Salt Dough Eye Balls

Salt dough is one of my favorite DIY play materials because they’re so easy and quick to make. The classic recipe of 2:1:1 parts plain four, table salt, and water has never failed me.

We recently made a batch for a project and had bits of leftover dough. Not wanting to waste it, we rolled it up into little balls. Once dried, we turned them into eyeballs with markers.

These things actually gross me out a lot but were a big hit with the Dumpling.

Halloween Activities: Toilet Paper Roll Creatures

Did you know that toilet paper rolls in Hong Kong are white, not cardboard brown like they are in the U.S.?! This is a game changer for a crafter like me because the rolls are essentially perfectly primed canvases.

I had a half a dozen toilet paper rolls saved up that were itching for a second life as pieces of art. A quick Google search for “toilet paper roll Halloween crafts” returned hundreds of great ideas—using these as my starting point, I turned my paper roll crafts into lanterns so they are cute creatures during the day, but spooky monsters at night!

Toilet-Paper-Roll-Creatures

Materials

Additional materials depending on the creature

  • White masking tape (mummy)
  • Bubble wrap cut into approximately 4″ x 4″ (zombie)
  • Brass fasteners (zombie)
  • Pipe cleaners (cat)
  • Push pin/tack/needle—optional

For All Toilet Paper Roll Creatures

Draw the eyes, noses, and/or mouths on the toilet paper rolls with a pencil and cut the shapes out with an X-Acto knife. The basic premise is to create openings so that light from the candle can shine through. To add additional designs, puncture small holes on the roll with a push pin—they can be anywhere, but a safe approach would be to follow the shapes of the eyes, mouths, etc.

Color in each creature (where applicable). The Dumpling and I used both watercolor and craft paint, but I found that watercolor latched onto our rolls better and didn’t flake off as much once they dried.


Ghost

Because my paper roll was already white, I pretty much left the ghost as is. The little ones can opt to glue on cotton balls or strips of white tissue paper as additional decoration.


Jack-o-Lantern

Cutting this was the closest as I’ll get to carving a pumpkin this year. Mine is just as cute as any real jack-o-lantern, but without the mess!


Mummy

I don’t know what it is with toddlers and tape. The Dumpling could spend 30 minutes peeling, cutting, and sticking tape on anything!

Peel masking tape and stick it onto the toilet paper roll. There’s really no wrong way to go about this—it doesn’t matter which direction the tape goes on, how uniformed the tape is ripped, or how much tape is used—all these “imperfections” give the mummy character. The Dumping ended up putting on so much tape, she blinded our mummy so I had to cut out the eyes again!


Zombie

Puncture a small hole on each side of the head (roughly where the temples are located) to insert the brass fasteners. 

Paint the bubble wrap pink, roll it roughly into an ovoid with the bubbles facing outward, and insert it on top of the toilet paper roll where the zombie’s brain would be. Have extra bubble wrap on the side because the Dumpling and I couldn’t stop popping them! Warning: The craft paint flaked off everywhere once it dried. Unless you’re coloring with something that is more permanent, the brain is mostly for decorative purposes and less for play.


Cat

Fold the top halves of the toilet paper roll inward to create the ears. This should preferably be done prior to coloring the cat.

Cut two pieces of pipe cleaner and fold them in half. The length depends on how long you want the whiskers. Mine were approximately 2 inches before they were folded in halves.

Puncture a small hole on each cheek where the whiskers would be and insert the pipe cleaner with the “v” side going into the toilet paper roll. 


Owl

Fold the top halves of the toilet paper roll inward to create the ears. This step should preferable be done prior to painting the owl.


I found a color changing LED candle (from the Dumping’s old Mickey balloon we got at Disney) and tucked it inside one of the creatures. Doesn’t my toilet paper roll gang look like they’re having an awesome party?

TP Halloween Lantern - Pinterest.jpg

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

IMG_5469(Edited).jpg
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.

Colorful Ice Hearts

The Dumpling recently painted on ice as an activity in one of her playgroups and absolutely loved it. To replicate the activity at home with a Valentine’s Day twist: I set out to make heart shaped ice. I didn’t have ice molds, so I experimented using my trusty cookie cutters instead—seems like I have done everything except bake with them!

Materials

  • Shallow plastic tray that is bendable (I upcycled a plastic food tray)
  • Plastic heart cookie cutter
  • Water

Instructions

Step 1: Pour several millimeters of water into the plastic tray with the cookie cutter inside. Please note that using too much water will make it hard to break off the excess ice later.

Step 2: Freeze on a flat surface.

Step 3: Gently break off the ice along the outside edge of the cookie cutter. The entire sheet of ice should come off the tray easily but be careful not to remove the cookie cutter.

Step 4: Put the cookie cutter back in the tray and add more water to the inside of the mold. It’s okay if some water leaks out. Optional: Add the ice that was broken off from the previous step to create a jagged effect.

Step 5: Freeze on a flat surface.

Step 6: Clean off the ice around the heart and gently wiggle/bend the mold free. If it’s stuck, wait a minute and try again.

Activity Ideas:

Color the Ice

Instead of painting directly on the ice, I also sprinkled salt over it at the start of the activity. Salt lowers the ice’s freezing temperature, so crevices will form where the ice starts melting. When the Dumpling painted food coloring on, the colors ran into the cracks for a beautiful effect.

Once the ice started turning brown, I rinsed it with water for a clean slate again.

Color with Ice

Once the ice soaked up enough food coloring, I asked the Dumpling use it as an “ice crayon” to color with it on paper.

Or just add food coloring before freezing.

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.

IMG_0317
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.