Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tutorial -- Make an art smock from a garbage bag

Want to do a messy art project, and looking for a super-fast, inexpensive smock? You can make one easily from a garbage bag! This works very well for painting projects with a group of children. 

Here's how to make your own smock:

Lay garbage bag on a flat surface, and cut a large hole for your child's head from the bottom of the bag.

Next, fold the bag in half and cut arm holes along the sides, as shown.

Your smock should now look like this.

Help your child get into it...

Here's the trick to a good fit. Gather the shoulders, and tie a knot in back of your child.

I've found these work well for protecting clothes, and we have re-used our smocks many times. 

Mark, if you are wondering where your large collection of old, ratty, hole-y t-shirts ended up.... we didn't use them for smocks, or anything. Umm... Noooooooo... not us!

And the winner is....

The winner of the Target reusable shopping bag giveaway (chosen by is Mama King from 4 Crazy Kings! Congratulations! Here is Mama King's winning comment:
I love giving old materials (jars, boxes, packing materials, plastic lids...) new life in our craft projects. We love Target too! My oldest will say T for Target when going through her alphabet.
There were so many fabulous entries for this giveaway, and I loved reading all of your best "green" tips. Here are some of my favorites:

From Kat:
I make all my own household cleaners- including laundry soap! Here's my all purpose household cleaner. Works great on mirrors, and in the kitchen or the bathroom! Floors too!

(using an old spray bottle)
Fill 2/3 full with vinegar
About a tablespoon of lemon juice
Several drops (maybe 20 each) of TeaTreeOil and Lavender Oil
Fill to the top with hot water. Shake, and voila!

If you need a bit more extra scrubbing power, spray the area with your solution, sprinkle with baking soda, let sit for a few minutes, then come back and wipe clean with a bit more of the solution.
From Skylar KD:
We also use cloth wipes (baby facecloths) instead of baby wipes when we're changing our daughter's diapers. They clean so much better, and it really reduces our diaper-related garbage. I'll admit we still use wipes occasionally for REALLY messy diapers though! ;)
From WiJoyMom:
I've started catching the water that comes out of the shower sprayer, while waiting for the warm water to show up. Then that cold water gets used instead of going down the drain. It can be used for different tasks, ex. water plants or add to a load of wash.
Aren't giveaways so much fun? I'm planning to do another one soon, so if you're not already subscribed to the feed, or following in Blogger, you might want to do that now so you don't miss it!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oil Pastel Art

A few months ago, I picked up a pack of Crayola Oil Pastels from the clearance section of Office Depot, and Emily enjoys drawing with these much more than regular crayons. She made a comment today about how the oil pastels are easier to mix colors with than crayons. In any case, if she will draw with it, I'm all for it.

Earlier today, she did a comparison drawing of the same tree in the Winter and in the Summer. Sometimes she creates this whole other world with her drawings, and this time there was a cat stuck in the Summer tree. The cat was crying and carrying on, and shedding big blue tears, which ended up making a big puddle of blue water by the trunk of the tree. That poor cat was really upset until she finally caved in and drew a ladder for him. 

Ah.... kids have the most vivid imaginations, don't they?

31 Cent Scoop Night at Baskin Robbins

Just a reminder, or in case you did not already know, tonight is Baskin Robbins 31 cent scoop night from 5pm to 10pm! Take the whole family out for an inexpensive ice cream treat. A small scoop is just $0.31! More details here. Sign up for their newsletter, and you'll know when the next one is.

Autism Awareness -- Tips for Hosting a Play Date

April is Autism Awareness Month, and while my own children do not fall on the spectrum, Emily is friends with some who are. Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Ivy from Into the Wind about her experiences with her son, E, who has autism. Ivy shares some fabulous ideas for hosting a play date with a child who has autism, and how it can go a little more smoothly. She also shares excellent activity ideas, and other tips for approaching this disorder. Welcome, Ivy!

Wow!  I have to say I'm honored and amazed that you'd want to interview me.  I'll say at the start that it's good to remember that Autism is a spectrum disorder and that kids fall on it in a vast array.  E is high functioning and like all the kids on the spectrum has his own quirks, and like all kids his own likes and dislikes.  [Editor’s Note: You can read more about E’s diagnosis here].

