Washi Tape Art

Washi Tape Art

This idea comes from Rubyellen (mom to four!) of CAKIES. It’s such a simple and fun idea…all you need is tape and paper.

Rubyellen’s tape is from Kid Made Modern at Target. I like the use of solid tape for this project. It lends itself better to interpreting ideas than patterned tape would, especially for smaller children. But I think my older girls (9 & 12) will try it with our collection of patterned washi tape!

Check out CAKIES blog for more beautiful photos of this project!


A Japanese Rubber Stamp Kit

A Japanese Rubber Stamp Kit

We love making patterns here at home. My kids’ early childhood roots are firmly planted in the rich and beautiful land of Montessori materials. This, along with their mother’s love of prints and textiles, has provided them with many years of creating and recognizing patterns or every kind. Whether visual, auditory or tactile, they are always delighted to point out a pattern they’ve found!

This stamp kit by Tokyo based Torafu Architects is everything you need to get your kids started in making their own patterns. The shapes are simple and beautiful, as Japanese designs always are. Use the stamps to create anything, from cards to wrapping paper to wall art!

I discovered this set on ebabee LIKES‘ beautiful blog. You can purchase your own set at Oeuf NYC. I can’t wait for ours to come in the mail!



Making Journals

Making Journals

Ok, I will admit that this doesn’t look quick and easy. But it is!

As you may remember, I’ve confessed to being inept at time management. It was the day (eve) before our Disney trip, and I forgot to buy the kids journals. This wouldn’t be a big deal if we were at home, but since we are in a rental for the summer, I brought very little with us and I didn’t have one notebook or pad or anything. What I did have was some nice, thick vellum. (An artist always has a stash of nice paper!)

I decided to quickly bind together some pages. I had my daughter cut the paper into quarters, (10 sheets per journal would suffice). I spent a few minutes on the internet looking up book binding. There are umpteen ways to make journals, so I chose something that looked the least complicated. Janis from Pinecone Camp (via Poppytalk) created a wonderful post (and a far prettier journal than mine) on a simple way to bind pages together.

I did not have an awl, so I used a hammer and nail. I happened to have a large needle and I used some twine. I just weaved in and out of the holes until it seemed sturdy and looked even.

Each of my three kids used a different medium to decorate their cover (minimizing the inevitable “She’s copying me!”). I grabbed them each a black fine tip sharpie, some markers, and a few of our favorite le pens. We put them in ziploc baggies with a roll of wash tape, and that was it!

Each night, they took out their journals and wrote about their day. They rated the rides (Splash Mountain got an A++) and taped in stuff collected along the way. Their grandparents loved reading them!

Here is our Disney movie, it was quite an experience for us first-timers!


Bubble Wrap Printing

Bubble Wrap Printing

This is a very fun and quite simple art idea for the whole family. All my kids got involved — my 6-yr old stayed with it for hours! We printed on a long roll of paper (our intention was to make wrapping paper), but you can also just use sheets and hang them up as art!


bubble wrap, coffee can (or any container that is sturdy), duct tapewatercolorspaint brushes, 2 sponges, water

Cut a piece of bubble wrap and fold it over the top of the can (with the lid on). Use duct tape to secure it so it’s tight. Mix a color and paint it on the bubble wrap. Try not to push too hard — you want to paint the bubbles, but not the crevices in between. Paint fast before the paint dries, then turn it over onto the paper and press down.

It may take a few stamps to get it right, but the beauty of this project is that even if you are too heavy-handed, or the opposite — it’s printmaking and it’s supposed to be imperfect!

I am a big believer in never going for perfection. Point out to your kids how beautiful each stamp is — no two are alike (just like snowflakes).

We wrapped teacher gifts with the paper. I will share more of our wrapping papers in my next post!

The Importance of Play

The Importance of Play

I have just finished reading Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman, for the second time. Forgetting that I’d already read it, I picked it up again and was just as fascinated. It’s nothing like a parenting manual. In fact, this insightful book transcends basic child rearing. I highly recommend this book.

The authors propose (through research that they have parsed through and reviewed thoroughly) that parents and educators make small corrections in their thinking, the key being to ignore common assumptions or “maternal wisdom” about children in favor of scientific reason, much of it counterintuitive.

There are 10 very organized chapters, ranging from “The Inverse Power of Praise” to “Why Kids Lie” (this chapter is especially interesting to anyone who has a teen or pre-teen).

One of the most compelling chapters is called “Can Self-Control Be Taught?”. It sites a very interesting pre-school and kindergarten program that was developed in the 1990′s by two scholars in the Denver area. It was a technique, really, that they developed as part of a curriculum that required some training, but did not cost a penny more than a traditional curriculum. They called it “Tools of the Mind“. Initially developed for children “at risk”, the results were so staggering that researchers could not finish their study because teachers in the control groups (the ones who were not using Tools) felt that in good conscience, they must provide all children with the Tools curriculum.

What Tools of the Mind focuses on is how to help children avoid distractions. And how do Tools teachers succeed in teaching 4 and 5 year olds to focus and concentrate on an activity for an extended period of time? Through play!

For example, in one famous Russian study from the 1950′s, children were told to stand as long as possible – they lasted two minutes. But then a second group was told to pretend they were soldiers on guard who had to stand still at their posts – they lasted eleven minutes!

Another example: When small children are asked to copy something from the board, they may not think they can do it. But hand the same kid a notepad and ask them to pretend to be a waiter at a pizza parlor, they don’t think about if they can write or not – they just know they have to do something to remember those pizza orders.

Here is an excerpt that I have read over and over:

“It’s well recognized that kids today get to play less. As pressure for academic achievement has mounted, schools around the country cut back on recess to devote more time to the classroom. This created a backlash…experts arguments were straightforward: the brain needs a break, kids need to blow off energy, cutting recess increases obesity, and it’s during recess that children learn social skills. Tools suggests a different benefit entirely – that during playtime, children learn basic developmental building blocks necessary for later academic success, and in fact they develop these building blocks better while playing than in a traditional classroom.”

Through play, children learn abstract thinking, symbolic thought, high-order thinking like self-reflection, they develop an internal voice (“I can do this!”), the ability to self-analyze and to set goals. But it’s not all about managing information, either. Through the process of play, children learn to squelch frustration and anger, and to stifle inappropriate or impulsive responses.

In addition, when children get to choose their own activity (not one their parents signed them up for), they become highly motivated. And when children are motivated, they learn more.

I have always believed in the power of play. I try very hard to not let peer pressure (yes, moms feel peer pressure, too) sway me into signing my kids up for too many after-school activities. We live in a great neighborhood where they can safely walk outside on any given day and find a friend, play a game. Or they can play with their siblings. Yes, there is squabbling (there is even a chapter in the book called “The Sibling Effect”). But eventually, if I give them no other choice, they will work it out, compromise, and create roles for one another.

My best advice to any parent with school-age children: Let them play!

xo, Bar