spend share save

written by tammy

spand share save bank

Here’s a project I can’t wait to replicate. Eliza and her mom crafted this project after being inspired by a Spend Share Save box at a friends house.

The idea is simple, start by digging an empty box out of the recycle bin:

start with an empty box

Divide the inside into sections (scotch tape and cardboard):

divide the box into sections

Using a sharp knife, and adult supervision, cut the lid into three pieces to match the sections created on the inside:

spend share save sections

When all the chopping and taping is done, decorate your bank and start dividing up your funds. My favorite part is the ‘share’ section.

Thanks for the great idea Eliza!!


salt dough

written by tammy

The fun of holiday baking doesn’t have to end just yet… just don’t eat these cookies!!

It was a chilly cold weekend, so we stayed in and made salt dough cutouts. This is a fun, squishy, messy, crafty activity that children of all ages can enjoy.

fun with salt dough

** To make the dough add 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt and about 3/4 of a cup of water to a large mixing bowl, roll up your sleeves, and squish together until it forms a moldable mass. (this is the fun part!!) Should it be too stiff, add more water a tiny bit at a time.  For more fun, food coloring can be added to the mix. **

After the dough was done, we rolled it out and started cutting shapes with play dough toys. Meanwhile, I started warming the oven to 350, so we could bake the shapes to crispy perfection. (about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cutouts)

A few story books later, we painted the cooled cooked shapes with tempura paints and played with the fun little character pieces.

Check out another fun salt dough project here.

paint the pretty pieces


add-on houses

written by tammy

With the holidays approaching you’ll soon find yourself knee deep in packaging waste. This is the perfect time to add another type of recycle bin to the home. A projects bin, like this one, can be used to collect empty packaging and other discarded items that have art-project potential. Everything, from the plastic and twist ties holding dolly in place to empty candy containers and wrapping paper, can be re-imagined into something useful.

add-on houses

This project takes a simple idea, and multiplies the fun!

You start with a shoe box, or a box of similar size, and create a room for your toys to dwell. The best thing about this project is not only do you get to do it over and over, at different times, with different friends, etc., but you get to take them all home, and assemble each piece into a grand mansion.

The bedroom, for instance, could have been made at a cousin’s house over Thanksgiving, the kitchen, at a sleepover and the playroom on a rainy afternoon. Creating add-on houses is great for holidays, sick days, vacation days and sleepovers.

The examples below are from one of ingenious kids I spend time with. She used wallpaper and wrapping paper scraps to adorn the walls. Altoids tins became closets and beds. Popsicle sticks are now hardwood floors and stamps transformed into artwork.

Click on the pictures below to get a closer look at the creative uses for everyday trash.

(You MUST click on the pictures to see the incredible detail!)


start a photo project

written by tammy

This project began when someone accidentally left their KidRobot toy at my house, and I took it on a little adventure…

Toting little E.Lie around NYC and snapping shots was a blast, but even more enjoyable was watching my friends join in on the fun. This little guy was not only photographed by me, but friends from ages 3 to 43.

With the digital revolution in full swing, it is not uncommon for even the youngest of children to enjoy the art of photography. If they’re capable of holding a camera and pushing a button, they’re ready for action!

Before returning E.Lie to its rightful owner, I collected my favorite pics, printed them out at home, and assembled a small photo album highlighting our escapades.

Where did your toys go today?


kinesis = kinetic sculpture

written by tammy

Set a child in motion and there’s no turning back.

Meet Eliza.

Eliza and I have been doing art together since she was 3 years old. In the beginning, whenever she got her hands sticky with glue or she was splotched with paint, all artistic activity came to a halt. After many, many baby wipes and much positive reassurance, a few key ideas became ingrained… Art is Messy, and (much to Nana’s chagrin) That’s why they make washing machines!!

By the time she was four, she was doing art projects independently as ‘surprises’ for the people she loved; drawings, collages, mixed-media works on paper. Lately, she’s been exploring her inner Jackson Pollock. So it came as no surprise, that after a week in the country… and a little help from the Grandparents… she returned with a kinetic sculpture any Alexander Calder fan would envy.

(did I mention he’s one of my favorite artists?!)

As I helped her reassemble the sculpture in the garden, she filled me in on the creative process:

The goal was to make a gift for her father’s birthday, so she applied the disciplinary planning techniques she acquired in art class last year and started with some sketches. After showing them to her Grandparents, they brainstormed about materials, then got to work.

meet the artist

The base was removed from a fallen tree in the yard, and shallow holes were drilled into the top. (Yes, adult help!!) Then came the first tedious part for her: rubbing oil into the wood. She emphasized how many applications it took to get a smooth sheen and bring out the rings. Afterward, she carved her name into the stump with a pointy object with a handle… sounds like an awl to me!

sign & date

Next, she straightened the galvanized steel wire by banging it with a mallet. Another difficult step, she said. Then the wire was cut into six pieces, about 3ft each in length, bent by hand into a hook shape, and inserted into the holes in the stump.

