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Today only: crafted bird mobile for $10.99!

Let your little one’s imagination soar with a sweetly crafted bird mobile from Children Inspire Design. Perfect for a nursery, a playroom or bedroom, this line of arts and crafts, created through a partnership between Children Inspire Design and PEACE, is handmade from recycled materials. Each mobile is one of a kind

As I was researching the various crafts you can do with your small child, I found a lot of useful stuff: play dough, watercolors, finger paints, crayons, cutting, sticking, glitter…. All of these activities spark the child’s creativity and curiosity.

However, when I see a recipe, my first instinct is to change it, to add to it and to combine it with something else. Kid’s arts and crafts got the same reaction from me. Since children learn so well through play, why not combine all kinds of arts with all kinds of play: this way both creativity and imagination would become multi-dimensional. The child would be able to draw and paint and build and role-play and dig all at the same time!

As a result, whenever my son and I sit down to do a creative project, it’s never “just play dough” or  “just crayons.” We can start with play dough and make a bird, for example. Then, we take crayons and draw a tree for this bird. Then, we take watercolors and paint the grass under the tree. Then we cut a piece out of dark paper and stick it on the grass: this is how we make a road. Then, we take our toy cars and let them drive on the road.  After the cars have been going for a while, we build a bridge over the road, using matchsticks and glue. Finally, we make a construction site, next to the bridge. We draw it with different color pencils and stick some sand on the paper next to it ( so that the construction workers can dig.) And lastly, we take a teaspoon and dig through the sand.

We have painted gardens for play dough butterflies, we have made play dough roads for our wooden trains, we have put play dough passengers into our toy cars, we have put play dough boats into Tupperware containers full  of water. We have also drawn vases with crayons, to stick some real dried flowers in and we have fed our stuffed animals some play dough fruits and veggies. Oh, and once we made a finger paint soup, but that didn’t work so well.

These games can be endless. The key is incorporating  many senses and materials into an art project. Through creating art this way, the child will see art as a part of real-life, as something fun and tangible. Dolls can play in drawn doll-houses and trucks can ride on play dough roads. Using this simple technique, children learn to make their own world, where they are the creators and the active participants.

Today I was doing what I like to do best: playing with food. I actually tried to make some edible play dough. All of the recipes for homemade play dough online seemed to be copies of each other and the ones that seemed more original utilized unhealthy ingredients, such as corn syrup, powdered milk and white sugar. As I was testing my recipe (made out of leftovers,) I realized that my edible play dough can also be made into some yummy healthy candy.  So, I made candy and my kid and I played and ate: what could be more fun?

As a main ingredient, I used cooked amaranth. Amaranth is a grain, which was used by the Aztecs and now is popular in Latin America. Amaranth contaisn large amounts of protein and essential amino acids. Amaranth has  30%  more protein  than many other whole grians grains, such as brown rice, wheat flour, oats, and rye. Amaranth grains are very small and cooked amaranth is sticky ( this is why I thought of play dough.) Generally, I like to use amaranth as a side dish, as a substitute for any dish, asking for a grain, as  a sticky base for a casserole or even as an egg substitute, because of the binding effect it brings to baked dishes. Amaranth works well as a diversion from your morning oatmeal. It combines very well with fruits and vegetables.

 

Homemade Amaranth Play Dough

Even though this recipe contains brown sugar, it is rich in protein, fiber, folic acid, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc, as well as vitamins B, D  and E. Perhaps you need to encourage your kids to eat more  play dough!

1 cup amaranth (cooked, according to package instructions.)

1/2 cup  smooth natural almond butter

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/4 of brown sugar

Mix all of the ingredients together. If the dough is too watery, add more wheat germ. If it’s too dry, add more almond butter. You can add more sugar of you think it’s necessary for a better flavor. Use my suggestions for homemade edible colors from here.

Homemade Amaranth Almond Butter Candy


Follow the recipe for play dough. Add 1/2 cup of almond pieces and (optionally) 1/4 cup of chopped dates. Form the dough into balls. Roll each ball in shredded coconut. Refrigerate for thirty minutes and serve.

 

As adults, we tend to think in linear ways: if we are doing a particular arts and crafts activity with our kids,  it’s difficult to visualize how it can also be a game with toys in it. Or, how to take it one step further and make a library with books out of it. Playing, creating, imagining and visualizing is wonderful for growing brains. My kids taught me how to expand my mind, so I came up with these fun ideas for small art projects:

Combine your drawing lesson with your playtime:

-Draw a garage or a road for the toy cars to park in or to ride on.

-Draw a field for the rubber ball.

-Draw a doll house for your favorite doll and then add dimension by putting play dough furniture in it.

-Draw some people and “feed” them real berries and other healthy foods.

– Make a “library” out of stacked books, put a doll in it and read to it together.

– Use watercolors to paint the sky and let your toy helicopter fly.

– Paint a sea for your toy fish or for your little ship.

The possibilities  are endless, as long as you realize your limitless creativity. Enjoy!

Today, my friends and I were bouncing off some ideas about things to do with our active toddlers to get them to slow down and be creative.  Here’s what I do:

The “Salad” project

materials:

colorful paper, child-safe scissors, large bowl

Ask your toddler to cut green vegetables out of green paper. Of course, you can help! Then, ask them to cut some red ones and later move to other colors. This part of the project gets them thinking about colors and grouping things together. Once the “veggies” are made, they can be cut into stripes, squares, triangles, etc…. The little pieces can be put into a bowl and “mixed together.”  The results can be fed to dolls, or (in our case to Mr. Jeep.) The project is good for fine motor skills, creativity, learning about colors and shapes and the love of salad, of course!

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