Tag Archives: paint

{Toddler Thursday} Summer Spray Painting

1 Sep

It’s the first of September and summer is almost officially over, but there’s still time for outdoor fun and making summer memories even though it’s back to school!


  • spray bottle
  • paint
  • paper
  • water (optional)

Step 1

Fill your spray bottle with paint.  (We picked ours up for $1 at Target).  Dilute the paint with water if desired.

Step 2

Get ready to get messy and spray away!

For more fun, spray with different colors and watch the colors mix together.  Try to see how many color combinations you can make with three spray bottles filled with the primary colors.  You can also tape down images and shapes and lift the tape when you’re finished for a splatter paint effect.

LEARN!  Colors, fine motor skills, planning, creativity


{Toddler Thursday} Fun With Pasta! Pasta Necklaces

18 Aug

Fun With Pasta! is our latest installment of the Fun With Food! series.

What do you get when you mix pasta + paint + a toddler?  Painted pasta necklaces and a whole lotta messy fun along the way!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your pasta jewelry (think bracelets, headbands and crowns, too):


  • paint
  • paintbrushes
  • tube pasta (try penne)
  • ribbon, string or yarn
  • work surface saver (e.g., newspaper, cardboard, paper grocery bags)

Step 1

Paint your pasta.  I tried using a flattened cardboard box from the recycling bin as our paint palette, but Jane decided it would be her canvas instead.  She wasn’t ready to paint the penne right away.

Then she decided making handprints would be more fun than painting the pasta.

Eventually, she came around the idea of painting the penne.

Step 2

String each painted and dried piece of pasta together.  We used curly ribbon we had lying around the house, but you can use any type of ribbon, string or yarn handy.  Just tie several knots on top of each other to form a ball larger than the opening of the pasta; thread the pasta; and knot the two ends of the necklaces together.

Step 3

Don your fabulous creations!

LEARN! Colors, fine motor skills, manual dexterity, concentration

If you liked this post, check out other posts in the Fun With Food! series, like Fun With Beans and Fun With Gumdrops.

Butterflies and Binoculars {More Paper Roll Ideas}

17 Jun

I guess we’ve been on a “roll” lately.

Last week was telescopes, this week it’s butterfly finger puppets (and room decor) and binoculars.

Butterfly Finger Puppets


  • toilet paper roll tubes (or paper towel roll tubes cut in half)
  • construction paper or coffee filters (the cone type)
  • pipe cleaners
  • crayons (or markers, paint or stickers)
  • double-sided tape (or glue)
  • scissors

Step 1

Cut a piece of construction paper to fit around the paper roll tube and tape or glue the paper to the roll.

Step 2

Cut along the two seams of the coffee filter and spread it out on your work surface to create butterfly “wings,” or cut out construction paper wings.

Step 3

Decorate the “wings” with crayons, markers, stickers or paint.  Then, lay the butterfly’s “body” in the middle of the wings and tape or glue down.

Step 4

Add butterfly “antennae” by folding a pipe cleaner in half and curling the ends.  You can tape or glue the antennae down if necessary.

Now, put them over your fingers and flap away!

Even Hubby enjoyed playing with the butterfly puppets!

*Tip #1:  if you have a small toddler, place all her fingers into the tube and it will be easier for her to manipulate.

*Tip #2:  When your toddler tires of her puppets, you can always use them as a fun new room decoration!

We taped ours to Jane’s bedroom mirror to go along with the butterfly theme:


Step 1

Use tape to stick two paper roll tubes together.

Step 2


Tell me that wasn’t the easiest toddler activity ever!

LEARN!  Fine motor skills, coordination, imaginative play

Pirate Themed Birthday Party

12 Jun

Ahoy there, Mateys!

You’ve read about my inspiration for Sam’s pirate themed first birthday party and how to make your own pirate party invitation – now here’s how our party turned out and some ideas for your buccaneer bash.

The Pirate Ship

From the second I came up with the idea for the pirate theme, I became obsessed with building a life-sized pirate ship for our partygoers to play in.

If you’ve been following on Facebook, you know that I even resorted to the extreme of dumpster diving in the parking lot of Michael’s for cardboard boxes.