Me: How are play dates with E? What are some things other mothers can do to host a play date with a child who has autism go a little smoother?

Generally E does ok on play dates.  But like many kids on the spectrum his memory is phenomenal so that he remembers where everything was before and if a toy needed it's batteries changed the last time he was at a house he will ask the parents every subsequent time if they have changed those batteries yet. My biggest suggestion to parents hosting a kid on the spectrum is patience and understanding.  E will try out every switch, button and door in your house if he can.  He isn't being nosy per se, he's fixating.  I suggest if he's fixating on a remote to your stereo -- show him how it works, let him try it once if you don't mind and then try to redirect him.

Also let your children know that if the kid on the spectrum stops playing with them to play by himself for a little while, it doesn't mean that the kid doesn't like them or doesn't want to play with them. It probably means they are feeling a bit over loaded and need to regroup. As you know large groups of kids are loud and move quickly and touch each other a lot, this can be very overwhelming. Some kids on the spectrum will throw a tantrum, others get very very quiet, others will go to their rooms to read or play alone -- like E. It's a coping mechanism to deal with the stress of all the sensory stimulation.

If we can work it, I really prefer outside play dates or meeting friends at the park. There are fewer things there for E to fixate on, and generally he loves playing on playground equipment. Swinging is a huge thing for him, and for many kids on the spectrum. There is something about the movement that helps with equilibrium and proprioception.

What are some activities you have done with E that he responded to particularly well, and what sorts of activities do you tend to avoid?

Some kids love to play with play dough and finger paint -- E not so much.  He doesn't like the way it feels on his hands. Most problems we'll run into involve sensory issues.  If we know something is going to be complete chaos, and it is inside a building (thereby making the nose louder) we will avoid it if we can. However a trip to a Children's or Science Museum is always a big hit! Concerts in the park with a playground near by where we can also have a picnic is super fun for everyone. Also, swimming is huge!! E loves to swim and supposedly so do most kids on the spectrum (of course I don't feel I can really speak for all of them, but a lot of doctors recommend it for them as well). It's a gentle way to get full body sensory stimulation, and out in the water he's just like every other kid.

If you are planning to go to the movies, be prepared for constant chatter. It drives me crazy, but E will talk a lot at the movies -- and whispering isn't something he remembers to do very well. So it might work better to rent a DVD then actually go to the cinema, but he certainly can go.

If you're looking for fun backyard activities -- swinging, blowing bubbles, rocket balloons are a huge hit for all my kids (If you aren't familiar with these -- they are sometimes hard to find -- they are long thin balloons that you inflate with a handheld air pump and then launch), kicking a ball around -- although this works best with a grown-up around.  Don't expect a lot of cooperative imaginative play -- structured games work much better.

For inside play... if you can find out what the kid is really into and you have that thing or something like it -- you are all set! E loves robots, and circuit boards and handheld video games and music. He also really likes marble runs and those are fun for lots of kids and they can probably do it cooperatively if the neuro-typical kid is patient. 

Could you address the myth that autism is contagious? I think that would be very helpful too.

Autism is not contagious and it is not currently curable.  So let me hit on that myth -- you can't recover from it, you can, however, learn to cope with it. Autism is a neurological disorder. It isn't a virus, so you can't "catch it," and last time I checked you can't outgrow the way you are neurologically "wired." Sitting next to my son will not suddenly make your kid autistic, it might, however, make you look at something differently.

Ivy, thank you so much for all your time and patience putting together these detailed, insightful, and thorough answers! You have helped empower all of us to understand this disorder a little bit better. Keep up the excellent work on your blog, Into the Wind. I’ll be back there often!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Make Kites, Not Friends

Today's post was going to be all about making kites, and how we followed this great tutorial from maya made showing how to make your own kite. Not just any kite, mind you, but the best damn kite ever!

I'm planning a similar activity for my MOMS Club, so I thought I would take the girls over to the playground for a "test run". The girls and I were having a fabulous time, and the kites flew really well.

