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A simple craft project to teach gratefulness and thanksgiving. The Shukr Tree

The Shukr Tree

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As autumn kicks into gear, we are marveling at the vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red that adorn the trees, treating us to a magnificent display of nature’s beauty…

Just kidding! We’re in Houston and that whole leaves changing colors thing doesn’t happen here. Bummer. As we more accurately reminisce about the beautiful changing colors on trees – a special playgroup project sticks out in our mind.

The Shukr Tree.

A simple craft project to teach gratefulness and thanksgiving. The Shukr Tree

Shukr is an Arabic word for gratitude and thankfulness. The feeling of being sincerely appreciative is something we as adults struggle with on a daily basis. Likewise, our children require a constant dialogue of finding contentment and recognition that what we have is very valuable and special – and so many people in the world aren’t as lucky as we are.

The Shukr Tree was something one of my dear friends planned as a playgroup activity for our preschoolers during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Traditionally, this month signifies 30 individual days of fasting, self-reflection, and charity. Since children didn’t have to participate in the actual fasts or supplemental worship – we playgroup moms concentrated our efforts on helping them learn how to be grateful.

Thanksgiving is coming up and we’re really excited to re-visit this project and utilize it again to continue our reminders of appreciation and thanks. Shukr is an internal state with an external expression. Dialogue can only encompass so much in terms of a child’s comprehension. Their innate ability to internalize and express can be so much more profound with a visual, hands on activity. Having a child verbalize what they’re appreciative about, writing it down, adding it to a growing list of other items that generate thanks was an eye opening experience for all of us.

The first year we did this project, our leaves generously included belly buttons, grandparents, and umbrellas. After a nudge, mom was added, followed closely by lollipops.

A simple project for reminding us (and our kids) about thankfulness.How to create your own Shukr Tree:

1 – Trace and cut the outline of a large tree with ample branches – best done on a poster board. Allow children to color or paint (parents & guardians may assist)
2 – Use different colored construction paper and cut out leaves large enough to write a word or two legibly but small enough to fit on the branches comfortably as they fill up
3 – Use glitter glue or glitter pens (those are a doozy, aren’t they?) and encourage your child to write down or help them write down something special they’re grateful about
4 – Adorn with leaves all at once or once a day for a countdown to a special occasion
5 – Display proudly

We tend to cultivate our habits and nurture our spiritual psyches based on our surroundings. Having a giant reminder of our blessings is a wonderful sight. Even when it’s not Thanksgiving, a religious occasion, or a child’s birthday, spending a few weeks growing your own Shukr Tree can make hearts blossom with goodness. Supplementing this activity with something more tangible to include helping others (volunteering at nursing homes, soup kitchens, other community based organizations) may result in more leaves – just a fair warning.

My personal goals from the Shukr Tree include developing more inner peace & empathy. My kids goals? Gluing on as many leaves as possible before the tree is hanging by a corner, overloaded with happy reminders.

See 9 Best Books on Gratitude

Pinterest Activities on Teaching Thankfulness

Halloween image with text

Halloween Ideas Round-Up

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There are so many ideas for Halloween costumes and decorating! Here is a small selection for people ranging from the “I-don’t-know-how-to-use-a-needle-and-thread” non-crafter to the Super Crafter.

Halloween image with text

Costumes

Face it, Star Wars is hot. With episodes VII, VIII, and IX starting release later this year (not to mention the stand alone movies), it’s going to be hot for a while. If you or your little ones want to celebrate Halloween with a nod to the force, here are some ideas for you:

Looking for a variety of cute ideas that aren’t DIY?

Want to DIY your child’s costume, but don’t sew?

Waited until the last minute to put something together? Need some ideas?

For the Ambitious DIYer

Decorations

Socially Conscious Halloween Ideas

What Are You Doing?

Do you have any favorite tips or links to share? Did you find anything here that you’re going to try? We’d love to hear about it!

