Crafty Kids: How to Make Maps of Your Neighborhood–and Your Imagination

Children love maps. The graphic imagery of even the simplest charts can give them lots to feast their eyes upon, and to dream about. But maps also help them make sense of the world around them—something grownups, who’ve committed thousands of routes to memory, often take for granted.

The warming weather provides the perfect opportunity to accompany your budding cartographer out into the neighborhood, to sketch up the way to a friend’s house, or the playground, or just once around the block. Some kids prefer to draw places they see in their imagination. Either way, inspired by the book Mapsby Aleksandra and Daniel Mizieliński, and featuring images from the accompanying Maps Activity Book, here we offer a primer in the ancient art of map making.

What you’ll need:

  • Writing implements—pencils and colored pencils, markers, pastels
  • Paper—either a printout of one of the templates below, or plain paper of your choosing

1.     Decide what you want to make a map of. Will it be a map of a place you know already—like your room or your block? Will it be a map of someplace big, like the whole Earth or a made-up planet? Or will it be a map of someplace small, like your school or your neighborhood? Take a tour of the place—if you can—to get the lay of the land.

2.     Map out your map. With light pencil or chalk marks, rough out where everything on your map will go: buildings, streets, parks, trees, oceans, cars—whatever you fancy! Then work on making your map more permanent, with firmer marks and color and details like windows on buildings, or waves on the sea, or leaves on your trees.

3.     Label the things you’ve drawn on your map: Nico’s house, the Indian Ocean, Christmas Street. Then, make a legend. A legend tells things like how many inches equal a mile, what the capital of your country is, and what the native language is. If you like, you can also draw pictures of local birds and flowers, and the people (or aliens!) who live here.

4.     Finally, make sure you give your map a compass rose, so the people who use it know which direction they’re heading in!

Hand drawn map by Ada Grazia Cowan.

Maps Activity Book. Copyright © 2013 by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińki. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Maps. Text and illustrations copyright © 2012 by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińki. Translation copyright © 2013 by the Templar Company Ltd. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Crafty Kids: How to Make Beaded Key Fobs

The title of this craft begs the questions: what exactly is a fob, and why on earth would any kid want to make one (aside from the fact, of course, that they’re really pretty)?

Traditionally—meaning, in the late 19th century—a fob was a decorative chain that attached your pocket watch to your person. Since not many folks wear pocket watches anymore, the craft is reimagined here by our friends at Crafting Community as a decoration for a key. And as every kid knows, getting your own key to the house is an enormous rite of passage, one that symbolizes a surge in responsibility as well as a parent’s recognition of it.

Why make a key fob? To celebrate that oh-so-important key and make it look as important as it really is. Not to mention, help your kid find it in her cluttered backpack!

What you’ll need:

Plastic lacing
Scissors
Metal clips
Pony beads in assorted colors

1. Start with about 6 feet of plastic lacing, fold it in half, and put it on a metal clip.

2. Thread your first bead onto one end of the cord, then thread the other end of the cord through the opposite side of the bead.

3. Begin your design by adding the next row of beads. To do this, slip on 2 beads to the right half of the lacing and then thread the left side of lacing through both beads.

4. Continue to increase or decrease by 1 bead each row until your design takes shape. Once your design is finished, make a knot and hide the little ends under the last row of beads. Now it’s time to hook on that key!

Crafty Kids: How to Make a Woven Yarn God’s Eye

Woven Yarn God's Eye

The ojo de Dios (Spanish for “eye of God”) is a folk toy with origins among the Huichol Indians of the Sierra Madre. The four points of the crossed sticks are said to represent the elements of earth, air, water, and fire; the finished eye, replete with alternating stripes of yarn, is meant to offer health, fortune, and long life.

Extremely simple to put together, this bright, festive craft from our friends at Crafting Community forms the base for a great crib mobile—something for an older sibling to make for the new baby in the house. It’s also a super entry point for talking to kids about American history—and for parents to learn a little something, too.

What you’ll need:

  • Two sticks of equal length
  • Brightly colored yarn in 3 or 4 color
  • Scissors

1. Grab two sticks and tie them together in the middle with the end of your ball of yarn. Twist the sticks to form a ‘+’.

