Sunday, January 1, 2012

Play Food: Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is the last of the play food that I have made to this point. I plan to make more when we are back in Geita and promise to share those projects as they come. Just today, I came across this great blog post that provides lots of good reasons to make your own play food as well as some very inspirational pictures. Scroll down to the bottom to see an educational variation on chocolate chip cookies. 
Despite all the fabulous reasons to make your own play food, I have to admit that on a recent trip to Ikea I bought some to supplement. I love making it, but decided it would be nice to not make EVERY SINGLE piece. We picked up the fruit basket and some adorable utensils. We also bought the sweet set (cookies, ice cream, cake) for some cousins. All of their sets are super cute and inexpensive. Now on with the cookies.

Tan felt
tan embroidery thread
dark brown embroidery thread
fiber fill stuffing

1- Start by cutting out 2 matching roundish shapes from the felt. My cookies aren’t usually perfect circles so I just did lumpy roundish shapes. If your cookies are perfectly round you could trace a Pringles lid.

2- Make the chocolate chips-
The specks of chocolate that show on top of a cookie aren’t usually round or all the same size, so I made mine all different. To make a chocolate speck, knot your thread and start from the wrong side of your cookie top. Make a straight stitch as long as you want the widest part of the speck to be.
3- Now make another straight stitch right next to it that is just a little shorter than the first stitch. Don't leave any felt showing between stitches.

4- Continue in this manner on both sides of the first stitch until your speck is filled out. If you end up with a gap between any of your stitches just add an extra stitch between to fill it in.

5- Work your way around the cookie top adding chocolate specks of different sizes, until you feel there are enough for your liking. After the last one knot your thread on the back side of the cookie top.

6- Now you are ready to attach the top and bottom pieces. Knot your light brown thread and start from the inside of the cookie so the knot is hidden. Work your way around wrapping your stitch around the raw edge. This is the sort of thing I like to work on while watching TV, or ignoring the laundry, or when the kid is playing contently by himself, but if I try to do anything really productive he’s suddenly up in my grill. Does anyone else have this problem? I digress.

As you work your way around, your two pieces may not match up perfectly anymore. If you have this problem just trim them to match as you go.

7- When you are maybe and inch and a half away from your starting point it’s time to put in the fiber fill. You just need enough to give your cookie some height. Play with it till you like the amount. Keep in mind that over time, with lots of play, they may start to flatten. In other words, I’d err on the side of over stuffing a little. You want to get the filling spread out like you want it before you finish the stitching and can’t get your fingers in there. If it’s all bunched on one side it will be hard to even it out after you’ve closed the cookie, because the filling just sticks to the felt.

8- To finish it off, knot your thread on the underside of the cookie.
9- Now pull the thread under one or two of the stitches on that side before cutting it off.
And you’re finished! Except one cookie is never enough, so you better make a few more! Plus, having several you can use them to work on counting or sharing: One cookie for kiddo, two cookies for Daddy, three cookies for Mommy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Play Food: Fried Egg

Fried Eggs are really simple to make. Here's what you need:

white felt
yellow felt
white embroidery thread
yellow embroidery thread
a very small bunch of fiber fill
FYI- I kind of did mine out of order. I guess I wasn’t thinking straight (pregnancy brain) and I got the egg whites nearly stitched all the way around before realizing I should have put on the yolk first. No worries, I managed to get the yolk on, but my pictures will show the whites already stitched together when they really shouldn’t be. Sorry.
1- First cut out two matching pieces for the egg whites. You can make them as round or funky shaped as you want. Sometimes my fried eggs end up pretty funky shaped! 
Now cut out one yolk piece from your yellow felt. I made this closer to round, but it still doesn’t really have to be a perfect circle. If you really care about that try tracing a ketchup bottle lid.
The pic shows the felt pieces along with the other supplies you need.

2- Next, stitching perpendicular to your yolk, attach it to one of the egg whites. As you get near then end, push a very tiny amount of fiber fill into the yolk before you finish stitching. It really doesn’t take much.

You’ll want to knot the thread at the beginning and end of this step on the underside of the egg white so they don’t show.
3- Now it’s time to stitch the egg whites together. Knot your thread and pull it through from the wrong side of one egg white. Wrapping your stitch around the edge of the egg, work your way around.
When you have about an inch and a half left stuff some fiber fill in the egg to give it as much height as you’d like. Over time, the filling may flatten out a bit, so err on the side of over stuffing. Before you finish the stitching make sure that the fiber fill is spread out like you want it to end up. Once the egg is closed it will be difficult to reposition the filling because it will stick to the felt.
Finish stitching all the way around. To tie off the thread go to the underside of the egg. Knot the thread.

Now pull the thread through one or two of the stitches and then cut it off.

Now you have a fried egg ready for your little one to play with!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Play Food: Tomato slices

The tomatoes are a little more complex than the spinnach, but I think they turned out really well. They are probably the most difficult food item I'm going to share, but they are also my favorite. I tried to take plenty of pictures on these to help with the explanations. These will go in those tortilla wraps eventually along with the spinnach. Here's what you need:

red felt
yellow embroidery thread
red or pinkish embroidery thread lighter than your felt
red embroidery thread darker than your felt
Step1- Cut out two matching roundish pieces of red felt for each tomato. Tomatoes aren’t perfect circles so your pieces don’t have to be either.
Step 2- Seeds
You need to put seeds on both sides of each tomato in three different sections. I tried to imitate a Roma tomato because that's what we have in Tanzania. Roma's have three sections each filled with seeds. We won’t add lines showing the three sections until later so you need to be visualizing it as you put the seeds on. I've drawn in blue lines on the pictures below to show the three sections I'm talking about. 

