Saturday, September 23, 2017

Spooky Spotlight!

"Halloween-ery" has extended its sticky tentacles deeply within my family, infecting yet another generation. Mommy recently caught two year old Austin intently poring over a catalog, exclaiming with glee, "Want that! Need that! This, too!" at every spotted spider, hallow-eyed haunt, and gasping ghost within its pages. Two years old! Could this be an inherited trait? Any aspiring geneticists out there in pursuit of a dissertation topic? We'll help you prove this thesis with a hearty supply of test subjects for your case study experiments!

I offered a day of respite to Austin's mommy last week when daddy flew overseas on business for ten days. Meals, snacks, housework, babysitting, crafts.....all graciously accepted with only one specification: HALLOWEEN PROJECTS, please, grandma?!

And so, today I focus my spooky spotlight on Austin and older sissy, Brielle,* for a trio of satisfying seasonal crafts easily doable with your very own little grand-goblins!

*(One year old brother, Channing, still can't be trusted not to eat glue sticks. That's okay. We'll reel him in next year!)

Pumpkin Portraits!

This ages-old decorating exercise is suitable for the five year age span I entertained here. That was my biggest challenge. Which activities would keep Bree engaged while not frustrating Austin?

Prep was as easy as the embellishing both kiddoes enjoyed. Wide open mouths invite a collection of teeth cut from the paper scraps you'll provide along with safety scissors, glue, and glitter! Dig out your craft punches to supply giant, friendly eyeballs!

Haunted House!

My grandkids are sticker crazy, and quite frankly, so am I! Problem is, sometimes these pesky little things (also known as "tickers!") end up on inappropriate surfaces - windows, walls, shoes, and dogs' ears! So, whose fault is it when there's not a worthy place to plant them?

Leave it to grandma to find the best solution at Sarah Jane's! This ultra-creative lady provided exactly what I was searching for - full instructions and a free haunted house template sporting open-and-shut windows that invite filling with small spider, cat, and pumpkin stickers.

This one takes a bit more time to prep than the pumpkin portrait, but the kids were delighted with the 3-D effect, and I was treated to many exuberant challenges to "Open it, grandma! See what's inside!" I wore myself out fainting in horror over a flutter of bats and grinning ghouls peeled from the pages of these books priced at only one dollar each at JoAnn Fabrics! Hurry on over if this one appeals to you - or if your pets need earfuls of cute "tickers!" :)

Spider Races!

Time for something the kids don't need to work at! I constructed every component of this game myself, although kids as young as four could put it together with a bit of help. All you'll need is one game board, and a pom pom spider and paper straw for each player. Then stand back and watch the competitive fun!

The board is a 12" x 24" strip of orange paper - piece it together if needed. I used decorative craft tape to indicate a start line as well as interim markers. Lay out a web opposite start line with purple craft tape (or draw it with a marker.)

Spiders ("pie-ders!") are 1.5" craft pom poms. Glue on a pair of wiggle eyes and yarn strand legs to complete each one - different color bodies, legs, or eyes suggested for each competitor.

Ready for action?! Place your runners on the start line, pick up your straw, and BLOW! First one to reach the safety of the web without flying off the board is the winner of each fast paced heat! Prizes optional - although when grandma's in charge, I think you already know they're an "everybody's a winner!" requirement!

And finally! Enjoy rattling the bones of your grandkids with hoots of laughter while they craft and play. Challenge them with the 47 howling cute Halloween jokes you'll find here, at Grandma's Briefs. Thanks, Lisa! (she's my ghoul-friend!)

Bet you don't know why the skeleton didn't dance at the party!
Well, I do!
He had no body to dance with!

Monday, September 11, 2017

STEAM-ing Along!

Back in the day, my sisters and I decided we needed a backyard swing set. Crayon met paper, and blueprints for a carefully engineered three-seat contraption of sticks and strings emerged, promising a soaring summer of giggling glee.

But grandpa caught wind of our plans, was appropriately appalled, and instructed mother to take his money and install the best in store-purchased backyard entertainment "before those girls break their necks!"

Dear, sweet, indulgent grandpa. He meant well. But sometimes drafting, calculating, and trial and outrageous error are the best parts of unrealistic dreams nurtured among siblings who see the stars and seek to glide among them on scrap wood seats secured with jump rope knots.

I am delighted to see the preponderance of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art/design, and math) toys available today for purchase for my grandchildren. Books and toys that tease, unleashing the brain, are all I ever plan to buy for the near-monthly frequency of birthdays I face today. Once these ten kids hit the age of six, look out! Here comes grandma with her bag of favorites, the fruit of well researched and well tested creative satisfaction!