 

2. Wrapping in a clockwise direction, wind your yarn over and around 1, then 2, then 3, then 4. (See image at right for technique).

3. To switch up your colors, simply snip the yarn you’re working with and tie on a new color. Trim the excess and continue wrapping.

4. To finish your god’s eye, top knot your yarn around your final stick twice. Trim the excess yarn and you’re done!

To add tassels:

1. Loop yarn around your fingers 15x

2. Thread another piece of yarn through your loop and make a knot with long tails. Cut the end of your yarn loop to create fringe.

3. Tie your tassel on, knotting it to your gods eye on the back side.

4. Wrap one side of the tails around the arm of your gods eye several times, then knot it to the other tail to finish.

Crafty Kids: Floating Container Ship

By Chris Barnardo

A super quick and easy model to put together, this floating container ship is made from a couple of old dishwasher or washing machine liquid bottles, along with a few other bits and pieces. There’s plenty of fun to be had both making and playing with it—kids love naming their ship, writing its name on it in permanent marker, and then sailing it across the great Bath (or Swimming Pool) Ocean.

What you’ll need:

  • Glue gun
  • Marker
  • Craft knife
  • Large dishwasher soap bottle
  • Small dishwasher soap bottle
  • Piece of cardboard
  • A few small stones
  • Shower gel bottle
  • Milk carton cap
  • Liquid detergent bottle cap
  • Yogurt cup base

1.     To make a floating ship, you’ll need a plastic bottle for the hull, and another, smaller bottle for the cabin. Mark lines around the bottles following the diagram above, using a permanent marker. Use your craft knife to cut.

2.     Place the hull part upside down on a piece of thick cardboard and draw around it with a marker.

3.     Cut out the deck slightly inside the line so that the cardboard will just fit inside the hull.

4.     Cut some small supports out of cardboard, at the right height to allow the deck to be slightly recessed. Glue these to the underside of the deck. Glue around the edge of the deck and slide in. Glue the milk bottle top into the detergent bottle opening. To prevent your ship from being top heavy, glue a few small stones inside the hull before you glue the deck into position.

5.     With deck in place, glue around its seams to make sure it’s waterproof.

6.     Glue the cabin upside down to the deck, then glue the yogurt cup end to the deck.

7.     Cut the end off a shower gel pack and glue to the front of the cabin to make the bridge. Glue a detergent bottle top to the top of the bridge to make a funnel.

8.     Decorate with marker, then get ready to launch your ship!

Excerpted from Made with Dad by Chris Barnardo, (c) 2015 Skyhorse Publishing.

Crafty Kids: Straw Rockets

This sweet, summer-celebratory craft from our friends at Kiwi Crate is great fun when you’re wrangling a whole group of neighborhood kids who could use a little (but not a lot!) of structured activity. It’s super quick and easy to pull together, and gets (and keeps) the whole gang outside.

What you’ll need:

  • Several pieces of origami paper, or any other square-shaped paper
  • Straws (fat ones from bubble tea stores work best)
  • Tape (used here: long pieces of metallic tape to seal the side, as well as shorter tape squares to close the top)
  • Curling ribbon (optional)

1. With the “nice” side of the paper facing up, place a long strip of tape, sticky side down, along one edge of the paper.  Half the tape should hang over the edge of the paper.

2. Flip the paper over. Starting opposite the tape, roll the paper loosely around the straw.  Seal with tape to make a tube.

3. Fold one end of the tube over and tape it closed. Make sure the tube is completely sealed so no air can get out.

4. If you’d like, decorate your rocket by taping on pieces of ribbon.

5. Blow into the straw to launch your rocket. Blast off!

Summer Entertainment for Kids – Free Printables

Once the final school bell of the year rings, keeping the kids engaged and occupied for the next three months lies solely on you and whatever childcare you’ve lined up for the summer. Fear not! We’ve found 6 totally free, downloadable printables, guaranteed to be welcomed diversions on more than one rainy day, long car ride or when you simply need a moment to yourself.

