family time
Arts and Crafts
Of the Not-so-Usual Type

This season, turn a new leaf by expanding the way you do the common arts and crafts with your kids.

Use your typical kidís washable paint in new ways and on unexpected surfaces to get more mileage out of your projects. Give your brushes a rest and try using Q-tips, sponges (cut into interesting shapes), cotton balls, old toothbrushes or even yarn or string (dip and then drag). Take a peek in your kitchen drawer for tools that might make interesting prints - potato mashers and slotted spoons are good choices. If you donít want to use utensils, try the refrigerator; apples, pears and potatoes make terrific prints and are disposable. If you choose apples, donít forget to cut them horizontally through the middle first to look for the star.

With the holidays just around the corner and birthdays always around every corner, try painting on the inside of paper bags or roll out a sheet of butcher block paper to create homemade wrapping paper for your gifts. This is a fun way to use a young childís masterpieces when youíve run out of space to display. Tempera paint is great on aluminum foil; just roll out a square and tape the ends down to prevent slipping.

Baby food jars are terrific for older children to paint on. Once they are painted they make great barrettes or trinket holders. Most baby food jars are also the perfect size to hold votive candles. For children too young to paint on glass, rocks make a good alternative whether they just have fun with color or turn the rocks into creatures, rocks are a safer medium for the two-year-old crowd. Safer still, plastic containers headed for the trash can become a work of art or a holiday gift. Also, save a few egg cartons; they make perfect disposable mixing trays.

Finally, for the youngest artists, paint bags are a great first step. Add a few spoonfuls of paint to a plastic bag and seal tight, then use masking tape to secure the top to make sure the seal is secure. Let your child mush the paint around without any mess. Later, you can add colors to the bag and watch the colors change as they mix. Older toddlers can use rollers to add some fun.

Hunt for the perfect pumpkin and pick up a few small ones to paint. This also makes a great party activity for a fall birthday. If you canít make it to the pumpkin patch, create your own little "pumpkins" by stuffing a brown lunch bag with leaves or newspaper. Tie off the top for a stem and paint. Gather leaves and do a rubbing with crayons and white paper. Make a collage by sticking beautiful colored leaves to clear contact paper, fold over to seal and display in a sunny window.

By looking at the usual in unusual ways you will get lots of new ideas to keep your kids busy all year long!

Submitted by Alison Kaufman, mother of two.


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