After harassing every shipping department from Sears to Safeway for refrigerator or washer/dryer sized boxes, I ended up purchasing 5 grand wardrobe boxes from U-Haul.  The plans I downloaded from Mr. McGroovy called for 7 boxes, but it was hassle enough for me to maneuver the five I had, so I figured we could make do and be creative about it.

The $23 I spent on the plans and Mr. McGroovy’s rivet project kit were so worth it.  The plans were easy to follow and the rivets made building and taking down the ship – literally – a snap.  The great thing about the rivets is that you can re-use and rebuild your project over and over again.

We cut the cardboard pieces for the ship walls at home two days before the party and decorated the cardboard cutouts the evening before and the morning of the party when Hubby and Uncle B set up the ship at the park.

Jane had a blast painting and setting up the ship:

Hubby and Uncle B (dressed as a pirate) finished building the ship just as the guests began to arrive:

We spray painted the outer hull of the ship with black chalkboard paint with the idea that the kids could draw on the ship as a party activity.  For the inside, we kept it bright and cheery in playful preschool colors.  We also added some chalkboard contact paper to a few inside walls for the children to draw on.

The finished ship:

The net and bamboo pole masts with pirate flags – Grandma’s ideas – were the finishing touches.  I couldn’t find any starfish or other sea creatures to attach to the net, so we ended up using those toy animals that soak in water for 72 hours and grow 6 times their original size.  Of course, after Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides was released, pirate party paraphernalia showed up everywhere!

The Treasure Chest Cake

What I really wanted to do was this amazing cake by The Willow Blog.  But since we designed, created and decorated the cake the night before the party, we changed the concept to an old sea-weathered treasure chest.  I say “we,” because this cake was truly a family effort with Grandma, Granny, Hubby, and Uncle B all involved into the wee hours of the evening.

Here’s how we did it:


After stacking two rectangles of sheet cake, I did a crumb coat using my favorite buttercream frosting.  Then Grandma fashioned the top lid of the chest with a curved piece of cardboard and not-to-be-overlooked outstanding architectural and design direction from Hubby and Uncle B.  We covered the lid with aluminum foil and placed a few squares of leftover sheet cake under the lid at the back of the rectangular base to prop it up.  Another layer of buttercream frosting over the lid and back of the cake sealed the lid to the base.


Using Wilton gel icing color in brown, I mixed a dark brown frosting to cover the entire base of the cake.  To cover the lid, I pressed on dark brown fondant, and then placed light brown fondant around the base for a decorative trim that would help outline the shape of the treasure chest.  Silver, gold and white Wilton shimmer dust added a pearlized, dusty effect proper for a glistening treasure chest washed ashore.

The fun part came next:  I rolled several small fondant balls of varying sizes to make pearls and then covered them with pink Wilton pearl dust and the white Wilton shimmer dust.  If you’re wondering about the difference between pearl and shimmer dust, the pearl dust is much sparklier – so of course I preferred it!  I placed the glistening pearls in strands along the two sides of the chest so they would appear to be spilling out.  Note:  the homemade marshmallow fondant from The Frosted Cake and Cookie that I was so excited to work with didn’t work out so I opted for pre-made fondant.  (I might try it again because of the rave reviews, including praise from SugarBelle, and because it was the most fun to mold and shape).

Finally, I stuffed the cake with as many chocolate gold coins (correctly pointed out to me as “doubloons” by Jane) as I could fit to achieve a stuffed, overflowing look.

We carried the cake to the park the next morning on a homemade cake board (cardboard covered with aluminum foil) and decorated it during the party.  To create the beach, I poured light brown sugar around the sides of the cake and added some blue frosting for a bit of “ocean.”  Then I added a sea of gold coins in the remaining space in front of the bit of ocean and on the sand.

We ended up never cutting the cake at the party!  (See The Birthday Boy below).  But the kids were treated to cupcakes decorated with buttercream frosting, M&Ms and cute pirate cupcake toppers from Meri Meri.

The Fare

We offered a pared down version of the menu for Jane’s Special Agent Oso themed birthday party:  bagels, cream cheese coffee and juice.  We also offered personal organic watermelons, carved out with a melon baller and re-filled with watermelon balls, strawberries and grapes.

