Family fun

DIY Holidays: 2 Sweet Ornaments to Make With Kids!

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The 1st ornament is a “make your own necklace” kit and the 2nd is a sweet keepsake of hand-written-well-wishes for a loved one (in our case, Grandma 🙂 )

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Both of our holiday ornaments are made with clear, empty bulb ornaments that we purchased from a craft store for 50 cents each.

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The well-wishes ornament was made simply by using an old scrap of Christmas paper.  Any paper will work!

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We cut the wrapping paper into strips.

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Write sweet, personal messages on the strips (use at least 2 per ornament) and gently feed them into the bulb.  Pop the top on and add a little tag. Captain’s tag reads “Well-wishes for Grandma”. Her little messages on the strips of paper are very dear. One wish was to “come and visit me a whole bunch!” These are so incredibly easy to make, and each one can be quite personalized.

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The 2nd ornament is a “make your own necklace” kit for a friend of Captain’s. She filled the bulb with an assortment of beads, then we added some lengths of cord, and little ends, so that her buddy can make a couple of necklaces. Add a festive little tag and you’ve got a sweet gift for a craft-lover. (We cut out a small paper round and added some edging with a red fine point Sharpie).

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We were inspired by Heather at Green Eggs and Goats. She and her daughter filled a bulb with lovely feathers!

Today is a perfect day for doing some crafting here at The Cabin. The snow is falling again, and after playing outside, it feels so good to be indoors getting ready for the holidays.

Do you have any ideas for filling the clear bulbs? We would love to hear about them here on Kartwheels. Have a most wonderful day….

Cheers! Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Family “Quote of the Week” Rocks!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ~ Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go!

Here’s a great family activity for sharing around the dinner table. Every Sunday we choose a quote-of-the-week to share throughout the week, and it is really fun!

I originally got the idea from the Mensa website and printed their page of quotes from the teacher resources. We have used some of their ideas, but also have found many on our own. We each participate by coming up with quotes, and some of our family send favorites to us as well. It is such a simple idea, but so fruitful in its results. Some very interesting conversations have arisen from these quotes! Friends, internet searches of famous quotes, and books are wonderful resources for finding appropriate material to draw from.

We write our weekly quote onto a 3×5 recipe card and keep it on our table. We seem to end up talking about these quotes, and learning things about some of the people who said them. Sometimes we write questions or little bits of information on the backs of the cards, as well as the date. This is a very enriching, ongoing, free activity for almost any age. I think teenagers would like it as well as little ones and adults. And, for those who feel that really little kids wouldn’t benefit from this activity, I strongly disagree! It is not important for kids to understand exactly what every intelligent quote means. Just being a part of family discussion and interaction is incredibly stimulating!

We started Family QOTW back in September and it is still rolling strong in our household. Here are some examples from the past months:

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” ~Basil King

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ~Oscar Wilde

“A life spent making mistakes is not only honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing” ~George Bernard Shaw (thanks for that one Grandma!)

“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” ~Vince Lombardi

As Captain has suggested, it will be fun to look back at this collection of quotes one day. I agree! Thanks for reading and good thoughts to all.

Carpe Diem! Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Language Arts Rock For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Kids Art Lesson: Sketching, Photography, Ansel Adams Biography & Connecting With Nature

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View of the Sierras, photograph taken by M, age 7

Grab some sketch pads & pencils, a camera, and the following information about photographer Ansel Adams, find a nice spot in nature, and you have a wonderful art lesson to share with kids!

The beauty of nature has been an inspiration to artists for all of time. I would like to share how I presented the works of Ansel Adams, and also touched briefly on Claude Monet, while taking the kids out to sketch in the mountains. All you need is a place in nature (mountains, parks, fields, and even your own backyard ), sketch pads, pencils, a camera, and some artist information and examples.

Captain’s friends came for a fun visit this week and we went on a hike in Sequoia Forest. I told them a little bit about how artists of many mediums have been inspired by nature, and that today we would be talking about the famous photographer Ansel Adams. We talked about his life and looked at photographs (see information below) and also talked about Claude Monet’s work. They learned  the term “impressionism” and its origin. I gave each kid a sketch pad and invited them to find a spot to sit with a nice view to sketch. We talked about perspective, lines and details, and then they went to work. The sketches were amazing! The kids took their sketches home to watercolor, and Captain painted hers right away that evening. I showed them a postcard book of Adam’s lovely winter landscapes and after they “oohed and ahhed” over their favorites, I gave them the opportunity to take 3 photographs each, with my iphone, encouraging them to take their time. They each chose their favorite photo and I promised to print their special photo in black and white and frame them. They were thrilled. *Note: I printed the photos at Costco for 13 cents each, and bought black frames at a dollar store. I can’t wait to give the kids their own photographic works of art this week!

