Category Archives: Kids’ Craft Projects

LED Constellation Art Project

A picture of a light-up LED constellation - cancer the crab

Made by R, age 10.

When I was initially asked if I wanted to be a part of Space Camp, I was hesitant to say yes. I think space and stars are pretty amazing, but I do not feel confident teaching others about them. I have a lot of varied interests, but space is not one of them.

Then, the director asked me if I was interested in the art and craft class. Oh my – yes!!!

While they were completely open to new ideas, they had already thought about some sort of LED constellation art project. I thought that was perfect and right up my alley. I’ve been playing a lot with LEDs and I’ve always been interested in art. This was in November and I quickly began prototyping. I was hoping that we could hard wire the LEDs, but I expected that it might be too difficult for inexperienced students.

Research

Although my family and I like to look at the stars, I don’t have a strong background in space. I needed to read more about constellations and how to identify them. After choosing some books from the library, I realized that I needed something with accurate, but simple illustrations of the constellations. Thankfully, I stumbled upon these two activity books:

A picture of two constellation activity books

Activity books on constellations, written for kids

Wiring the LEDs

I probably should have started with getting the paint ‘just right,’ but instead I grabbed some black and glitter paint and did the quickest job I could…so that I could figure out how to light up the stars.

My first attempt was with copper tape and SMD LEDs. Fail.

My second attempt was with copper tape and Chibitronic LED stickers. Not bad, but I thought it might be too much of a dexterity issue to get them onto canvas. Fail.

My third attempt had me stripping copper wire and twisting LEDs. Success!!! But…way too difficult for young kids. Not to mention all of those exposed wires.

A picture of wires at the back of an art canvas

I’ve since found better wires to use, but this was your standard copper wire from Lowe’s, wired to a salvaged battery holder from an old toy.

Finally, I stumbled across these micro LED lights and knew that this would make it easy for the kids to light up their constellations. After another quick ‘night’ paint job, I made the prototype from which I based my lessons.

A picture of the big dipper in LED lights

The big dipper, which I’ve since learned is not a stand alone constellation, but rather part of a larger one, Ursa Major.

For my class, I was lucky enough to have two sessions that lasted an hour and a half. This left plenty of time for discussion and work time. On the first day, we talked about a variety of constellations, but I asked them over and over again, “what do you notice?” I wanted them to see that the night sky was made up of many different colors. There were heavy concentrations of stars in certain areas, but depending on the time, or location that the picture was taken, the stars might have been a light sprinkling.  I wasn’t teaching about the constellations (thank goodness), merely reinforcing the other lessons they were getting from the head of the Planetarium (the guy with the PhD in Astronomy). Thankfully, I found the series, ‘Crash Course for Kids,’ and showed my students the videos on groups of stars and the one on how to locate constellations.  Since we were painting and doing other art activities on the first day of camp, I wanted to draw their attention to the colors and patterns. To truly observe.

The students finished their canvases that first day and by our second session, they were dry and ready to light up. On that second day, I turned my focus to discussing circuits, LEDs and coin cell batteries. I even brought my homemade circuit blocks.

picture of batteries and siren

The output device only works when it’s a closed circuit. This is a rather annoying, but effective, buzzer.

LED Constellation Art Project – Materials Needed

  • 8 x 10 art canvas (from Hobby Lobby)
  • Paintbrushes & Palette
  • Toothbrush for flicking on glitter
  • Paint (see picture below)
  • Newspapers or butcher paper to cover table
  • LED light string
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Exacto knife
  • Pencil for tracing constellation
  • Tracing Paper
  • Carbon paper
  • Paper to test carbon paper
  • Micro LED string of lights

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Hand out small bits of carbon paper and let the kids figure out how it works.
  2. Choose a constellation from one of the activity books or draw your own.
  3. Trace or draw your constellation onto the tracing paper. Set aside.
    1. Note – If drawing, be sure your constellation fits in the middle of the canvas. BE MINDFUL of the wooden frame. The lights have to poke through from the back.
Picture of traced constellation

Tracing paper helped the students to make accurate constellations.

4. Place the carbon paper (dark side down) in the middle of the canvas. Set your traced constellation on top and retrace the constellation with your pencil. Remove the carbon paper and see that your constellation is on your canvas.

carbon paper transfer of constellation
5. Circle the stars so that students know to paint around them. Have students write their name on the back of the canvas. Include the name of the constellation, direction and months that you can find it in the sky. Example: Cygnus, December – February, facing North
6. Play around with the paints – mix orange and blue and see how you can get darker blue. Add gray to black, what happens? You can mix glitter paint into the black to get very subtle sparkles.

pain palette
7. Paint your canvas. Paint the sides first so they can dry.

pciture of black painted canvas

Circle the stars so your student knows to paint around them.

