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Simple DIY Rainbow Cupcake Crayons

rainbow cupcake crayons

I originally shared this tutorial for rainbow cupcake crayons almost ten years ago when Finn was my little preschooler and I made rainbow cupcake crayons for him using all of our broken crayons. It’s easy, and you can get little ones to help with peeling the paper off of the broken crayons, and they get fun new crayons to play with once they have cooled.

Unfortunately my photos of our project got lost, but a quick Etsy search shows lots of examples of similar multicolored crayons in fun shapes. If you like the idea but don’t have tons of broken crayons around, consider supporting one of the shops on Etsy by purchasing from them.

rainbow cupcake crayons
Photo by Kristin Brown on Unsplash

DIY Rainbow Cupcake Crayons Tutorial

  • Line a muffin pan with foil or a double thickness of cupcake liners. (Note: The wax will likely melt through, so you probably want to use a pan that you reserve for non-food projects.)
  • Remove all the paper from your crayons.
  • Break into smaller pieces if needed. I just broke them as small as I could with my fingers. Most pieces were about an inch long or smaller.
  • Sort the pieces into the lined cups. I sorted by color, but you could also mix for super swirly crayons.
  • Fill the cups to the top but don’t overfill.
  • Melt in the oven at about 200-250 degrees F. I recommend setting a baking sheet under the muffin pan. You really don’t want to have to scrape melted crayon off your oven.
  • Check about every 10-15 minutes. I let them cook until there were just a few solid chunks in the middle. Then I gently swirled them with toothpicks to sink the chunks and blend the colors.
  • When they are sufficiently melted, turn off the oven. You can carefully remove them at this point or let them cool in the oven. I didn’t need my oven, so I let them cool in there overnight.
  • Once they’ve cooled completely you can remove the papers and color away.

Mask Update

I made a few of the fitted masks I mentioned in Wednesday’s post. Overall, I think they fit well, but they are a little tedious to make, particularly if you have lots of interruptions.

Awkward photo of me modeling a fitted mask.

I looked into it a little more and found that it seems more hospitals are asking for a more simplified mask, so I’m switching to ones made by this tutorial. With batch cutting and then sewing two or three assembly line style, I can make 3-4 in a hour, even with interruptions.

Shop update: Freebies and a sale

Knowing that so many are stuck at home right now needing distractions, I’ve decided to make all of my machine embroidery design files free until April 7. That’s the day my area’s shelter in place order expires. If it is extended, I’ll extend the embroidery design freebies, too. If you make something with one of my designs, I would love to see it.

My full shop is still open, and will be as long as everyone in my household is healthy. I’m using extra care with handwashing and using hand sanitizer before coming into contact with products and packaging as well.

All of my handmade soaps are currently on sale for 20% off. You can find them here.

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27 Activities for Kids at Home

Sometimes, even a rainy weekend stuck at home is difficult for kids. Now, with schools closing due to COVID-19, children and parents everywhere are off-schedule, stressed and going stir-crazy. To help out, I made a list of activities for kids at home.

Backyard Fun

  • Play Ball- Catch and kicking a ball around are always fun. Try using a laundry basket and see who can toss the ball into the basket from an increasing distance away. Or, use empty soda bottles to make bowling pins and play backyard bowling.
  • Get Dirty- Playing in the mud or digging in the dirt is fun for littles. For something more structured, save seeds from fruits and vegetables to plant and see what sprouts or tend an existing garden.
  • Picnic- On sunny days, take meals outside. If you don’t have an outdoor table, grab a tablecloth or bed sheet to spread on the ground and sit on.
  • Explore Nature- Observe insects, compare plants and leaves. You could also download a plant identification app and use it to learn about plants growing in your yard.
  • Sidewalk chalk- Patios, driveways, and sidewalks become canvases.
Backyard fun activities for kids at home

Indoor Crafts

  • Break Out the Art Supplies- Drawing, painting, cutting and pasting can be fun for all ages. If they need a little motivation, give a general theme and have awards for the most creative, detailed, colorful, etc.
  • Think Outside the Box- Old magazines, newspapers, junk mail, cereal boxes, cardboard tubes, etc. make creative art supplies. Tubes become telescopes or binoculars. Cutout pictures and letters to make collages.
  • Playdough- Use store-bought or make your own. I think it’s easier to clean up than slime, but of course, that’s an option, too.
  • Go Big- If you have any large cardboard boxes, get creative with them. Rolls of butcher paper or the plain side of wrapping paper are great for large murals or full body tracing.
Artwork activities for kids at home

Indoor Games

  • Board games- Break out the ones you have, invest in a couple of classics like Candy Land or Monopoly (Amazon means not having to leave the house), or create your own.
  • Charades– No pieces or props are needed to take turns acting out and guessing your favorite books, shows and movies.
  • Pictionary– Similar to charades, all you need is something to draw on and draw with.