 

Back-To-School Crafting Roundup title

Back-to-School Crafting Roundup

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Back-to-School: whether it makes you want to shout, “Hooray!” or plug your ears in denial (sorry, teachers!) the beginning of the school year is just around the corner.

Back-To-School Crafting Roundup title

If you love to craft or want to make a little something special to celebrate the season, here are some ideas to inspire your Back-to-School Crafting:

Book Bags and Pencil Cases

Gifts for Teachers

  • What teacher wouldn’t love these notebook paper-style tote bags?
  • The technique for these Sharpie tie-dye book marks also works on fabric (t-shirts, tote bags, etc.)
  • I love the idea of this Teacher Emergency Kit! For those of us who don’t have vinyl stencil cutting machines, a red cross made out of washi tape or a decoupaged laser printer image with modge podge would work great.
  • This Apple Jar will never go bad, and you can fill with your favorite treat for your teacher.

Tech-related Makes

Simple Accessories

  • Infinity scarves are still trendy. This is a simple tutorial from Martha Stewart on making your own Infinity Scarf.
  • How about making a bunch of friendship bracelets to give to friends? This post has links for 15 Friendship Bracelet tutorials.
  • Make your own Lunch Bag (or 2 or 3 extras!)
  • Check out these 17 New Ways to Cover Your Books – not your typical tacky book covers!
  • These cute Monster Bookmarks are a great way to mark your place (and maybe help cure the corner-turning habit)!
  • Is your young person interested in learning to knit? These knitting instructions are kid-friendly and knitting is a great meditative and relaxing activity – a perfect way to take a break from studying.

Home Study & Organization DIY

  • If you have access to a staple gun, you can make a cute, fabric covered Lap Desk, no sewing required!
  • Back to school schedules can sometimes be hard to organize, this Magnetic Calendar DIY allows you to customize your family’s calendar in way that’s neat and organized.
  • Let your little person choose their perfect study are with this Portable Desk.
  • Does packing school lunches drive you crazy? Use this How To Pack Your Lunch printable to help foster your children’s independence and get them packing their own lunches.

See anything that inspires you? Have any favorite Back-To-School DIYs that we didn’t include? Please share them with us!

Check out these awesome craft ideas for kids of all ages!

Summer Crafting Ideas for All Ages

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If there’s something about Summer, the break from the usual routine, the longer days, that makes you feel like experimenting, trying something creative – this is the post for you.

Check out these awesome craft ideas for kids of all ages!

Whether you’re looking for new crafting ideas to try with kids or wanting to try something new yourself, there are SO many options out there. Here’s a sampling:

For the Younger Set

A Little More Adventurous

Building Some Skills

Getting into Some Really Cool Stuff

Truly Crafting

Is there any other crafting idea that isn’t listed, but you’ve always wanted to try? Let us know what it is, and we’ll help find you a tutorial to get you started!

Alternatively, are there any crafting DIY’s that you love that we didn’t list here? Let us know, and we’ll add them!

Yes. You can have success with a Pinterest idea! Try this easy Ice Painting Project with your toddler!

Embrace the Mess: Ice Painting with Your Toddler

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Yes. You can have success with a Pinterest idea! Try this easy Ice Painting Project with your toddler!It’s finally summer, which means I’m compiling a “summertime bucket list.” I get really excited to pen lists chocked full of fun, family-friendly activities. The very idea of having a place to reference is inspiration enough to create one. If you are like me then you have already scoured Pinterest in search of even more ideas to add to “Summer 2015.” Reality will hijack this list somewhere between Go Camping and Bake Pretzels from Scratch, but for now let’s fulfill those big summer dreams.

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Ice painting is at the top of our list this week. Grab some food dye, water, ice cube trays, and watercolor paper. Mix your paint (put some water and many, many drops of food coloring) the day before you plan on using it. Don’t even mention this to your children. Do it in the dark of the night and then just like magic it will be ready to go in the morning. How does she do it all?? The answer is, always in the dark of the night.