This is not a sponsored post. I just enjoy sharing the success I've had with these excellent mind-enriching products!

The Kiwi Company ranks "number one" with me. While most commonly recognized as a monthly subscription service delivering age appropriate STEAM projects directly to a child's door, I also like the convenience of Kiwi's online store. Here, we pick and choose reasonably priced, individual "crates" that contain everything needed to build enticing, quality projects. Cranes. Electric Circuits. Pinball Boards. Hydraulic Valves. Lanterns. Bottle Rockets. We've bought 'em all - and love 'em all!

Four year old Ava (top) holds an endearing yarn critter, part of the Arcade Kiwi Crate. Twin sissy (right) made one, too. Many kits keep more than one kid busy.....

Eight year old brothers built the accompanying wood claw, and all four siblings enjoyed operating it to grab critters for points. Crafting! Engineering! Cooperating! Family Fun! All in one!

My faves are the mechanical sets (Tinker Crates) for older kids. Below, our young electrical apprentice concentrates on the construction of a trio of translucent multi colored battery operated lanterns. Easy and clear step-by-step illustrated instructions allow kids as young as eight to do-it-themselves while grandma sits nearby, taking pictures and beaming with pride!

Everything you need is included. Everything! 

Take a look and see what you think! This link will net you a $10 discount on a year long subscription!

Okay. Switching to dinosaurs now!

Mindware offers a product I heartily endorse. Open the box to a slab of plaster-like material. Grab the included archaeological tools and a cup of water and begin chipping away! You just know there's something here that needs finding! DIG IT UP! 

The fearsome favorite T-Rex! Triceratops also available!

I passed these out at Grandma Camp to the older kids; six year old Brielle, and eight year old twin brothers, Nick and Sae.

For nearly an hour, heads were studiously bent over the puzzle before them......

Finally! Pay dirt!....a hint of something just beneath the surface! Smooth, shiny, and "rib-cagey!"

More digging!
Is this project a mess? Oh heck yes! Just the way kids love it! Perfect for a sunny day out on the deck!

What? An hour of work and all we get is this pile of bones?

There! That's better! A quick session of easy snapping yielded a trio of (14") take-home treasures just RAWR-ing to go!

Mindware DIG IT UP! Dinosaur kits can be found in my Amazon Gift Shop on page 15.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Scrap Trash Robots!

Leisurely hours on a shaded deck during Grandma Camping days serve several purposes when the topic at hand is a crafty project or two. For one thing, the grandkids love to create. For another, they know that activity is encouraged here - paints and paper and glitter and glue always lay nearby. And for still another, a seat on a chair is grandma's welcomed landing place during a souped up week of energetic fun!

My artsy-craftsy soul renders it impossible for me to discard any humble household castoff. I see beauty and potential in each and every plastic lid, bottle cap, or spool that enters this space, hoarding all with vengeance. Those items joined scraps of wood, a choice of bonding agents, cans of silver spray paint, and the directive, "Build yourselves a robot, kiddoes!" for an hour or so of remarkable - and frugal - crafting creativity.

Craft glue, safe and perfect for smaller detailing, takes so long to dry. I manned a hot glue gun, following kids' instructions on where it needed to go.

My only other job was to watch the thoughtful creativity unfold.....

Pill bottle legs, wood block heads, paper tube arms....

Any packaging contraption works!

I loved the jet pack constructed from larger pill bottles.

Fully constructed and waiting patiently for a coating of metallic silver spray paint!

Possibly the very best part of any crafty project at grandma's - your very own can of paint!

I was impressed with the methodical way the kids built their scrap trash robots. Much attention to detail, balance, and symmetry. I attribute those skills to the problem-solving play they enjoy at home with science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) toys, including Lego sets. Next time, my (unsponsored) post will share several of my own buys that found the kids building and learning with enthusiasm.

Hope to see you here!

This is the fifth (and last) in a series of Grandma Camp 2017 posts that begins right here!

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Who Goes There?"

Grandma Campers are, by their very nature, explorers! They like to know stuff. Probing, seeking, speculating...."What is that made of, grandma?" "What would happen if we did it this way instead?" Encouraging and rewarding curiosity is the most challenging - and best! - part of this annual summer experience for me!

Last year, we brought home ladybug shaped rocks, painted them, wiggle-eyed them, and secreted them in neighborhood flower beds and mail boxes under the spine-tingling cover of night. How many would still be there the following evening?  Anxious with excitement, we had our answers when we ventured back to see!

But our backyard wooded lot consistently holds the best source of adventure and discovery. We've filled cardboard tubes with peanut butter and added a clever method for detecting critters who might enter for a nibble. Oh, they were there, all right, we learned the next morning, but speculation over what they looked like has hung in the air for over a year! Tiny footprints left behind are simply not enough!