Inspired by all the beautiful dessert tables showcased around the blogosphere lately, we topped the tables with glass containers filled with rainbow Goldfish crackers, black and red M&Ms, Swedish Fish and  RedVines to go along with the black and red pirate theme.

{What I wouldn’t give for a beautiful “blog worthy” shot of a lineup of our yummy containers!}

These Swedish Fish in blue jello technically were edible, but we just used them as decoration.

We followed Chica and Jo’s advice on mixing the blue Jello with clear gelatin, which worked, but the “water” was still a bit dark.  If you’re going to make these, be aware that the Swedish Fish will blow up into Swedish whales if you make them too far in advance!

The Favors

Jane helped make these jewel encrusted treasure chests out of styrofoam boxes we picked up for pennies at a nearby pharmacy’s going out of business sale:

We simply painted the chests and then glued on jewels.  A word of advice:  don’t use Gorilla Glue!  I had it on hand and was too lazy to search for our other kid safe glue and it foams and poofs up, which makes for a tight, but funny looking, bond.

We had planned to put foam pirate swords (similar to this), bubble wands and pirate teddy bears in the decorated chests for our toddler guests to find on a treasure hunt, but you know toddlers . . . the second they saw the treasure there was no keeping them away!  It was much better this way, though – the kids enjoyed sword fights and blowing bubbles from the get go.

Jane also made these great homemade telescopes that we passed out as another pirate prop to play with.

We planned to give out these little pirate booty bags with sticker, chocolate coin and temporary tattoo loot that Granny put together, but never got around to it:

The Birthday Boy

Did Sam enjoy his party, you ask?  So much so that he snoozed under the trees.

Since he was sleeping during the party, we took the uncut treasure chest cake home and saved it for a celebration at home later the next evening.

Hope your pirate party turns out to be a swashbuckling success!

Paper Roll Telescopes

11 Jun

For some reason, every tube or hole Jane can spy through she pronounces a “telescope.”  There are variations, like the spy scope, the super scope or the pirate scope.

So a perfect idea for a recent rainy day was to break out my teeming stash of toilet paper and paper towel rolls to make some telescopes.  These actually turned out to be great party accessories for Sam’s pirate birthday.


  • Toilet paper or paper towel roll tubes
  • paint and paintbrushes

Step 1

Pick off all of the pesky last pieces of paper that are clinging to your tubes.

Step 2

Arm your toddler with paint and brushes and let her go to work!

It’s easiest to start out painting the tubes with them lying flat on your work surface and when one side has been painted, continue painting the other side with the tubes standing up.

Step 3

Dry the tubes standing upright.

Need more ideas for what to do with all of your paper roll tubes?

Try these three great ideas from paint cut paste:  paper roll airplanespaper roll pumpkin garland and a hallogreen monster or this fun toilet paper tube target practice idea from Pink and Green Mama (check out her St. Patrick’s Day printmaking project, too).

You can even make wall art like this amazingly crafty toilet paper roll wall hanging from Unfamiliar Ceiling.

Happy painting and creating!

LEARN!  Manipulation/dexterity, imaginative play

The Rise of Spring: Easter Craft & Baking Recap

28 Apr

I’ve always looked forward to back-to-school sales in early August, which mark the imminent start of the school year ahead.  New academic apparel means Halloween – the first official “holiday” of Fall – is around the corner, with Thanksgiving soon to follow, and Christmas rounding out the holiday season in early Winter.

This trio of festivities continually make Fall my favorite season with all the crafting, baking and planning involved for each occasion.

And of course, Fall wildly surpasses all other fashion seasons.  Autumn collections deliver, with bold classics for the serious fashionista.  Spring and Summer looks, on the other hand, tend to fall short.  They’re so full of – well – frivolous frippery, if you will.  Yes, platform sandals and gauzy blouses get my heart in a tizzy, but after the thrill of neon brights and florals wears off, you’re just left with a few flimsy pieces.

The same it was – I thought – for spring and summer crafting and baking.

I never thought I would say this, but I think Spring may be nudging out Fall as my favorite season.

