Colorful Spaghetti

Colorful Spaghetti | Motherhood in the Trenches

One night, during dinner, my hubby and I were in the middle of a conversation and Big Sis said, “Look, I made a man!” I looked over and saw that she had used her spaghetti noodles to create a stick figure. While I’m not an advocate for playing with your food during meal times, I realized how much fun it would be to play with spaghetti. I looked it up online and realized I wasn’t the first one to come up with this idea, of course, but I knew that we had to try it.

I have had a handful of moms tell me that they wish that they could do creative things with their kids, but they say they’re not creative and that they just don’t know where to start. My goal is to share crafts and activities that you can easily implement in your home with little effort, using mostly materials you probably already have on hand. This totally fits that bill. The best thing about this activity is that it doesn’t take too much effort on your part but it gives a great return for the work you will put into it.

Why make colored spaghetti? First of all it’s fun! It’s squishy and slimy and oh so colorful. The texture really can’t be duplicated, except maybe by worms and really who wants to collect a bunch of worms?!

 Colorful Spaghetti | Motherhood in the Trenches

It provides an excellent source for open ended play. One of my favorite things is to watch Big Sis “work.” As she’s building or creating she often sings random songs she’s making up or she talks to some imaginary person about what she’s doing. She’s so focused and yet so out of this world. I think you’ll find that your kiddos will use the spaghetti in many different ways. One time they may create a picture with the spaghetti, another time they’ll make a road and have cars drive through it, yet another time they may use it to feed their dolls. (this stuff can stain so make sure they are using all stuff that can be washed in a washable area!)

Colorful Spaghetti | Motherhood in the Trenches

It’s easy clean up and can be used over several days. 

Colorful Spaghetti | Motherhood in the Trenches

It’s perfect for all ages. Big Sis, at almost 4 years, LOVES this stuff, but I just introduced it Little E (5 months old) and she enjoyed squishing it into her chubby hands. Which leads me to my next point…

 Colorful Spaghetti | Motherhood in the Trenches

It’s a great sensory activity which is perfect for developing fine motor skills for babies and toddlers.You can hear it squish, feel the slimy texture, taste it (if you want too, there is a lot of food dye in it so be aware of that), smell it and of course see it.

 Colorful Spaghetti | Motherhood in the Trenches

So many possibilities!!!

Okay, so now you know what and why, let’s get into how…

Colorful Spaghetti

Inactive Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Prep Time: 15 minutes
Play Time: Several Days
Clean Up: < 5 minutes


What You’ll Need:

1 lb. Spaghetti
pot
water
tablespoon
food coloring (gel or regular work, see step 4 below for info)
quart or gallon ziploc bags
colander
something to put the colored spaghetti in
white paper (optional)
Directions:

  1. Boil spaghetti according to package directions, cooking for the least amount of time stated.
  2. Drain and let cool until it’s cool enough to handle
  3. While spaghetti is cooling, decide how many different colors you’d like to make and get out one ziploc bag for each color.
  4. To each bag you’ll add 2 tablespoons of water and food coloring. If you’re using gel colors you’ll get a much more vibrant color and you’ll only need 10 drops. If you’re using the regular food coloring, you’ll get a bit less vibrant color and you’ll need 20 drops. (I use the Wilton Neon Gel Food Color and they give off beautiful vibrant colors with only 10 drops of coloring for ever 2 tbsp)
  5. Divide the spaghetti among your bags. Seal the bag and squish it up until all of the spaghetti is well colored (the kiddos love this part). Now set aside and continue with each bag.
  6. Once you’ve colored each bag of spaghetti you’ll pour it out into a colander and rinse it with cold water. I like to stick it in between my hands and rub my hands together lightly to get as much excess color off as I can. Keep rinsing until the water coming off of the colander is clear. Repeat with each bag.
  7. Drain the spaghetti really well by lightly tossing it about in the colander. Place the finished spaghetti in a container.
  8. Now you’re ready to play!!! You can use a flat table surface or a piece of white cardstock as your base.  If your child is hesitant, sit down with them and give them some ideas of how to play with it. Get excited about it. Talk about the colors, how it feels, how it sounds, how it smells.  Make a smiley face, spell their name, etc. Play with them for a little bit and then leave them to “work” on their own.
  9. After we’re done playing I rinse out one of the ziploc bags and put all of the spaghetti in one bag and then put it in the refrigerator. We’ll usually use it for a few days before tossing it out.