We need to know, "Who goes there?" 

My purchase of a trail camera has been a satisfying investment. It's delighted even the biggest kid among us (me!). The small device I've linked to below (this is not a sponsored post) is perfect for strapping to a tree, a foot or so above a carefully arranged peanut/corn/berry buffet of wildlife treats.

Daylight hours capture full color images (both video and still shots - audio, too!) of scampering squirrels and chipmunks. An occasional blue jay will swoop down to snatch a peanut. But our best mysteries are solved in the morning after all night monitoring. That's how we discovered our inquisitive raccoon guest. He's one of the wood dwellers who only come out at night!

I've coupled the camera with a wildlife guide that we consult daily during Grandma Camp. Clearly illustrated are animals we're likely to see here in the midwest - turkeys, white tail deer, opossums....pretty tame compared to the rattlesnakes and exotic lizards you Arizonians might be fortunate enough to capture! We envy you!

"Hey lady! We're out of peanuts again!"

But I might add some manufactured drama of my own when the kids get a bit older. We'll set the camera right around Halloween. Under cover of late, late night, wearing a spooky skeletal mask, I'll peer into the lens, grunt menacingly, and shake the camera vigorously before the screen goes blank! "Who goes there?" you ask? I don't think the kids are gonna want to know!

Find the battery operated XIKEZAN trail camera (and required memory card) I've been happy with in my Amazon gift shop on page 14. It's a handy 3.5" x 5" easy-to-set-up and use, water proof, motion activated device with instantly view-able images to download to a computer or television set.

The classic Reader's Digest North American Wildlife Guide is also here, on page 15.

This is the fourth post in a series of 2017 Grandma Camp highlights that begins here. Enjoy! The fifth, and last is here!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Where Fairies Flutter

Our second annual Ladybug Camp hosted twin sisters, Ava and Angeline, with cousin Kaylee. This four year old trio enjoyed a multi day, overnight affair busy with crafting, baking, play-acting, and exploring. On day two, we ventured into a magical wooded realm - the place where fairies flutter!

My little lady guests arrived well versed on the topic of those daintily winged garden dwelling nymphs, but they were delighted to reexamine their characteristics and the habitats they frequent in pop up books I couldn't resist buying for the occasion!*

This is not a sponsored post, but my, my! Looking to fascinate and educate? This is the set for you! We pored over each page, mesmerizing and rich in three dimensional glory, finding fairies in hidden nooks and crannies.

Gardens, woodlands, and more....I sent each little lady home with her own book (there's a third in the series) to secure delightful memories.

Armed with fresh tips on places to look, off we go a-hunting. Backyard woods held promise for finding fairies of our own.

Nestled in foliage, the first of three petaled sprites awaits discovery! (A favorite moment saw precocious Miss Ava animatedly point out that these fairies were actually not "the real thing!" They were "grandma-made" substitutes that might serve our purpose for today, yet still, not "really real" ones!) And of course, she is correct! Thank you, Ava! :)

Angeline and Kaylee cradle their new friends.

Forging ahead, an enticing vision beckoned! Were guests expected here? With places set for six?

Six indeed! One for each successful fairy finder, another for her newly acquired friend!

Months ago, the thoughtfulness of a cherished blogger friend, Judy, made my dream of today's event even more special. She sent me the tiny tea set pictured here. Her own granddaughter had reached the teenage years, and it was time for pretty vintage pieces to find another home, one where younger girls would take their turn pouring magic tea to serve in teeny tiny portions. This was the perfect occasion to introduce our gift. Thank you, Judy!

Room enough, and food enough for everybody!

Ladybug Campers nibbled cheese wraps and tangerine slices. Pot de creme bowls cradled hummus and baby carrot sticks.

But "real bugs" were not welcome at our repast, so craft punched, flower themed paper covers topped tasty drinks. Friendly butterflies alight on each straw.

Oh, what magic we found today in our foray into the place where (grandma-made!) fairies flutter, little ladies stop to snack in dappled sunlight, and grandma beams away in pride and satisfaction!

My friend, Judy, a master gardener, blogs about beauty in nature, in fabric, and of charming places both near and far at New England Garden and Thread. She is also a fan of fairies. Her 2012 Fairy House Tour  is one of my favorite posts ever!

Fairy dolls are easily made from wooden peg bases found at craft stores. Dress them in petals pulled from silk flowers.

*The three Cicely Mary Barker pop-up fairy books I purchased for my granddaughters can be found on page 14 of my Amazon Gift Shop. Fairy sticker books found on the same page kept my little ladies busy during "quiet time."

This is part 3 of my Grandma Camp 2017 series. It begins right here. Click here for part 4.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Grandma Camp Magic!