The colorful moving shapes were cut from plastic school folders. She made a paper template for each shape, traced and cut them out, then popped a hole in the top with a hole puncher.

kinetic sculpture

I helped her attach the shapes to the wire. We decided on thread, since it ties tight and is practically invisible (besides we didn’t have any fishing wire)!

The end result was exactly what she wanted.. a stunning sculpture that moves naturally.

it's all in the details

Keep moving and check out these links..

Some Calder pieces: Spider, Lobster Trap and Fish Tail, Untitled 1939

Kinetic Art – on Wiki


snow speeder

written by tammy

snow speeder front

It’s all Star Wars all the time!! (at least to my little bud, it is)

While my 4 year old friend is not making these projects all by himself, it’s the time we spend together.. digging through the recycle bin, tearing the tape, looking through books.. that makes doing projects together so much fun!

Not only that, but he truly cherishes his homemade toys. His x-wing fighter has been smooshed, squished and stomped on, but it still flies missions alongside the store-bought ones.

While I don’t expect everyone to have the same items we used, after reading through the rundown below, I hope you get some good ideas on how to fashion your own.

snow speeder side

Here’s the rundown: The bottom of the snow speeder is a discarded plastic tray from dog bones. We used an awl to pop some holes in it and thread the orange straws through.

The top is a juice bottle bottom, cut with a sharp kitchen knife. The top and bottom are joined in the back with clear packing tape. We put 2 layers on the outside, then 2 layers on the inside, to create a hinge, so the top opens and closes.

We jazzed it up with some craft foam strips, and in the very back is a broken Nerf bullet.

Now hit up the recycle bin and make some fun!!


plastic bag paratroopers

written by tammy

plastic bag paratrooper

When my young friend started pretending his Star Wars toys were parachuting in the other room, I instantly remembered those cheapo plastic parachute toys I used to get from the gum ball machine as a child. They were so much fun! So I dug through the cabinets and constructed this quickie craft…

The steps are outlined below. Click to see a larger, more detailed image:


use it or loose it! (thebabysitter files)

written by tammy

a happy tribute to recycled projects

Spending too much time with me can turn you into a collector, of sorts. Instead of collecting things you think will be of value to someone in a number of years, you collect random things (okay… trash, more or less) that you think you’ll use for an art project!

You’ll find yourself hanging on to empty spice jars, socks, stockings, styrofoam, boxes, broken jewelry, empty food containers, juice bottles, sippy boxes, baby food jars… you name it, I can make something with it!!

Fine! Good! Reuse!

But you must remember to USE WHAT YOU SAVE, otherwise you just end up with a heap of junk.

the details

This recycled sculpture was done by a 7 1/2 year old girl (who held herself up in her room with her little brother so that she could surprise me with this awesome gift).

There got to be such a mound of ‘collectibles’ in the house that the old ‘Use it or loose it’ adage was tossed around a tad too frequently! So.. she stepped up to the plate.

This project was made entirely out of things she saved, rescued from the trash, or collected around the house.

The Rundown: There’s a sock wrapped around a juice bottle, on top of an empty cookie container. Then another sock balled up, with an empty ribbon wheel, some craft straws and pipe cleaners holding up an ART sign, written with Sharpie on a fabric scrap. The sculpture is cleverly held together by (massive amounts of) clear packing tape.


garden-fairy houses

written by tammy

recycled fairy house

Spring is here, and so are the the garden fairies. Garden fairies come out at night when everyone is asleep and help your flowers grow. If you make them a beautiful home and put it in the garden your flowers will flourish and your veggies will plump. And when it rains, the fairies will have somewhere to dry their wings and enjoy a cup of nectar.

Plastic containers from the recycle bin work best for this project. We used empty mushroom containers and a natural potpourri of flower petals, twigs and leaves collected in and around the home for crafting. A waterproof glue is recommended if you want your houses to last.

what you need


- empty mushroom containers
- washable craft glue
- potpourri twigs and leaves
- leftover easter grass
- scissors
-extras: glitter glue, foam stickers, beads

What To Do:

Turn the container upside down and cut a door.

Pour some glue into a plastic container lid and use old paint brushes to apply a thick layer of glue to the container.

Affix the potpourri, twigs and leaves to the wet glue, trying to cover as much of the plastic container as possible.

Allow the glue to dry overnight and then place it in the garden for your little fairy friends.

**We were having so much fun with our houses we whipped out beads, stickers, pompoms and leftover Easter grass, then adorned the entire house with sparkly glitter glue**

recycled fairy house detail

The above house was done by a 5 year old girl. She did everything from the cutting to design and decorating on her own (with supervision, of course).

Check out another fairy house… here!


fun shop stickers

written by tammy


Do you LOVE stickers?

Grab some markers and make them yourself. All you need are blank sticker labels, a little color and lots of imagination.

We’re hooked. Make them, trade them and give them to friends… Fun Shop Stickers is a great play date activity.

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