Back-to-School Creativity Tip #9: Create a Classroom or Naptime Keepsake!

Being away from home can be tough on kids. Our school recommends making a special keepsake that kids can keep in their cubbies and pull out at nap time or when they’re feeling sad. Every year since preschool, my son Dillon and I make something new together to bring to school for this very purpose. This year, he asked if we could make a “stuffy” that he could cuddle with during quiet time.

We ended up making two different stuffies. For the first stuffy, Dillon drew what he wanted the stuffy to look like (our kitty), and then traced the shape around cotton canvas. I helped him cut out the fabric and then he used fabric paint and markers to color kitty. With an embroidery needle and thread, he stitched up most of the kitty and stuffed her with batting. I then helped him sew up the final edge. (Note: Dillon is 6, and has had sewing practice in preschool. There were a few pokes to the finger, but no blood and he didn’t seem to mind.)

Here is the drawing and the finished stuffy:

make your own stuffed animal

For the second stuffy, Dillon asked if I could sew it with my sewing machine because he wanted a sturdy, pillow-like stuffy. Since I wanted Dillon to have a hand in creating both stuffies, I asked him to draw the design. We discussed some of the types of things that mommy can sew (simpler shapes, and a little rounded—nothing too fancy; I’m a basic sewer and this was the first time I’ve pulled out my sewing machine in over a year).

Here’s the design Dillon came up with:

make a lovey from a child's drawing

And here’s the pattern we created from his drawing:

make a lovey from a child's drawing

I added 1/4″ around for the seam and traced the pattern onto the fabric with a fabric pencil.

We went through some fabric scraps I had around and decided on soft grey cotton flannel for the body, bright orange and green felt for the eyes, and some bright purple orange and green thread.

create a stuffed animal from a child's drawing

To create this stuffy, I first pinned the pattern face-down to two pieces of fabric facing right side in. Dillon traced the shape onto the fabric with a fabric pencil, and I cut the fabric out. Dillon cut the circles of felt, and together we hand-sewed these on. We used the bright green thread to create an eye. Once these details were on, I pinned the two sides together right side in and stitched them on my machine, leaving an opening for stuffing. (Note: I left a slightly larger opening, so that it would be easier for Dillon to help.)

create a stuffed animal from a child's drawing

Once the stuffy was sewn, Dillon turned it right side out and began stuffing. For the inside, we used a mix of recycled stuffing (old t-shirts we cut into strips) and extra cotton batting I had on hand. Dillon and I took turns. We had a few silly laughs while he put the “guts”” in. After our stuffy felt nice and pillowy, I stitched up the back end. (My placement of the opening created boyish giggling as well.)

create a stuffed animal from a child's drawing

Here is Dillon loving his two new stuffies, Kitty Buns and Round Circle. Dillon decided that Round Circle will go to school and Kitty Buns will stay home for nighttime cuddling.

create a stuffed animal from a child's drawing

Here are some other ideas for keepsakes: a small book of family photos, a family collage, a special blanket from home, or a blanket with your child’s name embroidered on it.

Are you creating a keepsake for your kid’s classroom? If so, what are you making?

About Kiwi Crate
Kiwi Crate delivers monthly projects for kids ages 3 to 7, all materials and inspiration included. All activities are reviewed by experts and tested by kids to make sure they encourage curiosity, exploration, and creativity! Learn more.

Sanity Saver – Building Block Puzzle Cards

LEGO bricks

For my 6-year-old, the best toy is a brand-new LEGO set to build. He loves to carefully follow the instructions, which is why I was so excited to find these instructions for DIY LEGO Instruction Books from Kids Activities Blog. For my little building fans, this is a great activity to bring the energy level down and focus – for a little while, at least!

Puzzle cards

I created two sets of cards so the game would be fun for both my kids. I just photographed on a light background and printed on cardstock. Printing the pictures at 4 by 6 inches gave me roughly life-size LEGO shapes.

For my 3-year-old, I created some simple shapes out of Duplo blocks. And for my car-obsessed 6-year-old, I grabbed some of the little vehicles from our LEGO bin.

Puzzles and cars

Then I turned the kids loose with their puzzle cards. My 6-year-old raced through building each one and then asked for more. We’ll definitely be bringing out our puzzle cards again for pre-dinner playtime!

Building the car

About Kiwi Crate
Kiwi Crate delivers monthly projects for kids ages 3 to 7, all materials and inspiration included. All activities are reviewed by experts and tested by kids to make sure they encourage curiosity, exploration, and creativity! Learn more.


