Thursday, March 31, 2011

Home-made Play Dough Color Theory

Sometimes I realize that something I have covered long ago in my oldest children's homeschooling was never a topic we went over with the littler ones. Color theory was one of those topics! So yesterday we remedied that little oversight. It wasn't that Ethan (my youngest boy at 7 years) had no idea about what happened when you combined colors, but I wanted to be sure he had a firm grasp on the concept before we moved on to our next (exciting!) art lesson.

First we whipped up a batch of homemade play-dough using the following recipe.
  • 3 cups flour + a little extra for kneading
  • 1/2 cups salt
  • 2 tbs. cream of tartar
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 cups boiling water
Mix the first three ingredients in a large heat-proof bowl. Boil the water and oil. Slowly add the water with oil to the dry ingredients mixing well. (I often use my large stand mixer for this part... it goes faster!) Once your play dough is smooth, soft and elastic remove it from the bowl and divide it into 2 or more parts to be colored. This time we divided it into 3 balls and used paste food coloring to make our primary colors. You may need to add a tiny sprinkling of flour if it becomes sticky or tacky.

Our three primary colors: Yellow, Red and Blue
Ethan mixing his first two primary colors... So excited! (*Excitement is probably partly due to the fact that this was the first time in his memory I've encouraged the mixing of play dough colors... I'm not sure why I've never really encouraged it. It's not like it is expensive or hard to replace. One of those ingrained things from my own childhood I guess. I remember always being told not to mix my play dough colors... they would get ugly and muddy looking, but boys like muddy and ugly looking sometimes don't they? Plus our mixed colors turned out pretty for the most part. See purple below... not so sure about that one!)
His secondary color emerging...

Primaries and Secondaries
See what I mean about the purple? We tried mixing equal parts red and blue, more red and less blue and vice-versa. But they all turned out weird! My husband thinks it is because our blue looks more turquoise than pure blue... maybe he is right. But still it was purple enough for Ethan to understand the theory of red + blue = purple. And that was the important part, even if it wasn't a very pretty purple!

See our rainbow of colors emerging? Aren't they pretty? Ethan had so much fun making all of these colors! Color Theory concepts learned! Success!
 All of the kids enjoyed (re)learning about color theory. Afterwards we all played with playdough for a while!

 Claire had never played with playdough before. She was thoroughly impressed! She only tried to eat it a few (dozen!) times. She did have lots of fun playing and squishing it through her fat little fingers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Flower Pounding Card Tutorial

Flower pounding is one of my favorite spring crafts to do with the kids. (Of course you could do it year round but my favorite flowers to use are in bloom during the spring and early fall.)

First you have to gather your supplies. You’ll need paper or something else to use as your background. We were making cards so we used heavy card stock. I wouldn’t recommend normal copy/printer paper as it is probably too flimsy. You can also pound your flowers onto plain white cotton or unbleached muslin and frame your picture.( I’m sure there must be a way to fix the color well enough to become wearable, washable art but I am not sure how. I know that some of you ladies out there, who regularly dye your own wools and fabrics using natural dyes, must know of a way to fix the color, but I just haven’t learned how to do that yet. If anyone knows how I’d love to learn! )
  • Paper or cloth for the background
  • Hammers (one for each person who wants to pound if possible!)
  • A hard flat surface (that won’t be damaged by hammering on top of it)
  • A basket (to hold the flowers you gather)
  • Scissors (to help remove stems and pick flowers)
  • A small scrap piece of cotton fabric (to lay on top of your flowers while you pound) We used an old scrap of a threadbare sheet. You can also use tissue paper or paper towels in a pinch, but the fabric will hold up better to repeated pounding with the hammer.
  • Flowers and leaves!!! (Flat open faced flowers work the best. Pansies and yellow daisies are my favorites. You can experiment with all types and colors of flowers; you might be surprised at what works and what doesn’t. Fern leaves are also beautiful to use in this craft. Colorful fall leaves look gorgeous when pounded too.
  • Pencils, markers, crayons, etc. (to draw and write in your cards)
Now go outside with some enthusiastic children and gather your flowers and colorful leaves. Get lots!
 Make sure you take time to smell the flowers and enjoy being in the sunshine with your precious little ones. Enjoy the feel of the dew wet grass tickling your toes. I always try to remember that I will have these sweet boys under my care for such a short period of time, there is so much fun and learning that I want to share with them before they grow and start families of their own! I want them to have happy memories of their childhood that they will want to recreate someday with their own children.

Once you have a bunch of pretty flowers gathered in your basket you can set to work.

If you are making cards like we did, then you’ll need to fold your paper in half and decide which side you want up and how the card should open. Then lay your paper our flat and carefully place a flower face down in whatever position pleases you the best. If the flower you’ve chosen has a large stem on the back or a very juicy part where it connects to the stem you may want to carefully cut that piece off. I find it easiest to do this by laying the flower where I want it and holding it’s petals in place with my left hand and carefully cutting the juicy part off with scissors in my right hand.
Then without disturbing the petals as much as possible lay your tissue paper (that’s what we used) on top of the flower holding it in place with one hand while you lightly tap on top of the flower with your hammer. Little ones may need your help holding the flower with tissue paper over it while the tap with the hammer. Tap all around the flower, hitting it with your hammer as flatly as possible.

