Last Updated October 9th, 2009

Make Holiday Decorations – Free Fun Friday

With the holiday season coming up, it’s a great time to express your creativity as a family and start making holiday decorations. For Halloween, for example, you can cut bats out of black construction paper, make ghosts out of tissue paper, and so on.

There are tons of sites with ideas, and if you’re like me the supplies are already on hand for many crafts.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 7th, 2009

Sharpie "Tie Dye" T-Shirt Activity

My mother saw this activity when she was at the Maker Faire earlier this year. She was impressed by how simple it is.

First you need some plain white t-shirts. I suppose you could use other colors, but then it’s harder for kids to figure out how their colors are going to turn out.

You can also use old pillow cases if you like. Mom used one for practice so she’s be ready to help the kids the first time she did this with them. Kind of a neat look and not a bad idea for kids making a present for grandparents or something.

Aside from the t-shirts, you will also need colored Sharpie markers, rubbing alcohol, a plastic cup, a dropper and I recommend having rubber bands to hold the shirt to the cup. A hair dryer can be useful too, for speeding up the evaporation of the alcohol so the kids can do more sections of their shirts quickly. Plastic grocery bags stuffed into the shirts can also help to keep colors from bleeding to the other side of the shirt while the ink dries.

I strongly recommend having windows open during this project, or do it outside. After a while, rubbing alcohol really stinks!

Put a plastic cup inside the t-shirt, wherever you want to begin this project. Wrap a rubber band over the t-shirt on the cup to hold it tight.

Draw dots or a simple design with the Sharpies. It looks great with no more than 2-3 colors. Too many colors will lead to the colors turning kind of muddy. Be firm enough with the markers to leave a fair bit of ink, or your results won’t be too impressive. Light dots don’t have enough ink to spread out very much.

Don’t get too fancy or detailed in your design. You’ll be blurring it most of the way away in a moment.

A design closer to the center works for a more classic tie dye look, but my kids liked dotting or drawing all over the area they were working with, and it turned out fine.

My kids did fireworks patterns, drew hearts, just whatever pleased them. Make sure there’s still some white areas left so that the colors have places to go other than just into each other.

Sharpie t-shirt drawing dots

Once the design is drawn, it’s time to get the rubbing alcohol out. Bring some up into the dropper, and wet the area of the drawing. The alcohol will soak into the shirt and bring the colors along with it.

Sharpie t-shirt drops of rubbing alcohol to blur design

Give it some time to spread, and you’ll come up with something like this:

sharpie tshirt blurring

Don’t give up on the spreading too quickly. There’s the immediate spreading you’ll see as soon as the alcohol soaks in, then more as it goes.

If you want to do more than one section without a lot of waiting, plug in that hair dryer and blow it dry once you’re satisfied with where you’re at. Rubbing alcohol evaporates pretty quickly. That’s why I said earlier to open the windows or do this outside. If you didn’t, by now you may know why I said that. It may help to take something for the headache after you get those windows open!

If you haven’t already, stuff the shirt with a plastic bag so that colors don’t bleed onto the back while they dry. You can still do more work with the bag in there.

Once you’re done you can set the colors either by throwing in the dryer for a while or by soaking in a white vinegar and water mix. I think I did about a 50/50 mix. You’ll get a bit more color out, and help keep the colors from bleeding into the rest of your laundry later.

I’ve had new red shirts bleed far more into the vinegar and water mix than these did, so I don’t know how bad it is if you skip setting the colors. But I did see some definite color coming out. Hopefully no one will tell me how bad it was when they failed to set the colors. Just take the time and get those colors set.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated June 5th, 2009

Find Things for a Collage – Free Fun Fridays

One of the fun things about taking a family walk is all the leaves and such you can find. Take advantage and make a collage when you get home.

You can think of different themes or just do a “stuff we found” collage. Maybe look for seeds, or different kinds of leaves.

