The Birthday Gift

I got a Cricut Expression for my birthday last year. My mom thought it would be way cooler than using die-cuts, and so far, she’s been right. It’s a good thing I left all my yarn in storage, though, because this hobby takes up almost as much space.


I don’t want this to become a blog all about using the machine though. So my goal is that if I talk about a craft or activity we did where I cut shapes with the machine, I will have an alternative version that you can do without the machine.


This is definitely not a time-saving machine. Frequently I do little nitpicky things I wouldn’t even think about doing by hand, or make pieces and parts that I would just go to the craft store and buy.


Take this craft, the pizza plates. (Good for a pizza theme unit or for the letter P). Pizza Plates made with oregano paint


I cut out lots of tiny shapes to be the pepperoni, the olives, and the green peppers. I could probably have used foam shapes, or pompoms, bits of ribbon, or pipe cleaners, or any of a dozen other things I have in my classroom. The main idea with the pizza plates is that they are multi-sensory, so I mixed the paint with oregano in a cup before we painted it onto the plate. Use a thick brush so that you pick up the oregano and get it on the plate right with the paint.


The kids were pretty good at identifying the oregano as a pizza smell. “Yum!” said one little guy, rubbing his tummy. For me, a good project uses several senses and can inspire great conversation.


Decorated Bandannas

We made these for Halloween, but you can do them whenever. This is a fairly low cost project, particularly if you buy the bandannas in packages of ten.

You will need:
100% cotton bandannas in white
Crayons (Don’t be cheap. Buy Crayolas.)
An iron.
White paper towels.

Have the kids draw whatever they want on their bandannas. Make sure they understand that this is a project for crayons only. Markers will not work. I have a couple of simple line-drawing books for inspiration and examples. They should color heavily for better results.

Once they’ve finished with the bandannas, your job is to take them home and iron the wax off and the colors in. Put some old rags or towels on your ironing board to protect it. Put one bandanna on the board at a time, cover them with a few paper towels, and iron them on a high setting, without moisture. Some wax and possibly pigment will come off on the bandanna.

Once you’ve ironed each bandanna like this, you are done. Give them back to the kids.

Bandannas can be washed in cold water, and hung to dry. The colors might fade a bit, but the kids can just fill them in again, and ask an adult to redo the ironing stage.

Basically, what I learned was that regular crayons will work on 100% cotton. You do not need to pay extra for special crayons!! You could use this to make decorative pillows or bulletin board covers, or quilt squares. What else can you think of?

Carrot People

My co-teacher is frequently the one who has awesome craft ideas for working with the twos. She’s got eight years experience working with them and often has a better idea of their capabilities than I do. So I was pretty excited to come up with a project she liked.

We do a new letter of the alphabet each week, so last week was C.

We gave each child a large popsickle stick and a sponge and some orange paint. We had them do both sides, and then put them away to dry. After the usual round of hand-washing (I would kill for a big low sink that two or three kids could use at once), we did something else. Later, we had them glue on a little green crape paper (you could use a lot of different things for this) for the carrot top and added a pair of comical sticker eyes. With one set of the twos, we tried using small pompoms for noses, but they didn’t stay on very well. In the future, we might use small self-adhesive foam dots for that.

The children really liked their carrot people. I also thought that if you wanted you could cut up some brown paper bags, and put small holes in them so they could pull the carrots out of the dirt.

The original suggestion for this project came from the Artstarts book.

Paper Bag Puppets

Part of the challenge of planning for AM club is that the kids all come in at different times. So any activity that I do has to be low-instruction, so that the kids can just sort of start when they get there. It also has to be high-enough interest for the older kids, and simple enough for the lower kids.

I stockpiled an assortment of materials for our first project together: Paper Bag Puppets. Only two of the students were not interested in the activity, so I feel like I did pretty well. Here’s what I stocked up on:

Construction Paper
Self-Adhesive Foam Stickers
Mixed confetti

The day before, I read them The Araboolies of Liberty Street, which has lots of colorful characters. I am not sure that it directly inspired anything, but it did give them a sense that they had some creative freedom to make their puppets look however they wanted. I didn’t have googly eyes, which I felt bad about until I saw how creatively the students used the foam shapes to make their eyes. One student came early because she knew it was craft day. One of the kindergartners spent a whole hour on her puppet. Even one or two of the boys was into it.

I have some really great photos of the kids with their projects. I’ll try to edit a few so to avoid faces, and share them.