Then something weird happened. Two moms and their kids walked over to the playground from the apartment complex near my house. I thought it would be nice to see if they would like to join us. After all, it is a beautiful day, perfect for flying kites, and I had plenty of materials for all of us. So I walk over to them, smile and say hello, and asked if they would like to build some kites with us. No response, and get this -- they both completely looked the other way!!! What is up with that????

Now that I'm officially a victim of complete playground rejection, I just don't understand it. I mean, what is the point? I always felt that being a stay-at-home mom meant that we were all in this together, and should try to support one another as best we can. I know a lot of us complain that it is difficult to meet other moms, or have a social life, in general. But when someone takes the time to be friendly and approach you, do you react this way? No!

I hoping maybe, just maybe, this was all some stupid misunderstanding. Like maybe when I asked if they would like to build kites, they heard, "Would you like a steaming hot bowl of herpes?". Or perhaps, as my friend Jenny Henny suggested, they don't speak English. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I have to say, this was a bit of a blow.

Now, about the kites. Let me tell you, they are super-easy to make, and they fly very well -- even with just a slight breeze! Emily liked running back and forth with hers in the field.

Here's how to make your own kite: First, fold your paper in half, like this.....

Next, fold the flaps over on an angle, like this.....

Then, add a bamboo skewer to the back like this. Attach with tape.

Punch a hole in the kite, along the fold, to attach the string.

Fly, and enjoy!
I can guarantee the kite will fly. However, no guarantees that it will make you any new friends.... sorry!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sun Tea

Making sun tea is one of my favorite things to do on a warm sunny day. To make your own sun tea, place a few bags of tea to a jar full of water. We used decaf green tea.... yummmm! Add some lemon slices...

Place the sealed jars in a very sunny spot for.... well, pretty much all afternoon. Remove the tea bags and pour the remaining contents into a large glass pitcher. Add honey to taste. Grab yourself a tall frosty glass, pour the tea over a bunch of ice. Pull up a chair, and call it a day, my friends.

Sharing is optional.

...though highly encouraged.

While you're at it, have dinner outside.

....with ice cream for dessert.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Teaching Kids the Art of Thrift Shopping

We have been experiencing a block of insanely beautiful and warm weather here recently, and I suddenly realized Emily's Spring/Summer wardrobe is severely lacking. Since she is built similarly to a bean pole, I tend to have a difficult time finding pants that fit her. Thankfully, shorts and skirts are much easier. So I brought her along for a little Thrift Shop 101 lesson. Here are some things we covered so far:
  1. Donation -- The girls' room was due for a thorough cleaning, and we used a bag to store unused or old toys for donation. I started doing this with her when she was about three years old or so, so by now she knows the drill. I explained to her then that instead of throwing these toys in the garbage, we could bless some other little girl or boy with her things by donating them to the thrift store, and she may find other new-to-her toys that she might enjoy playing with more instead. I let her carry the bag into the store and give it to the person behind the counter. Hearing her say, "Excuse me, I want to donate this" just makes my day.

  2. Pride -- There is no shame in shopping second-hand. It is good for the environment, and it reduces waste that would otherwise be sent to a landfill. Plus, there are real bargains to be found! Shopping at a thrift store should be done with as much pride as donating, since you are passing on the virtues of buying second-hand with your children.

  3. Purchase with Intention -- This is true for any shopping we do, but for some reason I find myself asking Emily these questions more while we are thrift shopping. Do you have room for it? Will you play with it, or use it often? Is it in good condition? Do you really love it? If the answer is no to any of these, don't buy it! Be picky about what you allow into your home.

  4. Inspection of Merchandize -- Check clothing to make sure no buttons are missing, that there are no stains or rips, and that any zippers are working. If the piece can be mended relatively easily, and it's a good deal otherwise, I will usually go ahead and buy it. I do try to inspect merchandize to make sure I won't get any "surprises" when I get home.