Two Ingredient Tuesday: Yarn + Pipe Cleaners = My Initials

Yarn Initials

When I saw these beautiful yarn letters from giddygiddy, I knew I had to try these with my kids. We had a lot of fun with it, and for kids working on learning reading skills it’s a great tactile way to work on letters.

Shaping the letter m

We started out following the suggestion giddygiddy to form the pipe cleaner letter first and then wrap with pretty yarn. My friend’s tween daughter immediately created this this lovely scripty ‘m’, which will make a lovely addition to her bulletin board.

Pretty letter m

However, we found the younger kids had a little trouble wrapping the yarn when they formed the letter first. So in consultation with my 6-year-old, we developed this simplified technique.

Attach yarn to the end

We started by wrapping the yarn around the pipe cleaner. To anchor the end of the yarn and keep it from slipping, just pinch over the tip of the pipe cleaner to make a little hook.

Wrapping fuzzy yarn

And then it’s easy to wrap the yarn around… and around… and around. I was surprised by how well this worked, even for a 4-year-old. I only had to help tie off the end so the yarn wouldn’t unravel.

Then once the yarn is all wrapped, the pipe cleaner can be bent and formed however you like.

Yarn numbers

I had a selection of lovely tasteful colors as well, but of course my 6-year-old only wanted to use the rainbow and fuzzy yarns. And as always he had his own ideas of where he wanted to take the project, and decided he wanted to create this series of fuzzy numbers.

All letters

We were quite pleased with how these came out! The pipe cleaners are such a fun way to play with letter formation, and the finished products make a really nice decoration to hang on a bedroom door or to display on a bookshelf.


About Kiwi Crate
Kiwi Crate delivers monthly projects for kids ages 3 to 7, all materials and inspiration included. All activities are reviewed by experts and tested by kids to make sure they encourage curiosity, exploration, and creativity! Learn more.

6 Creative Ideas to Celebrate the Olympics!

We are so excited for the 2012 Olympics in London! While we’re not exactly world-class athletes competing for gold medals (is crafting a sport?), we are still enthused spectators who love watching and rooting for our favorites!

To get you pumped for the summer games, we’ve selected six super-fun family-friendly ways to celebrate the spirit of the Olympics. Ready, get set, scroll below!

olympic medals craft

via The Imagination Tree

Now everyone can go for the gold with these quick and easy salt dough Olympic medals!

olympic torch craft

via Alpha Mom

The iconic lighting of the Olympic Flame has long been a symbol of the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games. While you may not be in London, you can still carry the flame with this DIY torch.

olympic pizza dessert

via Taste of Home

This Olympic-themed fruit pizza wins the all-around award for most tasty snack!

olympic crafts coffee filter

via No Time for Flashcards

Do you know that the interlocking Olympic rings represent each of the five different continents that participate in the games? Showcase your Olympic spirit and make your own homemade coffee filter rings.

olympics ideas for kids

via A Small Snippet

Feeling competitive? Throw your own Olympics-themed party – design your own sporting events and experience your own mini-competitions at home! Click here for party ideas and inspiration.

via I Can Teach My Child

These incredibly easy-to-make fireworks in a jar are a bright and colorful way to celebrate the great victories at the games!

What Olympic events are you and your family most excited about?

About Kiwi Crate
Kiwi Crate delivers monthly projects for kids ages 3-7, all materials and inspiration included. All activities are reviewed by experts and tested by kids to make sure they encourage curiosity, exploration and creativity! Learn more.

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Sequins + a Dixie Cup = Fairy Treasure Hunt


For this 4th of July week, we’re reposting one of our favorite (and our very first!) Two Ingredient Tuesday activities, which we think is perfect for some summer fun with your kiddos this week.

Every few weeks for the past two years, my five year old has brought tiny little paper Dixie cups of sequins home from preschool.   I was a little perplexed by the origins of the treasure until about a month ago when I was volunteering in my son’s classroom.

It was reaching the end of “free play” time, and things were getting a little chaotic when I observed their teacher strolling quietly through their playground area, dropping little handfuls of sequins behind her – along the pathways and in the sand box.  The effect was amazing – one child noticed some sequins sparkling in the sunlight, and announced “treasure!”  The rest of the kids grabbed cups and began diligently picking the sequins up off the ground with their little fingers.  The whole group quieted down, focusing intently on the task at hand.  Once again, I was inspired by and in awe of the wisdom of preschool teachers… and so excited to take this little tip home with me!

Just last week, we were doing some kid-testing on projects for Kiwi Crate.  As we were wrapping up, I thought I’d try out the Fairy Treasure trick.  I strolled through the front yard (see pic below), dropping the Fairy Treasure behind me.

Then, after I distributed baggies (instead of cups – it’s what we had on hand), it was off to the races!

