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Crafts with Kids Family

Crafts with Kids – Planning a Handmade Year

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

OK, so our 12 Days of Christmas theme with all handmade ornaments of the 364 items mentioned in the song didn’t actually get finished. We only got 256 items done by Christmas, but the tree was full and the kids and I had a blast. To carry on with the fun, we’ve decided to hand make just about every decoration this year for every holiday, including cards.

We’ve begun our February project with a Valentine’s banner. We began with the cutting out of an ample supply of hearts. To fancy them up we’ve been using craft scissors to give them different kinds of lace-like edges. To add to the creativity we’ve been using construction paper and scrapbooking paper with different designs on them. These hearts work for decoration and as Valentines to give out to classmates.

Once upon a time, before the commercialization of holidays and card giving, handmade was the only option. When printers began to manufacture cards some people were even snubbed for not taking the time to hand write their own messages. This Valentine’s Day we are bringing back that tradition of making our Valentine’s personal to the ones we give them to.

How this idea will play out for the rest of the year is anyone’s guess. My daughter has already been telling me all the things we can do for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Spring, birthdays and more. She loves the idea so much that I don’t see how we can do otherwise. Plus as I have been a collector of art supplies for years with requests from family members to give art supplies as gifts we are well stocked for the task. This is looking like a fun project and a way to be frugal at the same time while also making everything more personal. With a combination like that it seems like a win-win all around to me.

I would love more ideas, though to be honest even with planning sometimes the best things we do happen with us making it up as we go along. It’s the fun of the adventure.

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Crafts with Kids

Fridge Magnets Make Frugal but Meaningful Fathers Day Gift

by Shadra Bruce

There is something so meaningful about receiving a gift made with love by a child. With Father’s Day coming, it’s a great time to think about helping your child make a homemade gift dad can keep forever. These are the treasures that often outlast most store-bought trinkets. One of the easiest crafts you can make with your children is a refrigerator magnet –  a perfect gift with a ready-made display location.

Picture frame magnets are the most popular magnets, and your child’s ability to be creative is pretty unlimited. Gather some photos, magnets, and craft supplies – seashells, popsicle sticks, macaroni, felt scraps, or anything else you have around.

You’ll also need a glue gun and a piece of cardboard or cardstock; everything else on the magnet is up to your imagination! Glue the picture to the center of the cardboard that you’ve cut to about three inches (square or circle or your own shape). This is where the creativity happens! On your piece of cardboard around the picture, you can glue macaroni or dried flowers, nuts and bolts, fishing lures or buttons – anything you can think of – to decorate the “frame” of the picture. Glue the magnet to the back of the cardboard frame and you’re ready to wrap!

You can also make picture frame magnets using Popsicle sticks, foam cut-outs or clay. Another handy magnet craft you can make with your kids is to use a clothespin to make a clip to hold items on your fridge or on a metal office desk. Using wooden clothespins, glue the magnet on the back. The front can be decorated by gluing items to it or using a marker or calligraphy pen to write the person’s name on it. It’s an inexpensive and useful gift for anyone, and your kids will have so much fun making them.

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Frugal Living Let's Talk

Summer on a Budget

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

As the days seem to speed closer to the inevitable summer vacation, it’s time to start seeing what’s out there for cheap, if not free. So to really kick off my summer as Mommy Activities Director I did the first thing that all mothers do, I asked my mommy friends for ideas. After asking around, doing some online research and playing tourist of my area I came up with some great resources.

  • Movies: Many theaters offer special summer movies that range from $1 to $2.50; a few even offer free showings. Many theaters offer a kids value pack of some kind with popcorn, drink and candy.
  • Public Library: Check with your public library and get a membership if you haven’t already. Public libraries offer way more than book lending. Many have story times, and other great programs throughout the year for both children and adults.
  • United Arts Council: By checking with your local arts council you can tap into all kinds of activities going on in your area with local museums and other cultural events throughout the year, like music in the park.
  • Community Bulletin Boards: These tend to exist in grocery stores, local coffee shops, and some local restaurants. Among the business cards and various for-sale ads are often flyers for local fun events that are area specific.
  • Churches: Even if you don’t attend regularly or even at all, many churches host activities open to the public that are kid friendly.  Ticket prices tend to be low and the money goes to a good cause.

Depending on your location and proximity to major cities, you may be able to find more opportunities if you look. These are just a few that seem to be universal for anyone in the continental U.S.

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Frugal Living Let's Talk Travel

Cheap Weekend Escapes

by Shadra Bruce

When your budget is shot, your kids are bored, and you just need an escape, it’s time to think outside of the box! Here are some fun ideas for a getaway that won’t break the bank.

Spring is here, and lots of people are dreaming of hitting the road. Everyone likes to get out of town for a weekend now and then, if for no other reason than to enjoy room service and an indoor heated pool with no beds to make the next day. With fuel costs becoming the most expensive part of travel, why not book a room at a local hotel?