The best part about performing at our week's end magic show is that we know things mommy and daddy don't! We love to see jaws drop in the audience, followed by the inevitable "How did you do that?" Kids usually don't tell though, responding only with smug, impish grins!

But I don't mind sharing tricks of the trade with other grandmothers. I've experienced the fun and camaraderie of introducing, practicing, and performing a variety of easy to do acts that I've gleaned from several sources: a delightful online site, a purchased kids' magic set, and a goofy idea of my own that resulted in an unsolved mystery!

Got your ticket? Good! Take a seat and enjoy the show! 

Our opener is a crowd pleaser and three times the fun when it's demonstrated in tandem. We present lengths of rope. Each is one piece! Come on up and check them out if you'd like. We've nothing to hide! - well, except for the short extra loops we've hidden in our palms to snip in half! There! See? You thought one piece was cut in two and were totally amazed when we revealed the original, uncut length! Ta da!!!! 😲

I love my free subscription to "Magic Tricks For Kids." It's where you'll find this trick demonstrated step by step - and dozens more to choose from!

"Bree! What are you doing?" One of the twins approaches her in the act of breaking an egg. "Making cookies!" she casually replies. No hanky-panky is suspected when the other twin follows up with, "Need any help?" "Sure," she answers. "I want these eggs cracked!" But no one cracks up more than the little tricksters who reach into the carton, grabbing three to toss to the audience! "Here, dad! Help us out!" they shout as rubber eggs go flying toward a ducking audience! 😲

This crazy idea was my own. I found fake eggs at Hearthsong,* an online toy retailer. But I've been the victim of a mysterious disappearing act myself! I have yet to locate the third egg after our show. Looked everywhere! It's gone! But unlike our other tricks, there's no explanation for this one! Poof! Real magic!

The easiest way to conjure up a repertoire of cool performance tricks is to buy a kit designed for kids. I did this last year, relying solely on the nifty eye foolers in a great Melissa and Doug set.** But this year I found another one I like!*** "Spectacular Magic Show" is less than $20 and packs 100 cool ideas into a box that also contains an instruction book plus a fun CD that clearly demonstrates them all - plus more!

We chose the easiest among them for this year's event. My favorite was the "Magic Paint Can." A secret compartment that's very well disguised allows water to stay secured when the can is tipped to "prove" it's GONE! A slight twist and an agile "abracadabra" with the included wand makes contents reappear in a sec!

But that's not all! Bree's cousin stepped up and announced he's got something even better to show! His glass of water met a few drops of food coloring secreted inside the can, and the audience gasped when he poured out GREEN PAINT instead of clear liquid!

The set also includes a well made fake deck of cards and a specially designed case for it. Nick flashed an ace, replaced it, and slid the deck deftly back inside. With a flick of his wrist, the deck disappeared - courtesy of a fake surface on both sides of his prop!

There are a handful of clever tricks demonstrated on the CD that require only simple household items for astonishing a crowd. Here, daddy's been conscripted to choose a crayon from a set of four different colors. Only he and the audience know which one it is. It's placed in Sae's hands, held behind his back. Let the concentrating begin. Our magician closes his eyes. Thinking, thinking, thinking...He dramatically raises one hand to alert the audience he has an answer. "ORANGE!" he triumphantly exclaims. And what do you know? ORANGE it is!

I see a future for this one at restaurants where restless grandchildren are given crayons to keep them busy before meals arrive. Tell grandpa to scrape off a bit of wax while the crayon is behind his back. He can briefly glimpse at it as he flourishes his hand forward to pronounce the correct color!

Nick loved folding a one dollar bill twice to make George Washington turn upside down, and Bree successfully employed a fake plastic thumb to make a silk handkerchief magically reappear. Our audience eagerly gobbled up everything we did!

And then there was Ava! Pictured at top, this little gal has been a fan of magic ever since last year's show when her brothers pulled stuffed bunnies from hats to present to their little sisters. She frequently duplicates this trick at home with toy tigers and Barbie dolls, waving her wand with a pronunciation of "abracadabra!" that she alone has perfected. This year, the right thing to do was give Ava the stage to conclude with her delightful act. She loved every second, and so did we!

Here's part 1 of this year's Grandma Camp series! And here's part 3.

This is not a sponsored post. I just enjoy sharing the success I've had with good products. However, a few of the items I've shown here are available in my Amazon gift shop.

*Hearthsong carries sets of 3 rubber eggs. The company sells many creative toys and stands by their products with excellent customer service!
**This Melissa and Doug magic set can be found on page 13 of my Amazon gift shop.
***This Ideal magic set can be found on page 14 of my Amazon gift shop.