ABC PracticeThis letter tracing sheet will keep beginning writers sharp and help ABC newbies learn and practice their letters before the start of preschool or kindergarten. The clean, watermark-free file is also nice to frame as artwork or at least to keep in the baby book. (via Back House White Shutters)

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 12.36.04 PM

Travel Bingo: There are six of these save-your-sanity bingo cards that are beyond perfect for the family road trip. They have pictures along with the words, so even little ones can play. You can print them on card stock and have them laminated or place each in a page protector. As kids find an object on the card, they can mark it by placing a sticker on it or use a dry erase marker. (via Simple As That)

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 12.44.56 PM

 

Coloring Pages: Take your pick, depending on your audience – coloring pages from Disney’s much adored Frozen movie or super cool color-by-number sheets. If your kids are as obsessed with Disney’s Frozen as much as ours are, they’ll melt to pieces over these fun coloring pages. (via The Kids Coloring Pages)

via Kids Coloring Pages

Reading with Kids: For older kids or for those who like a bit more of a challenge, Reading with Kids provides dozens of color-by-number and color-by-letter printables. Simply use the code at the bottom of each pages to determine how to color each space. A picture is revealed when all the spaces are colored. (via Reading with Kids)

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 12.48.59 PM

Dr. Seuss Word SearchWord searches are fun, attention-grabbing and just the right activity to bring to a restaurant, on a road trip or as a quiet activity for rest (in lieu of nap) time. Here’s a cute word search with words from the popular author. If you’d rather make your own, providing the words and controlling the difficulty level, check out Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker. (via Jinxy Kids)

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 12.59.10 PM

For more great printables, including finds to keep your family entertained, organized and sharp, check out our Pinterest Printables Board. You, your kids and your sitter will be glad you took the time to download a few sanity savers! 

Let’s Hear It For the Red, White and Blue!

The 4th of July is nearly upon us – get the party started with fun treats and decorations that’ll pump up the patriotism at your house. All you need for a fantastic July 4th BBQ is good company, good food and these fun, festive decorations and sweet treats.

julia-Kid with flag - 4th of July

 

Red, White and Blueberry Yogurt Popsicles
No food coloring or added sugar in these patriotic treats. They are made with blueberries and raspberries or strawberries and Greek yogurt for the delicious white stripes. (via The View from Great Island)

the view from g island 2

July 4th Cake Toppers
Free printable cake toppers take the all-American Rice Crispy square or any cake, brownie or cupcake up an impressive notch. (via Kara’s Party Ideas)

1

DIY Rocket Garland
Rocket poppers are a fun craft for the kids and are great fun when filled with confetti or make an adorable decoration when hung together as a festive garland. (via Simplified Bee)

1

Firecracker Favors
Adorable candy-filled firecrackers make a great centerpiece and a simple take-home for your guests. (via Crafts Unleashed)

via Crafts Unleashed

Patriotic Silverware Holders
Spark up your tabletop with silverware holders made from craft supplies and a free printable. (via Lil Luna)

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.08.43 PM

What other crafts and treats are you serving up this 4th of July? Share them with us below.

Yummy Summer Treats to Make With Kids

Before you open a box of popsicles or round up the kids for a trip to get ice cream, consider surprising them with a summer treat they can help create. Kids love to help in the kitchen, and everyone loves a summery treat to share on a hot afternoon or at the end of a long summer day. These delicious desserts make the most of summer’s fresh fruit– berries, watermelon, and cherries – and ingredients you likely already have in your pantry or can easily pick up on your way home. They are so simple to make, we can hardly call some of them recipes.

julia-Kid eating giant heart made of bread

 

