Tag Archives: kids

DIY Kids Jewelry—Waaay Better than Claire’s!

My daughter and her friends love jewelry but I do not love the tacky junk marketed to their age group.  With a bit of time and patience, I’ve found it’s easy to make necklaces and bracelets for girls and these make perfect, unique gifts.

Over the past year (and with those 40% off coupons), I collected the tools and findings needed for these kinds of projects, so I have two pairs of flat nose pliers, wire cutters, and a crimp tool.  I also have assorted charms and wire.

For the nerdy birthday girl (see yesterday’s post), my daughter decided on a color scheme and picked out these blue beads at a local bead store ($.40 each):

Then she created a pattern for a necklace and a bracelet incorporating some pink and silver seed beads that we had left over from another necklace.  I strung the beads and attached the findings, including a wire guard, crimp tube and crimp cover.  I haven’t mastered the art of photographing the process, so all I can share are before and after pics.

I love this because everyone benefits—my daughter uses her creativity, she and I do a fun project together, I spend less than I would at a jewelry store in the mall, and the birthday girl gets a one-of-a-kind gift.

Since I had all the supplies out, we went ahead and made another gift for an upcoming birthday.

And I even made the gift boxes.

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Back to School Picnic

The purpose of this get-together was for the children in my daughter’s first grade class to have some fun and get reacquainted prior to the first day of school.  As a former teacher I know how crazy things can be on the first day in the classroom.  As a parent I wanted to do something to help the back-to-school experience go well.  Several of the children, my daughter included, were quite anxious about the new school year so this event helped ease some of their nerves.  It was also an opportunity for families new to the school to meet returning families and the new students were able to make some friends.

My husband and I sponsored the event at a nearby military recreation spot.  Since we paid the reservation fee, I wanted to keep all of our other costs at a minimum, which allowed me to be creative with the decorations.

With a school year theme in mind and the school colors as my starting point, I rooted around in our garage, gathering up anything blue or yellow and school related.  I also collected things that could work as picnic/playground games.

Things I repurposed:  plastic water bottles, toilet paper tubes, stop signs, scrap wood, tin cans, alphabet magnets, alphabet flash cards, blue valences from our first apartment

Things I had on hand:  several white tablecloths and sheets, plastic cones, white & colored paper, river pebbles, paper napkins, small clear cellophane bags with twist ties, tissue paper, ribbon, mini clothespins and regular clothespins, paper bags, chenille stems, felt, wooden dowels, paint, paint chips (well, okay, I got to make a trip to Lowe’s and Home Depot for those, but they were free)

Things I bought:  bag of Navy beans, black chalkboard spray paint, white plastic IKEA picture frames, white IKEA vases, 3 white sheets from the IKEA As-Is bin (yes, I’m kinda obsessed with IKEA)

Things I made:  2 welcome banners that hung from trees around our picnic site, 3 chalkboard signs to direct people where to park, 12 centerpieces including pennant flags featuring the school uniform plaid and 5 dozen paper bag flowers, 48 tablecloth weights that turned out to be the most important items I brought, a whiffle ball toss game, 8 paint chip garlands and two “Happy School Year” paint chip banners.  (I shared a few pictures of the process in this post.)

Some confessions:  It was windy at the picnic site, so basically all of the decorations ended up being pointless.  I didn’t get to hang any banners or garlands except for the welcome ones.  The parking lot was extremely crowded because so many events were going on all around the park that day.  At one point, the lot was closed and people were turned away at the gate, so the chalkboard signs were essentially useless.  Despite my best intentions, I took only about six pictures at the event.  This must be why event organizers and event photographers are not one in the same person.  Most of the pictures featured here were taken at my home, after the fact.

On the up side, more than 60 people attended the event and everyone had a blast!

I don’t think I’ll be taking on another project like this anytime soon.  For the Fall, I’ll stick with decorating my own house where I have greater control over the elements.  Here’s a preview of what I’m working on:

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Joanna Gardens?

Even though I am completely inept at taking care of low-maintenance houseplants, I volunteered to help my daughter’s kindergarten class tend their garden.  (I know my friend with the chicken coop in her backyard is LOL.)

Let me backup a bit:  one of the ideas that came up in regard to my desperate post last week was for me to volunteer more in my daughter’s class.  This seemed a reasonable suggestion since I have to contribute more hours to the school anyway (lest I end up with a poor school service record to go with my delinquent library record).  When I asked the teacher how I could help out I was thinking, “Storytime!  I can break out the hand and finger puppets!”  After all, it’s Joanna reads, not Joanna roots around in the dirt.

But all Catholic school teachers are gifted with the ability to receive a “yes” answer to any request and my years as a teacher haven’t yet balanced out my years as a student.  So when the teacher eagerly asked if I could assist the children once a week with their garden, I was helpless to say no.

I wasn’t kidding about my ineptitude with plants.  Remember that Sex and the City episode when Aidan brings a plant into Carrie’s apartment?  Yeah.  When my husband had to go to Newport, RI for training, he seriously considered taking his plant with him because it had a better chance of surviving a New England winter in a Navy barracks than six months of my negligence care.  (He should have gone with his instincts on that one.)

Predictably, I have turned to books to help me out.  At ALA Midwinter, I picked up Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin.  While I love Baldwin’s ideas and succulents probably could withstand the abuse they’d take from me, this book is actually not helpful for the project at hand, what with kids and cactus being a bad combination.

Three books that I have been reading this past week are Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots:  Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy, How Does Your Garden Grow? by Clare Matthews, and Gardening with Children: Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-region Guide, all available at my local library.  Each takes a slightly different approach to gardening with kids.

Charmingly illustrated, Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots offers a list of the 20 best plants for kids as well as 12 backyard projects.  In the section titled “Gardening Basics,” Lovejoy says that children can easily feel overwhelmed by long lists of garden chores.  This applies to me too so Lovejoy’s suggestion to break gardening tasks into ten-minute chunks sounds about my speed.  The section gets progressively more complicated so while I think I can handle weeding and watering I will certainly not be composting nor having anything to do with worm boxes.

Truthfully, I preferred Clare Matthews’ approach in How Does Your Garden Grow? Matthews arranged her book into projects, listing materials recipe-style and providing step-by-step instructions with pictures by Clive Nichols to illustrate the directions.  Whereas Lovejoy’s book will appeal to older kids who already have an interest in gardening, it is too text rich to be accessible to the age group I’ll be working with.    In fact, I think Lovejoy’s book is aimed at adults who want to garden with kids (even though the book is classified in juvenile non-fiction).

Matthews includes straight-forward answers to typical questions such as, why is grass green?  Why do plants have roots?  Why do most flowers come out in the spring?  Between the clear pictures, colorful projects and simple language, this book is the best of the three for young children.  (As an aside, I have to say that I love how Matthews (who is British) uses the term “black dustbin liner.”  Doesn’t that sound so much classier than “trash bag?”)

Finally, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden book Gardening with Children offers the most scientific perspective of the three books and really appealed to the biology nerd in me.  With diagrams of the food chain and photosynthesis as well as information about climate and habitat, this book provides older children with an expanded discussion of common classroom science topics.  For someone like me who has an intellectual interest in plants and ecology but little to no skill with the actual living specimens, this is a great book.

I placed a hold with the library on How to Grow a School Garden but as I’m still waiting on it I can’t do more than mention it now.

Well, at this point, I welcome the insight of those of you with green thumbs—any tips for me?  I’ll let you know how this endeavor turns out.

 

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