Maybe having kids has gotten me all soft.  But it seems that my yearning for mellow autumn days of melancholy sunlight and the chill of winter solitude has been replaced by a fondness for chirpy chicks, fuzzy bunnies, bright pastels and the zippity-do-da of Spring.  Could it be that I’m ready to drop my teen angst at the ripe old age of 35?

With peppy springtime projects like candy-filled eggs, confetti cake pops, painted puppet boxes, sprinkled cookies and paper mache eggs, I just might be.

Candy-Filled Easter Eggs

All the cracking, bashing and crunching made these by far and away the most exciting springtime activity for the kids!  They also make a gorgeous hostess gift, too.


  • eggs (white eggs will take color better than brown, but you can do a few uncolored, brown eggs for variety – I even did some white uncolored eggs)
  • vinegar
  • hot water
  • McCormick food and egg dye in the regular and neon colors (a fun – and much faster – alternative to dyeing the eggs is simply decorating with markers or stickers)
  • a non-metal container
  • mini cupcake paper/foil baking cups
  • glue


For detailed step-by-step instructions, see not martha‘s excellent tutorial for Easter Surprise Eggs here.

I followed the color recipe exactly because her eggs turned out so strikingly beautiful, but the only recipe that developed into a similar color to hers was the blue – and still it wasn’t quite as robin’s egg/turquoise in color.

The Outlaw Mom’s Tips:

  • If you agitate the eggs, you’ll get splotchy color, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, Hubby and Grandma’s favorite egg was the one that turned out the most speckly.

  • If you use just-boiled water and highly acidic vinegar (like I did), when you drop your egg into the coloring solution, it will spin and fizz like crazy on its own, which creates the speckled effect.
  • Although most blogs advise not to move your eggs around, I found that dipping the eggs once for an initial coat, and then dipping additional times to increase the color intensity worked better than when I tried the recommended method of letting the eggs sit in the solution and then rotating halfway during the coloring time.  Submerging the entire egg or leaving the egg floating on top of the solution didn’t seem to make a difference (except that if you leave the egg floating on top, you’ll have to rotate four times – quarter turns).

  • When taking the eggs out of the boiling water during sterilization or the just-boiled water for the solution, do not lift the egg out completely vertically so that the boiling hot water drips down on to your finger!  Try a more horizontal angle.
  • Try an eggs inside of eggs look.  I chose Cadbury Mini Eggs as the main candy,  Marich Mint Chip Maltballs to go along with the speckled theme, and Jelly Belly Ice Cream Parlor  jelly beans for more of the speckled egg look.  Sconza Dark Chocolate Raisins finished out the mix.

  • Use mini-cupcake baking cups to seal your eggs.  Stickers don’t fold around the jagged opening as well.  I used polka-dot mini-cupcake paper baking cups for all the colors except the blue eggs, which I sealed with silver foil cups.

  • Present the eggs in a clear tin for a pretty and practical way of transporting this gift.  Alternate the eggs with layers of paper Easter grass.

I think we’ll be making these for other occasions, too.  I see Fourth of July flag eggs, pumpkin eggs, Santa eggs . . . the cracking is irresistible fun!

Confetti Cake Pops & Ribbon Box

Since my first shot at the cake pop, I’ve been busy trying to perfect my technique.  I took my own advice on this attempt and chose white candy melts to make the spring confetti really pop.

The lifesaver this time around:  disposable candy melt bags.  I’m never making cake pops again without this handy dandy device!  You can melt and decorate so easily and with virtually no mess.  The double-boiler method would still probably give you the best results because it keeps the candy melts at an even temperature for a prolonged period of time, but my life is all about shortcuts these days.

For a fun spring birthday theme, I tried three different pastel confetti designs:

(1) all over confetti

(2) confetti dots

and (3) an ice cream look (covering only the top of the pop)

These were a birthday gift for a friend, so I needed a portable presentation.  A beribboned styrofoam block (using colored tacks) worked out perfectly.  A few tied ribbons on the cake pop sticks and a rectangular piece of cardstock used as a gift tag completed the present.

