplock bag, polypropylene plastic bag, and clear plastic presentation cover) but the ziplock bag was the obvious winner in terms of ease of use.

Let the paint dry completely (about 24 hours) before peeling the images off. Waiting was probably the hardest part. Due to my impatience, I actually ruined a few—don’t be like me.

Puffy Fabric Paint Stamps

This was a fun way to make custom stamps, but I found that they didn’t produce the cleanest impressions. They were sufficient for the Dumpling, however, since she didn’t really care about smudges and was just amused by the whole stamping process.

Materials

  • Puffy fabric paint
  • Cardboard or styrofoam (I preferred styrofoam because I got a few uses out of the stamps by rinsing the paint/ink off afterwards)
  • Bottle cap
  • Glue
  • Stamp ink or paint

Draw your design onto the cardboard or styrofoam to create the stamp. After I drew the initial image, I traced over it again with additional paint to create a deeper emboss.

Once the paint dried, cut a square or rectangle around the image to form the stamp base.

Glue a bottle cap onto the back side of the stamp. Creating the knobs is completely optional, but we found that the stamps were easier to handle with them.

Use a stamp ink or apply paint directly onto the stamp with a brush. I found that the latter method created cleaner outlines.

Puffy Fabric Paint Masquerade Mask

The Dumpling has an upcoming masquerade at school, so I wanted to make her a mask for the party. While using fabric paint was a good way to create custom designs, the material ended up being too delicate for toddler hands since she would be pulling the mask off and putting it back on every two minutes.

Materials:

  • Puffy fabric paint
  • Ziplock bag
  • Tulle or mesh fabric
  • Tape
  • Printout of mask design
  • Scissors
  • Elastic long enough to snuggly fit around your head.

Draw or print the mask template you would like to use. Alternatively click here to download my design, but please be aware the mask dimensions measures approximately 10″ by 5.25″ so it might not fit you! I actually scaled the image in several different sizes on screen (one is wider, another is shorter, etc.) and chose the version with the best fit from the printout.

Tape the mask printout onto your work area, then tape the ziplock bag onto the printout, and finally tape the tulle or mesh fabric onto the bag. You really really really don’t want anything to move.

Trace the image with puffy fabric paint.

Let the paint dry (about 24 hours) before peeling the mask off the ziplock bag.

Carefully cut the tulle or mesh fabric following the outline of the mask. Leave a piece of fabric uncut around both ends of the mask that are closest to your ears. The fabric needs to be large enough to make a small slit to string the elastic through.

Halloween Activities: Geometric Tape-Resist and Shadow Puppets

It seems like the Dumpling and I have been waiting for Halloween to come since Janaury! While she still doesn’t really understand what Halloween is, she associates it with ghosts, witches, zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc…all thanks to watching videos on YouTube. Even though All Hallow’s Eve isn’t until the end of the month, we are pretending it’s a month-long celebration in our household.

For our first week of Halloween, we did light and shadow play with some not-so-spooky silhouttes and got super messy with another tape-resist project!

Halloween Shadow Puppets

Materials

  • Halloween shadow puppet printable (click here to download)
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Small safety-pin or thin needle
  • Towel
  • Scrap cardboard
  • Phone flashlight

Protect your work area by covering it with scrap cardboard.

Lay the printable on top of a towel and puncture the image outlines with a pin or needle. I initially used a pin with a thick point and some of the details got lost as a result, so I would recommend using something thin. While the space between each hole isn’t fixed, I eyeballed the distance to approximately 1.5 mm of space apart.

Cut out the circle card for each image.

With your phone’s flashlight on, place the toilet paper roll directly on top of the light (encircling it completely) and then lay a card on top of the roll. It’s best to do the activity in total darkness and cast the images on an empty wall or ceiling. The Dumpling and I did this right before bed and made up silly one or two sentence stories with the silhouettes.

I don’t really understand the science behind it, but our images were casted upside down (I rotated them right side up in my photos below) and we sometimes saw double outlines. Once the Dumpling is older, we can explore the hows and whys…but for now, it’s all magic!