The kids were totally mesmerized – it was remarkable!  We played the game again and again, and it never seemed to get old (for them, at least ;)).  Sometimes, the kids tried to get as many as possible.  Other times, they were selective about the shape or color they were collecting.

It was a great way to engage them in independent play – and for them to practice their sharing and bartering skills as they displayed and swapped their treasures.


So I’ve invested in a few bags of sequins to keep on hand for those times when we have a bunch of kids over (or just my own kids are going a little stir-crazy), and I’m looking for a way to entertain them for a bit.  The experience is magical for them – and the 10-15 minutes of silent play is pretty magical for me :).

Fairy sequins

Do you have a go-to activity (involving two ingredients — or more) to engage your kids in an independent activity?


About Kiwi Crate
Kiwi Crate delivers monthly projects for kids ages 3-7, all materials and inspiration included. All activities are reviewed by experts and tested by kids to make sure they encourage curiosity, exploration and creativity! Learn more.

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Post-it Note Walk

If your kids are anything like mine, they adore being outside. And being a creative soul, I’m always searching for ways to merge our creative journey with spending time outdoors. So on a recent trip to the park, we played a little post-it art game…with mixed results.

I tucked the kids in the stroller and handed my older daughter a stack of post-it notes and a marker. I then gave her a challenge (and given her independent nature, was moderately shocked that she complied) to draw whatever she imagined and we would attach it to public poles/benches/newspaper stands along the walk.

The idea would be to inspire our neighbors to look more closely at the parts of their world that are less than interesting.

She thought this was a lot of fun and got right to work.

As she finished a drawing, she’d hop out of the stroller and find something to stick it to. The post-its weren’t tacky enough to adhere on their own, so I brought along some heavy-duty sticky glue dots to help us out. Sticky tape or a stapler could also work for certain surfaces.

Before we reached the park, we placed about seven post-its, and we promised to retrace our steps on the way home to see how our public art gallery was doing.

And this is where the project took a surprising turn…

One of the post-its was gone! My daughter was distraught, and it soon became clear that she imagined they’d hold their little piece of public real estate forever. She wanted to know who took the note and why. I explained that it could have flown away or maybe someone liked the piece so much that they wanted it for their own.

But none of this consoled her so we carefully counted and collected all of our yellow treasures and re-posted them in the security of our own home.

A project like this raises questions about littering versus beautifying. We talked about the “lost cat” posters that we came across and wondered if the owner would ever come back to collect the signs. So collecting our bits and pieces made us feel better about keeping our neighborhood clean.

I love coming across little pieces of inspiration like this, and I have a feeling that we’ll make art like this again as my kids get older (and maybe less attached to their work). Not only could this be a good way to explore ephemeral art, public art, and interactive art, but it also shows children that art can exist beyond the confines of a classroom, art table, or museum.

How do you think your kids would feel about making and posting public post-it art?



Marbled Model Magic Flowers

Model Magic Bouquet

We created these marbled flowers as a fun gift to mail to Grandma and Gramps. They were so easy to make and the result is so pretty, I think this might become our go-to handmade birthday gift project. I picked Model Magic as the material because it’s so lightweight – they’ll be easy to mail, and could even be mounted in a shadowbox frame for display.

You’ll need:
Model Magic in several colors (we used our leftovers from our Garden Kiwi Crate!)
Wax paper for drying (optional, but helpful for large flowers)

Roll out stems

We started by rolling out the stems, just like you’d roll out a snake. My original thought was to make several flowers and then tie them together with a pretty ribbon. But as soon as I said “bouquet”, my son decided that the stems had to be joined together, so that’s what we did.

Join the stems to make a bouquet

Then we moved on to mixing colors. The marbling technique is really easy and fun; just squash two colors together and press and fold. (My 3-year-old never got past this step, he was having so much fun squashing the colors together.)

Mix the colors

Then we added the flower petals…

Press the petals

And finally, a piece of dirt for the flower to grow. To dry, I just set it on the bag the Model Magic came in.

Model Magic sunflower

We also created a giant sunflower – this was so big and delicate, we worked directly on the wax paper so we wouldn’t have to move it.

Marbled bowl

And finally, a joint project with my 3-year-old. After his exploration of the marbling technique, we were left with a big piece of streaky Model Magic, which became this bowl, perfect for little treasures (but not food, Model Magic is not food-safe).

This project was a lot of fun, and I think Grandma and Gramps will love their flower bouquet!

