Toilet paper tube fall garland

With Thanksgiving just days away, I figured it was time to do a bit of holiday decorating. We always have a bountiful collection of toilet paper tubes hanging around just begging to be reused for some sort of crafty activity and came up with the idea to use them for a rustic fall garland. And this project is so easy, making it a perfect craft to do with toddlers — or kids of all ages.

It’s as easy as cutting the tubes into 1-inch sections and glueing on various fall goodies. The tot and I used real leaves and pinecones from the yard along with silk leaves I had hiding in the back of the craft drawer.

After letting the glued items dry over night, I popped holes in either side of the cut tube and then we strung with an orange ribbon. It looks just lovely over the fireplace and has us all in the mood for Thanksgiving.

And we discovered that the decorated cut toilet paper tubes also make adorable napkin holders.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Scented fall leaf lovelies

There’s nothing like the smell of fall, with its rich earthy smell of fallen leaves, a waft of something good baking  from someone’s kitchen, and the scent of cooler air. We are smack-dab in the beginning of our Northern California fall, which usually means some of the nicest weather we’ve seen all summer. With temperatures wonderfully in the upper 80’s — or even hotter, it sure doesn’t seem like autumn at all.

To get in the spirit the tot and I rolled out some scented dough for making fall leaves that will fill even a hot house with the smells of fall. And by using fallen leaves from around the house to create the indentions, these fall leaf lovelies look wonderful hanging in a window or anywhere in your home.


1/2 cup cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1/4 cup glue

3/4 cup applesauce


It’s as simple as mixing all the ingredients together. And even though you think they won’t form a dough, sure enough one forms. Cover and let rest in your fridge before rolling.

I rolled mine on one of the placemats I made the other day that have also turned into awesome project mats. If you don’t have a placemat, rolling on a length of parchment paper on your kitchen counter works wonderfully too. Go ahead and sprinkle the dough with flour if it seems too sticky. I covered my heavenly scented dough with a layer of plastic wrap and then rolled until about 1/4 inch thick. If you’ve got a tot that’s handy with a roller, she can help create a nice, level round.

Then we placed our leaves all over the place and rolled over the top. After removing the leaves, I used a big craft needle to trace around the edges and pop a hole at one end. Older kids can use a sharp pencil or the craft needle (with adult supervision) to do this step. Don’t worry about peeling the leaves from the placemat, just find a nice spot for them to dry out where they won’t be poked and squished by little fingers.

(OH – and these are NOT cookies. I had a bit of an issue explaining that to the tot, which was the only downfall of making these with a three-year-old.)

Let the leaves hang out overnight or place in the sun until they are dry. Now you can peel from the placemat and string with a length of colorful ribbon or string. Find the perfect spot for your scented fall leaf lovelies and enjoy the smell of autumn.


Fine art for kids: Pointillism fall tree

The season is changing and I’m not sure how happy I am about it. It’s been a lovely summer and the idea of getting out the warm sweaters doesn’t fill be any excitement. Where I live we sometimes have the best weather during September, October, and even November, so am still holding onto the hope that the temps will stay in the 70’s for a little longer. Or at least upper 60’s…

But there’s nothing stopping the leaves from their natural progression. It gets cold here at night, which causes those leaves to do what they do this time of year. There are pops of orange and yellow among the palm trees and redwoods, reminding us all in Northern California that it can’t be gorgeous all year round. It also reminded me of a few seasonal Impressionist paintings and was inspired to do a fun art activity with the tot that would also help hone her budding fine motor skills and interest in keeping things within the lines.

All those dots of fall color reminded me of Georges Seurat and his unique way of painting. You see, he created these grand paintings with just small dots of color. Up close you can see each and every carefully positioned dab of color but from a distance they blend together into a complete artwork. One of his most recognized artworks is Study for A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884If you are of my generation, you may remember it from the museum scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…

Such a great scene, right?!

But, back to the fall project. Get out a sheet of white paper and invite you child to draw a tree with a brown marker — just the trunk. If you’ve got a tot like I do, go ahead and help out by drawing the tree. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just go with it.

Squeeze out a small drops of red, yellow, and orange paint onto a sheet of scrap paper. Place a few cotton swabs next to the paints and encourage your tot to dip the top of a cotton swab into one color of paint and then dot around the tree to create dabs of color just like Georges Seurat.

Now your child can keep making more dots with another cotton swab dipped in the other autumn colors creating a fall tree full of small dotted leaves. Older kids can create tightly organized collections of dots around each branch of the tree while younger tots can enjoy the fun of popping colors all over the paper.