  5. The Element of Surprise -- One of my favorite Emily quotes from today was, "At the thrift store, you never know what you might find there!". This is the fun of it. You may not find exactly what you intended to buy that day, but you may find something else equally as charming -- for a bargain price!
Do you ever visit the thrift shop with your kids? I would love to hear about it! Leave a comment and share your stories with us!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Slacker Saturday -- Chalk Outlines

It's time for Slacker Saturday, and today's activity is chalk outlines! Emily enjoyed doing this, and she got a big kick out of drawing a funny face on her outline. This activity kept her busy for a long time, and didn't involve a lot of time or effort on our part. Have your child lay down on the sidewalk or driveway and trace his/her outline with sidewalk chalk. Hand the chalk over to your child to draw clothes, shoes, hair, eyes, ears, mouth, and more -- while you take it easy! Have some lemonade or something. It's Slacker Saturday, and you deserve it!

If the weather isn't cooperating in your neck of the woods, just roll out some craft paper instead. Easy and fun!

Friday, April 24, 2009

$5 Friday -- Spring Shaped Bubble Wands

I've posted previously about how much the girls enjoyed our Homemade Bubble Solution. Today after Emily helped me weed the flower beds, we made our own Spring bubble wands!

To make your own Spring bubble wands, you will need: 12" wooden dowels, thin-gauge wire, some electrical tape, and some cookie cutters.

Wrap the thin gauge wire very tightly around the cookie cutter and twist ends together. Wrap the ends around the wooden dowel, and add electrical tape to cover any sharp edges from the wire-ends.

Here's the cost breakdown for today:

Wooden Dowels = $1.99 for pack of 15
Thin-Gauge Wire = $1.35
Electrical Tape = on hand

Total Cost = $3.34

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Welcome 10 Show Viewers

Emily and I were very excited to do another segment for NBC's 10 Show about green activities for kids. Here are links to the activities we mentioned on today's show:

In case you missed today's show, here is the clip!

We hope you enjoyed today's show! Do you have another green activity for kids that I forgot to mention? Leave us a comment and share your ideas with us!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Giveaway -- Target Reusable Shopping Bag

In honor of Earth Day, we are having a special giveaway on Frugal Family Fun Blog! If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you probably know that I am a huge fan of Target. I am not affiliated with Target in any way -- at least, not yet..... (hint, hint, Target people). However, their reusable shopping bags are my favorite for two reasons: 1. They are so stinkin' cute!! and 2. They fold up so nicely (see above). 

I have had mine for a long time now, and they hold up quite well. Mine still look like new! I always get compliments on them, and I'm sure you will too.

Here's how it looks opened up:

To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment with your best "green" tip on this post (be sure to include your email address). Winning entry will be chosen using, and winner will be notified via email. This giveaway ends Wednesday, April 29th at 6pm EST. 

Good luck, and remember to use reusable shopping bags for all shopping, not just groceries!

Earth Day Recycling Craft Round Up

In honor of Earth Day, here are some links from the archives of our Earth Day craft and activity ideas that feature recycled materials. Enjoy!

Putting Recyclables to Good Use (Video from Newswatch 16 featuring Frugal Family Fun Blog)

What are your plans to celebrate Earth Day? I would love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment and share your story with us!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beads from Old Magazines

We were inspired by upcoming Earth Day to make beads from old magazines! I first saw this idea in The Complete Tightwad Gazette -- a terrific resource. To make your own magazine beads, you will need: glue mixed with some water, toothpick (or straw, or bamboo skewer), old magazines, and a paint brush. We wanted our beads to be green, and one of the best sources came from an old December issue of Real Simple. 

Cut the magazine pages into long thin triangles. Start wrapping the paper around the toothpick and brush some of the watered down glue mixture on top. Have your child roll the paper the rest of the way. Carefully pull the bead off of the toothpick and allow to dry. 

Emily used a blunt tip tapestry needle and cotton string to make a necklace out of them, but these would also make pretty earrings! Now go recycle those old magazines!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Treasure Box

This is one of those activities that keeps the kids busy, and has the added benefit of organizing tiny toys. To make your own treasure box, you will need a small fold up box from the craft store (this one cost just 30 cents), some stickers, and an empty egg carton. 

Have your child decorate the outside of the box with stickers. You could also use markers or paints, if you're feeling particularly ambitious. 

