Thursday, May 28, 2020

DIY Day Camps During Pandemic

Anyone with a child at home under the age of 18 is experiencing some level of stress as summer stretches out before us in a world dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic. This is NOT a post to debate the issues of whether or not to venture out for organized activities or camps. If you want that local (Arizona) debate, there is a great post from Raising Arizona Kids.

However, if you have decided to create your own "at-home" experience, here are some resources that might help you. The key point is plan, plan, plan! If your kids are at camp, whether sleep camp or day camp, their schedules are tightly controlled. To create your DIY camp, I would suggest doing the same. My second suggestion is to make these activities feel "different." You've been home with the kids for some time now and to get everyone in the "camp" mood, this needs to feel special or different. Of course, you can always pick and choose fun activities from this list. So, let's create your own DIY summer camp with step-by-step instructions!

1. Create a name for your camp. Many years ago, I entertained my (now adult) niece and nephew at Camp Campbell.  One of our first "arts and crafts" activities was making a camp shirt.  Here's a link for an easy way to make tie-dye shirts with acrylic paint. It would be very easy to create some stencils with your "camp" name and paint them on after your tie-dye shirts are done. You just created 2 days of arts and crafts activities and a memento of their camping experience!

2. Plan your "camp" meals. If you want to keep it easy in a "day camp" setting, you just need to plan fun lunches that you can eat picnic style. I've packed a ton of ideas onto a special Pinterest board, Day Camp so you should have no problem planning ahead. If you really want to be adventurous and include a "sleep-over" camp with a fire, don't forget to include the s'mores and at least one "campfire" meal.  I've also included some links on the Day Camp Pinterest board for that.

3. Keep a strict schedule. Be sure to plan educational activities, physical activities, arts & crafts and quiet time into your camp, keeping in mind the ages of your campers. See the list of links below as well as my Pinterest Day Camp page for specific ideas on each type of activity. Consider creating a schedule board for each day, or a handout for the "campers" so they know exactly what is coming.

4. Consider at least one overnight camp out in the yard. This could include a tent and campfire, or as simple as some blankets and sleeping bags in the living room. 

5. Get some "camp counselors." If you have older kids, get them involved! Younger kids will be thrilled, you give those older kids something to do, and take some of the pressure as "camp director" off of you!

6. Have a specific "start" and "stop" to camp, especially if you are doing a "day camp" format. It's not sustainable to keep "camp" going indefinitely and kids will likely lose interest if you try. Keeping a "start" and "stop" is almost as important as keeping a strict schedule because it gives kids the feeling of something "different".  You also get time off when camp is not in session!

Can't bear to do this alone at home?  Here are some resources to local virtual day camps this summer. 

Ideas for Educational Activities
  • Phoenix Water Services has a brand new digital resources pages. The left side is for kids and the right is for adults. Don't miss the fun videos of "Wayne Drop" and "Loo Poo".  There are activity books with coloring pages you can print for the little ones or order free hard copies in advance. Be sure to check out the tons of lesson plans you can use.

  • Virtual Water Festival is another page from Arizona Project WET and geared to teaching elementary students (especially 4th grade) about water. Filled with videos, lessons and games, this is a treasure trove.
  • STEM Lessons Activities from Nerding teaches how to build or do a bunch of fun things, especially for elementary and middle schoolers.
  • Mystery Science has a ton of activities for kids, Kindergarten through Middle School
  • Make a Time Capsule What better time than now??
  • Make homemade cards and send a letter to relatives (just like at camp!)
  • Grow Borax Crystals
  • Make Elephant Toothpaste with a few household items. Cool science experiment - outside.
  • Make up stories, create your own book and illustrate (this can be done over several days)

Ideas for Physical Activities
  • Play at Home - This is a great, interactive and local website that includes mindfulness, songs and a little yoga. It's especially great for preschoolers.
  • Children's Museum of Phoenix has a bunch of videos with movement and yoga, as well as other videos with projects and learning.
  • Swimming - Don't have a pool? Create a slip & slide with the hose, bubbles and/or shaving cream. Hose them down when you're done. See a bunch of DIY slip & slides on Pinterest
  • Biking
  • Scavenger Hunt, Obstacle Course or Relay Game - see my Day Camp board on Pinterest for tons of outside games you can put together for a relay
  • Paint with Squirt Guns - Arts & crafts and physical activity in one!
  • Make bubbles - see Pinterest for a recipe for giant bubbles

Ideas for Arts & Crafts
  • As You Wish Pottery has complete kits you can pick up or they can ship to you!
  • STG Top 5 Kids Crafts - our very own!
  • Cake decorating. This is fun whether you have a lot of supplies for decorating or just a few. Each kid gets to make their own cake and then decorate it.

Ideas for Quiet Time
Whatever you decide to do this summer, take some time to relax. It's been a hard couple of months for everyone and you deserve it!