Wooden Spring/Easter Puppet Baskets

To make these springtime baskets – which make great children’s gifts – you’ll need:

  • wooden baskets (ours were $1 from Michael’s)
  • paint suitable for wood surfaces + a paintbrush
  • stickers
  • felt for the puppets (or buy pre-made felt puppets)
  • lollipop sticks (even a pencil will do – you just need something to prop up the puppet)

First, have your toddler paint the undecorated wooden baskets.  Let the paint dry overnight.

Then, decorate the painted boxes with stickers.

Finally, make your felt puppets or take your store bought ones and prop them up on a lollipop stick.  The easiest gift and super cute, too!

Easter Egg Sprinkle Cookies

These hard, cardboard-tasting “Ideal Sugar Cookies” were a total bust!  A little embarrassing because I gifted these to one of my friends, but it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?  And they’re oh-so-pretty to look at.

The recipe was fine, but I doubled the butter and then tried to correct it by adding more of all the other ingredients and it just didn’t work. Of course, I used my favorite buttercream frosting, so licking off the sprinkled frosting was delicious!

“Paper Mache” Plastic Eggs

This is one project I couldn’t finish in time for Easter, but now that we have literally dozens of plastic Easter eggs littering our living room floor, I’m going to continue with the project anyway.  I only got so far as one egg, but the results are very cool.  Check out Sweeter than Sweets’ Tissue Paper Easter Eggs tutorial here.

Happy Spring baking and crafting!

Repurposed Easter Grass Spring Garden

15 Apr

You’ve probably already grown your Easter grass since Easter is only one week away, but have you figured out how to display your homegrown greens?

We made this colorful Easter grass spring garden using many repurposed items lying around our home:

but you can make yours almost entirely out of items headed for the recycling bin or trash!

Here’s what you’ll need for this fun project:

  • cardboard box
  • foam flowers (or you can make flower cutouts your own using cardboard, paper grocery bags or construction paper)
  • paint & paintbrushes
  • glue
  • grass seeds & soil
  • emptied and cleaned egg shells, baby food jars or any other containers you can find around the house (like plastic bottles cut in half)
  • press-on googly eyes (you can cut out and decorate paper or cardboard eyes, too)
  • miniature colored pom-poms (or try cotton balls, t-shirt fabric, old socks and other materials in your home if you’re really resourceful)

Easter Grass

I mentioned a few Easter grass tutorials here.  My favorites are this one from Rosy Posy (informative) and this one from K.I.S.S. (gift-worthy).

There’s no need for a pot to grow your grass in:  any old container will do.  We chose a combination of cleaned, dried egg shells and cleaned baby food jars that had been waiting for us to make use of them since these rock candy maracas.  If you’re using egg shells, just gently tap around the top of a raw egg with a spoon and the shell will crack just enough for you to pull away the pieces to make a small hole for depositing the soil and seeds.

Garden Base

We always have a ridiculously huge pile of cardboard at our house from all of the online ordering I do and basically all the shopping we do as a family, which – unless it’s done at the Farmer’s Market – involves a lot of packaging . . . and a lot of waste.  I can’t bear to chuck it all into the recycling bin, even if it is going to be recycled and reused.  I’d much rather repurpose it for our immediate enjoyment!

This project is easy as pie.  First, let your toddler paint every square inch of the cardboard box.  Then have him paint the foam flowers (or paper/cardboard flower cutouts).  Finally, glue the flowers around your garden base.

Spring Chicks

You can use anything lying around your house to make the chicks:  cotton balls, old t-shirts, socks, paper.  We used pre-made colored pom-poms and stick on googly-eyes that we had in the back of our craft closet.  Just stick or glue on eyes and noses to your little chicks and you’re done!  We made a few freestanding chicks and some that we stuffed into empty egg shells we decided not to use for growing grass.

The Finished Garden

Once your spring grass has sprouted, you’ve made your garden base and your chicks are finished, just assemble the inhabitants of your garden any which way you want.  You can either leave the eggs and chicks free standing for your toddler to play with or glue them down to the base.  As an extra detail, we used another cardboard box we had painted to create a colorful background for the garden and decided to add some pastel paper Easter grass for an extra pop of springtime color.  (Learn how to make homemade paper Easter grass here).