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Step 1
Pop ice paint out of ice cube trays

Step 2
Sit back and watch your kiddo go to town.

Notes: Am I the only one who thinks painted kids are cute? Yes? Oh ok. Dress accordingly.

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Father's Day Gift! DIY T-Shirt. Easy t-shirt for kids to make for dads.

Making T-Shirts for Father’s Day!

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Father's day t shirt title image

I’m passionate about making things, so any occasion means a new occasion for which to make something, usually for someone else. Father’s Day is no exception.

It can be hard to find something that can be made and can actually be used. And there have definitely been some fails (maybe sometime I’ll get my husband to tell the story of opening a box and asking me why I was giving him a dinosaur butt).

Over the years, I’ve found T-shirts to be a nice balance. They’re something that a wide variety of age ranges can participate in, and almost everyone can use a T-Shirt. This tutorial shows you 2 techniques for making personalized T-Shirts. The first one is easy enough that kids 18 months and up can help. The second is a little more adventurous.

Super Easy Father’s Day T-Shirt

What you’ll need:

Father's Day Shirt Supplies
Supplies
  • Plain T-Shirt to fit the recipient
  • Fabric Markers/ Fabric Paint Pens
  • Masking tape
  • Contact paper or clothes roller sticky sheets
  • Paper Grocery Bag

 

 

Getting Started:

*Note – If this shirt seems small, it is. Since we were making a couple of shirts, I thought one of them could be for my little guy.

  1. Masking tape relief for shirt design
    Laying out the design

    Optional but recommended step – I recommend stabilizing the back of the shirt. You can use those sticky sheets on clothes rollers, contact paper, masking tape (although, unless it’s really wide, using masking tape will take a while.) Turn the shirt inside out and place your stabilizer or choice on the back of where you’re going to draw on the shirt. (I forgot to do it on this shirt and was regretting it.)

  2. Place a paper grocery bag inside the shirt. (This helps make a stable surface. If you didn’t stabilize the shirt, it also helps the markers from bleeding onto the back of the shirt.)
  3. Putting paint pen to shirt
    Let the fun begin!

    Flip the shirt right side out and set out a border in masking tape (If you’re ambitious, you can iron it before you begin. As you can see, I’m don’t.)

  4. Lay out a “relief” pattern with the masking tape. This pattern will keep the fabric makers from transferring to the fabric, so anywhere you place masking tape, you will not get marker color.
  5. Turn the markers over and color! Make sure that you get color around the edges of the tape, this helps the design stand out.
  6. When the coloring is done, follow the instructions for “setting” markers. Some require ironing, some require time, some require nothing. “Setting” the color helps it last over multiple washings.
  7. Father's Day Shirt with Fabric Marker/ Pant Pen
    Easy shirt for almost any age.

    Wrap it up to be opened on Father’s Day (and try to keep your kids from talking about it before then)!

Tips:

  • A light colored shirt will show the widest variety of colors.
  • If you choose to use a dark colored shirt, use fabric paint pens rather than markers.
  • If you’re using fabric paint pens, open them and get them “started” before you begin working with kids. They can take a while to get the paint going, and it can be hard for little ones to wait.

Solar Ink Father’s Day Shirt

What you’ll need:

Materials needed for Solar Ink Shirt
Supplies
  • Plain T-Shirt to fit the recipient
  • Inkodye or other brand of solar ink
  • Object(s) to make images on the shirt
  • Masking tape
  • Contact paper or clothes roller sticky sheets
  • Paper Grocery Bag
  • Recommended – Inkodye Fabric Wash

Getting Started:

*Note – I highly recommend going to Inkodye’s website to read about working with their product. The individual ink packages do not come with very detailed instructions.

