Naturally Dyeing Easter Eggs With Kids

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I love colouring Easter eggs with the kids, and we do this naturally with items out of our pantry.  The kids love it too.  When I last asked the kids if they wanted to dye eggs, my eldest immediately set himself at the counter and said, “Let’s get out the turmeric!”  So we headed to the cupboard and fridge and retrieved our dye sources: turmeric, onion skins, beets, and purple cabbage.

Making the dyes is quick and easy.  Just add equal parts of the dye source and water into a pot and add a splash of vinegar (about a tablespoon for each cup of water). The vinegar helps to set the dye, so don’t skip it. And don’t worry too much about quantities here, which will result is slight variations of colour, but it will all work.  Then boil the contents of the pots for 15 to 20 minutes, let cool, and strain.  And just like that, you’ve got your natural dyes!

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Playing with the natural colours is fun, but here’s a partial code when using white eggs (using brown eggs will create different colour tones):

– purple cabbage makes light blue tones

– beets makes pink tones

– turmeric makes yellow tones

– onion skins makes red tones

We got additional dyes by colour mixing.

I do this activity with my boys, so we dyed pre-boiled eggs in the cooled dyes in order that they can participate more fully in the process.  But you can get different and usually deeper colour tones by boiling eggs directly in the pots of dye.  I’d love to have green eggs this year, and read that red cabbage will transfer green dye on brown eggs, so that’s on our “to try” list.

There was almost no waste from the dyeing process, as we ate both the boiled beets (peeled and sprinkled with a little red wine vinegar) and the boiled cabbage (plain! the boys pulled it out of the pot and ate all of it without a word from me).

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There are lots of ways to decorate the eggs.  We’ve experimented with tying elastics around the eggs or applying stickers (paper hole reinforcements are fun) before dyeing.  But our favourite for hands-on fun is to draw on still-warm freshly boiled eggs with beeswax crayons.  The heat melts the wax and the crayons just slide on – it’s a lovely sensory experience. When the eggs were too hot to hold at first, the boys drew on them while they perched in a paper carton; later they could hold them in their hands.

If you’d like a sheen on the eggs, rub a little oil on them after dyeing. I usually present our eggs out on our playsilks so I haven’t applied the oil before.  But it is pretty and I think the boys would enjoy the process so this year I’ll probably use paper instead of the silks to cushion the eggs.

As with all DIY projects with children, it’s important to focus on the process. My first time doing this with the children (who were obviously too young), I had their attention for 5 minutes and then basically dyed the eggs on my own which I enjoyed, but kind of missed the point.  Except that maybe it didn’t, because now the boys line up at the table when it’s time to dye our eggs, ready to chop cabbage or pour the vinegar or draw on the eggs.  It’s all part of the process, and has become one way in which we welcome the spring.

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Crafting with Kids: Pour Painting

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A new commitment means my mother hasn’t been able to come over for her weekly visits; instead she’s been offering weekly day visits and a sleepover to my youngest. This has opened up a window of opportunity for the bigger boys and me to do some things that aren’t so well suited to toddlers, and we actually have time to do them because some extra-curriculars have waned.

Without further ado, we tried pour painting. There should be a better name for this, there must be and I’m too encased in my own little cave to know.  Pour painting is so… literal.  Because the method is as simple as this:

1. Take a canvas (or sturdy piece of cardboard) and prime the surface (including the sides) with a coat of paint. (Try to do next steps while primer is still wet.)

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2. Pour or squeeze pools of paint (we used acrylics) onto the paint surface.  We did this two ways:  first, pouring little pools of paint hither and thither and then tilting the canvas in various directions to let the paint run; and second, pouring multiple colours of paint in the centre of the canvas over and over until it spilled off the edges.

3. Repeat step 2 as many times as needed until the surface is completely covered with paint.  (I was doing this project alongside the kids so didn’t take pictures during the process, but here’s more detail and instruction from the Housing a Forest.)

And that’s it! It’s hard to go wrong, and you’ll end up with a painting that’s colourful and evokative.

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A couple of notes… our paint cracked a bit as it dried where the colours met each other. I’m not sure how to avoid this and was a bit disappointed at first, but I think the paintings still work overall.

Also, we used a lot of paint. Not nearly as much as I bought, mind you, but the paint was very thick and required more than a day to dry. The canvas could handle this easily but if you’re using another surface, it really needs to be sturdy for this project. I also used cardboard under the canvasses to capture the paint that will spill off as regular paper will get wet and tear.

I have a few much bigger canvasses and think this project would be beautiful for decorating a wall; I can also imagine a few collected together. Also, doing the pour painting over an object, such as an inverted clay pot, is another fun project with beautiful results, so it’s on our spring list too (maybe to use as a special holder for a special seed).

And if you really want to be inspired by the possibilities of pour painting, check Holton Rower’s Tall Painting:

Kids and Science: Experimenting with Ice, Salt and Colour

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You may have heard mention around here that it’s been an intense winter… and we’re still in it.  Last week we got into the spirit of ice and did a melting experiment at home inspired by this from Jean at the Artful Parent.  You probably have everything you need in your home:  ice chunks (made from bowls and mugs of various sizes), salt, and food colouring or watercolour paints.  You’ll also need a tray with a lip to contain the melted ice – baking trays worked well for us.  It’s nice to have droppers to add the dyes/paints, although you could also just slowly pour some of the liquid from a teaspoon.

