Friday, July 27, 2012

A Sense of Wonder: Our Top 10 Sensory Play Items

Earlier this week, we posted our top 10 arts and crafts supplies (and projects using them) and we promised to post our favorite sensory play items.  There are actually a ton of legit reasons to engage your kiddos in sensory play, but we do it because we like to get messy and use our imaginations.  And mom has certainly found it to be a helpful way to keep us cool during the late afternoons this summer.

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(1)  Water Beads -- By far our most favorite sensory play item, water beads are actually used commercially by the floral industry.  Involve your kiddos in soaking them and watching them grow.  We like to sort and pour them, but cutting and squishing them is really tops.  Kane used them recently in his imaginary kitchen to make "fruit salad" by cutting up "the fruit."  We've purchased them from several different stores on, including this set.

(2)  Water Table -- Cami received a super awesome sand/water table for her birthday this year and we use it almost every day.  We love to use ours for playing with water beads and ice, but some days all we do is play with water.  We've set up pretend kitchens, zoos, and pirate battles.  And, a tropical water table never hurt anybody.

(3)  Light Box -- Mom made us small lightboxes for Christmas last year and although we generally use them more during the winter (it's just easier when it's darker outside), they've seen their fair share of playtime this summer.  Two of the sensory ideas we request most for the light box are baggie painting and water beads.

(4)  Textured or Scented Playdough --  Plain old playdough is a pretty good sensory experience all on its own, but we like to mix it up and add texture and scents.  We had a ton of fun making applesauce  cinnamon dough and you can't go wrong with chocolate.  We love to pretend we are running a restaurant or bakeshop with our scented dough and use cookie or pastry cutters, serving dishes, and birthday candles to do it up right.  And, while it's not technically playdough, we had a real blast with the cloud dough we made.

(5)  Colored Rice --  This isn't mom's most favorite, because it inevitably gets everywhere and tracked throughout the house, but we both will spend a lot of time playing with it.  Mom usually puts it in a large plastic container and adds some different kitchen accessories or toys for us to use -- like this or this.

(6)  Colored Spaghetti -- We've colored spaghetti to use in a sensory bin and used plain spaghetti for painting as well.  It can be a little difficult with little toddlers who inevitably try to eat it (it IS food), but they also love the squishy, slippery feel of it.  Give it a try!

(7)  Ice -- For some reason we are fascinated with ice and both crowd the ice maker fort the shot to snag a runaway cube.  Our favorite ice activities include watching the reaction between ice, salt, and water colors and playing with colored ice shapes in our water table.

(8)  Jello --  Mom cannot figure out why kids love jello so much.  She recalls begging her mom to get her one of those grocery store jello molds when she was a little girl and then being totally grossed out by it.  So now we use it for all kinds of things other than eating it, including our recent attempt at jello sculptures.  But wouldn't it be fun to fill up a bathtub or small pool with jello?  Hm....

(9)  Shaving Cream -- We love to make bathtub paint out of shaving cream and our attempts at shaving cream marbling usually turn into a shaving cream free-for-all.  But mom also frequently just fills up a few small buckets with the stuff and lets us have at it.  But, keep in mind, the stuff cheap enough to use nilly willy, smells, well, cheap.  And, we haven't tried it yet, but have heard that shaving cream and some water beads in a bin make for some super sensory fun.

(10)  Giant Squish Bag --  The least easy to make sensory supply on our list, the giant squish bag was loved by all who played on it (for the 20 minutes it lasted).  Giant squish bag, we will make you again and we will kick your A the next time.  And if you don't want to try and make one, but have a back yard you're willing to lend, let us know.  We'll be there with plastic sheeting and bells on.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blame it on the Alcohol: Tie Dyed Coffee Filters

