Tag Archives | Made By Joel

Snow Day Indoor Activities – DIY Marble Run

As I write this post, I gaze out the window and see branches of nearby trees covered with snow. Nothing is more beautiful than the dusting of white stuff, but when you are snowed in with kids at home to entertain, thinking of activities can be a challenge. I’ve been reminded of how easy it is to romance the idea of having kids at home during snow days <grin> and how helpful it is to  have fun activities in your back pocket for when they are bouncing off the walls.  Here are two concepts I love – proven time and time again with both my daughters and sons at varied ages: marble runs and bird activities. Each of these activities can fill many hours and inspire nature and building. Bird Activities will be included in the next article: Snow Day Indoor Activities – Bird Fun.

Wooden Marble Run & DIY

Earlier this week I kept my kids home for a snow day. We played in the snow, but when it was time to come in, I had to think of something to keep all four busy. I dug out our wooden marble run and love the creative energy it creates – even for me! It’s very satisfying once you get a run built….and younger kids love watching the marbles race down the track. I also love how my Quadrilla marble run takes any size marble – but a warning, it can be frustrating for young children to build. Here is an example of our finished design.

Don’t have a marble run at home? NP!  If you have an empty cereal box and some marbles, you can make your own! With making this Made By Joel marble run, the best part is creating the toy yourself which is always the case with easy and fun DIY projects. The talented dad from Made By Joel provides easy steps for making your own and is the king of fun projects that utilize things you already have at home!  Image from the Made By Joel blog with directions here:

I haven’t tried the toilet paper marble run design – but I remember my boys loving a similar (but plastic) model at Science World so I know this would be a hit!  There are a few of these on Pinterest that would be easy to do; a magnet version and one where you cut the toilet paper rolls in half and tape the wall!  The below picture can provide some inspiration – picture credit here:

 Snow, and lots of it seems to be Mother Nature’s way of telling us to stop and play. I try to take my cues from her and hope these DIY marble runs inspire some fun indoor family time!



Preschool Play At Home

I’ve often said that if I spent everyday at my childrens’ preschool, I’d be writing daily for Mommy Footprint. The inspiration and wonderful ideas that come from this play-based, magical school have been a wonderful experience for my family over the last 6 years. Two of my favorite ideas that come from preschool have been around forever, but since I setup both in my house last week, I’m reminded just what great ideas they are from the amount of time all of my kids spend playing with them. And both are very low cost to setup!

Wooden Stump & Nails

Ever drive by a house that has cut down a tree and is offering the stumps/logs for free?  Well next time, stop and pick one up because your children will love to hammer nails into the stump. Both my boys and daughters have loved this activity at preschool and we’ve recently picked up a stump and ball pein hammer that I picked up at my local hardware store. The ball pein hammer is normally smaller, lighter and has a ball and opposite flat face..much easier for small children. And by small children I mean 3 years olds and up. They are more than able at that age to hammer nails into wood and the stumps help the nails slide in so easily!  It will keep them busy for hours and teach them great motor skills. You can teach children to hammer thin pieces of wood to attach to the stump or even cardboard once they get bored of just hammering nails. Also, pickup nails of all sizes to further encourage fine motor skill development.

If you are nervous and think your toddler or child is too young to use real nails,  find golf tees and left over Styrofoam packing from large appliances. Using the ball pein hammer, kids can hammer golf tees into the packing material and you don’t have to worry about them using real nails.

Sand Table

It’s a standard in any preschool and there’s a good reason why – sand tables are wonderful. When I received my package of safe sand from Santastik, I knew what I was going to use it for….creating an indoor sand table. The sand is amazing and kids love to play with it. We added some animals, scoops, cups, and the sand into a long flat plastic container and all my kids have enjoyed playing with it. I just put the container on top of their play table and voila…they are all very happy. And unlike the bean table I set up years ago (my husband still curses that idea), the sand table is very easy to clean up. Yes, kids get excited and throw the sand around, but the Sandtastik sand is super easy to vacuum so the mess is a non-issue. To find out why I’m recommending the Sandtastik brand of play sand – check out this article. This sand is made without carcinogens or asbestos which might be found in other brands of sand.

I love my kid’s preschool. We’ve been there 6 consecutive years because of the close ages of our 4 children and although I’m very sad this time is coming to an end this Spring, I’m grateful for the many lessons the teachers have taught me.   A parent participation/play based preschool will not only bring your children great memories – but you’ll be surprised how much as parents you will learn.

Related Articles:

Finding Non-Toxic Sand For Kid’s Sandbox

The Perfect Home Made Play Dough Recipe!

Walnut Boats Made By Joel – Great Craft!

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Walnut Boats Made By Joel – Great Craft!

I’m always in awe of talented people that create incredible hand-made items, but then to blog, design, photograph their creations and share their talents is very special. When visiting the Made By Joel blog, hours will pass and feel like minutes because you just keep clicking to read through his posts and you’ll feel very inspired to try Joel’s creations… even the ‘crafty challenged’. I’m always so motivated to buy power tools after visiting Joel’s blog but back in April when I read his post about Walnut boats I thought “finally, something very attainable for myself! Whoot!” It’s a classic craft perfect for keeping the kids entertained (it does involve flame after all) and the end product is a safe bath toy (harder and more expensive to find that you think). So after 9 months keeping my eyes to the ground trying to find discarded Walnut shells, we tried making walnut boats last weekend and it’s an awesome craft for kids. Even the older crowd that are tougher to entice with crafting enjoy it because mention lighting a candle and zoom – both my boys were in like a flash!

Any nut shell would work with this craft (the deeper the shell the better) even little acorns. But sticking with the tutorial we used walnut shells the squirrels at the park were nice enough to leave us, melted an old candle for wax, stuck in the toothpick and the kids drew really cute pirate skullies for the paper sail. After we had finished, they all immediately went flying off to sinks and the bathtub to try them out and I loved the result. Finally something that could go into the bath and I didn’t have to worry what they were bathing with. I wonder if beeswax candles would work this craft? I’ll have to try that next. One of my all time favorite crafts..quick and easy and keeps the kids attention. And the boats are a great little toy – even after the paper sails became wet and my girls pulled out their toothpicks, I saw my girls using the walnut shell (still filled with wax) and dropping them into their teapot and calling the boats their sugar cubes for tea. I loved listening to their dialogue as they clinked their tea cups, played in the bath tub, and sipped away.

I’ve attached a picture of Joel’s boats because his photography is stunning. These pictures are from the Made By Joel blog – I can’t wait to buy his book that is coming out Fall 2011 and will be keeping up with his work via his Facebook Fan page. Thanks for recording all the precious moments enjoying your talent with your kids Joel – awesome!

Related posts by Joel that I will try because he makes it look possible (haha we’ll see) are Branch Trees and Zip Line Toy. You know…we just might have a few Harry Potter figures kicking around here somewhere <wink> …and the zip line is just cool!




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