This can be a great way to encourage the entire family to pay attention to what’s around them as you walk. Not to mention that younger children in particular love making crafts.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated April 24th, 2009

Improvise Musical Instruments – Free Fun Friday

This is a great way to teach younger kids about recycling. Save up some cans or water bottles and use them to make musical instruments. If you use a side can opener it is pretty easy to tape the lid back on, and there won’t be any sharp edges to worry about.

Put beans or rice in the cans or bottles and close them back up. Fill water or soda bottles to different levels and teach the kids to blow across them and compare the sounds.

If you have art supplies you can also have the kids decorate them before filling them up.

Don’t forget the classic wooden spoon banging on a pot or pan. There’s a reason why that’s a classic, and it’s not the headache you get if it goes on for too long. It’s not so bad if you’re just playing.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated December 22nd, 2007

Graham Cracker House

I mentioned yesterday and the day before that I was going to help my kids make a graham cracker house this year before Christmas. It’s finally done and I thought I would share how we did it.

powdered sugar and egg white


graham crackers
assorted candies such as gum, spice drops, Spree, whatever you want to put on it
royal icing

Here’s the recipe for the royal icing:

1 egg white
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp lemon extract (or vanilla extract, but lemon leaves the mix whiter)

Beat egg whites in a bowl until foamy. Slowly add powdered sugar and lemon extract until completely blended.

crackers cut into triangles

I made one batch of this to assemble the house the first day, and a double batch the next for attaching the candy. How much you need depends on how extensive you let the decorating get.

I covered two cookie sheets with wax paper. Only needed one for building the house, but for making the walls I needed two.

Next I took one graham cracker and cut it into triangles using a butcher knife. One nice firm hit with the heel of my hand to break the crackers in a fairly straight line. Probably any knife long enough with an uncurved blade will do for the job.

graham cracker house sides

Because I knew the kids would want a big house, I used the icing to connect two crackers for each side, and used the triangles to make points to support the roof. I was pretty heavy handed with the icing. I forgot to borrow my mother’s cake decorating supplies to make this easier and neater. But I figured the excess would help to strengthen the crackers once it dried.

A cracker and a half made each of the roof panels. I measured along the triangles to figure that out.

I kept the royal icing in the fridge, covered lightly with a damp paper towel while these dried.

Once they were dry enough, I assembled the house. Without the right tools this was pretty difficult. I used a plastic baggie with a corner cut off to direct the icing as best I could. Not as good as regular cake decorating tips would do, but it helped to get the job done. (Note to self: Next time don’t forget to borrow the cake decorating tools!)

partially assembled graham cracker house

One roof segment cracked when I was trying to attach it, and by that point I had too little icing to do more than fix it. Not enough to save for reattaching it. So I fixed it and decided to reattach it today.

All that was yesterday. I wanted the icing very strong before I let the kids anywhere near anything.

This morning I reattached the roof, then coated it with frosting and shingled it with Necco wafers. This was the point at which I wondered if it would have been smarter to add them yesterday, before assembly. I had to hold them in place for several minutes to keep all the shingles from sliding down, off the roof.

This did later generate the thought that maybe decorating the sides in general would be easier to do as they lay flat on the wax paper. Only thing I don’t know is how that would impact the assembly of the house. Might have too many things in the way then.

Next I covered the surrounding wax paper with the royal icing and let the kids go at it. I did the decorating of the house itself, since the kids didn’t have the patience to hold the candies in one place long enough to do anything on the walls. But they did have a lot of fun placing candies and asking if they could eat another piece yet.

The pine tree and snowman made from spice drops were probably the most difficult. Dratted things took incredibly long to dry. I had to keep a hand on them for at least 15-20 minutes. The snowman was particularly stubborn.

Then I decided to add a little chocolate. I had decided early on that that would be the easiest way to give the snowman a face. So I melted some chocolate chips in the microwave, grabbed a toothpick and went to work. Then I added more chocolate to the house just because I could, and it was chocolate. Who needs more reason than that?

With everything finished, there was still more icing available. I decided that the last bits could be poured over the roof to make something of a snow effect. It was that or throw it out, and that just seemed like more fun.

All in all, I think it turned out rather well:

graham cracker house

[tags]christmas recipes,graham cracker house,candy[/tags]

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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