It may have had us feeling a little dizzy (not really), but the rubbing alcohol we used to "tie dye" the coffee filters we colored with permanent markers wasn't wowing any of us.  We've seen lots of sharpie tie dye this summer (like this) and thought we'd give it a go with coffee filters (as we didn't have any spare t-shirts, but we have plenty of coffee filters).  Mom tried it first by rubber banding it on to a yogurt cup, but the alcohol saturated quickly and fell into the cup instead of spreading out through the filters.  So we tried it by just putting the filter on the table and it worked, but it wasn't anything spectacular.  We did find that it worked best when we covered most of the space with marker, but that only lasted the first or second coffee filter (we are king and queen of the "one mark on a page").  HOWEVER, mom refuses to call this a FAIL because we both spent a lot of time doing it (which these days is prime criteria for a successful project).  I'm sure we'll give t-shirts a go soon because mom can't stand not getting things to work the way she wants (which is likely why she spent almost 48 hours in labor with Kane until the dr. ordered an emergency c-section.  funny thing, she scheduled her c-section of me almost immediately after seeing that + sign).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pretty in Pink: Watermelon Blueberry Popsicles

Cam and I are on a real fruit strike, which mom says makes no sense given how much summer fruit rocks right now.  But when do we ever have a rational explanation for one of our campaigns?  In any event, we do like watermelon and mom and I looked through some recipes to make watermelon popsicles.  I picked out one that used blueberries to look like the seeds, which mom was slightly worried about since neither one of us eats blueberries.  Correction, we actually do like frozen blueberries, but she was skeptical.  Turns out we do like frozen blueberries, but not when they are in popsicles.  Obvi.  So we ate these, but spit out the blueberries, which mom thought was just fantastic.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Saw You in a Park of a Courtyard: Kogod Courtyard and National Portrait Gallery

We have been trying to fit in a visit to the National Portrait Gallery for some time, but have a hard time because it doesn't open until 11:30 a.m.  During the week, that runs pretty close to the time we have to get Kane from school and on the weekend, 11:30 is a late start for us.  Mom and I popped in yesterday to take a look and ended up spending most of our time in the Kogod Courtyard eating lunch (after spending most of the morning "shopping" in the nearby Forever 21 store waiting for the Portrait Gallery to open).  As far as we're concerned, the Kogod Courtyard and the Courtyard Cafe are a destination in and of themselves.  It's cool, it's quiet, and they serve up grilled cheese and tomato soup.  And there is a pretty neat water feature running the length of the courtyard, too.

We did take a few minutes to check out some of the Portrait Gallery and to run up to the American Art Museum's exhibit on video games (the American Art Museum and the Portrait Gallery share space), which mom wanted to check out for Kane.  She seemed pretty psyched that they had giant Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros. games, but I wasn't interested.  We don't have any video games (although at one point we also didn't used to watch t.v., so there's hope yet), but older kids would probably like this exhibit and parents who grew up in the 80s would get a kick out of it, too.

If you are looking for other activities in the area, the Martin Luther King public library is right across the street and has Baby/Toddler storytime Fridays at 10:30 a.m. and Tales for Twos and Threes Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.  The Spy Museum is also a stone's throw away if you have older kids and want to spend some dough.  And the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro stop (green/yellow/red lines) is literally right outside the building.

accessories shopping at Forever 21 --  i was pretty psyched about the hot pink 
rubber coin purse and lip chaps i got

waiting for Portrait Gallery to open

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'd Like to be a Gallery: Our Top 10 Arts & Crafts Supplies

As summer camps come to an end and the dog days of summer settle in, we've started to hear from people that they want to do artsy stuff with their kiddos, but just don't know where to start.  We have absolutely no special knowledge or education on the subject, but we love to trade ideas and thought it might be helpful to pull together our top ten arts & crafts supplies and our favorite projects using them.  Mom approaches arts and crafts with toddlers/preschoolers with two things in mind: (1) like whisky, there is no such thing as bad art; and (2) if it looks like an adult made it, they probably did -- meaning, she tries to focus on the process and not the product.  (that being said, she's definitely had to stop herself from prying paintbrushes out of our hands before).  Now have at it!

And keep your eyes peeled for our favorite sensory play supplies - we hope to have that post up later this week!

