Here's a simple way to make a frosty cape for an Elsa costume.  My daughter and I are delighted with how it turned out:  so dainty and elegant!  You'll need one full-size sheet of paper, a can of white spray paint, and fabric.  For my 6-year-old's costume, I bought 1 1/3 yards of 60" wide nylon tulle, pale turquoise color.  Sheer nylon tricot or sheer chiffon would also work, and be less prone to ripping.  (No, ours has not ripped yet.)

Lay out the fabric and fold in half lengthwise, so it's 60" long and half the width you bought.  Cut 4-6" wide scallops along one narrow end.  

Fold the paper and cut out a simple six-pointed star.  Mine was about 4" across.  I reinforced the paper (now my stencil) and helped it lie flat by running 2" wide packing tape in a square around the snowflake.

  Spread the fabric on top of something clean that you don't care if paint gets on.  Darker colors under will make it easier to see the white paint.  In my case, I spread this on the lawn; we have a frosty decoration on it until next mowing!

Spray into your stencil, focusing on the center first, then spraying the points.  Continue until you have all you want, occasionally stopping to wipe excess paint off the stencil (the grass was good for this, too). 

Once the snowflakes are sprayed, 'frost' the edges and scallops of the cape by spraying along the edges.  

With some silver glitter glue or silver sparkle paint, draw on the snowflakes. Add some smaller ones made with only the silver.    Let dry completely.
 
 
My 11-year-old daughter had decided she really, really wanted some Frozen dolls.  However, having used all her spending money previously on a couple plush My Little Pony toys, the ones we found were way out of her price range.

She flipped through a girls' sewing book, spent a couple days thinking about how to possibly make the dolls instead, and came up with this plan:  find a picture, use it for a pattern, sew two identical pieces together, color, stuff, and stitch closed.

We used plain white knit fabric from my fabric stash so the doll would be softer and a little more forgiving, stuffed it with plain old fiberfill For the Anna doll, we used this coloring page 
Elsa:  in her coronation dress, or with one hand out.  (The one hand out was pretty tricky to turn right-side out, but it worked.)

You'll need a picture, 1/3 yd of fabric (for 11" high dolls, but you'll have enough width for 4 dolls!), needle and thread, sewing machine (optional), a handful or two of fiberfill, and some non-water-soluble markers  (we used a combination of Sharpies and fabric markers).

1- Resize the picture to make the size doll you'd like. 
2- Add 3/8" all the way around the picture*, for a seam allowance, and cut this paper pattern.
3- Pin onto a double layer of fabric, and cut this out.
4- Unpin the pattern from the fabric, take ONE of the fabric pieces, put the pattern piece behind it, hold it up on a window, and, using a Sharpie or fabric marker, trace all the lines you'll need to color later.  Draw in the facial features, neck, dress design, etc. Invent what the back should look like, for the second fabric piece. :)
5- Put the right sides (drawn-on sides) together, and sew 3/8" from the edge, almost all the way around.  Be sure to backstitch when you start and stop!  Leave 2" open.
6- Turn the fabric right-side out, stuff with a handful of fiberfill.
7- Turn the raw edges of the opening inward, and stitch closed, knotting well at both ends.  
8- Color your doll with the markers, front, back, and sides.

*On the coloring pages, the necks are too narrow to pull the rest of the body through when turning the fabric right-side-out after sewing, so shoot for a finished measurement of 1" wide, and just draw the neck the width it should be.

She had a lot of fun marking these- so much that she also made Kristof and Olaf the same way.  

The only question she has left is how much of the ink will survive their first trip through the washer and dryer!

 
 
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photo credit: Alex Grichenko
This December, would you like a daily thought, song, scripture, story, and/or activity to help you feel more of the calm spirit of Christmas?  My friend Amy over at LDS Holistic Living has a Christmas Advent Calendar you can use or download for free.  It's designed specifically with members of the LDS faith in mind, but anyone can find great things in it.  If you're interested, you can get the calendar here.

Meanwhile, here's a sample:

The Real Story Behind the 12 Days of Christmas


Catholics in England were prohibited by law from practicing their faith, both in private and in public from 1558 to 1829. Being a Catholic was treated as a crime. There was no restored gospel at the time, however there were good Christians who knew without doubt the true church was not one that was mainly created merely for the convenience of King Henry the Eighth who wanted to sin and have a church justify his actions. So in secret they continued to teach their children their  religion. 