After your child is satisfied with her fall pointillism tree, find a place to display it for the rest of the family to enjoy. Don’t forget to check out how the artwork looks close up compared to from a distance!

Egg-citing egg carton crafts – perfect for Earth Day!

Earth Day is right around the corner, and with Easter just behind us, I’ve got a stock-pile of egg cartons just begging for repurposing. I had the opportunity to share my favorite ideas with, showcasing eight fun and simple ways to transform those egg cartons into something really special. Earth Day is all about celebrating nature and remembering to appreciate the Earth by reusing, repurposing, and recycling. These egg cup activities do all that – and more!

So head on over to to check out 8 Creative Egg Carton Crafts and get busy with your kiddies! Want more egg carton inspiration? Check out my adorable egg cup mask that the tot and I put together along with these other awesome egg carton activities.

Everyone is having fun with egg cartons!

Fine art for kids – Stamping with Marimekko

The wonderful thing about art is that it encompasses lots and lots of stuff. Sure, most think of fine art as the stuff you see hanging in museums, but art is all around us and totally influences everything from what we watch on TV to the clothes we wear.

While creating our fall leaf wreath the other day, it reminded me of this wonderful patterned fabric I’d come across from Marimekko. It’s colorful, crisp, and absolutely vibrant. Armi Ratia started the ball rolling in 1951 when she designed her fist dress – and it was a hit. Through the years, Marimekko has become one of the most respected textile companies dressing famously fabulous ladies for decades. Some might say Jacki-O put them on the map when she was photographed wearing a pink Marimekko dress during the Kennedy vs. Nixon election.

A woman’s company made for making women awesome, Marimekko is all about mod-design and embracing that inner flower power. The patterns are still living strong today and new designers keep things moving and grooving. So, while cleaning up our fall leaf wreath mess, I got an idea for a fabulous Marimekko inspired project.

Start by inviting your little designer to take a look at Marimekko’s designs focusing on the patterns and shapes. This project is great for kids of all ages – girls and boys. The Unikko fabric in orange and yellow is perfect inspiration for a fall flower stamping creation!

Offer your child a pencil and a sheet of scrap paper. Encourage her to free-form draw a few organic flower shapes. Organic shapes are free of sharp edges or jutting corners or lines. She can even shake out her hands and arms to get her in the organic shape making mood.

Once she’s created an organic flowery shape she’s satisfied with, your child can cut it out with a scissors and then trace it onto a piece of super-washed and dried styrofoam (yeah, that’s right, we used a meat tray for our stamps). Or a nice section of cardboard works wonderfully.

To create an easy-to-use stamp, offer a helping hand by taping a die or a small block to the back of the styrofoam, or cardboard, cutout.

For a fall inspired Marimekko stamped creation, your child can squeeze a bit of orange paint on a paper plate and start stamping away. She can create a pattern or random arrangement of her mod flowers. We experimented with color theory by mixing red and yellow paint together.

Once the flowers have dried, she can add details to the flowers using small circular items for stamping, such as bottle caps or round blocks. She can also use brushes and some black paint for adding stems. Your child can explore her ability for creating unique designs by working until she’s satisfied with the end result!

The finished Marimekko inspired stamp art can be displayed on the family fridge, or offer your child several sheets to keep on stamping and use her creations as placemats for Thanksgiving dinner!



Recycled fall leaf wreath

I had big plans for today, but the weather took a turn for the worse, and neither the tot, or I, were very motivated to do much of anything. While grabbing a few paper bags to take with us to run errands for a couple of very important rainy-day things, (yes, here in California we bring our shopping bags with us) got an idea for a festive fall leaf activity.

Recycled fall leaf wreath.

This is an easy activity to do with the kiddies and can be accomplished with real leaves or lovely silk ones. The tot and I gathered a few from the driveway before the rain got too crazy to mix with the fabric ones I had on hand. Then it was time to get out one of those garbage bags and create the base for the wreath.

Start by inviting your child to cut the sides and bottom of the bag so she has two flat pieces of paper.

Now your child can flip the bags so the writing sides are facing her and trace around the outside of a large mixing bowl with a washable black marker and then place a smaller bowl in the center of that circle and trace around it, too.

Get those scissors back out and cut out the large circle and then the center circle from both bags. Your child can flip the bags so the writing is facing the inside in preparation for the next step.