Egg Carton Challenge: Transport Ship

Space Ship Egg Carton

Our friend Rachelle at Tinkerlab is running her latest Creative Challenge: Egg Carton, so of course we were so excited to participate! The rules are simple: all projects should be child-directed (although grown-ups are welcome to join in as well) and must use an empty egg carton. The objective of these challenges is to help children learn to trust their own ideas, build creative confidence, and envision new purposes for common objects.  You can check out all the fantastic project ideas at the Creative Challenge post, and if you have an egg carton project to share, you can join the fun, too! See details at the bottom of this post.

This was a timely challenge for me, as I’d collected a pile of egg cartons left over from Easter. Plus egg cartons are one of my favorite recycled building materials – easy to cut, easy to decorate, and the perfect size for keeping little treasures. My son immediately jumped on the idea of making a spaceship, which evolved into this rocket-powered car transport ship.

Egg Carton Ingredients

You’ll need:
empty egg carton
duct tape
markers and other decorative embellishments (optional)

Egg Carton - cutting the hatches
Step 1: Cut the hatchways
This is the only step I helped with. I cut two hatchways, positioned so there was enough material left on the ends for our spaceship’s rockets. I created really big hatches because I knew I needed to leave room for cars get on board.

Egg Carton - tape it closed
Step 2: Tape the carton shut
Take the duct tape and seal the carton, so the only openings are the hatchways. We taped all the way around the edge, and then added more on top of the hatchways so they’d match.

Egg Carton - decorating your spaceship
Step 3: Decorate and fly!
We just used different colors of tape and markers to decorate our spaceship, but at this point you could glue on any embellishments you like. We used red duct tape for the rockets, outlined with the marker. (We used a permanent marker since washable markers don’t work well on duct tape, but you could certainly use washable markers to decorate the carton). At that point, my son declared his spaceship “awesome”, loaded it up with cars and zoomed away!

Tinkerlab Creative Challenge

If you want to submit your own egg carton project for this challenge, or just get inspiration from all amazingly creative submissions, go check out Tinkerlab’s Egg Carton Creative Challenge post. To participate, you can submit to the Linky at the end of the post. Or if you don’t have a blog, just add a photo in a comment. Plus, all comments submitted before Sunday, April 15, 2012 will be entered to win a free crate from Kiwi Crate. Happy creating!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Tin Foil Monster Truck Rally

Monster Truck Rally

My 6-year-old has been obsessed with trucks since before he could talk, which has led to a truly impressive collection of small-scale vehicles. In fact, just about every game in our house involves a truck or a racecar. So I was really excited to find this brilliant idea from Time for Play for creating a monster truck rally out of nothing more than aluminum foil and toy cars.

Tin foil cars set up and ready to be crushed

All you do is press a sheet of foil around a car to create an impression. It helps to cut the foil into roughly car-sized squares, so you don’t wind up with a big lump of foil at the bottom.

I formed a bunch of cars for my 3-year-old since getting the shape right was a little too difficult for him. My 6-year-old, on the other hand, happily shaped an entire herd of junkers to be crushed by the monster trucks.

For my little monster truck fans, this was a great activity to provide some happy distraction while I got food on the table.

Painted Garden Markers

Painted Garden Stones

Time to welcome spring! This is a fun project to spruce up a newly planted garden. Plus it’s a perfect activity for getting artistic – and maybe a little messy – outside.

You’ll need:
Rocks – ideally, larger ones w/ a flattish surface – or bricks
Acrylic paint safe for outdoor use or washable paint, which just means you can have fun painting again with the rain
Sharpie permanent marker, optional
A bowl or pail of water

Outdoor Paint for Garden Stones

When you’re picking out the acrylic paint, you just need to look for two things on the label. First, check the front and make sure it’s good for exterior/outdoor use. Second, turn it over and check that the instructions say something like “clean up with soap and water”. That means the paint is water-based and therefore easy to clean up. I found these little touch-up sized jars at a hardware store, but a hobby shop would be a good bet, too.

Child Painting Garden Rock

We like setting up outdoors to minimize clean-up. Kids should be dressed in “paint clothes” or covered with a really big smock – an adult’s button-down shirt turned around backwards works really well. To clean up, just rinse out the brushes in the pail of water (no need to get an indoor sink dirty). Tip: set brushes to dry with the bristles pointing up – this prevents the tips from getting stiff.

If you’re creating garden markers, it really helps to give the child a photo of what the grown plant or vegetable will look like. (The pictures on seed packets are perfect for this.) This is a great way to talk to kids about how plants grow from seeds!

When the painting is done, set the rock aside to dry overnight. Then, if you’d like, take a permanent marker and write the name of the plant.

Decorative Garden Stones

After creating a few garden marker stones, my kids moved on to more free-form decorative projects (see the colorful bricks above!)  Less useful, but still festive and bright in our garden.

Happy spring!