Colored Bubbles with Geometric Tape-Resist Halloween Silhouettes

Materials

  • Geometric cat and ghost printable (click here to download)
  • White heavy copy paper or drawing paper (the stock needs to withstand the bubble solution but thin enough to see through)
  • Bubble solution (use different bottles or separate into smaller containers for each color)
  • Bubble wands
  • Food coloring (we used a fall colored palette of red, yellow, orange and brown)
  • Painter’s tape (approximately 1/8″ wide)

Lay your copy or drawing paper on top of the printable. You need to be able to see through to the bottom layer as if you’re about to trace the image. You may also want to paper clip the pieces together so they don’t move.

Apply painter’s tape on top of the lines. Before investing the effort in applying all that tape, test peeling off a small strip to see whether it tears your paper. If it does, tape the strip on your shirt first to remove some of its adhesiveness.

Mix food coloring into the bubble solutions.

Blow the bubbles on top of the taped image. I would have preferred to have done this outdoors because it got super messy! Since we don’t have a yard, we did this in our bath tub and I sprayed everything down afterwards. With colored bubbles popping everywhere, the red and brown splatters made our bathroom looked like a murder scene!

Peel the tape off once everything dries completely.

Indoor Play & Activities: Recap of September 2018

September has brought about a stretch of dry weather in Hong Kong, so the Dumpling and I have been spending most of our afternoons outdoor. For the days that we stayed in, our activities have centered around reviewing the Chinese words that she’s been learning at school, celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, and discussing the aftermath of the typhoon that hit our city midway through the month.

Learning Chinese 

Ever since the Dumpling started kindergarten, I wanted to increase her exposure to Mandarin at home to reinforce what she’s learning at school. I tried reading Chinese children’s stories with her, but the words sounded so foreign that she exasperatingly asked, “Mommy, what are you saying?!” When I switched the language of her Netflix shows from English to Chinese, it solicited such a visceral reaction that I quickly reverted everything to its original state.

Eventually I backed off…until one day, out of nowhere, she muttered her first Mandarin words at home. At first it was counting to five, then to ten, and now a few words and broken phrases. She was so proud of herself at times that she wouldn’t shut up! I quickly capitalized on her newfound interest by creating several puzzles to further engage her through play.

Chinese and Arabic Number Puzzle Match

Click here to download.

img_8914
I created this puzzle to help the Dumpling recognize Chinese numbers and associate them with their Arabic counterparts.

img_8912
Directions: Glue each printout to a piece of cardboard. Carefully cut out the puzzle pieces with an X-Acto knife. Finally (and optionally) cut a semi-circle at the bottom of each piece so that it’s easier to pull off from the puzzle board.

Self-Correcting Chinese Vocabulary Puzzle

(Sorry, folks—because I used stock illustrations* to make this puzzle, I do not have the license to re-distribute this as a printable.)

img_8969
The Chinese characters used in the puzzle correlate with the vocabulary words the Dumpling is learning at school. I don’t expect her to read yet, so I just sound out each character as we match the pieces.

img_8970

* Some illustrations used in this puzzle were stock illustrations downloaded from Feepik.

Chinese Color Match Memory Game

Click here to download.

img_8999
To play, lay the pieces with their backsides facing up. Flip over two pieces on each turn with the goal of finding two matching colors in as few moves as possible. Again, I don’t expect the Dumpling to read just yet; I just say the colors aloud as we play. We initially started playing with only two colors and have currently built up to six.

img_8998
Directions: Make two copies of the printable, glue the sheets onto pieces of cardboard, and cut out each color circle.

Celebrating Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

The Dumpling and I experimented with different methods of making lanterns throughout September. Details can be found here.

My Post (9)

Dealing with the Aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut

Typhoon Mangkut was supposedly the fiercest storm to hit Hong Kong in the last 30 years. For a few hours, our windows and door shook violently and rainwater leaked in non-stop.

The next morning, the Dumpling and I ventured outside to assess the damages. There were lots of downed trees and foliage as expected, but to our surprise there were also shattered seashells outside our flat! We live less than a quarter of a mile away from the beach, but we are also situated on a hill approximately 80 feet above sea level so these seashells were a long way from home. The Dumpling and I managed to find several intact ones which we brought home and painted.

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Our souvenirs from the typhoon.