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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Cardboard or styrofoam (I preferred styrofoam because I got a few uses out of the stamps by rinsing the paint/ink off afterwards)
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.
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.
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!
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
The Dumpling and I experimented with different methods of making lanterns throughout September. Details can be found here.
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.
The Dumpling and I recently binged on a tin of Danish butter cookies—if you have never had them, they’re dangerously addictive. Within days, we finished the entire box and were left with a few dozen white wrappers that were too good to just toss out. Instead we painted and turned them into dresses!
The drawings are scaled to fit the butter cookie wrappers. If they do not fit the wrappers/liners you’re using, scale the images up (or down) in the print settings by adjusting the percentage in “Custom Scale” option. For example, enter a value between 101% to 200% to enlarge, or 1% to 99% to shrink.
Paint the cookie wrappers. While we used craft paint and watercolors, any medium can be used. The former produced vibrant colors but left the wrappers stiff and crusty (therefore, hard to fold). The latter created softer effects but the wrappers ripped easily when it was wet.
Experiment with different folds to create the outfits. We started with folding the wrappers in halves, quarters, and sixths to make dresses and skirts, but eventually ventured into asymmetrical combinations.
Our Look Book
The kimono, composed of four wrappers, was probably the most complex. The first is the bottom-most layer that creates the white collar; the second is the actual kimono; the third forms the sleeves; and the fourth is the sash.
Instructions for the first and second layers:
Fold the wrapper into unequal halves. The greater the disparity, the longer the dress.
Make approximately a 1/4″ horizontal fold from the top to form the collar.
Flip the wrapper over. Fold the left and right sides toward the center, dividing the wrapper into thirds with the middle section being the largest.
Instruction for the obi: Continue folding the wrapper into horizontal halves until you get the desired width.
Instructions for the sleeves: Fold the wrapper into unequal halves. Then fold the left and right sides toward the center, with the middle section being the largest.
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
One of my favorite activities to keep my two year old busy is coloring: I strap her into a highchair away from walls and other furniture, layer my dining table with a large plastic bag, and let her go at it.
Instead of buying coloring books, however, I typically make my own because I can tailor the graphics to my toddler’s interest—which lately has been the alphabet.
Creating a coloring sheet is actually quite easy in PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint—a program that typically comes bundled in our Microsoft Office! Check out my video* below for a quick tutorial. Print a bunch for the next rainy day activity or personalize it with someone’s name for your next gift bag stuffer along with a box of crayons!
* It’s my very first video tutorial! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!
A thought about the typefaces
One of my biggest pet peeves with children’s books, especially those that try to teach the alphabet, is their choice in typeface. Many popular ones use the two-story lowercase “a” and “g” for legibility reasons, but this could be confusing for pre-schoolers who are learning to write the one-story version. While it’s not a big deal with older kids and adults, the Dumpling and I definitely have had disagreements about this. Therefore, I tend to stick with Century Gothic as it has the one-story “a” and “g.” Comic Sans is another one that often comes pre-packaged with Office…laugh all you want, but kids actually like this!
These were the instructions that someone once used to teach me how to draw a dog:
My ten year old self thought it was the most awesome drawing tutorial ever! Actually, it’s still awesome because it’s the same set of instructions I give myself whenever I draw a dog today…which is often since it’s a regular request from the Dumpling.
I wanted to share the story with my toddler because this wisdom must be passed on to future generations! Having been tinkering with layer art recently, I thought making a layer puzzle would be a fun way to get her involved.