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Beautiful Granite, photograph taken by Captain, age 6

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Bueller in the Mountains, photograph taken by J, age 5

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M with his mountain sketch.  He really loved the whole experience of sketching and photographing an amazing view of the Sierras from atop a giant, granite rock face.

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Captain’s watercolored sketch of granite and mountains.

Here is some wonderful, easy to understand information about Ansel Adams to share with your kids. I found these facts on a wonderful site called Mr. Nussbaum! Learning + Fun. Click on the link to easily print these biography pages, and also check out some of the cool science and other learning ideas and lessons presented there!

Ansel Adams Biography for Kids

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Early Life

Ansel Adams was a famous American photographer and environmentalist. He was born near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, on Feb. 20, 1902. When he was four years old, his nose was broken when he was knocked to the ground by an aftershock of the great earthquake. His nose was crooked for the rest of his life. One of his earliest memories was seeing smoke from the great fire that followed the earthquake.

Growing Up

He was an only child who performed poorly at school, so his parents had him tutored at home. Although he was hyperactive and possibly dyslexic, he was thought to possess an eidetic memory, which is a form of photographic memory that includes memories of smells, sounds, and other senses. Ansel enjoyed music and taught himself to play the piano when he was twelve. He also enjoyed nature and loved walking in the sand dunes near his home. His father gave him a telescope, and they shared a great interest in astronomy.

A Photographer is Born in Yosemite National Park

When he was fourteen, Ansel read In the Heart of the Sierras by James Mason Hutchings, and he convinced his parents to take a vacation in Yosemite National Park. His parents gave him a Kodak Brownie camera for the trip, and Ansel’s interest in photography was born as he tramped through the park’s mountains. When he talked about the trip, Ansel said, “the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious… One wonder after another descended upon us… There was light everywhere… A new era began for me.” Some of his most famous photographs were of Yosemite. His work helped raise awareness of and interest in America’s national parks. In 1927, Ansel took one of his best known photos, “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome” at Yosemite.

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The Sierra Club

When he was seventeen, Ansel joined the Sierra Club. The club works to preserve the earth’s natural wonders and resources. He spent four summers as the caretaker of the Sierra Club visitor center in Yosemite Valley, and was an active member of the club for the rest of his life. Ansel was interested in environmental issues related to national parks, especially Yosemite, and the preservation of wilderness.

Photography as an Art

Ansel learned basic darkroom technique working part-time for a photo finisher in San Francisco. In 1927, Albert Bender, a businessman and patron of the arts, helped publish Ansel’s first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras. Ansel soon got paid for photos, and he began to think about a career as a photographer instead of a pianist. In 1933 he opened his own art and photography gallery in San Francisco. He often worked for eighteen or more hours a day, for days and weeks on end. He learned from and exhibited with other famous photographers of the time including Alfred Stieglitz, Imogen Cunningham, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston. They developed photography as a form of art. Ansel helped to establish the first department of photography at a museum at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Ansel’s Work in Space

Ansel Adams’ photographs recorded what many of the National Parks were like before tourism. His photograph of the Grand Tetons and the Snake River was one of 115 images chosen to grace the Voyager spacecraft in an effort to share information about life on Earth with a possible alien civilization. He died on April 22, 1984 in Monterey, California.

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No matter how I photographed these lovely works, I couldn’t help but get glare off the glass. Funny how it made the cloudy, gray sky look blue in M’s photo!

Thank you so much for reading. I wish you a glorious, dramatic, black and white day, filled with color!

Good thoughts, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Sequoia National Forest & Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Make Fun Egyptian Gold Bracelets!

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Toilet paper tubes, paper towel pieces, macaroni, glue and gold spray paint. Yep, that’s all it took to make these sturdy cuff bracelets!

When delving into Ancient-Egypt studies, there is nothing more fun that the huge variety of crafts and projects that can be done. This is a remarkably simple project that makes for some surprisingly sturdy costume jewelry for play. Captain made these delightful gold cuffs with just a little help from mom. And, don’t forget, these cuffs are for boys too. Egyptian men and boys adorned themselves with beautiful jewelry as well!