Here’s Big Sis’ “fiery sunset”

Colorful Spaghetti | Motherhood in the Trenches

and here’s a man she made

Colorful Spaghetti | Motherhood in the Trenches

Did you try this with your kiddo? How’d you guys use it? I’d love to hear all about it!

Nativity Accordion Book

Nativity Accordion Book | www.MotherhoodintheTrenches.com

Christmas takes on a whole new meaning when we have kiddos doesn’t it? Everything is more magical and more exciting. I remember Big Sis’ first Christmas, she was only 10 months old and really had no idea what was going on but I pulled out all the stops. Each year it has become more fun and more magical. This year, at almost 4 years old, every aspect of Christmas has so much wonder and excitement behind it, including the story of Jesus’ birth. I love hearing her talk about Jesus’ birth and that he is no longer a baby but that he died on the cross and rose again for our sins. That’s what I had in mind when I created this craft for the little ones.

I love crafts and I love storytelling, so a craft that can live on through storytelling is my favorite. This is a craft that requires very little supplies, not much time and has tons of meaning. We did this at our mommy’s small group Christmas party and it was a hit!

Before I start explaining the craft, I have to tell you that I got the permission to use these amazing nativity character printables from Made by Joel. You have to check out his site. He has a full nativity scene that your kiddos can color and play with throughout the Christmas season. So fun! He also has an awesome book teaching you & your kiddos how to make handmade toys, and some other fun, FREE printables. I’m going to put the Paris Paper City in Big Sis’ stocking this year. You MUST check out his site!

Okay, now for this super easy craft. Here’s the low down:

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Crafting Time: 10 minutes (or more for older kids or kids who really want to get into coloring each piece)
Clean Up: <5 minutes

Supplies Needed:

1 sheet of 8.5 x 11 Cardstock or Construction Paper
Nativity Characters Printable
Nativity Story Printable
1″ x 2 5/8″ Labels (if you want to print the story on labels, otherwise just print on paper and cut out)
Crayons, markers, &/or colored pencils
Scissors
Glue

Directions:

1. Have your kiddo color the Nativity Characters Printable. The great thing about coloring is that it gives you an opportunity to chat with your kids. They’re occupied coloring but can still talk and listen. Take this time to tell them who the characters are and talk about the birth of Jesus.

2. While your kiddo is coloring, fold the construction paper in thirds, horizontally, like an accordion. Cut in half to make two accordion books. If you’re only making one, save the other for another day, there are so many uses for those books!

3. When your kiddo is finished cutting, cut out each character. As you can see in mine, I didn’t cut them precisely on the line. It was faster to cut around them, and I actually like the way it looks.

4. Glue or place the first label on the front “page” of the book. Read the label aloud and determine which characters go with the words. Glue the corresponding characters on the front square. Move onto the middle square and glue or place the next label and it’s corresponding characters on. Continue with this until you’ve completed the whole book.

5. Take time to read the story to your kids. They will love that they just made their very own book. Encourage them to read it back to you in their own words.

6. Find a special place to display the book so that your little one can retell the story whenever they want.

Here’s pics of the front and back so you can see how the story should play out…

Nativity Accordion Book

Nativity Accordion Book

 

 

Did you try this craft? I’d love to know how it went! Let me know in the comments below.