The World’s Easiest Pudding
Choose a healthy packaged pudding cup (or make your own) and scoop it into a waffle bowl. Top with berries. Voila! (via A Dose of Pretty)

via A Dose of Pretty

Watermelon Frosty
Add 2 1/4 cups frozen watermelon cubes
 (freeze the night before), 1/2+ cup water, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 large lemon, squeezed (lime juice also works very well! use 2 limes), and 1 fresh banana to a blender. Blend. Add more water as needed, but as  little liquid as possible to keep your frosty thick and frosty. Garnish with frozen watermelon/rind slices. For a grown-up version, turn this super smoothie into a margarita by adding tequila! (via Lunchbox Bunch)

via Lunchbox Bunch

Super Easy Strawberry Shortcake
Shortcakes, strawberries and whipped cream, oh my! Dip tops and sides of biscuits in margarine (or butter), dip into sugar
. Place onto un-greased cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes
. Combine strawberries and sugar in a mixing bowl, set aside. 
Beat whipping cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form
. Split biscuits, layer on cream and strawberries
. (via Tammilee Tips)

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 2.12.56 PM

Pretzel Nutella Ice Cream Sandwich Bites
You can whip up these mini sweet and salty sandwiches with little more than a bag of pretzels, ice cream and a jar of nutella. Place a sheet of wax paper on a small freezer-safe plate or pan. Place half of the pretzels on the wax paper. Smear some Nutella on each of the pretzels. Working quickly, top with about a teaspoon of ice cream and place a plain pretzel on top. Freeze for about an hour, or until they’re solid. Working quickly, smear a little Nutella on one end of each sandwich and dip in crushed hazelnuts. You may want to return these to the freezer for a while to re-harden them. Or you can eat them right away. (via Tasty Kitchen)

via Tasty Kitchen

Cherry Pie Bars
A little more work, this recipe is a good one to tackle with older kids. These bars would be  sweet to pack for a picnic or bring to a BBQ. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a separate bowl, whip together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time, then blend in vanilla and almond extracts. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Reserve and set aside 1 1/2 cups batter then spread remaining evenly into prepared baking dish. Top with cherry pie filling spreading into an even layer. Dollop small spoonfuls of the remaining batter evenly over top. Bake in preheated oven about 30 – 37 minutes. (via Cooking Classy)

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 2.18.42 PM

These treats are the perfect way to make a play date extra fun or to leave with the sitter for special surprise to enjoy with the kids while you’re away. 

5 Fun Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs with Kids

Decorating Easter eggs with kids isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Fragile eggs + stainable dye often equals disaster, or at least a somewhat anxious parent or sitter. This year, opt for one of these simple, yet very cool techniques for decorating eggs with kids. They are fun to do and create some pretty impressive looking eggs.

Easter Mar 2008 copy

 

1. Chalkboard Eggs
How cool are these black eggs?! A really fun, graphic take on the traditional, dyed Easter egg, these funky eggs are just as easy to create as the dip-dyed version. Paint hard-boiled eggs with chalkboard paint – 2-3 coats are recommended for good coverage – and have kids doodle with chalk or wet chalk markers, which create really vivid color that pops against the black background. The blogger behind this DIY suggests creating a trough out of aluminum foil for holding the eggs while they dry. See her complete tutorial with handy photos for help.

via Brett Bara
via Brett Bara

 

2. Neon Eggs
Wow, food coloring has come a long way since we were kids! Pick up a box of Neon Food Coloring to create these eye-popping Easter beauties. These were created by dripping rubber cement over hard-boiled eggs before letting them sit in neon dye for at least five minutes. The long soak might be tough for the kids to wait out, but the results are worth it.

via Kirsten Gab
via Kirsten Gab

 

3. Glitter Eggs
Pull a Martha and forego the dye for a good douse of sparkly glitter. The fancy version of these glittery eggs calls for blowing the eggs out so you’re just decorating the shell. The technique makes the egg last for more than one season, but to make it a kid-friendly craft, forget the fragile shell and instead boil the eggs…making peace with the fact that you’ll have to toss them after a few days.

via Martha Stewart
via Martha Stewart

 

4. No-Dye, No-Mess Eggs
Just as pretty as dyed eggs, but way less mess. In other words, very kid-friendly… which translates into quick and easy. Instead of having kids plunk eggs into baths of dye, have them stick hard-boiled eggs with adhesive dots and roll in colored glitter.

via Mindful Mum
via Mindful Mum

5. Water Color Easter Eggs
Pretty eggs that are fun for even really little ones to create. Use a baking sheet to collect the extra dye that falls when simply spooning dye over eggs. Let dry completely after applying a color so the next color you add won’t run and turn your masterpiece into a muddy mess of muted shades.

via Spoon Fork Bacon
via Spoon Fork Bacon

 

If these DIYs are a bit more work than you bargained for, opt for the even simpler techniques of decorating eggs with stickers, markers or temporary tattoos. You and your kids will have just as much fun!

