Author Archives: jane

Kids’ Play; Mr. or Mrs. Fix-it

What can you do with a broken toaster?

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Malfunctioning Toaster
Teach your little Fix-it some repair-person lingo.

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Broken Electric Can-opener

Are the kids looking for something to do? Suggest Mr. or Mrs. Fix-it. Save your broken small appliances such as a blender, toaster, iron, electric can opener, hair dryer etc. Children love pretending to be a repair-person even if they aren’t really fixing anything. This kind of imaginative play can also be a time of learning. Let them explore what is on the inside and they will begin to see how things work. You might want to point out the parts that you know. Ask what things are connected to what other things. Older kids might want to look for loose pieces, worn out parts or missing pieces- anything that might be a clue to why the appliance doesn’t work anymore. Bonus: using a screwdriver improves muscle dexterity!

How-2: Look for inexpensive small appliances at garage sales, thrift stores or where-ever. Ask around: someone will have a broken something they would be happy to donate. This project should be done with adult supervision. Have some tools on hand such as screwdrivers, wire cutters, pliers, and needle-nose pliers. Younger children may need an adult to loosen tight screws. (Note: Modern electronics (computers) may or may not have dangerous/ toxic components and I do not recommend children play with these sorts of things.)

“Green” Memory Envelopes

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Yearly Memory Envelopes
These envelopes are time capsules- only easier to stack. I make one for every year, collecting items throughout the year that I don’t want to throw away. It’s like a scrapbook but a lot less work. And you will be a lot more organized. You might include things like brochures from places you visit, post cards, programs, party invitations, birthday cards, letters, movie stubs, relevant newspaper articles…

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Vacation Memory Envelopes
Sometimes a vacation or other worthy event needs its own unique memory envelope!
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How-2
Use an old envelope as a stencil and save it for future use. Trace your stencil onto an old desk-top calendar, posters, tourist maps, old street maps, and/or salvaged geological maps. Cut out, fold and glue.
If you don’t want to make your own, you can find maps made from salvaged geological maps by a clever man in New England at www.eco-artware.com. I also saw some recycled map envelopes at www.jampaper.com.

Make Your Own Envelopes From Salvaged Paper

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If you take a piece of standard lined notebook paper and fold it in half then fold it in half again the other way, it will fit nicely into this 4 x 6 inches envelope.

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You can buy an envelope stencil or you can make your own. Just find a pre-used envelope and use it as a stencil. Better yet use that envelope to make your own stencil out of an old file folder or a piece of plastic. I used an ex-ray from when my husband broke his elbow; I knew I’d find a use for them someday.

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On envelopes that are too dark to write directly on, you can apply sticker labels.

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To eliminate the need for stickers, I like to cut a window in the envelope with an X-acto knife. Children should use scissors. Place your letter inside the envelope and write the address on the back of your letter where it shows out the window.

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A. Cute cat envelope was made from an old calender.
B. Frog envelope was made from a used Ranger Rick Magazine.
C. Jungle envelope was made from a damaged book called Animaze! by W. Madgwick.
D. Farmer envelope was made from a book that was falling apart (Meet Jack Appleknocker by A. Sundgaard).
E. Crocodile gift tag envelope is made from a page in a book called Lyle Finds His Mother by B. Waber.
F. Beautiful Fish envelopes were made by my children out of a book they got at a yard sale: Cayman Underwater Paradise by Pitcairn and Paul.
G. Boat envelope was made from a Baby Einstein Book that was well worn. The image is of a Van Gogh painting called Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

How 2: Easy cat envelope Cut your paper 9 ½ inches x 6 inches. Make your first fold at line b (see image above). The distance between a and b should be 4 inches. After you have made your first fold, you will need to add a small line of glue alone the two sides (or use a glue stick). The flap of the envelope (c to d) needs to be folded down. Easy.

Other envelopes Trace your stencil onto a piece of funny/ beautiful/ cute/ wacky/ or trendy piece of re-claimed paper. Save interesting paper to be used for this purpose. Use Salvaged, damaged, and/or vintage books, fashion magazines, catalogs, calendars, old posters, whatever. Be aware of where on the envelope the image will be. Fold. Use a small amount of glue to adhere it together.

Easy To Make Natural Bird Feeders

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These pine-cone bird feeders are a classic. My family enjoys making them year after year.

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Although it has a bean-like fruit, the Trumpet-Creeper is a member of the Bignonia family.

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The Sweetgum tree is found predominantly in the South-Eastern United States.

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When it is cold outside, my family likes to make these beautiful bird feeders. We make many different types and “decorate” a tree for the birds. We picked an evergreen tree that we can see from inside our cozy house. It is fun to watch and see what birds find our treats. This is a good time to learn the names of the visiting birds. They especially appreciate it when there is snow covering the ground. Sometimes when we are done with our Christmas tree (real not artificial), we place it on our porch to decorate for a second time around.

How-2: Gather your pine cones and seedpods. I like to use a variety of sizes. Spread shortening, lard, suet, or peanut butter all over the pine cones, around the Sweetgum pods and inside the Trumpet-Creeper pod. Next sprinkle with one or more of the following: oatmeal, cornmeal, birdseeds, sunflower seeds, and millet. Mix and match to please a variety of taste buds. If you really want to treat your feathered visitors, add small pieces of dried fruit.

Origami Gift Box Made From Reclaimed Paper (3 of 3)

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Make a sweetheart box from a valentine card you received (don’t just throw them away). Cards will make sturdy boxes but will often be tiny due to the limited size of the original card. Yet, what a nice memento. Alternatively, it would be nice for your child to give them to their special friends with a simple gift inside such as a home-made bracelet made with scrap yarn and a wooden bead.
A 4.5 inch square piece of paper yields a box top of 1 9/16 square inches and 13/16 inches tall.

How 2: See my post on how to make origami gift boxes: easy to follow photo instructions. They are easy enough for adults and older children to make. I hope you have been inspired.