8. Take your canvas outside and bring along the toothbrush, the glitter paint and some red paint. Love the red stars.
9. The stiff bristles on an old toothbrush are used to make a nice splatter effect of stars.
10. Set aside and let dry for 24 hours.

LED constellation art project

Flick the glitter paint on at the end so it really pops!

Adding the LEDs to our LED Constellation Art Project

Since I really wanted to make this an art & tech project, I built the second day’s lessons around circuits and batteries. We started with a discussion on what they knew about LEDs and coin cell batteries, passed out some single LEDs and watched these two videos from Adafruit’s Circuit Playground: B is for Battery and D is for Diode.

A picture of a green LED wrapped around a coin cell battery

I handed out one coin cell battery and one LED and asked the students to figure out how to light it up.

Then, we unwrapped the micro LED set of lights and everyone put in the batteries to make sure the lights worked. Surprisingly, they all did.

The coordinators felt that it was safer if the adults used the exacto knives to cut into the canvases, so the kids each had their stars marked by a little “x.” Then, off they went to the pre-heated hot glue guns to secure the lights to their canvas.

A pciture of a canvas with an axacto knife

Make a small x with the knife so that the LED can poke through form the back.

Voila!

An instant project that will help students remember the layout of their favorite constellation. Coin cell batteries do not have a long shelf life (8 hours, I think), but thankfully, these lights come with an on/off switch.

A picture of the back of an art canvas

Tuck in the extra, leftover lights…or, hot glue them to the back so they stay in place.

 

Making :: Hand-Embroidered Card & Pin

A picture of a rocket ship embroidered on felt

R, age 10, made this backpack pin. He chose a design to copy and did most of the work by himself.

Maker Movement – Sewing

I’m prepping for camp and definitely feeling the need to get some samples done.  However, all of this sewing has rekindled my love of embroidery. Thankfully, my kids also love to embroider and they have been more than happy to help with the projects.

There’s something about embroidery that fascinates us. I think it’s a great way to get kids interested in sewing because they have a lot of choice and freedom of expression. Hand-embroidery is a great way to personalize projects and make them your own.

A picture of embroidery designs

A page from Doodle Stitching – the Motif Collection

A picture of a child embroidering

We used the smallest hoop

A pciture of the back of the pin

He used hot glue to fasten the pin back to the wool felt.

Hand-Embroidered Card

As a girl with some minimalist tendencies, I don’t always want to have a lot of small embroidery designs hanging around. What do I do with them when I’m finished? There’s only so many framed embroidery projects that one needs adorning the walls. Thankfully, I recently realized that I could embroider on paper.

A picture of a thank you card

Now I can embroider, but give the project away. Woo!

I lightly wrote out the words ‘thank you’ in pencil and copied the flower designs from my favorite embroidery book, Doodle Stitching – the Motif Collection. This time, I used carbon paper to transfer the design, but in the past I’ve held up fabric to a window and used the sun as a back light.

For this thank you note, I made a card from cardstock (leftover from my scrapbook days) and used my needle to poke holes in the hand-drawn design – before I embroidered. I didn’t want any extra holes in my card from stray needle marks.

A pciture of embroidery threads

The inside of the card…before I covered it with paper.

A pciture of the inside of a card.

When I finished doing the embroidery, I glued another piece of paper to the inside.

A picture of an embroidered thank you card

A finished embroidered project.

Although this project was quite lengthy and probably a bit too complicated for your typical middle schooler, I have high hopes for future paper embroidery projects. Now that the backpack pin has been prototyped, I think it’s time for some more paper embroidering. The kids will be testing some of their own designs, while I have something else in mind. Maybe some paper embroidery combined with circuits? SMD LEDs and conductive ink?  Oh, yes, I see a lot more embroidering in my future.

A pciture of a red backpack

R proudly pinned his work on his backpack.

SFC Space Camp

A picture of a canvas with LED lights that make the constellation cygnet

My first attempt at an LED constellation…now being used as a teaching tool.

SFC Space Camp

This week, I’m excited to be teaching and facilitating for Santa Fe College’s ‘Space Camp.’ I’m leading the art and craft component and we will be doing art and tech while being immersed in constellations and circuits. Here’s what we’re making:

A picture of a light-up LED constellation - cancer the crab

That’s the constellation Cancer the Crab. Made by R, age 10.