5 Fun Winter Crafts for Kids

With kids spending a lot more time indoors during the dreary winter months, be sure to arm yourself and your sitter or nanny with a few fun DIY art projects to keep them occupied and entertained. Check out these five creative projects that are sure to keep everyone happy.

isabel-babypainting

5 Fun Winter Crafts for Kids

1. Better than Play Doh
Why not whip up a batch of new play dough or goop for your kids to knead, mold and shape to their hearts’ content? Take your pick from one of these cool sensory play recipes that are sure to please. Whether it’s Peppermint Play Dohs, gold glitter goop or any of the others we’ve pinned to our Pinterest Board Crafts for Kids, you can’t go wrong. The recipes are quick and easy and truly can be rainy day lifesavers.

Play Doh via Raechel Myers
via Raechel Myers

2. Easy Stitch Cards
Try this not too easy, not too hard sewing project that works well for 4-9 year olds. It’s a budget-friendly craft that you can create with materials you likely have on hand or can easily find at any craft store. Thanks to Mini eco for proving the instructions AND free printable cards. Download the cards and print on colored card stock. She used orange, pink and yellow, but feel free to use your child’s favorites.

To make your sewing cards you’ll also need a hole punch, yarn, a blunt needle and a button or bead to tie at the end of the yarn as a stopper. Instructions via the blogger:

1) Simply print pdfs and cut out. Pinking shears can be used for extra flare.
2) Punch holes out (as pictured)
3) Have you child lace the yarn through the holes.

Sewing Cards via Mini Eco
via Mini Eco

3. Shimmery Snow Paint
Kids love a new art material and this one doubles as a fantastic sensory material. Plus, it’s perfect for winter. There are lots of recipes out there for paint that looks like snow, but this one tops the list for the most shimmery, realistic looking flurries. For the best results, refrigerate the shaving cream and glue overnight then let it warm up for about 10 minutes the counter before using.

Recipe via Growing a Jeweled Rose. You’ll need the following materials: shaving cream, white school glue, peppermint extractiridescent glitter or buffalo snow.

Mix equal parts of glue and shaving cream in a bowl – you can eyeball the amounts. Sprinkle in as much glitter or buffalo snow as you like. Add a few drops of peppermint extract and mix. You can add more glitter, if need be.

It’s fun for kids to use their new paint to create wintery scenes filled with snowmen. Colored construction paper works well as a background.

Shivery Snow Paint via Growing a Jeweled Rose
via Growing a Jeweled Rose

4. Paper House
This really cute paper house was created by the ingenious blogger at Say Yes to Hoboken as something to do with all of the cardboard shipping boxes that had piled up at her house after a bout of online shopping. With the holidays just past, you’re sure to have a few lying around, too.

Choose a box that’s a good size and shape for a house, a barn, a school, or any other structure your child would like to create, and follow the instructions provided at Say Yes to Hoboken. All you’ll need is paper, glue, scissors and a Sharpie. The rainbow shingles are the best part!

Cardboard House via Say Yes to Hoboken
via Say Yes to Hoboken

5. Bottle Cap Stamps
Create your own stamps with the bottle caps from water or juice bottles and small foam stickers. We can thank Vanessa’s Values for the idea and for helping us to keep our kids entertained by merely visiting the recycling bin for bottle caps and the dollar store for a handful of stickers. Simply glue stickers to the tops of the caps and use either a stamp pad or paint for the ink. Kids, little and big, will have a ball creating all sorts of project with their stamps – posters, cards, signs, etc.

Bottle Cap Stamps via Vanessa's Values
via Vanessa’s Values

 

Search for crafty babysitters at www.UrbanSitter.com.