  1. Optional but recommended step – I recommend stabilizing the back of the shirt. You can use those sticky sheets on clothes rollers, contact paper, masking tape (although, unless it’s really wide, it will take a while.) Turn the shirt inside out and place your stabilizer or choice on the back of where you’re going to draw on the shirt. (I forgot to do it on this shirt and was regretting it.)
  2. Place a paper grocery bag inside the shirt. (This helps make a stable surface. If you didn’t stabilize the shirt, it also helps the ink from bleeding onto the back of the shirt.)

    Masking tape and contact paper shirt
    Preparing the shirt
  3. Optional Step – Flip the shirt right side out and set out a border in masking tape (If you’re ambitious, you can iron it before you begin. As you can see, I’m don’t.)
  4. Important notes about the ink:
    1. There is a finite amount of ink in each packet. If you’re not okay with a random color border, either make a small border or buy multiple packets. The instructions say that it will cover a 12″x12″ square. It didn’t go that far for me.
    2. The ink has a powerful amonia smell. Make sure you spread the ink in a well-ventilated area!
  5. Take the shirt, ink, paper towels, and relief object(s) into a dimly lit area or area with no natural/ UV light. Shake the ink packet well then bend it and snap it open at the seam in the back. The ink will come out of the packet, and you can use the packet to spread the ink around.
  6. Blot the ink on the shirt so that it is damp rather than wet. (I just blotted it once.)
  7. Place the relief object(s) on top of the ink-covered area on the shirt, carry outside, and set down in a sunny spot.

    Soaking up those UV rays!
    In the sun!
  8. Let it sit. Inkodye recommends 15 min for bright sunlight, 20-30 for an overcast day. My day was pretty overcast (fully clouded sky with no breaks of blue), so I left it out for 45 minutes.
  9. Check to see how the ink is developing. If you’re satisfied, bring it inside. If not, leave it out longer.
  10. Once you’re ready to bring it in, pick up the whole kaboodle, keeping the relief object(s) in place while it’s still being exposed to the sun.
  11. Once you have returned to your dimly lit prep area, remove the relief object(s), the masking tape, and the backing.
  12. Wash the shirt on hot/cold setting immediately (the ink will continue to develop until washed. Inkodye recommends using their wash for 2 cycles. I’ve had bad experiences with garments shedding ink, so I washed for the 2 cycles. I used their fabric wash, splitting a single packet between the 2 loads.
  13. After you get your shirt out of the dryer, admire your and the sun’s work and wrap up that Father’s Day gift!

Tips:

  • Final image of shirt
    Headless Boulder

    Be creative with your relief items. For instance, you could print out text or write on transparency sheets to put text on your shirt.

  • There are a variety of colors of Inkodye ink. Play around with color combinations between the shirt and dye. (I let my little guy pick out the colors, so that meant blue all the way.)
  • If you want to get a (very general) idea of what your image will look like, hold it up a little off the shirt while you shine a flashlight over it. (Thanks for the idea, Beren!)
  • Any part of your object that is raised or translucent will likely allow the sun to get underneath, meaning that detail won’t show as well or at all.
  • If you want a crisper outline/ sharper details, choose flat objects (on the Inkodye website they feature things like paperclips and shapes cut out of manilla folders). If you have a flat object, you can place a sheet of clear plexiglass over it while sitting in the sun – just make sure the glass does NOT have UV protection!

Takeaway and Bonus Shirt Idea

  • Another Father's Day Idea
    Fabric paint

    The only limit in creating T-Shirts is your imagination! Just look for colorants designed to be used on fabrics (they’ll last better). There are even additives that you can mix with plain acrylic paint to turn them into fabric paints. (We made this shirt with fabric paint. Can you guess what we used to apply the paint?)

  • Have multiple kids? Have them work together on the shirt. If that isn’t a good idea for your bunch, use the masking tape to create different blocks/sections and have each child work on their own section. Or you can always make multiple shirts!
  • Have some examples of shirts you’ve made with your kids? Share them with us!
  • Have question about how to do something or where to buy a supply? Ask!
  • Would you like to find a Father’s Day DIY that’s not a shirt? Let me know! I have literally thousands of ideas!