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England during this time frame. It was written to help children learn about their religion. The entire song is writing in symbolism and hidden meanings because it was illegal to have anything in writing that would indicate adherence to the Catholic faith. To be caught could mean imprisonment, hanging, or drawn and quartered.
Christmas referred to a twelve day period that starts with Christmas day. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" referred to a twelve day period that began Christmas day. While the world may have celebrated Christmas for about twelve hours, these Christians celebrated it for twelve days as a reminder that the gifts of God are with us for twelve months of the year. It also represented the idea that we should be thankful for the gifts of God and follow His teachings for all twelve months of the year and not just one day a year. 

The song begins, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." The "true love" represents God, as our greatest love should be for Him. The word worship means that which we love the most. The "me" who receives these presents is the Christian man or woman.

1. The "partridge in a pear tree" was Jesus Christ who died on a structure made from the wood of a tree. In ancient times a partridge was often used as mythological symbol of a divine, sacred king.

2. The "two turtle doves" were the Old and New Testaments - another gift from God. Doves symbolize peace and the Gospel contained in these scriptures, when practiced, brings peace.

3. The "three French hens" were faith, hope and love - the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (I
Corinthians 13). The French hens can also represent God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.

4. The "four calling birds" were the four Gospels which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

5. The "five golden rings" were the first five books of the Bible also called the "Books of Moses."

6. The "six geese a-laying" were the six days of creation.

7. The "seven swans a swimming" were "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit." (I Corinthians 12:8-11, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4:10-11)

8. The "eight maids a milking" were the eight beatitudes.

9. The "nine ladies dancing" were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22)

10. The "ten lords a-leaping" were the Ten Commandments.

11. The "eleven pipers piping" were the eleven faithful disciples.

12. The "twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of the Apostles' Creed.
 
 
This is actually an instrument.  Or a noise maker, depending on your perspective and the personality of the child holding it.  It's a variation of the Brazilian & African cuica, used in Samba music.  (See a video of an actual musician using a higher quality cuica on the YouTube video below. 

At any rate, this one can be made to make a clucking or 'gobble'y sound.  These are entertaining by themselves, or add it in to an impromptu marching-around-the-yard band!  You could have a whole flock of chickens or turkeys.

To make one, you'll need
A disposable plastic cup, googly eyes, paper/real feathers/paper or foam beak, an 18-20” length of cotton (not nylon) yarn, something to poke a hole with, a paperclip, dollar-bill sized piece of a paper towel, water.

Using a nail or whatever works, poke a hole in the top.  Thread the string through the hole, and tie the top end of the string onto a paperclip or washer, to keep it securely on the right side of the hole!    Decorate.

If you want to see someone make one and use it, see here.  

Have fun!
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To make the sound, while holding the clucker still with one hand, get a square of folded-over wet paper towel and grab the string, making quick yanks down the string.
 
 
Last week we had a lesson on the four seasons in the group of 5-and-unders that I teach in a homeschool co-op.

We started with four trees on a page; each tree gets something glued to it:

spring- popcorn
summer- tear bits of green construction paper, hole punch red paper for apples
fall- tiny brown leaves (I used honey locust) or torn brown paper bag
winter- drizzle school glue all over tree and across the base, the child uses a finger to spread it smooth; sprinkle with table salt.  

Their favorite was the winter tree! 

You  can even listen to Vivaldi's The Four Seasons while making these...

The full lesson is below, with activities and songs.  
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Print this full-page size. I printed them black and white because that's all my printer does...
Four Seasons lesson/activities
Materials needed:
music: Rain is Falling All Around, Popcorn Popping, Once There Was a Snowman, In the Leafy Treetops 
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons CD, CD player
Four Season discovery bottles
Autumn sensory box
4-tree papers (1 per child)
Popcorn kernels, popcorn popper, bowl with lid, spray bottle with water
Green construction paper
Red construction paper and a hole punchSmall colored leaves or yellow/orange paper
School glue
Salt
Wipes to clean hands
Crayons

Seasons song: Rain is Falling All Around (leaves are falling, snow is falling, sun is shining, wind is blowing)

Listen to The Four Seasons with eyes closed; what season does it sound like?  What do you see?  Dance to the music, pretending to be a something in that season: an unfurling leaf, a bird, wind blowing, snow falling...

Four Seasons bottles to pass around

Four seasons artwork: divide a page into 4 sections each has a tree outline?  Older ones can write seasons

Get the popcorn popper and kernels ready, sing "Popcorn Popping". Pop the popcorn.

While working on the summer trees, sing In the Leafy Treetops.

Winter:  use fingers to spread glue on the branches and below the tree; sprinkle on salt (or could paint with salt water on tree with a black construction paper background) Sing Once there Was a Snowman

Autumn sensory box for when done: a box full of things like a “Can You See?” book- things of different textures and warmth, things to find, things to count, crocheted apples,

Mist the leftover popcorn with the spray bottle, add salt.  Put the lid on and shake to coat.  