Advanced Crafts

  • Share Your Skills- Do you sew, knit, or crochet? Whatever your craft, think of a beginner lesson and teach it to your children.
  • Learn Together- Do you have supplies for a project that never happened or a skill you never got around to learning? Look up tutorials or YouTube videos and learn it together.

In the Kitchen

  • Make Cookies- Or cake, or brownies. Baking introduces basic cooking skills, reading instructions and fractions. Depending on what you’re making, all of the measuring and mixing can be done without needing the stove or oven until it’s time to bake.
  • Let Them Help- Give them options and let them help with meal planning. Older kids and teens can be more hands on with meal prep. Even little ones can help with washing vegetables, setting the table, mixing and measuring.

Educational Screen Time

  • Stream Documentaries- Netflix and other streaming services have tons of documentaries available. Pick a subject your child is passionate about, or look for something fun and quirky and watch it together.
  • Khan Academy– This website has lessons on just about anything you want to learn for all ages.
  • Preschoolers- PBS Kids has games and videos for all the PBS Kids shows. Starfall.com is a fun way for kids to learn ABC’s and reading basics.
  • Google Sketchup– My kids enjoy playing around with this drafting program (website).

DIY Toys

  • Dress up- Look in the back of your closets for old clothing and accessories, or dig out old Halloween costumes. Or, make a super hero costume from an old t-shirt.
  • Blanket forts- Use blankets, pillows, couch cushions, whatever you can think of to build a hideaway for the kiddos to hang out.
  • Bath time- While not exactly a toy, playing in water is fun and calming for little ones, so if they’re getting a little stir-crazy, let them play in a bath. If older kiddos are feeling antsy or stressed, suggesting a bath or shower might help them, too.

Storytime

  • Break out old favorites- Keep a basket of books in a handy spot, like on a coffee table to make it easy to grab one and read.
  • Read aloud- Adults can read to everyone or have older children read to younger ones. Beckett doesn’t always like listening to me or reading on his own, but he sometimes enjoys reading aloud to Thaddeus.
  • Explore new books- Many public libraries give you the ability to checkout ebooks online. Project Gutenberg has over 60,000 books online for free. Or, try Kindle Unlimited to get unlimited access to tons of ebooks and audio books for a low monthly fee. Use this link to get your first month free.
  • Write your own- Take turns making up stories or turn it into a project by folding paper books and adding illustrations. Pre-k and younger can draw pictures to tell their stories.

What at home activities do you like to do with your kids? Please share your activities for kids at home in the comments.

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Quick Superhero Costume Mini Tutorial

With schools closing down due to coronavirus, there’s likely to be a lot of kids at home looking for fun things to do. Dressing up is always fun, and who doesn’t love a cape and mask? I first shared this quick superhero costume tutorial about ten years ago when Finnian was my crazy only child. It is super easy, and all it takes is an over-sized t-shirt and some scissors.

My son is really into superheros right now.  He started asking for a superhero costume yesterday.  Given that he’s three and impatient, I needed something quick and easy.  Here’s what I came up with:

I took one 2x mens t-shirt and cut it straight down the sides, removing the sleeves.

Then I cut off the front panel, leaving the neck band and a 3-4 inch curved section attached for the

front.  That way there’s no ties so he can put it on himself. Splitting the neck in the front and adding a Velcro hook and loop closure is also an option.

Finally I cut the front panel into three long strips.  One got holes for the eyes and tied around his head for the mask.  The other two I sewed together at one of the narrow ends. I tied it around his waist for the sash.

quick superhero costume

The mask is getting a little stretched out, but he likes the bigger eye holes, so that’s working out well.

He left his plain, but decorating the costume is another fun project. Kids could draw their own designs with markers or cut designs out of felt or other fabric scraps and attach with fabric or craft glue.