 

I’m linked up to the Tot School Gathering Place

Nature Walks with Purpose

nature walks with purpose

Are you on Instagram? Who isn’t right? One of my absolute favorite “IGers” is Kristin Rogers (@kristinrogers). She is such an inspiration. She is a homeschooling mom and often posts pics of their nature group’s outings and their nature journals.  Seeing Kristin’s IG feed has really inspired me to go seeking nature, not just going to the park to get Big Sis outside but to find places that allow for exploration. What’s so cool, is that since we’ve started doing this, even walks around our neighborhood have picked up so much more meaning. Big Sis often stops to collect all sorts of things and she now pays attention to things she used to just walk right by.

This is such a simple and fun thing to do. All you need is a place to go explore, the beach, gardens, even a park with a variety of greenery. A watercolor tablet, watercolors, and colored pencils. Some additional fun things to add are binoculars, a magnifying glass, camera/camera phone and a tote bag to collect fun things. Remember to respect the wildlife you’re around. Since we were at the gardens we made a point to only collect things that had already fallen off the tree or plant, you don’t want to harm the nature around you. I already have a list of local places to take her to, to explore. I can’t wait to try them all out!

Our first outing was to the UCR Botanical Gardens. We’ve been here several times before but always with an agenda. This time I just let her loose and followed her wherever she wanted to go.

naturewalk 2

Along the way I pointed things out to her, like vibrant flowers and unusual plants. After awhile she got excited about things on her own and would call me over to take look. She would collect some things and others she used my phone to take pics. We saw a lot of animals like turtles, fish, lots of lizards, a squirrel and a large spider. I loved watching her little self explore and the questions that came with the exploration. She wanted to know what each animal eats and where they sleep. Why the leaves fall to the ground on their own, etc. These are things she would never have thought to ask had we not been out exploring.

Then it was time to fill out her nature journal. Ideally I think this would take place at the area your exploring but it was past nap time and I knew we wouldn’t get very far without a full blown meltdown, so we headed home. After she napped we looked at all of the things she collected and the pictures she took. I set out the watercolors and colored pencils and told her that she was going to paint or draw what she saw today. We went through the things she collected and the pictures she took. She drew or painted some kind of representation of each item.

Here’s the pink tree she saw and how she painted it.

pink tree

 

I asked her what colors she saw on the tree and told her to find those colors to paint it. I was surprised to see that she actually painted something that kind of resembles a tree.

Here’s a picture of the turtles and fish and how she portrayed them…

fish and turtles

Our main focus was the conversation about what she saw and using the correct colors to portray what she saw. She LOVED doing this. On the left you’ll see a big orange oval. There was one really large fish and she said that one fish was SO big that it needed it’s own page. :) As she finished each page, I wrote down what she dictated to me and labeled each animal for her so that she can go back to it and “read” it or have us read it to her. Drawing or painting the items also led us to talk about how fish breathe underwater, and that spiders have 8 legs.

 

The Collage Box – A No TV Solution

When Big Sis was born Dirk and I vowed to keep the TV off when she was awake. We didn’t want her to watch any TV until she was two years old…HAHAHA! Reality hit and she spent months 9-12 constantly teething, waking up at all hours of the night. The TV was my saving grace, Yo Gabba Gabba in particular. That’s when her infatuation with TV started.

We’ve always limited her screen time but regardless, she asks to watch a show or play on the iPad ALL.DAY.LONG. And let’s just be honest, TV is an easy out for us moms too. It can cure a whiney child, it can give you 30 minutes of quiet time, maybe even let you take a short nap if needed. TV is an easy crutch but it’s not always the best thing for your kiddo.
Welcome to the collage box. It’s my best idea yet! (See my notes below about adaptation for younger toddlers)

The collage box | A Creative TV Alternative www.MotherhoodintheTrenches.com

Big Sis doesn’t like to color but she loves to draw, and glue and paint and create. So one day I thought I’m just going to raid all of my craft supplies and my junk drawer and see what I can throw in this box for her to create with. I started throwing whatever I could find into the box, stickers, bits of tulle, bits of felt, pom poms, foam cut outs, paper cutouts, bits of silk plants I had left over, feathers, random markers, colored pencils, glitter glue, anything random that I could get my hands on.