_________

Is including this lesson useful to anyone? Or should I stick with closer-to-homemaking posts?  
 
 
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Photo of the construction paper flag we made with this template to come... as soon as I can figure out what in the world my camera did with my photos!
Yes, I'll get some great recipes on this blog again soon... the reason it's been a bit is the same problem as above.  My camera is taking the pictures and burying them somewhere deep inside its circuitry. Sigh.

I'm teaching Joyschool to a group of children ages 1-5.  That's a huge spread in capability and ability to focus.  The group meets for two hours once a week, and has a focus on incorporating the scriptures into lessons. Since today is Constitution Day, I decided to teach them about the reason and purpose of the Constitution, plus the symbols of our flag and what the Pledge of Allegiance means.  I've learned to overplan and then be flexible- so there's a lot below.  :)

Materials needed

‘The Gift to Choose’ cube in a pretty box
Scriptures (Book of Mormon, D&C)
Constitution paper puppets (page 4 of the link, or see photo below)
Constitution puppet story (same as above)
Pictures of a school, church, plus an envelope
Map of the original 13 colonies
Map of the United States (I have a placemat map)
Marker or crayon
American flag- any size
flag pieces (red and blue construction paper) and silver star stickers (see picture below)
Music for “My Flag, My Flag” 
glue sticks or school glue


Section 1: God gave us the gift of Agency and the U.S. Constitution to protect it

Show the present, let someone open it to find the rolling cube inside.  Tell them that God gave us an amazing gift- the freedom to choose.  Let a few children take turns rolling the cube, read what it says.

Sing Do As I’m Doing (CS, - then ask, did I make you do this, or did you get to choose?

Read, then have them recite this scripture  3x: Wherefore, men are free … to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men (2 Nephi 2:27).

Tell the paper-puppet story of the Constitution (Constitution FHE manual, pg. 4).  God told us that gave us the Constitution to protect our right to choose (D&C 101:77).  We sometimes call this “liberty”.  (Have them repeat the word.)

Time for playing inside: US map puzzle for older ones?  Also let them use the cube and the finger puppets.   Also play outside for 10 minutes if weather is good: look for things that are red, white, and blue.

Section 2: The Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance

Today is a special day- show the colonies map and have the kids point out corresponding ones on the placemat map.   Count them with me while I circle them.

Show the flag, tell them it is a symbol of liberty and freedom.  Tell about the meaning of the 13 stripes (colonies and rays of light), and the stars (heaven and trying to reach it by following God, 50 stars/50states), and the colors (white: being pure and righteous, red: bravery and courage, blue: paying attention and sticking with what is true and right) = a symbol of liberty and freedom. (symbolism explained better in Supplemental Materials, at the end.)

Sing a song: My Flag, My Flag- have them wave their flags whenever you sing the word “wave”, or make up motions or dance.  Bring the music and use the piano, or the CD and a player.  

Tell about the Pledge of Allegiance

Recite it, say why we put our hand where we do, then talk about some of the words:

Pledge: a promise
Allegiance : to be faithful and helpful to it

So when you pledge allegiance to the flag, it means you promise to be faithful and helpful to liberty and freedom.

The United States: our country
Republic: the kind of government the Founding Fathers gave us, where we have power to choose our leaders.
Under God:  God is the most important, and helps the country when we’re righteous.
Liberty: we get to use our agency
Justice for all: the law is the same for everyone, no matter how old, young, rich, poor, or how they live.

End by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance together, then my testimony of God’s wisdom and love in giving the Constitution to us.
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Print this to fit a regular-sized piece of paper. Cut out blue construction paper to fit the proper place (mine- 4 3/8" x 3 3/8"). Cut red stripes- each one will need 4 short ones and 3 long ones- red is the first stripe at the top and the last at the bottom. (My red stripes were 1/2" wide, long ones 10 1/2", short ones 6 1/2")
Supplemental materials:

http://www.usflag.org/colors.html "The colors [of the Great Seal] of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness [bravery] & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."

Also this from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives:
"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

50 stars- states; 13 stripes- original 13 colonies  (bring in US placemat, color/circle the 13 in front of the kids)

Explaining the Pledge of Allegiance: http://www.ehow.com/info_10043483_explaining-pledge-flag-kids.html

Mormon Messages:  The Freedom to… http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2009-06-27-the-freedom-to?category=mormon-messages/mormon-messages-2009&&lang=eng

Read a  story  "Do As I'm Doing" at   

Scriptures  D&C 101:77, 80   the Lord caused Constitution to be established for protection and liberty D&C 134:1–5 (Governments are instituted of God for the benefit of mankind)

For an explanation of the need and purpose of the Constitution, see the FHE lessons for the Bicentennial, page 4 

My Flag, My Flag  http://www.lds.org/music/library/childrens-songbook/my-flag-my-flag?lang=eng, also on Youtube (at the :54 mark) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g88bnDkoHbc

My Country  http://www.lds.org/music/library/childrens-songbook/my-country?lang=eng

Schoolhouse Rock “The Preamble”

http://www.usflag.org/colors.html "The colors [of the Great Seal] of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness [bravery] & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."