While I try to write tutorials as clearly as possible, it’s easy to miss a step or make assumptions. If anything is confusing, please don’t hesitate to comment with your questions.

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8 Healthy Snacks for Kids on the Go

healthy snacks

One of the best things about homeschooling is that we’re not tied to a schedule. We can take advantage of off-peak hours to visit parks, museums, and libraries, or take day trips just to explore. Being on the go, though, means at some point someone is going to say they are hungry. Eating out or grabbing convenience store snacks is expensive, not to mention usually not healthy. Better to be prepared with snacks so whenever that first little voice says, “I’m hungry!” I can offer them a snack before they get the idea that a trip to McD’s sounds like a great plan or have a hunger-induced meltdown.

healthy snacks and chess at the park
At the park during homeschoolers-only hours. We also bring chess boards and snap circuits everywhere.

Here are some of my favorite healthy snacks for kids on the go. Keep in mind the age and ability of your kiddos when choosing snacks. Things like nuts and grapes can be choking hazards for little ones.

Healthy Snacks for on the Go

  • Fresh fruit Fresh fruit is a perfect, portable snack. Choose fruit that requires minimal prep work to keep it fresh without having to keep it cool. Things like bananas and oranges are easy to peel on the go. Apples and pears are great for kiddos old enough to bite into them whole. They can also be sliced and stored in an airtight container with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning if you know they will be eaten within a short time. Grapes are perfect, if your kids are old enough to handle them without choking.
  • Fresh vegetables Fresh vegetables are another good choice. Celery or carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, and cherry or grape tomatoes are all portable. Nut butters or shelf-stable dressings can be brought along for dipping if that makes them more palatable.
  • Dried fruit While I think they are gross now, raisins were one of my favorites as a kid, and my children love them as well. Dried cranberries are also nice.
  • Trail mix Trail mix is nice, because you get fats from things like nuts, seeds or coconut to help balance the sugars from the fruit. Make your own to tailor it to your families liking and dietary needs.
  • Dry cereal Choose one that has less sugar to keep is relatively healthy.
  • Applesauce While I don’t like the trash created from single use items, the applesauce pouches are great to keep in the car for those times when you find yourself out and forgot snacks or errands took longer than expected.
  • Hard boiled eggs Bring along a small insulated bag or ice chest to keep them cold. If you peel them ahead of time, they’re easier to manage on the go.
  • Popcorn Pop your own and season it with salt and herbs to avoid the weird microwave popcorn butter. I either pop it on the stove in coconut oil or use my air popper. If I use the air popper, I give it a light mist with olive oil to help the seasoning stick. Two of my boys like it with just a little salt. Finn and I are more adventurous. Some of our favorite seasoning combinations are salt and black pepper, chili powder, dill weed, or even a little bit of cayenne pepper. Do be cautious with popcorn, as it is a choking hazard for little ones.

All of those snacks are easy to make work with gluten, dairy and nut-free diets, if you make your own trail mix and choose a cereal based according to your dietary needs.

What about drinks?

Along with healthy snacks, it’s a good idea to bring along something to drink. We like to bring a big water cooler along with cups when we’re out for a long time. We have a one gallon one like this, or we just bring along our big five gallon cooler that we keep filled with filtered water for home.That eliminates the need to buy bottled water and cuts back on sugary drink splurges.

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healthy snacks
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Impromptu Science and a Reading Nook

More science at the library

With the winter plague finally leaving our household, we’ve been able to get out a bit more. One of our first excursions was to our local public library. Finn found a book he’s been searching for after seeing it mentioned in a news interview on the effects of video games.

Science at the library

Gravity Lesson: Science at the Library

The little boys took more interest in the library’s science display. This month’s display involves peanut butter jars weighted to represent how much they would weigh on the moon and each of the planets. Beckett enjoyed feeling the different weights. It didn’t take Thadd long to become more interested in seeing if it was really peanut butter in the jars, so I had to redirect him to the toys. In case you are wondering, though, the lids are glued securely and there is a note on the table saying the contents are actually peanut-free.

More science at the library
No, he was not successful.