Our garden is a little crazy and haphazard, but you can make yours as wild or as elegant as your springtime mood desires!

Happy Spring!

Easy Handpainted Wrapping Paper

23 Feb

Jane loves to paint, so we decided to create a specially designed, one-of-a-kind art piece for Hubby’s birthday wrapping paper.  This is just as easy as the simplest homemade wrapping paper we made for my Valentine’s Day present to myself, but a little messier.  And, the results are a lot splashier!

First, we headed to the easel and painted over our existing crayon drawings.

Then, we set Jane’s painting aside to dry.

Another masterpiece

Finally, we wrapped Hubby’s present and voila:

A gift beautifully wrapped in vibrant Matisse-like handpainted paper!  Hubby kept the paper instead of throwing it out, so I know we had a hit.

We also made Hubby this handmade card and cardholder from specialty cardstock:

Valentine’s Day Picture Frames

14 Feb

Today, Jane and I made these easy Valentine’s Day picture frames for Hubby.

First, Jane painted the two $1 wooden frames with regular poster paint.

Originally, I had planned to use pink and red enamel gloss, but Jane had other ideas.

Then, we let the paint dry.

Next, while waiting for the paint to dry, I cut out photos of Jane and Sam into heart shapes to insert into the picture frames.

Finally, we attached wooden cutouts to the frames with permanent double-sided tape to add the finishing decorative touches.

Super-easy project for Jane, and Hubby loved them!

Fingerpainting Fun

5 Feb fingerpainting fun

Fingerpaint!  Fingerpaint!  Fingerpaint!” Jane screams whenever she gets the slightest hint that the brushes and paints are coming out.  Her enthusiasm is dead on:  painting is really that much fun.  It’s quite therapeutic and relaxing after a long day at work and an equally great way to jumpstart your morning.  You have to be willing to get messy, of course, but therein lies the fun.

We started out with finger paint on glossy paper a few months ago and just started on poster paint with a brush.

paint pots

The Melissa & Doug fingerpaint in bright primary colors were great for our initial foray into fingerpainting because it washes off little hands and clothing very easily.  But, it turned out to be way too goopy and not a good consistency for use with a paintbrush once we were ready for our first brushstrokes.

Before hitting the brushes, I decided to splurge on an easel in the face of Hubby’s, “Do we really need an easel?  What’s wrong with paint and paper on a table top?  I never had an easel as a kid.  More kidstuff cluttering up the house?“.  Hubby now sees the error of his comments.  Simply put, the easel rocks.

We settled on the Melissa & Doug easel after searching a lot of online reviews and hitting up our mommy friends for recommendations.  By virtue of the brand’s popularity, I was semi-decided against it, thinking it might be gimmicky and overpriced, but actually it has been one of our best toddler purchases so far.

Amazon has the best deal and if you want to see it in person, check it out at Diddams.  The design is sleek and simple, with a chalkboard side and a whiteboard side.  A paper roll sits in between the two boards and feeds through onto the whiteboard side.  (Theoretically you could hang the paper down the chalkboard side as well with two of the four clips that come with the easel for just that purpose).  There’s room for chalk on one side and crayons on the other, in addition to four paint cup holders.  You can also purchase the Accessory Kit, which was worth it at the Amazon bundle price (poster paint, chalkboard/whiteboard eraser/chalk/brushes).  The easel is a great learning tool, too:  we use it to learn our letters, numbers, colors, shapes and words.  And, supposedly it folds up easily, but I can’t comment on that because ours is always out!

After we bought the easel, we graduated from fingerpaint to poster paint with a brush and it’s an absolute blast!  (I purchased a Crayola art smock at Toy R’ Us, but that was a waste of money since the paint ends up everywhere anyway.  The old t-shirt method is much better – and cheaper).

If your toddler is just getting used to the brush, start him/her with simply dipping the brush in the paint and smashing it onto the paper.  A few minutes into our first time, Jane was already making squiggly lines, and by the third or fourth time, she was onto circles and straight lines.  Here’s one of her masterpieces:

fingerpainting fun

Jane's Finished Masterpiece


Another great idea for paint is making homemade wrapping paper, which I blog about here.  Happy painting!

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