Once your tissue paper looks wet all over on top of the whole flower carefully peel the tissue paper back and peel up the pounded flower.
 And there you have it! Your flower should have transferred all of its pretty color onto your paper. Continue adding more flowers and leaves to your art until you are pleased with the outcome! You can add stems to your flowers by pounding or drawing them on with colored pencils. This craft is as much fun in the making as it is enjoying the final product!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A new dress and sunbonnet

A couple of weeks ago I found an adorable vintage pattern for a little girl's dress and sunbonnet. I made the dress for Claire this past week and finished up the sunbonnet on Friday afternoon.

 The size 1 pattern was still too big for her, but it was such a simple dress to make that altering it to be a bit smaller to fit her now was easy-peasy. She really liked her long dress and kept twirlling around and playing with the skirt. When I showed her the sunbonnet for the first time she exclaimed "Hat!" "Outside!" She loves going outside and has gotten so used to being bundled up to venture out of doors that anytime she sees a hat she thinks it should be put on her and then be allowed outside to play!

She wanted to go visit the chickens.  
I carried the basket to collect the eggs, but she insisted on taking one egg back up to the house herself.


This is the pattern I used. Simplicity 7573 size 1 from 1975! So cute! I will definently be making her more of these! It was fast, easy and turned out oh-so-sweet! Perfect for a little farm girl this Spring and Summer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Weekend Happenings

What a wonderful weekend we had! Spring was evident everywhere, the sun was warm and shining, the flowers were blooming,  we played outside and had fun together!

We made several small trips around town this weekend. The first was to the Fiber Arts Festival. I've been waiting for this to come around ever since I found out about it last year!

Such lovely, yummy wool everywhere!

Tunis sheep waiting for the beginning of the herding dog exhibition to begin.

Matthew spent Saturday morning building a pirate ship out of legos. He got out the encyclopedias and looked up a pirate flag (the "Jolly Roger" he informed me!) Then he set to work designing one for his ship.

On Sunday afternoon we took a trip to a local science museum. The boys experimented with everything there at least twice!

 If you look closely at the picture below you can see a little white dot just past the second light fixture next to the dark ceiling. It was a rocket that Matthew and Rodrigo made and were experimenting launching towards each other using a hand powered air cannon.

The roadsides of the highway we travelled to get to the museum were absolutely covered in daffodils and redbud trees. On the way home we pulled over and snapped some pictures. There were thousands of flowers everywhere. We were in awe at the sheer numbers of flowers planted along the roadside. We decided with the children that every year we'll try to plant more daffodils so that eventually our yard surrounding the house will look like this! Simply beautiful!

 Claire wanted to smell ALL of the flowers!
 We are rejoicing in this new season!

Song of Solomon 2: 11-12
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land;

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kissing Trees at the Park

I am sure you are probably wondering why it looks like my children are so intent on kissing this tree at the park... A few other park goers seemed to be wondering the same thing! Well... it all started like this...

We were walking through the park and Matthew wandered over to a tree and put his hand against the trunk to lean on it. "Mom, this tree is all wet!" We looked closer and found all these little rows of holes with fresh sap running out. I told him that it was a maple tree and he asked if the sap was what they made maple syrup out of. I assured him that it was the same, so he asked if he could taste it. I told him he could, one thing led to another and by the time I turned around all three boys where there tasting the sap that was flowing down the trunk of the tree! We talked about how maples are tapped for syrup production up north in New England and in Canada. The said the sap tasted like maple syrup but more watery and less concentrated.

See the little rows of holes in the tree's trunk? The row on top is the freshest, it isn't wet with sap yet, the lower rows are dark and wet with sap running down.  Below is a picture of the bird that made all of those holes. A few minutes after we discovered the maple tree with it's rows of holes we spied this bird busily tapping holes in another maple nearby. It's a male Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. I couldn't get a better picture of him because he kept circling to the back side of the trees when I tried to get in a good spot to see him clearly.

 After watching the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker for a while the little ones ran over to the playground to swing and play.

 Ethan Played with Claire for a while on the teeter-totter. She loved it!

Meanwhile, Logan wandered around nearby searching under the trees for owl pellets and other interesting things.

He didn't find any owl pellets, but he did spot this. A beautiful Red Shouldered Hawk. He was picking at this nest, we watched him for a while trying to decide whether it was an old squirrel's nest he was tearing at, or if he was busy prepping a nest of his own for the coming breeding season. Last summer we watched a pair of these hawks feeding their young in a nest built directly beside the playground! We never did decide which of the two it was.

Back on the playground Matthew was busy taking Claire down the slides. 

She liked it so much that after he was done she kept trying and trying to figure out how to climb back up there on her own.

 Before we left we all played on the swings together. Ethan snapped this picture of Claire and me.
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