Also this from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives...

"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

50 stars- states; 13 stripes- original 13 colonies  (bring in US placemat, color the 13 in front of the kids)

Explaining the Pledge of Allegiance: http://www.ehow.com/info_10043483_explaining-pledge-flag-kids.html
 
 
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Glue Stick Galaxy
The Milky Way galaxy, which we live in, is said to contain between 100 and 400 BILLION stars, of which our sun is one of the smaller ones.  The galaxy also has nebulae, asteroids, planets, comets, and more.  
This project was simply to help my children visualize a bit of how massive one galaxy is, as we were learning about the universe and its scale.

Start by looking at photos of galaxies.  Give each child a regular-sized piece of plain paper.  Have them draw a spiral using either school glue or a glue stick.  Very quickly sprinkle it with glitter and tip back and forth to cover.  The photo below shows what happens when there's a bunch of glue in the center.... it runs.  (Hey, a little more running on the upper side and it'd be a great barred galaxy!) 

Each tiny piece of glitter represents one star.  Look at your 'galaxy' closely for a while, then watch this video.

I used some gorgeous ultra-small glitter left from another project- so we did this outside.  On the patio, 20 feet from the house.  It wasn't far away enough.  Next time we'll do this over grass, so the glitter is less likely to get tracked back indoors!

After they've dried completely, put them in a plastic page protector to keep the glitter contained.  And marvel at what we're a part of.
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White School Glue Galaxy
 
 
There's nothing that stimulates creativity like boredom does.
My 15-year-old was bored yesterday and came up with this idea:

Draw on wood using the power of the sun.

Normally I'm not a fan of solar power:  a couple years ago, a solar panel manufacturing company was considering building in my city.   Our city council starting reading the research and crunching numbers, and eventually declined the move.  Why?  The council members discovered that when you add up everything it really takes to build and run a solar plant, it takes MORE energy to produce each panel that it will generate in its lifetime.  

Anyway, back to this solar-powered art:

A magnifying glass, when held close to something with bright sunlight behind it, creates a concentrated beam of light, as most any inherently pyromaniac 12-year-old boy might tell you.  

So he used that as his woodburning technique, holding the magnifying glass steady in one spot until a little wisp of smoke appeared, then moving it over a fraction of an inch.  (See the light beam below?)  He freehand drew it as he went, though you could sketch in pencil first (which is erasable!) and then burn over those lines.

Note: there are some safety considerations here, obviously.  One of them is keeping an eye on your child if they try this.  And I recommend doing this in a nice green grassy area that is not prone to catching fire.  Another is protecting yourself from the sun.  He wore a jacket with a hood, since he sat with his back to the sun for about 2 hours to make this.  Too bad he didn't think to put on pants instead of shorts.

Voila!  Wood burning with no specialty tools necessary except a cheap dollar-store plastic magnifying glass!

 
 
What happens when a favorite puzzle goes through six children and fifteen years?

I suppose it's impressive that the box even exists anymore, and that the puzzle pieces are still flat and whole.

But it was time for a new way of storing it.

The puzzle pieces fit nicely in a gallon-sized ziptop bag.  I cut out the top of the box so we'd still have the picture of what the puzzle looks like, then inserted it in the bag, too.   
As a bonus, it now takes up less space in the puzzle drawer!
 
 
OK, OK, I know it's a whole three days after Easter, but this is still fun.  We don't have to totally forget about a holiday after we've passed it, right?  (The real reason this is delayed is that I spent the last week in a beautiful, very green place with no phone connection, no cell phone signal, and no Internet connection.  This was ready to publish, I just couldn't get to the button.)  

How about something fluffy and NOT sugary?  This is a fun craft for kids anytime and has some deeper Easter meaning. It's simple but will keep them occupied for a little while.  How about making a whole flock of sheep?  He shall feed his flock like a  shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 41:11)

You'll need only 
  • 1 sheet of newspaper
  • Tape
  • Cotton balls
  • 4 straws
  • Glue
  • White paper
  • Black marker

You can find the instructions at http://www.lds.org/friend/2013/03/easter-activities?lang=eng

What about some other animals?