Detailed instructions to follow…

a gift for his teacher

This year Ronan was enrolled in a local Montessori preschool. He went five mornings a week from 9-12, as part of Florida's Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program. He had a great experience – he enjoyed being there and it jumpstarted him with regards to combining letters to form words (CVC, for those Montessorians). It also allowed me some alone time with just Calum. It was wonderful to be able to give this time to Calum like I had given it to Ronan at that age. While I think there are some things that could use improvement (stricter adherence to the "snack" protocol and more Montessori materials), one of the things that we felt made his year a success was his teacher. She is patient and kind, but firm. She's always available to talk about concerns and she's genuinely excited about learning and that translates to the children. In short, I think she was a major contributor to his success this year. So, of course, we wanted to find a proper way to thank her.

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So, we made her a "thank you" book. While I would love to take credit for this lovely idea, I was merely the recipient of such a wonderfully crafted book when I was a Montessori teacher.  It made such a lasting impression on me, that three years later, I thought it would be the perfect gift to give to a wonderful teacher. A way to say thank you – in homemade fashion.

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Ronan and I both contributed to this book. I wanted to make sure she understood how important we felt her role was in Ronan's past year. It could have been a bad experience, but he excelled and enjoyed himself. (Plus, we tucked in some gift cards for good measure)!

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All of the artwork was done by Ronan (or me). We used sheets of cardboard (from the back of the construction paper collection) for the front and back pieces, which were then painted by Ronan. It was a quick project that we hope had a lasting impression.

 

Cooking and Creating

Today is Monday.

Monday in my house typically means I am baking. A lot. We've usually run out of bread/muffins/breakfast munchies. But, today, I felt inspired and tried a bunch of new things. The boys helped, of course. (I am really loving four-and-three-quarters. Ronan is a great help).

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(This is a mushroom)

We made play-dough. From scratch.

Yes, I am impressed with myself. I know that everyone else has been doing it for ages, but the cooking part kept putting me off. But, it was a rainy afternoon and I was looking for things to keep us occupied (as if cleaning the kitchen from the above-mentioned baking wasn't enough). I came across this post and that was the recipe we followed. It was so fast and easy…Ronan mixed everything together and I "cooked" it on the stove for a couple of minutes.

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We let it cool and then added colors. Initially, I was afraid to add the food coloring because I thought it might come off on their hands…and their clothes…the wall, etc. But, once it was thoroughly worked in, nothing comes off onto their hands…maybe a little bit of the veggie oil used in the recipe. That's all.

I also tried a new recipe :: cheesy crackers

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They were (yes, they've all been eaten) delicious. I was lucky I even got a picture of them before they were gone. (I had to save these for Joey since the kids couldn't get enough of them). The recipe is from The Sneaky Chef, though I adapted it a bit (I added back the fat and took out the wheat germ). They are nutritious and my kids loved them. Next time, I am quadrupling the recipe and freezing the extras.

Cheesy Crackers
adapted from The Sneaky Chef

2/3 cup chickpea puree
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 heaping TBSP Asiago/Parmesean (I used Percorino)
4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/3 cup white flour whole wheat pastry
1/3 cup whole wheat flour

**REVISED 10/19 ** Eliminate the white flour and use whole wheat pastry instead. Cook for longer – 20 minutes and on a lower temperature.

Small cookie cutter…we used a diamond shape.

1. Preheat oven to 375. 325 degrees
2. Combine everything but the flour
3. Add flour and mix well.
4. Wrap in foil/parchment paper/plastic bag and put in fridge for at least 30 minutes.
5. Roll out to 1/16 inch thick and let the kids help use the cookie cutters.
6. Place on oiled cookie sheet and bake for 12-14  20-25 minutes.
7. Transfer to rack to cool, assuming your children do not gobble them up before they are done cooling.

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I have been reading Real Food by Nina Planck and I am getting pretty on board with the use of more traditional fats in our diets. (In moderation, of course). This is a good cross between The Omnivore's Dilemma and Nourishing Traditions. It's a pretty interesting read.

And, so, since I added back regular cheese (since the author recommends low-fat), these were a little oily. But, very, very good. I think am going to try to bake them for a bit longer on a lower temperature – maybe 325 for 20 minutes. I'll let you know how they turn out.

And, why did I take out the low-fat cheese? Well, I stopped buying low-fat cheese many, many years ago because it was unfufilling and seemed odd. Also, in Planck's book, she mentions that low-fat products (cheese, milk, yogurt) all have powdered milk in them.  Apparently, powdered milk creates oxidized or damaged cholesterol. Very interesting book indeed!

Handmade Easter gifts

We all came together this weekend for good food with family and friends. There was lots of thanksigiving and joy for the season. Easter baskets were filled – in the nick of time – and spinach pies were made and delivered to the table. And, there were lots of handmades for the kids.