Whether you and your family do nothing but laze by the pool for the weekend or literally become tourists in your own town, this is a fun and inexpensive option for a weekend getaway. Bonus: no getting lost or having to ask for directions to get where you want to go.

If even the thought of a hotel bill is more than you want to contemplate, arrange a weekend house swap with a friend or family member in a nearby town. They’re probably just as eager as you to get away for a weekend. A little planning on your part and they’ll feel like it’s a hotel, too: put out fresh towels, put fresh sheets on the beds and leave a gift basket of fresh fruit in the entryway.

Have a vacation at home! Wake up and leave the beds unmade and the dishes in the sink. Cancel all the weekend chores, order out for pizza, rent a movie, and make some popcorn.

OK, so this is not the same as gallivanting off to Paris for the weekend, but it beats hearing “I’m bored” one more time, and the change of pace can lead to a change of attitude!

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Crafts with Kids

Crafts for Kids: Hand-Decorated Tees

The great thing about this kid-friendly craft is that it can be as simple or as extravagant as you choose to make it, and all you really need are plain t-shirts in any color. T-shirts make great gifts and can also be a fun project. This is a fun and easy – and memorable project. Best of all, you can recycle shirts you already own, especially the ones with the small stains that would otherwise be tossed out. (Just make sure your decorating project will cover the stain).

Take a few minutes before you involve the kids to iron the shirts. The smooth surface will make decorating easier, and the kids will be able to model the shirts for you after they’re done.

Make sure the t-shirts are clean and dry. Spread the shirt out on a table where you have a sturdy, flat work surface. To keep the paint or marker from bleeding through, slip a piece of cardboard in between the front and back of the shirt. From this point forward, your t-shirt is a blank canvas awaiting your child’s imagination! Your son can draw a picture of himself with grandpa or dad out fishing to give for Father’s Day or Grandparents Day. Immortalize your kids’ hands or feet by dipping them in fabric paint and making hand or foot prints on the t-shirt. These are always a hit with grandma.

If your daughter is having a birthday party or sleepover, buy or find big shirts for the group and let the girls decorate sleep shirts. If you have a cheerleader or other athlete in the family, making team shirts is a great team building and bonding exercise. You can even keep the iron hot and add iron-on transfers to the shirts.

Turn your kids’ creativity loose with this fun and inexpensive project!

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Let's Talk Parenting

Color Coded Easter Fun

Easter is just around the corner, and in our household, the Easter Egg hunt has always been a big deal. We have traditionally had a large group of kids in a wide range of ages participating in the hunt. If there are a lot of children in your family, you know that even the closest of siblings and cousins don’t always get along. It can be especially bad if the kids don’t think they’re being treated fairly, or if they think one child is getting more than another. You can avoid all of the stress and have tons of fun by planning an Easter egg hunt for your group of kids that will ensure no fighting.

All that you need to pull off the fun are a bunch of plastic eggs and the loot to fill them. What makes this Easter egg hunt stress-free and lots of fun is color coding. Assign each child a specific color of egg. Fill the eggs with M&Ms or other small candies, or with other less sugary treasures (filling the eggs can be done a week or more ahead of time if needed).

If the kids are different ages, color coding eggs lets you hide eggs for older kids in more challenging spots, while the eggs for younger children, in their own personal color, can be hidden in more obvious spots. There’s no fear that the older kids will take the younger kids’ eggs as easy finds and no worry that any child will feel they didn’t get their fair share since each child has the same number of eggs to find.

Since each child has his or her own color to search for, even your toddlers can participate fairly in this egg hunt. So can your teenagers; we buy the mini plastic eggs for an added challenge! Even

Not only does the color-coded hunt reduce the friction among the children, but makes for a stress-free holiday for moms and dads, too. You know ahead of time exactly how many eggs each child is seeking, so you’ll know (and so will they) when they’ve found them all. For a special treat, buy one large plastic egg in each color for a bigger prize, like a small toy.

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Crafts with Kids

Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas

The holidays are coming, but they aren’t the only drain on your finances this time of year. Utility costs go up, too. Sometimes, it seems like the gifts people are buying are not ones that have a lot of thought put into them but simply allow another person to be checked off the list. It can be a real balancing act trying to buy gifts for everyone on your list while still making ends meet, but you can keep it meaningful and heartfelt without breaking the bank. Here are some frugal gift ideas that can help stretch your budget and give your loved ones gifts with meaning:

For Kids

  • Instead of buying another toy that will end up broken, give the gift of time. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, moms and dads can give the gift of special time doing something your child loves doing, from going to a movie to spending an afternoon bowling. Simply create a gift certificate the child can redeem.
  • Books or a magazine subscription. Not only is this the kind of gift that keeps giving, but you’re promoting brain power.