 

Get Zen with Orchids

Need Zen? Get an Orchid Plant.

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I went through a ridiculous amount of self-doubt in writing this short piece. “What parent has time to stop everything and arrange an orchid plant?! This is dumb!” and so forth. I came full circle in my thoughts and arrived at my original conclusion when I remembered the dog had exploded poop everywhere just hours earlier.

Get Zen with OrchidsWe all need an orchid plant. We all need a place for our eyes to land when cleaning said poop. Or something to care for that won’t speak to you in “that” tone. Orchids can also be feisty but you needn’t be afraid. The kids were having a particularly whiny day when we arranged our orchids. We were partly to blame for teaching them to whine in the first place and maybe we didn’t have lunch on the table at the “right” time. Did I mention dog poop? We finally did feed the children (not dog poop). Then we packed their whiny selves in the car and hit the road for Trader Joe’s (cheapest shop I’ve found for orchids), silently cursing the lack of a TJ’s in north Austin.

Orchid DIY SuppliesIn order to arrange your own orchid plant and to carve out a little Zen in your life, you will need something resembling the following:

  • An orchid plant (important if you like to follow rules)
  • A container for your plant (nice to dress up your new friend)
  • String, twine, raffia, thread etc. (very important if you want to step it up)
  • Moss or other pretty filler (people will be asking what florist arranged your orchids) Found at your floral wholesaler or craft store.
  • Smooth rocks (Stop it! You are so Zen.)
  • Sticks or blooming branches (Who are you?! You are the kind of parent that goes for nature walks looking for branches to completely transform your life via orchid plant.)

 

Ok, so now that you’ve taken a week to garner the supplies, you’re ready to begin!

 

  1. Orchid DIY Action ShotPull the orchid out of the ceramic pot it came in all the while keeping the plant in it’s thin, clear plastic container (yes, you could take it out of that also but not necessary) Place in a vessel of your choosing. Use any old rock to keep it in place. One rock on each side of the plant should do just fine.
  2. Trim your found blooming branch to an appropriate height, keeping in mind the curve of the orchid stem and curve of the branch.
  3. Remove wooden stakes and butterfly clips carefully. Do not lose your cool when it looks like you’ve ruined your beautiful plant.
  4. Push the stick or branch down in the existing holes and use butterfly clips to hold it in place.
  5. Remove clips and use twine or something of the like to secure the blooming branch to each of the orchid stems. I used a bit of green thread finished off with a tiny clump of moss. Your older child could help you with this step.
  6. Get your kids involved by letting them add moss around the leaves of the potted plant. This will be messy. You’ve been warned.
  7. Add a few rocks.
  8. Lastly, have your kiddo carefully wipe down each leaf of the plant.

Place your plant in an east facing window. Give it a tepid soak once a week and you’re done. Also, please see the American Orchid Society for actual tips and useful knowledge on how to keep your plant alive and help it thrive.

Obvious notes.

The orchid is the main star. All of the other is just filler. If anything, go to the store and buy yourself a plant that will make you happy.

Less obvious notes.

Orchid  Zen Finished DIY ProjectChoose a plant that has several blooms and many buds; you are giving yourself the gift of prolonged beauty. You are also telling yourself that you can and will keep this plant alive.

The blooming branch will not be blooming for long. In fact, the flowers will shrivel up fairly soon after being clipped. If the decaying process is as fascinating and beautiful to you as it is to me, then you will enjoy this aspect of your newly dressed plant. You may want to redress your orchid as you see fit. If you have no time for stem dressing, then leave the original stakes in there and just spiff it up with some moss and rocks and call it done.

I know I’ve asked a lot here. I’ve asked you to care for one.more.thing. But really, what’s one more thing? Something fresh, and not of the diaper variety, is such an indulgence around here.

We could all use a little more pretty.