Oh, and as some of you know, we are Discount School Supply affiliates and the links below to DSS are affiliate links.  If you click on any of these links (or the general DSS link on the right hand side of our blog) and make a purchase, we will receive a small percentage of the sale from DSS.  So do us a solid and help support our arts and crafts habit -- if you are going to buy something from DSS, do it through Not-So-SAHM!  Scroll down for links to purchase our favorite arts and crafts supplies.

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(1)  Biocolor Paints -- we were big fans of these paints long before we became DSS affiliates.  Unlike traditional tempera paint, biocolors don't really mix together, which means that all your toddler's art work will not end up brown.  You can make stickers, resist art, and even use it for fabric stenciling.  Our most favorite biocolor paint projects are super easy printmaking (especially for younger toddlers) and scraper painting.

(2)  Homemade Playdough -- mom finds she gets the biggest bang for her buck when she involves us in making the dough.  If your kiddos are too young to do the actual cooking, let them scoop, measure and mix.  Or make no-cook playdough (which isn't our favorite, but is still better than the commercial thing).  Here's the recipe for our most favorite cooked playdough -- our favorite artsy playdough activity is using markers to color blank dough!

(3)  Bleeding Tissue Paper -- we make lots of stained glass and suncatchers with this art tissue paper that "bleeds" when you wet it.  That also means you can almost paint with it.  We loved making Hannukah stained glass with it, but you could use any stencil to make a stained glass "frame" for it.  Half the fun is getting to tear it into pieces!

(4)  Homemade Bathtub Paint -- mom loves letting us art in the bathtub - we inevitably get messy and having us already in the tub means super easy cleanup.  We liked the cornstarch/baby soap recipe we made, but probably favor brightly colored shaving cream tub paint.

(5)  Salad Spinner -- mom loves the minimal mess of painting with a salad spinner and we love the element of surprise.  Heavyweight paper (like DSS tagboard) cut into a shape that fits into the bottom and tempera or biocolor paints is all you need, but our favorite project reused cardboard egg cartons to make super cool flowers.

(6)  Acrylic Easel -- we've been loving outdoor art this summer and the acrylic easel mom made us has been in heavy rotation.  "Made" is probably too generous -- she duct taped together two pieces of acrylic paneling.  We've done some bleeding tissue paper painting with the easel, but plain ol' paint has probably been our favorite.

(7)  Glitter Glue -- one of Kane's most favorite things to "paint" with -- looks especially cool when used on black paper.  We've switched to larger glue bottles because we use up the glitter pens so quickly -- check out the link to DSS glitter glue bottles below.

(8)  Liquid Watercolors -- these are washable, easily dilutable, and just plain easy for toddlers to use.  Our top two favorite liquid watercolor projects are spray painting coffee filters and painting paper lanterns.

(9) Washable Markers -- nothing complicated here, but markers have been keeping both of us occupied recently for long periods of time.  Kane has really started drawing representationally (stick people, animals, things in the environment) and spends a lot of time lately drawing at the table or easel with washable markers.  Cami likes to join in and does a lot of scribbling.  Mom is working on some project to incorporate the incredibly large volume of marker drawings we are generating, but also favors the acrylic and whiteboard easels we have for their temporary art.  Mom hopes to get up a post highlighting Kane's new drawing skills soon, but for the meantime, you can check out the mean circles he was practicing at the beginning of this year.  We like to use DSS's lightweight sulphite paper for our everyday marker drawing (see link below) and we have IKEA's incredibly reasonably priced art easel, which has a whiteboard, chalkboard, and a paper roll dowel.

(10)  Butcher Paper -- although we occasionally use this paper for making art itself, it is mom's LIFESAVER for almost all arts and crafts that go on inside our house.  She keeps a giant roll nearby and covers our dining room table with it before we even get to sit down.  And sometimes it even turns out to make surprising art itself -- we've used it to make homemade wrapping paper before.