I gave her a 12×12 piece of white paper a bottle of glue and all of the contents in the box. She was elated! She spent at least 30 minutes on her first creation, all the while talking about what she was doing, “Okay, this should go here because it’s perfectly sparkly, and this round sing (thing) should go here because we love round sings.” Seriously, I could listen to her talk to herself all day.

This was her first creation:

The collage box | A Creative TV Alternative www.MotherhoodintheTrenches.com

And here’s another:

The collage box | A Creative TV Alternative www.MotherhoodintheTrenches.com

Now she wants to glue EVERYTHING! The hubby got a gift in a small cardboard box, Big Sis saw it and said, “Daddy, can I have that???” He gave the go ahead and it became this…

The collage box | A Creative TV Alternative www.MotherhoodintheTrenches.com

You never know what’s going to be made into a creation in our house.

Do you have younger toddlers? Why not try using clear contact paper instead of glue and paper. You can tape the contact paper onto a table or window and allow your toddler to stick things to the sticky contact paper. No messy glue and no fuss with taking stickers off of the paper. An easy and less messy collage! :)

I love so many things about this:

  • You can keep adding new and fresh items to keep the interest level high.
  • Cleaning up is so easy, even a toddler can do it, no seriously your toddler should clean it up because it’s so easy. We literally just take everything that belongs in the collage box and throw it back in, put the lid on and put the box away for another day.
  • It boosts creativity. Big Sis is now looking at things as a way to make them into art and asks if she can use all sorts of media that I wouldn’t have thought of. Some of it is of course not stuff that she is able to cut and glue but others are great ideas!
  • You can take the box with you! We had an outside church event that was mostly for adults but kids were welcome. I brought the box with us and she was able to complete a quiet task and fully enjoy it.
  • A wide range of skills being practiced, especially fine motor: Exploring color combinations, using glue, learning to cut with scissors, exploring with writing utensils (chalk, pens, markers, crayons), and SO much more.
  • Language Development: when kids are left alone and their creative juices are flowing, they get into their own world. They are able to freely speak without anyone judging them or without any expectations. It’s their time to just let go.
  • Declutter: I get to declutter my house. As I find random things I think, “hmmm…would this be good for the collage box?” When someone gets her a little something, usually involving stickers, they all go right into the collage box instead of strewn across my house, only to be thrown away as we step on them in some random place.

This is so easy to literally throw together and costs little to nothing! If you give it a try, I’d love to see your little one’s creations. So much fun!

Recycled Marker Bubble Painting

If your house is anything like mine, you have lots of bubbles and lots of dried up markers laying around. We usually throw them out until I saw this post on Apartment Therapy about soaking your dried markers in water and creating watercolors! So genius! I have also seen quite a few posts about bubble painting, with my favorite being from My Cakies, one of my new favorite blogs (I have a lot of favorites, have you noticed?). I decided to combine all of the ideas I’ve seen and create our own bubble watercolors. We had a blast!

What you need:
Dried markers (you can also you watercolors or tempura paint if you don’t have dried markers)
Pliers, to take the tips out of the markers
White paper (watercolor paper would be awesome but we just used construction paper and white cardstock)
Bubble Solution
Bubble Wands
Containers to put the bubbles in

This is a good activity to begin while your little ones are napping or having their quiet time as it takes awhile to get the tips out and letting them soak in the solution. Pour some bubble solution in small cups, I used the small Ziploc cups so that I could save the leftover paint.

Starting with one marker, use the pliers to take the tip out of the marker, place the tip in one of the cups of bubble solution. Use the pliers to break the plastic tip off of the marker.

photo 1

Pull out the ink fiber “tube”,  cut the plastic off and put the fibers into the bowl of bubble solution. Repeat this for each of the colors you are making.

photo 4

Add more bubble solution if it’s too vibrant, otherwise, take it outside and start playing! We still love our Gymboree Bubble blower but we also used the bubble wand.

photo 1

photo 3

photo 2

photo 4

The end result was pretty cool:

photo 5