You’ll Need: One toilet paper tube per set of cuffs, a paper towel, white school glue, a small bowl, dry macaroni and gold spray paint 

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1. Cut the toilet paper tube in half. Cut lengthwise along the tube to make it cuff-style (so they fit on any sized wrist as well). The child can then draw a line where the macaroni is going to be glued on, if they wish.

2. Mix a squirt of white glue into a bowl and add a little water to thin it. Twist a scrap of paper towel and dip it into the glue/water mixture and affix it to the middle of the cuff, as seen above. Press down firmly.

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3. Spread white glue thickly onto the top and bottom border of the cuff (inside the lines if you drew them) and affix your macaroni.

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4. Bend the tubes back into bracelets and let dry.

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5. After completely dry, a parent, or other adult, can spray the outside of the cuffs with gold spray paint.

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Voila! They dry quickly and are ready for play. Again, they are quite sturdy and look so much cooler than one would think from the materials used to make them!

I hope you enjoy making these Egyptian bracelets too!

Gold thoughts and cheer,

Karen

Categories: Family fun, History Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Make A Ming-Inspired Bowl!

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These sweet bowls would make lovely Christmas gifts for family & friends!

We’ve been studying the beginnings of Ancient China and highly recommend this straight-up fun project for all ages. If needed, parents can help younger kids in between making a Ming bowl for themselves!

You’ll Need: A large ball of air-dry clay (I have some of the Crayola brand, and it works great, and is affordable at about $5 for a tub), plastic wrap, a small round bowl, a rolling pin, a sculpting tool or blunt knife, acrylic paints, a clear acrylic sealing spray, or a mixture of glue and water, to glaze the finished piece.

1. Wrap the outside of your bowl in plastic wrap.  I recommend using a smaller “condiment” sized bowl for the first one.

2. Roll out your ball of clay to no less than 1/4″ thickness, making sure it is big enough to cover the outside of the bowl. Press it tightly around the bowl, then use your tools to trim away any excess. Be sure not to make the air-dry clay too thin or the bowl will crack when it dries (we did this and then used the pieces as “archaeology pottery” 🙂 )

3. Place the bowl on a piece of newspaper and allow to dry in an airy place. Don’t put it in the direct sun or it can dry out too fast and crack. It should be dry by the next morning.

4. Remove the dried bowl from the form and paint! Ancient Chinese pottery was usually decorated with pictures of birds, flowers, and outdoor scenes, painted in whites and blues. Captain painted hers with cobalt blue, let it dry, then painted flowers and bird shapes in moon yellow. She was a little bummed that her birds didn’t come out the way she wanted, but they are fabulous! She even added a little tiny “M” for “mom” in the center of one of her flowers… ahhh!

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5. After the piece is completely dry, a fine sharpie can be used to write a name, or initials, and date on the bottom. What a sweet keepsake!

6. Spray with clear acrylic sealer (adults only), or you can glaze it with a mixture of 2 parts white glue to 1 part water. These both will give it a shiny glaze coating, which we love. Or, you can leave it as is.

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Before and after I sprayed the acrylic seal on

Fun, simple and a little “M” to boot. I love it!  I hope you and/or your kids will give this a try. Check out Google images to share some traditional Ming bowls and pottery with your kids. Captain has been inspired to try making another one that looks like this:

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A gorgeous flower bowl from the 1300’s

We got the idea for this project out of The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Ancient Times. We thank you kindly!

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Make a Fall “Tree of Thanks”!

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Our Tree of Thanks from last year.  She couldn’t give them up, so we kept the leaves in Captain’s memory box.

I just love Autumn, with its promise of rain, Halloween plans, Captain’s 6th birthday, and, oh yes, the season of crafts! Before we even begin to color and carve pumpkins, paint fall trees and collect acorns, we have already been planning this years “Tree of Thanks”. It is the easiest thing to do, as long as you have a bit of wall space and a large piece of brown paper. Simply sketch a tree out onto the paper, add details with sharpies, trim it out, and tape it to the wall.  Voila!

For the leaves, we collected oak and maple leaves and traced them onto red, yellow, orange and green construction paper. We traced a bunch of them ahead of time and then the whole family cut them out, as needed, to keep a stack on hand. Every morning, Captain would fill out a couple more of them with things like: Mom & Dad, Cake, Music, Grandmas etc. Anyone who came over would add one too and our tree was soon filled with leaves from us all.

I highly recommend this simple “Thanksgiving” themed project. It is fun, easy, reminds us to be grateful, and looks adorable on the wall 🙂

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Here’s to a beautiful start to the Fall Season!

Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Positive Parenting | 8 Comments

Bringing Circle Time to the Homeschool

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I can’t believe we waited so long to do this!

Have you ever tried starting your day with circle-time? I am astounded by what has developed into a much-needed routine for my daughter and I. I always thought of “circle-time” as being something a lot of kids would do together: sitting on the floor, talking about feelings, or hearing a story. Honestly, I thought we would need, well, more people, to do one of our own. I was wrong. Our homeschool mainly consists of my daughter and I, working through projects, learning new things together, and attending wonderful enrichment classes twice each week at a lovely charter school. I was inspired to implement circle time into our routine when my friend told me about how the kids start their day at an outdoor-based enrichment program in Atascadero, CA. Wham! I realized with a powerful instinct that we needed to try this too. Thank you dear Annabell!

Last week I asked Captain if she would like to come with me to find a place to sit outside, under a tree, for circle time before we started our busy day. She grabbed my hand and said “let’s go!” We sat down and shared things that we are grateful for. It is wonderful. Not only do we talk about the good things in our lives, we are remembering to give thanks for the simple things, and that is priceless! We tell stories to each other, and it is a time for her to feel safe about addressing things with me, or talking about things that might be bothering her. For example, I found out that she would really rather do math earlier in the day, and that she doesn’t like for me to comment on her paintings until she is completely finished with a session. She expressed her concern for wild horses, and her gratefulness that kids can be adopted by new parents if the parents are unable to care for them. Wow. She wanted to hear detailed stories of her birth, about the time when the puppies were born, and tell me all about how amazing ants are. I find that after we are finished, we are both ready for our day. She is calmer and more receptive to some of the things she needs to do that aren’t her favorites. I love how it has changed the start of our days!!!!

Remembering to be thankful, expressing feelings, and getting some body-earthing in at the same time is a beautiful thing. If you homeschool, or not, do you have circle-time as a part of your morning routine? Would you be willing to give it a go? Does it seem silly or unimportant? I welcome you to write in, please! I would love to keep an open discussion going and hear any thoughts or ideas.

Luscious round thoughts to all!

Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Positive Parenting, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Writing Practice, Art & Imagination: Create Your Own Superhero!

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Princess Halina, Animal Rescuer, has super-powers, a secret cabin, blue hair and her motto is: “Be yourself: everyone else is already taken”…

Here is a simple way to get the imagination rolling, get some writing practice done, and draw and color/paint your very own special superhero. I was surprised at how Captain reacted to this simple prompt: “Create a superhero character. Draw, label, or write about what powers that person has, or can do.” Basically, she thought about it for about a minute before she started spewing out a list of exciting possibilities. I sat on the opposite side of the counter from her, with a paper and pencil ready, and made notes as quickly as possible. She really enjoyed that I was “her assistant note-taker” and felt free to just brainstorm. It was really fun! Afterward, she sketched her character in pencil and then colored her in with markers. She wanted to copy the notes in pen, as she was sure she wouldn’t need to erase a single thing. She was right! We did this activity a couple of days ago, and she is still talking about it and adding to the story. Princess Halina, Animal Rescuer, seems to have empowered her creator and I can’t wait to see where it goes! *On a side note, I believe that an adult offering to just be an “assistant” or “note-taker” for early writers is very valuable. They feel special, and the freedom to just go with their ideas without having to fiddle with handwriting is priceless!

Here is part one of Captain’s Superhero Description:

“My Superhero, Princess Halina, is a girl who saves animals. She wears a yellow dress and crown, and sometimes a yellow cape. Her super powers are to read minds (but only when wearing her yellow cape, dress and crown), shoot lights out of her fingers (to blow things up), and she can make a light so bright that nobody can see except her, when she is wearing her goggles (which magically appear). She also has another secret, secret power that nobody knows about yet…

Princess Halina has a secret cabin where she can hide animals when she’s helping them, and to keep them safe from creepy people who want to steal them. She needs a lot of powers to defeat the bad guys. Ten people have already told Princess Halina “Be yourself: everyone else is already taken” and she really knows it!”

I also feel that creating a superhero can help kids work out some of their fears about things like “bad guys” and “creepy people”. Incidentally, the quote above is from Oscar Wilde and was our family “quote of the week” last week. It was sweet that she incorporated it into her creation.

This one gets a gold star for simplicity and fun. I hope you’ll try it with your own kids, and we would love to hear about it here on Kartwheels.

Powerful, blue-haired thoughts to all,

Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Family fun, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

DIY: Make a Rockin’ Backyard Tipi For Kids!