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Complete BioColor Paint Kit Complete BioColor Paint Kit
This kit is loaded with fun and value. BioColor kit includes the supplies to make 10 different classroom activities right away! Make stickers ornaments fabric paint projects shimmery metallic paint resist art projects marble paint crafts glitter paint reverse paint designs everyday easel paintings or table top painting and much more. The detailed video and brochure give you simple instructions for over 50 project ideas.

BioColor Paint 16 oz. BioColor Paint 16 oz.
BioColor does it all! It's so versatile - use with brushes spatulas or our paint accessories. It spreads and adheres easily to paper plastic wood metal cardboard. It shines brilliantly when dry and won't crack or fade with age! Use for fabric painting sticker art and marbling projects or make multi-colored putty!

20 x 30 Colorations Premium Bleeding Tissue Paper - 100 Sheets 20 x 30 Colorations Premium Bleeding Tissue Paper - 100 Sheets
Our premium art tissue is perfect for making arts and crafts projects of all types.

Extra Sturdy Tagboard - 100 Sheets Extra Sturdy Tagboard - 100 Sheets
Heavy yet inexpensive 125 lb. weight tagboard paper is perfect for painting construction charts and craft projects. Matte finishing on front and back.

Colorations Glitter Glue - Set of 6 Colorations Glitter Glue - Set of 6
A whole new way to paint decorate and do collage with beautiful glitter glue! This set of 6 bottles includes: blue gold green purple red and silver. Each bottle is 4 ozs. Bottles have a nozzle tip for easy dispensing. Great with our Nancy Bottles for detailed work.

Jumbo Glitter Glue Pens - Set of 24 Jumbo Glitter Glue Pens - Set of 24
These pens add glamour to ordinary art projects and are easy for preschool hands to hold! Top opens and closes effortlessly for a smooth and even application.

Colorations Classic Colors Liquid Watercolor Paints 8 oz. - Set of 13 Colorations Classic Colors Liquid Watercolor Paints 8 oz. - Set of 13
This washable water-based paint is the economical solution for classroom watercolor painting projects. Paint can be used straight from the bottle for ultimate brilliance and convenience. Use Liquid Watercolor on paper wood fabric and filters for hours of endless fun. Pair Liquid Watercolor with bingo bottles droppers spray bottles or even just a brush to create unique designs and unforgettable artwork! Non-toxic and AP Certified. Made in USA by Discount School Supply. Colorations Liquid Watercolor Is...

Liquid Watercolor Tissue Paper Lanterns - Set of 12 Liquid Watercolor Tissue Paper Lanterns - Set of 12
A beautiful decoration that will brighten any room! Use spray bottles or brushes to paint these tissue-paper lanterns with Liquid Watercolor (do not overly saturate). For even more dazzle enhance with Gold or Silver Liquid Watercolor accents or add glitter sequins or rhinestones! Each measures 5Dia. Not intended for use with candles or light bulbs.

Liquid Watercolor Texas Snowflakes Liquid Watercolor Texas Snowflakes
Super thick absorbent filters. Use with Colorations Liquid Watercolor in Bingo Bottles spray bottles or plastic droppers for beautiful bright bleeding effects. Great for making hats or cutting giant colorful snowflakes. Sold in sets of 35 and 50 or purchase a set of all 3 sizes.

Spray Bottles 4oz. - Set of 12 Spray Bottles 4oz. - Set of 12
Use stencils templates or your own shapes to produce a design. 4 ounce easy-grip plastic bottles set of 12.

Colorations Super Washable Chubby Markers - Set of 16 Colorations Super Washable Chubby Markers - Set of 16
Holds 4.2 grams of SUPER washable ink. Sturdy nylon conical tip is pointed for making both fine lines and filling large coloring spaces.

White Sulphite Paper - 500 Sheets White Sulphite Paper - 500 Sheets
Budget friendly recycled 50 lb. bright white sulfite paper is perfect for drawing and thick paint projects. 80 lb. sulfite paper provides maximum sizing for excellent paint retention and drawing. 500 sheets per package.

Butcher Paper Rolls Butcher Paper Rolls
40-lb. butcher paper rolls are an economical thickness for drawing with markers crayons pencils chalk collage projects and some paints.