Thursday, February 16, 2012

from chalk cloth scraps to an erasable memory game

It's probably not uncommon, but my four year-old daughter learns well when playing games.  She started getting interested in the words to label things around the house as they came up in context.  At dinner, we would have little scraps of paper with chair, spoon, etc. on them, which she naturally wanted to turn into a memory game.  Of course, she would want to change the words out constantly, and we ended up trying to save really tattered pieces of paper or ripping up lots of it to make squares.  I decided that an erasable, durable memory game would be great.  We could tailor it to what she is learning in pre-k, different end sounds, blends, whatever.  I had a decent-sized scrap of chalk cloth leftover from another project, so I cut it up along with a scrap of oil cloth in a gender neutral pattern.  

I used pinking shears to give it an interesting edge, but you don't have to since chalk cloth and oil cloth don't fray.  You could try regular fabric instead of the oil cloth, but the weights are so different that it might be wonky.  

My oil cloth scrap was pretty small, so I let its size dictate how many game pieces we made we ended up with 16 pieces that are approximately 3 inches by 3 1/2 inches.  They are big enough for small words, letters, pictures, or numbers.  

I put wrong sides together and stitched close to my edge.  I trimmed them up a bit with my pinking shears to make them look neat.

I had my stack ready in no time.  

Chalk cloth is supposed to be seasoned before you write on it with chalk.  Just rub the side of a piece of chalk on it and wipe it off.  This way, the first thing you write won't get etched onto the cloth.  I used a microfiber cloth to clean them up, which worked out great.  

My daughter helped me write some easy words on the cards, and we were playing in no time.

She's already thought of a bunch of easier ways to play the game with her 2 year-old brother and sister.

We did a round of words that end in -it.  She does a great job thinking of those rhymes!  I might have to sneak this game into the car to use at restaurants.  The possibilities for these cards are endless!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

from broken, abandoned crayons to heart-shaped crayon valentines

I wonder if I'll ever get this blogging thing down.  I fully intended to post this days ago...

Having small kids, I always find broken, abandoned, sad little crayon pieces on the floor.  A while ago, I started collecting them all in one spot. 

I know that making new crayons out of broken ones is no where close to a new idea, but my daughter had so much fun making these Valentines for her friends that I just had to share our take on it.

Chopping up crayons is harder than it looks.  I used my biggest knife and worked in small batches.  Actually, peeling off the paper was the hardest part.  My 4 year-old did most of that tedious work, though.

After a while, I had a beautiful pile of chopped up crayons.

I never like spending much (or ANY) money on DIY projects, so I didn't want to spend money (or time finding one) on a silicon or metal heart-shaped pan.  I had some heart-shaped cookie cutters and a SILPAT, so I figured that might work.  

Um, no.

Lots of oozing wax. Easy to clean up, though!  The only reason that I tried that method is because I had tried it before with a cheap plastic-trying-to-look-like-silicon ice cube tray from Target's dollar section, and the tray melted.  But, I still figured out a way to use what I already had!  A water bath!  It works for bread pudding and custard, so I figured it was worth a try.

The tray did not melt.  Success! It did take a long time in the oven (maybe half an hour?), though, since I kept it at 250.  I was still afraid of melting the plastic.  I know that I could have just melted the wax in a pot and poured it in the molds, but my daughter loves how crayons made this way change color as she draws with them, so I opted to bake them.

The tops melt together into a deep purple with a few pops of color, but the bottoms are colorfully speckled.

After letting the tray cool in the freezer for a little bit, they pop right out.  If you leave them in the freezer too long, they can crack if messed with, so letting them warm back up to room temperature is a good idea.

We thought it would be fun for the kids to have some Valentines to color with their new crayons, so I designed some on Picnik, which I was very sad to learn is closing soon or moving to Google+ or something.

The girl loves rainbows, and wants them incorporated into almost everything, so the front side was a no brainer.  I made two options.  The back side should give the kids lots of practice staying in the lines.  I like pop of color against the black and white.  We glued up three sides to make little pockets for the crayons, and slid them in.

Cute, easy, and free!