For Grandparents and other special relatives

  • If you have family members who seem to already have everything, give them something special like a family video, photo book, or photo calendar. You can make them using your home computer without needing a lot of technical skill.
  • Homemade Christmas ornaments that you and your children make together not only let you bond but provide gifts for family members that they’ll cherish for years to come.
  • If you have a couple with young children in your family, babysit! There’s no better gift.

Friends, Neighbors, Teachers

  • Rather than spend a lot of money trying to say thank you to everyone who touches your life, give them something more special: a tray of your famous fudge, or a book of your favorite family recipes.
  • Make homemade coupon books with coupons redeemable for free lawn raking or snow shoveling; offer to help grade papers for your child’s teacher. The gift of time is always precious.

The holidays aren’t about how much money you spend or how high you can get the limit on your credit card. It’s about taking that moment to let the people who touch our lives know how much we appreciate them. Let your gifts show them how you feel.

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Frugal Living

Charity Weekends

Around the holidays, local soup kitchens and other charitable organizations are inundated with volunteers. Families want to do something special to help others for the holidays; corporations encourage their employees to get involved. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, awareness of problems and a willingness to help increase, but when the holidays are over the needs of your community don’t disappear. It’s a great opportunity to teach your children that volunteering and donating time is a lifestyle not just a holiday tradition.

The great part about volunteering is that it is a very family-friendly activity and the needs in your community are so varied that it is easy to find some way to help that allows you to use your skills and talents – or perhaps working in an area of interest you and your family might have. For example, if you have members of your family who have been touched by cancer, there are several organizations who would love your help. The American Cancer Society hosts the annual Relay for Life, an overnight family event that raises awareness and funds for cancer research.

Nursing homes and hospices are always seeking volunteers of all ages. Younger kids can decorate cards and pictures for residents while older members of the family can provide respite for caretakers or become caretakers themselves. Food banks and soup kitchens need help year-round sorting food and serving meals.

Other family-friendly community activities can be things you do on your own with your family, like taking a trash bag and cleaning up a park or playground, or things you organize, like a local blanket or coat drive. The need is there; you don’t have to wait for a holiday or an organization to direct you. Just pick a weekend, include your kids, and make a difference. With luck, it will become a regular habit!

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Crafts with Kids

Make Mother’s Day Special with a Coupon Book

Mother’s Day is coming, and this craft is a great solution for kids who want to give a gift that will keep giving throughout the year. There’s nothing easier and more personal than creating a coupon book. While this project isn’t as easy for the preschooler group to do on their own, with your help coupons like “one free hug” and “pick up my toys” will bring countless smiles to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Moms can even make coupon books for their kids offering to read a book, play a game, or share special time with the kids.

To begin, cut regular sheets of paper into thirds. Cut cardstock slightly larger than the coupons to use for the front and back covers. Use markers to decorate the cover and design your coupons. Be sure to include a statement like “This coupon entitles the bearer to…” at the top of each coupon and an expiration date like “never” or “100 years from now” in the bottom corner. When the coupons are finished, place them between the cardboard covers and staple the pages together. Older kids can give coupon books to grandparents with coupons offering to do yard work, run errands or spend time. Others will appreciate coupons for free babysitting or housecleaning.

When you’re thinking about what kinds of coupons to offer, have your children think about all the nice things the recipient does for them. A Father’s Day coupon book can be filled with coupons of things the kids can do that they typically see dad do, like take out the trash or shovel the snow. Not only will your kids think about the things that other people in their lives do that touch them, but your kids will gain a real sense of accomplishment when they realize how much they can do to make someone happy or give them a break.

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Crafts with Kids

Frugal Gifts: Picture Frames

There are not many relatives who don’t enjoy receiving updated photos of the youngest generation, but you can make it even more special by working with your child to create a personalized, homemade frame for the picture. You can keep the project simple by heating up the glue gun, using an old cardboard box for the base and using items from your craft supplies (or junk drawer or toy box) that you already have on hand.

You’ll want to choose the picture before beginning so that you know what size frame to make. Whatever size picture you choose, cut out a piece of cardboard that give you one to two inches of border around the picture. This cardboard will be the base to which you glue the picture. You may want to paint or color the cardboard.

Once your picture is glued in the center of the cardboard backing, you can turn your child loose with their creativity. Do you have an old puzzle with missing pieces? Use the remaining pieces to glue around the picture to frame it. The same can be done with scraps of fabric, buttons, beads or even coins. Just glue the decoration of your choice in overlapping layers around the picture until you achieve the look you want.

Don’t be afraid to be creative; if the gift is for someone with a special hobby or interest, capture that interest with the way you decorate the frame. Use fishing gear for the fisherman in your life or acrylic fingernails and mini bottles of polish for your beautician aunt. Tap into the creative side of your boys by letting them create a frame with dinosaurs, insects or toy cars glued around the picture. No matter how you decorate it, a personalized picture frame is guaranteed to bring a smile.