Cut an empty egg carton in half, and it is the perfect fit inside! Have your child place all their little "treasures" inside the box. Storage solution for 30 cents!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Get the most from your season pass

If your family makes frequent visits to a local amusement park, museum, or science center, purchasing a season pass may be a great way to save money. Whether it's a local zoo, or an annual pass to Disney World, here are some tips to help you get the most from your season pass. 

  1. Know Your Family -- Before purchasing season passes, there are some things you may want to consider such as the ages of the kids, interests, activity levels, etc. Make sure it is a place your family intends to visit often, and calculate how many visits you will have to make to get your money's worth out of your season pass. Then go home, and schedule those visits on your family calendar.
  2. Know When to Buy -- Many times you may be able to get discounts on season passes if you purchase them during the off-season. Do you have friends who had passes to a place you are considering? Ask them about their experiences, and be sure to read online reviews. 
  3. Pick Up a Calendar of Events -- Once you've purchased your season pass, be sure to pick up a calendar of events and try to schedule your visits around those events. 
  4. Laminate a Map -- This can be especially helpful if you have season passes to a zoo or amusement park. Pick up a map, and laminate it to bring along on every trip. Before you get to the park, make note of all the restrooms so you won't panic when your 3 year old needs to use the potty... RIGHT NOW!
  5. Pack Your Own Food & Snacks -- Amusement parks and zoos are notorious for over-charging on food and snack items, many of which are unhealthy. Avoid temptation by bringing your own fresh fruit, sandwiches, and plenty of water. 
Tip -- Many season passes include some sort of a network program. Buying a pass to your local zoo may get you a discount at other zoos around the country, for example. Many also include free parking, gift shop discounts, or other member benefits. Know what is included so you can get the most bang for your buck!

Do you plan to get season passes for your family, or have you had season passes before? I would love to hear about it! Leave us a comment and share your stories with us!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Slacker Saturday -- Dandelion Bouquets

Do you remember how all the flowers seemed so beautiful when you were a kid -- even the dandelions? That is the concept behind today's Slacker Saturday activity. Today we made dandelion bouquets. Emily got to spend lots of time outside, and we have the added benefit of enjoying a dandelion-free lawn! Send the kids out with a basket to collect the dandelions (try to do this before they go to seed). When all the dandelions are picked, get out some small glasses with a little water and let the kids arrange the dandelions into little bouquets. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

$5 Friday -- Outdoor Tea Party

We have been blessed with some beautiful weather lately, so we started our day collecting twigs to make a trivet. Somehow this led to an endless tea party with Emily pretending that the trivet was an outdoor stove. I love how one project leads to another one like that.

This went on for a long while, and Emily pretended to make me several different kinds of tea. (I love tea!) We had a quick lunch, and then it was time for a play date with friends at the playground.

I think both of the girls will sleep well tonight. What is it about being outside that tires kids out so much? 

Thanks to the nice weather, for $5 Friday we didn't spend any money -- Free Friday!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's in your pantry?

Since I only do grocery shopping once a month, a well-stocked pantry is a necessity. Here are some of our favorite healthy and inexpensive pantry foods:
  1. Oatmeal
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Whole Wheat Pasta
  4. Dried Beans
  5. Potatoes
  6. Canned Tuna
  7. Peanut Butter
  8. Canned Tomatoes
I'm very curious to find out what you keep in your pantry. Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pasta Necklaces

I know this is a classic preschooler activity, but I did not realize how much Emily would enjoy making these pasta necklaces! She was excited about every step, and loved wearing her necklaces around the house for the rest of the day.

To make your own pasta beads, you will need uncooked pasta such as ziti, penne, wagon wheels, or macaroni, white vinegar, and some food coloring. To a glass bowl, add one large handful of pasta, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, and 4-5 drops of food coloring. Stir very well, and allow to dry on paper plates.

Once the pasta is dry, place in an empty egg carton or muffin tin for stringing.

Next, take a few feet of yarn, and thread a yarn needle. You may want to tie a small knot around the needle to keep the yarn from coming out.

We let the cat play with some leftover yarn. He's big and fat and can use all the exercise he can get!

Thread the beads through, and make your necklace.

Wear and enjoy!
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