Just those two circles of paper bag are pretty floppy, so to give it some substance, grab a few plastic bags and a hot glue gun to stuff things up. If you’re working alongside a younger child, you might want to help with the hot glue gun part. But, older kids can do this step on their own (just offer assistance as needed). Encourage your child to use the hot glue gun to put a 3-inch line of glue around the outside and inside edges of the circle and then stuff with a bit of the plastic bag.

Your child can keep glueing and stuffing until the entire base of the wreath is finished. She’ll probably need about 2 plastic garbage bags to stuff the whole thing. Once things are all stuffed up tight, she can use the scissors to trim any spots where the black marker is showing.

Next your child can start glueing the leaves around the wreath using small drops of hot glue. She can layer the leaves however she’d like creating a densely filled leaf wreath or just highlight a few of her favorites.

Once your child is satisfied with her wreath, finish things off with a length of ribbon for hanging the wreath on the front door of your home!

Happy fall!

Fall leaf mobile

While cleaning out my craft drawer the other day I came across some fabric fall leaves I used for a project last year. My tot has really been into stringing beads lately and figured we could combine the two into a simple and beautiful autumn art activity.

Fall leaf mobile.

Stringing beads actually benefits fine-motor skills and encourages the understanding of mathematical concepts such as patterns and addition and subtraction. While your child is making this lovely fall project, she can explore color combinations and counting the beads on each string – or the whole mobile!

And if you don’t have silk leaves hanging around, real leaves will work, too. Just use extra-gentle hands while creating.

Gather the materials needed for the mobile including silk fall leaves, fishing line, mason jar lids (just the outside rings), scissors, colorful beads, and a whole punch. Now your child can brainstorm combinations of beads and leaves she’d like for her fall leaf mobile.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Next she can punch holes in the leaves and string with a one to two foot length of fishing line, securing with a knot. Help younger kids by tying on the leaves and then handing over for your child to string with beads.

Invite your child to string on as many, or as few, beads as she’d like. She can create patterns, single lengths of colors, or random combinations. When the lengths are finished, she can tie them onto the mason lid. About four or five beaded leaf strings creates a nicely balanced mobile. Finish things off with a one to two foot piece of ribbon or twine for hanging in an entry way or corner of a room.

Your child can continue stringing and beading more fall leaf mobiles and hang them all together for a really stunning autumnal display or give to friends and family as gifts!

Happy fall!

Marbled fall leaf prints

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The first full weekend of fall brought some cooler nights causing our yard to be covered with lots and lots of fallen leaves. While outside the other day the tot and I collected some of our favorites, which she painted with watercolor paints, smushed, and then tore to bits.

Hey, she’s 2. That’s what toddlers do.

But, it did inspire me to get out the paints and do a fun art activity perfect for kids 6 and up – and adults too.

Marbled fall leaf prints.

The finished prints can be used to create beautiful hand-made cards, for wrapping a special fall gift, or just as a nice decoration for the family fridge. Marbling paper has been an art technique since the early 1100’s in Japan and then started gaining more attention in the 1500’s in Turkey. This specialized art form was used as backgrounds for special documents and manuscripts. Eventually making its way to European artisans and bookmakers, marbled paper became widely recognized as a true craft that is respected and admired even today.

Usually accomplished with harsh chemicals and magic potions (no, not really – but yes, toxic), your child can explore the concept of marbling with the help of some ingredients from the kitchen and a bit of inspiration from those fall leaves.

Invite your child to head outdoors and gather some of her favorite fallen leaves in different shapes and colors. Once she’s happy with her collection, she can head indoors and brainstorm color combinations. She can also do a bit of research and take a look at examples of traditional marbled paper.

The warm colors – red, yellow, and orange – are usually associated with fall and are a perfect color set for creating vibrant marbled paper. But, if your child has her heart set on using other colors, encourage her creativity and let her see what her colors look like when they mix.

Start by getting out a 9×12 baking pan or tray and filling it with enough water so the bottom is just barely covered. Not only is this an exciting art activity – it’s encouraging science concepts, too! You see, oil and water don’t mix (they are insoluble), creating an interesting surface tension, which results in the marbling design. Oil has a lower density than water causing it to float happily on the top of the water.

Now invite your child to get out three paper cups and put a big squirt each color of tempera paint she selected in its own cup. She can then add a couple of drops of water to each cup and then mix to create slightly watered-down paints.

Next she can add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to the water in the pan and drip, drop, drip the yellow, red, and orange paint into tray. Offer her a chopstick to gently stir and move the oily paint water around.

Now she can float her paper on top of the water, lift, and then place flat on a sheet of newspaper. Your child can continue dripping and stirring the oily paint to create more marbled paper.