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First, we dyed eggs with all natural materials. From left: roasted beets, red cabbage, curry powder, turmeric and a spinach/cilantro mix. We steeped the veggies and herbs for an hour with boiling water…and the eggs were soaked for four more hours in the fridge. Not too much instant gratification here, but very nice results.

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The green deepened the next day and the red cabbage was a big dud. And, I needed to mash the beets a bit more. But, of course, I had some handmades that I needed to finish.

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Pom-pom chicks…you can't have a mama hen without some babies! (From the book, Creative Play for your Baby). They were pretty easy…I ended up felting them to keep the yarn from pulling out of the pom-poms.

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And, what has become my Easter handmade tradition : mama-made people. Last year, it was a fireman. Initially, I couldn't find one that I liked, so I made him. This year, our minds have been on farming and urban homesteading. There was very little thinking about this year's doll: a little farmer girl seemed like the perfect addition. She's already working on her animal husbandry.

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(Joe made the wooden gates too…we all got in the handmade act. More on that project later).

Crafting

In the week before major events (holidays, birthdays, etc.) it seems as if I need four extra hands and another twenty-four hours in every day. I must have been wearing my "super-crafting-ability" goggles at the time I made out this list of to-be-made items for my boys. Of course, I could drop a few things, but my heart is set and I do like to have some sort of crafting traditions. Plus, our table has been cleared every morning – in anticipation – of all the crafty projects surrounding our upcoming holiday.

During the day, we're trying some crafts (directions found here). And, tomorrow, we're attempting egg-dyeing with all natural materials (found here). Wish us luck!

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And, at night? A tired mama puts on some tea and works some crafting magic.

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Have a happy and safe Easter!

printing with yarn

Mondays seem to be “art” days around here. I like staying at home on these days after an active weekend. Often, I have a bit of downtime on Sunday which allows me to plan out our Monday morning. After our morning walk, R worked on a nature collage while I took advantage of the lengthy nap my wee one was partaking in.

We have two birthdays comings up and homemade cards were on the docket – which coincided nicely with a growing library book stack that needed to be addressed. I was on the lookout for a craft project that would double as a birthday card. So, I pulled some books from the bottom of the pile for a quick scan and found this one. Many of the projects in this book are too advanced for my three-year-old (or so I thought), but I was drawn to one that I wanted to try – printing with string  – a natural fit, don’t you think?

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I drew out a picture with pencil and glued down some old wool yarn (too scratchy) that I had in my stash. Once the glue dried (a couple of hours), I painted the yarn and made a “print” from the raised yarn. While I was working on this project, my curious three-year-old requested some yarn to cut – and a hand-drawn candle of his own to cover in string.

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Of course, he needed a print of his own yarn creation.

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This was the first of many (mine and his), but the wheels are already spinning for new ideas. I think t-shirts might be an interesting mommy and daddy project. Or, cloth bags for the grocery store. We’ll stick with paper cards for now.

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Happy weekend!

 

letter recognition

Between the scorching heat and the thunderstorms, we've been spending a lot more time indoors lately. I hadn't realized how much time we were spending outside until I found myself scrambling for indoor activities. Thankfully, my brain has decided to start functioning again and I find myself with a wee bit of time in the evenings that wasn't there a few weeks ago. I've been knitting – yay! – and brainstorming new activities for Ronan.  I felt that some painting was in order. So, we broke out the easy watercolors -  because I don't have that much time – and got down to business.

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I made a rubbing from the sandpaper letters that I had made previously and then traced them and eventually made a nice set for copying. I love that he is doing something fun – and I get to join him. We also talked about how to hold a paintbrush, all while calling the letters by their sounds. We are finishing up with this group of sandpaper letters and this is just repetition – another way to present the letters and "set" them in the brain. In Montessori's method, she recommended starting out with lowercase letters since most of the words in books are lowercase. (Traditionally, they start with cursive letters as well, but most of the American Montessori schools begin with print – again, the theory being that books are printed in manuscript).

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A fun activity with a little bit of 'traditional' learning snuck in…not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Rainy Day Reflections

Today I am listening to ::

:: Calum cooing and giggling on the floor next to me,

:: the thunderstorm rumbling (quite loudly) all around me,

:: the cats meowing with discontentment (about the storm),

:: Ronan and I singing – as per his request this morning.

There will be a lot of singing and thunder rumbling in our morning. As a kid, I loved rainy days – it meant the perfect excuse to lay around all day and read, read, read.

And, when we get tired of reading, I think some gluing may be in order.

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(Homemade apron – made by Aunt Jackie – check!)

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(Contentment with a q-tip, glue and some scraps? Check!)

What are your rainy day plans?