Jul 16

Clown Cups

by Hannah Holt »


It’s summer and my kids are obsessed with water play. And that’s just fine with me because it’s been HOT.

Here’s a simple water craft they can do inside (on rainy days) or outside (on days like today)…

clown cups5

You will need:

  • a paper cup
  • crayons (or markers)
  • scissors

What to do:

clown cups2

  1. Color a clown face on the paper cup and cut out the mouth (adults will probably need to help with this part).
  2. Hold the cup under running water.

clown cups3

That’s it. Easy-peasy and tons of fun.



Jul 11

UNICEF Paper Dolls

by Hannah Holt »


When I was a kid, I loved comic books. What’s not to like about epic battles between good and evil? Also I might have had a crush on Batman.

But then I got older and realized you don’t need a Lycra outfit or a mask to be a hero. Real heroes simply stand up for the things they believe in, and real heroes show their faces. I still have a soft spot for do-gooders.

So when I received an email from Kate Moore at UNICEF asking if I would make a UNICEF worker for my paper doll series, I jumped at her request.

UNICEF workers help children and their mothers in almost every country.

The hardest part of this project was deciding what UNICEF project to highlight.

Should I cover infant nutrition in Bolivia?

UNICEF Bolivia paper doll

Or increasing vaccination rates in Canada?

Canada paper doll

Or malaria prevention in Nigeria?

UNICEF Nigeria paper doll2

I only had 191 countries to choose from. In the end, UNICEF’s School-in-a-Box project appealed to the teacher in me. It’s an innovative solution to a wide-reaching problem. Here’s the purpose of School-in-a-Box from the UNICEF website:

School-in-a-Box is a portable way to keep kids learning… [and]… education going during times of crisis and conflict, or in the hardest to reach areas.
I love the idea of a portable school for children in need.
Here are the UNICEF worker paper dolls (pdf copies below):

UNICEF School-in-a-Box Paper Dolls Page 1 (pdf file)

Many thanks to Kate for all her help researching this project.
Note: This post is my way of saying thanks to UNICEF. If you feel like saying thanks to UNICEF, you can do so here or here.

Jul 03

How Do Plants Make Food

by Hannah Holt »


Last summer we regrew green onions and celery from stubs.It worked so well that the celery is now as tall as my two-year-old:


We wanted to see if we could do the same thing with lettuce. We put a Romain lettuce stub in a small bowl of water and waited…

Lettuce growth

It’s day 14 and we have some respectable looking lettuce leaves. Cool. Huh?

Along with this project we read The Magic School Bus Gets Planted. After reading the book, my five-year-old asked, “How do plants make food out of water and air?” Or…

How Question

I could have given him a one word answer (photosynthesis!). But he asked a thoughtful question and I thought it deserved an equally thoughtful answer.

First we talked about what is water made of?

Atoms: atoms are tiny, tiny building blocks. They are like the mini-legos of life. Atoms are so small you cannot see them with your eyes or even a magnifying glass. You need a special looking machine (an electron microscope) to see the biggest atoms. Some atoms like to hangout with other atoms:


And others prefer to keep to themselves:


When a group of atoms hang out together, it is called a molecule.

Water is made of molecules. Water molecules look like this:

water molecule

Air is also made of molecules. It is made of lots of different molecules, but the molecule that plants use is called carbon dioxide. It is a carbon atom with two oxygen atoms:

carbon dioxide molecule

Now let’s talk about food, like sugar. Yup, that’s right… some plants use sugar for energy. But they don’t eat it. They make it. Here is what one type of sugar looks like:

sucrose molecule

Let’s check if we have all the right building blocks. To make sugar we need carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Can we get all of those atoms from water and air?

YES! From water we get hydrogen and oxygen, and from air we get more oxygen and carbon. Here is how plants use air and water to make food:


The “big dance” that rearranges the atoms is called PHOTOSYNTHESIS. Photosynthesis means light (photo) and making-stuff (synthesis). Plants take water and air and use light to turn atoms into food. If you have the right building blocks and the right conditions, you can make almost anything.

Note: My seven-year-old liked this discussion, but it was a bit too much for my five-year-old. If this is too much detail for your tykes, here is the two sentence explanation:

Q: How do plants make food out of air and water?

A: Under the right conditions air and water can be turned into sugar (and other foods). The process of turning air and water into food for plants is called photosynthesis.

Extension activity: Playdoh Molecules

playdoh molecules

What you’ll need

  • Different colors of playdoh
  • Cut up straws

Form the playdoh into balls and connect them using bending straws bits. See if you can make all the different molecules in this posts.

Jun 20

DIY Magnetic Whiteboard

by Hannah Holt »


music whiteboard

Last week I was giving my older children their piano lesson, and I thought, “I need a dedicated music whiteboard.”

So we all took a trip to the local music store, and I found what I was looking for. Unfortunately they wanted $56 dollars for the musical whiteboard. $56! That just seemed like a ridiculous number to me.

I didn’t buy it. Instead I stopped by a thrift shop on the way home and picked up a cookie sheet to make my own white board. My total cost of materials was around $6.

What you’ll need:

  • a thrift store cookie sheet
  • white contact paper
  • clear cellophane
  • school glue
  • a foam brush
  • a plastic card (like a credit card)

First I cut the contact paper down to the size of my cookie sheet. This was fairly easy as most contact paper has guidelines on the back. Then I placed my contact paper on the cookie sheet and smoothed out any bubbles with the plastic card. (You can also get rid of bubbles by popping the center with a needle).

DIY whiteboard instructions

After I had the contact paper in place, I drew a musical staff with a permanent pen. If you want a regular board, skip this step.

While I let my marker dry, I cut my cellophane to size. I used the left over plastic from the contact paper to match sizes. Then I painted the top of the contact paper with a thin layer of the school glue.

The cellophane went over the top of the glue (again smoothing out any bubbles with the plastic card).

I let the board dry overnight, and it was ready to use by morning.

music whiteboard2


Jun 12

DIY Father’s Day Shirt

by Hannah Holt »


Need a last minute Father’s Day gift? Try turning your child’s drawing into a t-shirt for Dad. Here’s how:

Fathers Day Shirt

What you’ll need:

  • a colored t-shirt (we found ours at a thrift shop)
  • a piece of cardboard
  • a washable marker (we used Crayola fine point)
  • a Clorox bleach pen

I put the cardboard between the layers of t-shirt and had my son draw a portrait of my husband on the shirt with a washable marker.

After he was finished, I took the bleach pen and copied over his drawing. I let it set for a few minutes. Then I washed out the bleach (quickly!) in cold water. Finally I ran the T-shirt through a washing machine cycle.

Father day Shirt instructions

The entire process (minus the wash cycle) took all of fifteen minutes. I think my husband will like his new personalized t-shirt. It’s way cooler than a tie.