After the marbled paper has dried overnight, your child can create leaf prints on top of the paper by painting over her collection of leaves from outside with watercolor paint and then pressing and lifting from the marbled paper.

The finished marbled fall leaf prints are just beautiful!

Fall leaf spray-painting

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I feel like the last days of fall are upon us. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to get ready for winter. The Christmas ornaments come out, everyone’s blaring holiday songs, and the snow starts drifting down (well, not at my house). I figured it was our last chance to do a fun fall art activity. Because, starting Monday, it’s all about cooking and cleaning (and not stressing) for turkey day!

Leaves are really beautiful things. Just like snowflakes, no two are exactly the same. They each have different little bumps, curves, colors or lines, which makes fall leaves so wonderful. The wee tot and I headed outdoors for a fall leaf hunt and selected a few to use for our project.

I helped her get started by placing some small bits of rolled tape on the back of the leaves so she could press them onto a paper. Older kids could roll the tape and position the leaves themselves, which encourages fine-motor skills and creativity!

Now, before the babe could pull the leaves off the paper and crumble them to bits, I handed her a spray bottle filled with some water-downed red tempera paint. I showed her how to press the top of the spray bottle and she kept herself quite busy trying to get it to work for several minutes. I helped her out by covering the paper with a couple of good squirts. Your child can keep spraying her paper until it is evenly covered with one color, or fill another spray-bottle with a different water-downed tempera paint color for her to use, too.

Then, the really really fun part. I saturated a paint brush with some yellow watercolor paint and let her splatter the paper. Kids of all ages love to splatter paint, which is great – but super messy. So, make sure you’re working in an area clear of white fabric, carpeting, or, you know, pretty much anything you care about.

Encourage your child to try a different color of watercolor paint to splatter all over her leaves to see how the colors blend. Not only is she having a great time making a colorful mess, she’s learning about color and how color mixing works!

Let the painting dry for a couple of hours and then gently remove the taped leaves from the paper, revealing the leaf shapes surrounded by lots of color!

Help your child find a special place to display her finished project – or make several more to use as place mats for Thanksgiving!

Fall leaf garland

© Sarah Lipoff

Between fits of screaming, crying, and general temper-tantrums yesterday, the babe and I actually came together to create a fun and cute simple art activity. She isn’t adjusting well to the whole “turn-the-clocks-back” thing and has decided sleeping is no longer essential. I, however, still need a little shut-eye at night and have stood up to her “shoooooes” murmurings at 2 am.

So, after her super-short hour-long nap yesterday, instead of enduring her fits of orneriness, I tossed her in the stroller (while she was uber-crying) and headed out with a determined smile on my face. After a couple of minutes, we both felt better and were ready to enjoy a lovely afternoon walk. The weather was perfect and those leaves were just calling to us to be used in some sort of fun art activity.

I selected some for the babe to hold while we walked and tossed a few under the stroller for later. By the time we headed back to the house, I had a great collection of colorful and local fall leaves. I spread them out on the table and got out the hole punch. My daughter is a bit young to punch holes, but leaves aren’t very thick or tough, so she was able to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze away her frustrations and get a couple of holes in a few of the leaves. I helped her out by putting holes in the rest.

Then, I searched around the house for a length of ribbon hiding somewhere. Once it was discovered, we sat down to thread the leaves with the ribbon to create a special fall garland to be hung along the mantel. Yeah, I did most of the threading, but my daughter sure was caught up trying to get the ribbon through the hole, which is great for building her hand-eye coordination and fine-tuning the small muscles in her hands.

And, it kept her occupied and busy for almost 20 minutes! WIN!

This is also the time of year to dig out all the fun fall books that along with entertaining your wee tot also educate. I came across We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger the other day, and we have tons of fun reading it together. We pretend we’re reaching up to grab the leaves off trees, attempt to say the colors of the fall trees, and then actually head outdoors and GO on a leaf hunt like the kids in the book. All in all a wonderfully fun learning experience. And, the book also introduces kids, in a simple way, to different types of trees and their characteristics. While we finished threading, I gave the book another read, which sure made finding the colors in the leaves in front of us even more fun – and great for my daughter’s color recognition skills!

After we had finished the fall leaf garland and hung it on the mantel to show dada when he got home, we were both ready to enjoy the rest of the evening. And, we both found our new decoration quite nice. In fact, my daughter spent a good amount of time enjoying some imaginary play pretending to make several more garlands to hang on her play kitchen while I quietly observed from the couch loving the show.