It’s an easy and fun project that beautifully demonstrates the melting action of salt when it comes into contact with ice.  When sprinkled on, the salt crystals will bore holes and crevices into the ice upon contact.  Adding food dyes (which we used) or watercolour paints to the salted ice illuminates these miniature pathways with colour.  The results were striking.

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I think I can fairly say this is the most successful crafting project I’ve done with all three boys (7, 5 and 2) so far.  All three were completely engaged and, praise be!, my littlest could participate fully.  They love ice, just touching it, they enjoyed applying the salt, squeezing the drops of food dye from their little containers (each drop makes a dramatic difference), and using our own droppers to play around with the coloured water that pooled around the ice on the trays.

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They stayed at it for a good, long while.  Toward the end, I was hanging around the kitchen island watching them work and waiting for them to finish); they needed no assistance or input from me.  It was a bit messy, and their sleeves were wet (my two year old’s shirt was pretty wet too), but it was easy to clean up.  It was well worth it, and really quite pretty.

And Canadian winter that we’re in, this ice project will probably reflect the weather outdoors for a few weeks yet…

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Red Fish, Blue Fish Creative Cafe

Our summer rambles took us to Red Fish, Blue Fish Creative Café on Harbord Street the other day.  It is a café designed for children with adults in tow.  In that order.  The limited (but delicious!) menu includes toast and jam, though no green 1052187_348238695305049_1519146928_oeggs and ham.  There is a diaper changing station stocked with supplies.  There is a wall of books and board games to borrow.  Best of all, there is an entire corner devoted to making art, stocked with all manner of supplies, including googly eyes, and a resident grown-up will even sit and make art with your kids while you sip lattes.  I will happily be the grown-up in tow to that café again and again.

I overheard one of the staff telling a story about a man in a suit walking in and bumping into a child who was on her way out.  “Are kids allowed in here?!” he asked in an alarmed voice.

“Yes, we encourage people with kids to come in,” she replied.

“Oh, then I don’t think I’ll be able to have my coffee here,” he said, and looked as if he expected her to do something about the presence of children in a café geared for children.

“Be gone, Grinch!” say I.  We will hope that your heart will grow three sizes one day, but in the mean time, I am savouring the anticipation of a return trip to a mommy oasis in the city.

Decorating With the Boys

We’re still working on establishing holiday traditions are our place, but one thing that has taken hold here is making our own Christmas tree decorations, and then of course decorating the tree together with our things.  I started this years ago, I think when my oldest son was just three years old.  There are lots of things that little children can help make; here are a few of our staples.

  • Salt Dough Ornaments – so easy to make, perfectly tactile for little hands, and fun to paint (sparkles!) and decorate.  These hang on from year to year if you’re careful with them.  To make:  Mix 2 cups flour and 1 cup salt, and add 2 Tbsp oil.  Slowly add 3/4 to 1 cup of water, until you have a smooth, clay-like consistency.  Make shapes that you like, and then bake at 250 degree for about an hour.  If you want to hang your ornaments, remember to poke a hole in it before baking (a straw is ideal for this, but I never have one and just use a bamboo skewer).
  • Dried Orange Slices – older children could help slice these, and then you just bake in an oven on low temperature until they’re dry.  They smell lovely, are so pretty on the tree, and even young kids can poke them with picture wire to make hooks for hanging.
  • Popcorn and Cranberry Strings – simple and festive on the tree.  It’s best to use day-old popcorn for stringing as it’s less likely to crack when you sew them together.  With supervision, little hands can do this, especially with a yarn needle that’s not quite so sharp, although I tend to give my kids regular needles as they’re more effective in poking the popcorn and cranberry.
  • Miniature Wreaths – these are little squares of fabric (that don’t fray) strung on a strong thread (like embroidery floss or fishing line) and then tied together to make a circle.  We have scrap fleece so we use that, but felt or wool (felted or boiled) would also work well.  I made these with the kids originally for window decorating, but they have since grabbed them for the tree.

We don’t have our tree yet this year, but just yesterday afternoon, and I swear I didn’t stage this, my boys spontaneously started making Christmas decorations.  We had driven home from a lesson in the dark, during which they excitedly pointed out every house that had holiday lights and decorations, and this must have spurred to them to their own creations.  They ended up making wreaths on their own from construction paper – I couldn’t participate because I had to make dinner and take care of the (sick) baby.  But I watched them fold, cut, colour, and tape these to our front window, working cooperatively the entire time.

I know these decorations from the outside may not look like much, but I love that my boys feel that they have the capacity and wherewithal to make Christmas treasures with their own hands, which of course they do.  I hope that our annual makings for the Christmas tree foster this.  Our tree will display our things, including a few gifted ornaments and artwork that they boys deem appropriate, and this works for us.