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Captain, or “Princess Akeezia” as she calls herself, may never stop playing in her $3 backyard tipi! 

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What you need:  5 or 6 heavy bamboo stakes (6 to 8 foot length), a heavy-duty rubber band, and something to cover the tipi (piece of fabric, burlap, or a sheet)

I cannot recommend tipi-making enough!  What a fun and inexpensive way to provide your child with endless hours of entertainment and play (not to mention being a hero for it!). We bought our 6′ heavy bamboo stakes at an orchard supply store for less than 50 cents apiece. We will be going back for some 8 foot pieces as well!  Simply gather them and secure at one end with a heavy-duty rubber band and, voila!, you’ve got the frame.  Wrap it in fabric (we used a brown sheet, but wouldn’t a piece of fabric that could be painted be fun?!) and that’s pretty much it. We set the tipi up inside and then promptly took it outside for obvious reasons. The bamboo stakes are weather-proof, and a tipi can easily be constructed and left outside all summer. They don’t take up much room, and can transform even a small space into a wonderful imaginative world.

** Note:  I tried to find the bamboo stakes at the local home stores but couldn’t find them long enough.  You may have to call around to orchard, or farm supply stores to find big enough stakes.

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Secure with rubber band

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Dad wrapping the outside of the shelter.  The tipi is STURDY!

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Princess Akeezia

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Trying to knock the tipi down but realizing it is quite sturdy 🙂

We would love to hear about family tipi-building here at Kartwheels!  We hope your summer is a beautiful one, and three cheers for all of the kids out there; their imaginations, their beautiful hearts and minds, and their need for FUN..

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Make Summer “Camp” Lanterns From Recycled Cans!

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Sweet little lanterns make the table look so festive!

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You’ll Need:

Recycled tin cans, hammer & nails of various sizes, wire for handles, battery operated tea lights or tea candles (supervised), freezer or boards and clamps (explained below)

This project is so simple and fun… perfect for lighting up warm summer nights, or dressing the dinner table. They also make a sweet gift for loved ones!

Captain and I camped with a group of homeschoolers from HSC last month in Mono Hot Springs, CA. What an incredible place, and the people were wonderful! One of the moms, the eco-crafty Mary Ann, brought all the fixens’ to create tin can lanterns, and a great time was had by all who made one. Mary Ann said that she saw online that these can easily be made at home by placing a recycled tin can, filled with water, into the freezer. The block of ice inside the can helps prevent it from getting dented when hammering the holes in. I would highly recommend using the freezer method if you can. If you decide to try this project while camping, Mary Ann came up with a great idea to replace the ice. She brought boards and some clamps to secure it to a picnic table. As you can see in the photos below, a piece of wood that will fit inside the cans extends out far enough that the can will slip on. This provides support inside the can so that it won’t dent while hammering the holes.

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You can use a permanent marker to make a design on the can, or just go free-form.  When you have your design in mind (think constellations, hearts, names, or random patterns!) use the various sized nails and hammer to pound holes into the can. Hold the nail in place and give it a tap to “seat” it, and then give it about two more solid pounds and you’ve got a hole!  Using large nails and small nails give the lantern a really nice look! Add two holes at the top of the cans, on opposite sides, for your handle.  Handles can easily be made by snipping about a 6″ piece of wire and crimping it on. Kids can write their names and the date on the bottom of their can and they have a lovely summer keepsake for their rooms!

** A note about hammers, nails, and kids!  I helped about 6 different kids with their lanterns, as hammering is hard work and they could only do a few holes before getting tired. The kids were in the 5-8 age range, and although a couple of them did whack their finger once or twice, they never complained or gave up. I told them how to seat the nail with a tap, and if they were a little afraid of hitting the nail with the hammer, I just encouraged them to try, looking only at the head of the nail when they swung the hammer.  It’s like the idea of “keeping your eye on the ball”- it works! The kids felt empowered and special to be hammering tin cans and doing it for themselves. So, don’t be afraid to let them go for it, just remind them to watch the nail head and they’ve got it!

*We used both tea light candles, and little battery-operated tea lights for our lanterns.  I highly recommend the battery ones for fire safety.

Captain LOVES her lantern and was so proud to bring it home to show dad her memento of a very special camping trip. I made one too, and it reminded me that I had done this project on a Girl Scouts camping trip when I was a kid! What fun! I hope you decide to make these with your kids.

As summer rocks on, I wish you many good thoughts, glowing like little lights around the campfire!

Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Family fun, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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