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Shop Without Breaking Quarantine

We've all been inside (or at least at home) for a while now and I keep thinking about all the shopping I would like to do, but can't. One item that would be very helpful right now is a simple card.  In fact, if you are like me, you buy greeting cards all year around, usually at the last minute.  Have you noticed that the "quick card" you buy at the grocery or big box store costs a lot more these days?  Why not save some money AND open the economy for a small business?

Etsy!!  Here are some great card sellers I found on Etsy.  The prices are generally less than you pay in the store, even if you pay shipping (and many sellers now offer free shipping).  The trick to this card hack is that you need to buy a collection in advance so you have them on hand when you need them.  Or, here is a thought, what about sending one in the mail NOW?  You may have a little time on your hands to spare a personal thought . . .

These cards come with a social distancing theme from HALOdesignsSHOP.  They have a bunch of designs in sets for as low as $10.50 for 5 flat cards.  Shipping is free if you purchase $34 or more.

If you like more artistic cards for any occasion with nothing inside, here are some stunning ones from LDawningScott starting at $13.00.

MichelleMospens has lovely floral watercolor cards and they are very reasonably priced as well.

Artists like CarlaBosch offer this boxed set of 20 all occasion cards for $24.95 with free shipping!

Do you prefer photographic cards?  Here's a set from CatulpaBay with gorgeous landscapes - 20 landscapes in 5x7 for only $25.00 and free shipping.

If cats are your thing, here are some super value handmade embossed cards with three dimensional cats from Wallridge Farm.

Or The Best Card Company has gone to the dogs - with quotes!

I think you get the picture.  There are nearly one million listings on Etsy when you search "greeting card."  Pick your occasion, a set, what you want to see on the card in your search and I guarantee you will find something that suits your fancy.

Get out there and support small businesses without the risk to health!


Saturday, June 29, 2019

SOM Costumes - Sailor Suits!

"Do a deer, a female deer . . ."

What is more iconic than the Von Trapp children in their sailor uniforms?  This particular costume was pretty easy (and inexpensive).  First, the boys needed navy blue docker pants - very easy to find at Goodwill.  Likewise the girls needed navy blue school uniform skirts.  The high school girls at our school wear the uniform I wanted to use, so I only had to find some Goodwill versions for the younger girls - not too hard.  Pair that with white knee high socks and black shoes and the only thing left was the shirt.  The sailor shirt makes the outfit.  To make these shirts you need a white long sleeve crew neck t-shirt, about 1/2 yard of navy blue poplin or cotton fabric, about 1.5 yards of white satin ribbon 1/2" width and a package of white Velcro.

First, cut off the neck and sleeve cuffs. Turn the raw edges on the neckline under and sew so you have a finished edge on the neckline. (The second picture is before I turned the raw edges under.)


To make the sailor collar, start by measuring the shoulder width on the back of the t-shirt.  Then in the front, measure the center point of the neck opening diagonal to the shoulder seam.  Cut your navy fabric with the dimensions of shoulder width x diagonal measurement + 8".  For example, one of my shoulder widths was 16" and the measurement from the center of the front neckline to the shoulder was 8".  The result is a rectangle 16" x 16" (because I added 8" for the back).  Next you are going to cut out a neckline, using your t-shirt as the pattern on the navy fabric.  You also need to cut the curve of the neckline in the front.  When you're done, it looks like this:

To make your collar, cut two pieces of navy fabric in this shape and then sew them together, right sides facing, leaving a small opening on the collar so you can turn it inside out.

After you turn it inside out and close the opening by hand stitch, you can sew your ribbon about 1/2" from the edge and then another 1/2" inside of that.  Notice how the ribbons will overlap as you get to the front of the collar.  Use a lot of pins to keep it straight while you are sewing, and for a finished look, use navy blue thread in your bobbin so the white thread outline of the ribbons doesn't show on the wrong side of the finished collar.  Pin the collar on the neckline and sew. 

 To make the cuffs, cut the navy blue fabric into 2 rectangles, 2.5" x 10" (for each cuff).  Sew the two rectangles together, right sides facing, leaving a small opening to turn it inside out.  Using two pieces of fabric this way gives more body to the cuffs and makes the seams invisible.  

Apply two satin ribbons, turning them under the wrong sides on the ends so you don't see any fraying.

Now cut a small square from the Velcro (you will have one "loop" piece and one "hook" piece).  Sew the loop piece (it's the soft part of Velcro) to one end of the cuff on the right side, and the hook piece (it's the rough part of Velcro) on the other end of the cuff on the wrong side.  Looking at the right side of your cuff should now look like this:

The reason you are using Velcro instead of just sewing the closed cuff onto the t-shirt is because the t-shirt is made from a stretchy polyester and your cuff will not stretch.  Lay the cuff onto the sleeve and sew along the top edge so the entire cuff is over the sleeve.  Don't be surprised if the length of the cuff doesn't go all the way around the sleeve.  It will look fine.

If you need more help making the sailor collars, don't forget to check out my Pinterest SOM Costume Board where I found inspiration for all of my costumes (and detailed instructions as well).