Earthworms: Science on a rainy day

Tuesday was rainy, but not that cold yet, so we went for a walk. With all the rain, earthworms were everywhere along the curb. We stopped and watched a few making their way back to the soil. Beckett had few questions about what they ate and why they came out in the rain. At home, we researched the answers together. I love it when lessons happen organically like that. It helps the information stick more than if I created a lesson on earthworms and provided the answers to his questions before he had the chance to even ask.

Earthworm Sally
I think this one is Sally.

Our Pop-up

In between household projects, Christopher turned our gutted pop-up camper into a little outdoor room using salvaged materials. It’s not completely finished out yet. When Beckett and Thadd saw it, though, they couldn’t wait. They had to grab pillows and hang out in the cozy little nook immediately.

Camper outside.
From the outside. The siding came from a house being torn down for new construction.
Inside the camper.
Enjoying the new hideaway.

How do you encourage impromptu learning? Comment below with your ideas, resources and experiences.

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Thaddeus and an Allergy-friendly Chocolate Cake Recipe

Thaddeus, my baby, turned four today. Up until yesterday, he wanted a giant cookie cake decorated with frosting that said “Happy Birthday Thaddeus!” I planned to use my gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe, make some homemade “butter” cream frosting and dream about Great American Cookies’ cookie cakes from my pre-gf days. Yesterday, though, he changed to chocolate cake decorated with Dog Man.

Luckily, I have a one bowl chocolate cake recipe that is so easy there is no reason for boxed chocolate cake mix. It’s one that my mom made, my grandma made and I don’t know how many people before her. The original recipe used regular flour, so I substitute gluten free flour. It was already dairy free, nut-free and egg-free, so, as long as you’re careful with the toppings it is a handy dessert if you have those dietary restrictions. 

Decorating the cake was another matter. If you’re not familiar with the Dog Man book series, here’s what Dog Man and his sidekick Cat Kid look like:

Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild
Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild

 

He only wanted the heads on his cake, so that made it a little easier. They have that deceptively simple look, though, so I was still nervous. The end result was recognizable, even with constant interruptions and my never having painted on frosting before. I really couldn’t have hoped for anything more.

Chocolate Cake
Chocolate cake with Dog Man and Cat Kid frosting for Thadd’s fourth birthday.

Chocolate Cake Recipe

Chocolate Cake

This is a simple chocolate cake recipe that is super easy. It is dairy-free, egg-free, and if you swap the wheat flour for a gluten-free flour blend, it's gluten-free, too! To make it gluten free, I like Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free blend because it already contains xanthan gum. If you use a different gluten-free flour without xanthan gum, I would add about 1-1.5 teaspoons of xanthan gum.
To top, make a simple buttercream (with shortening and non-dairy milk to keep it non-dairy) or use your favorite store bought frosting. You could also sprinkle the warm cake with dairy-free chocolate chips, let them melt a little, then spread across the top for a rich, chocolaty treat.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Course: Dessert
Keyword: 9 x 13, cake, chocolate, dairy free, easy, egg free, gluten free, one bowl, simple
Servings: 29 2x2 inch servings

Equipment

  • 9 x 13 rectangle pan

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Flour see recipe summary for gluten-free adjustment
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil any light flavored liquid vegetable oil is fine
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Grease the 9 x 13 inch pan, either with shortening, butter, or cooking spray
  • Combine the first five (dry) ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until evenly blended. Alternatively, sift them together into the bowl.
  • Add the remaining (wet) ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended. You can use a spoon or an electric mixer.
  • Pour the batter into the greased 9 x 13 inch pan.
  • Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.

Notes

I frosted this cake with buttercream tinted blue, then used gel food coloring to paint the faces. I then piped buttercream for the eyes, facial features, outlines, writing and trim. I clearly am not a trained cake decorator, so I can't really say which tips I used or any other details.
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Weekend Fun

On Saturday a good friend of ours told us about a free, family friendly event happening in his neighborhood, so of course we went.

Beckett on the climbing wall.

Chris on the climbing wall.

Thadd really wanted to climb too, but he’s still too little.

Luckily there was plenty of other things for them to do.

Getting fishing poles.

Boys fishing.

Thaddeus was disappointed they didn’t catch anything. I prefer fish with an exoskeleton, so I’m just glad they had fun trying.

Outside the bounce house.

B and T in the bounce house.

Thadd in the bounce house.

Finn and I spent all are time behind the camera, but we had fun, too. 😀