The seeds are made using french knots. I made them different sizes by wrapping around the needle once for some and twice for others. There is a great tutorial on how to do a French Knot here. There is no right number of seeds. Just make them until it looks good to you.
Now you are ready to put in the lines that delineate the three sections. Use a reddish or even pink thread color that is lighter than your felt. You are going to be sewing through both pieces of felt at once. Use a running stitch to work your way around the seeds, making sure the seeds on both sides end up inside the section. 
After you’ve gone around once, go around again doing another running stitch between the stitches you've already done. Now you’ll have a solid line on both side. Knot you thread and cut close to the knot.

Now, using a red thread slightly darker than your felt, make a stitch going all the way around your tomato. I'm not sure what to call this stitch. I just looped around the edge, but you could use a blanket stitch here. As you work your way around the tomatoes may stretch and not match up so well. Just trim as you go to make them the same shape. At the start you can knot the thread on the inside so it doesn’t show. At the end you’ll need to knot it on the outside. Now, pull the excess thread through one or two of your stitches, and cut it off.

Little Man loves tomatoes, so I think he’ll really enjoy playing with these!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Play Food- Spinach

A few months back I started making various types of play food out of fabric. I haven't actually given any of them to Little Man to play with just yet. At some point we'll make him a little toy kitchen and get out all the food. First, I need to build up his pantry.
Today I'm going to show you the simplest thing I've made, spinach leaves. Here's what you need:
green felt
green embroidery thread (lighter or darker than the felt)

Step 1- Cut your felt into as many leaves as you want. They don't have to all look the same or perfect. You can make a template out of paper if you are worried about messing up your felt. 

Step 2- Start at one end of your leaf and make a running stitch going down the center of the leaf. Don't knot your yarn at the beginning, just leave enough thread hanging that you can use it for a knot at the end. When you get to the end of your leaf you should have a dotted stitched line.

Step 3- Now go back the other way filling in the empty spaces.

Step 4- Tie a knot with your two pieces of thread at the starting/finishing end. Cut the thread close to knot.

I forgot to take pics of this as I went, but here are the finished leaves.

In this one you can see the knot at one end.

Here is the bunch. 

I plan to use these to fill some tortilla wraps that are still in progress, along with other play veggies. I'm trying to make only foods that we eat in our normal life in Tanzania, which limits it a little. 
I'm wondering what folks think about play food and kitchens for boys. I realize it's more normal for girls, but why shouldn't boys learn about cooking? My husband is an incredible cook, which really comes in handy when I'm too pregnant to cook. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Felt Bows

I decided to whip up some felt bows for the Craft Fair this year. They didn't sell particularly well, but I thought I'd share them anyway. The inspiration came from Twig and Thistle via Pinterest. The actual tutorial that both she and I used is for making bows from old magazines and can be found at How about Orange. It's super easy and I love the look of the felt, but I'm thinking I may use this in Tanzania to create paper bows for birthdays and what not. They don't exactly carry gift bows at the Nyehunge Super Min Mart. Yeah, that's really the name, but we still call it by the old name, Camp City, which makes so much more sense, right? I run-on and digress.

You'll notice that I made a few different variations: felt with ribbon, just ribbon, felt with embroidery, and folding a little differently. I stitched all of mine with sewing thread and turned them into pins, headbands, hair clips, and regular package bows. Here are some pics of what I made. Any friends who have a little girl and want a free headband or hair clip, let me know.

Package Bows-


 Hair Clips-


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lesson 6- Impressionism/Pointilism

Here is the last art lesson I did before our trip to the states. I'll resume teaching and posting art lessons in February of next year.

Rather than focusing on just one artist, for this lesson we focused on a style, Impressionism. We did look at the work of Seurat and Monet, but didn't attempt to learn a lot about their lives, just their painting.

Have the 9 and 11 year old read the information on this page:
Have them explain the things they think are most important about Impressionism to the 6 year old. (assist if needed) Make sure they include how Impressionism was different from the current painting styles of the time:
subjects- everyday people
subjects not centered
painting outdoors
study of light
Show some images of Monet’s work. I used images from Wikipedia and made sure to include one of water lilies.
11 year old-
I had her do an impressionist style picture from our flower bed outside. I let her choose which section to do and gave her a piece of cardstock with a 3x3 square cut to help her choose her composition. By closing one eye and moving the square closer to or farther away from you eye you can zoom in and out on the scene. It helps when deciding how much of the scene to include in the picture. She was also working on a square piece of paper. In this case I had her use oil pastels rather than paint to avoid the ordeal of getting paints outside and colors mixed. The focus was on the style of impressionism and the idea of working outdoors.

Here is the finished piece.

Meanwhile, with the 6 and 9 year old:
Georges Seurat took impressionism a step further and created a style that is known as pointilism. He covered his canvas with tiny dots to create an image. Rather than mixing green paint, he would place blue and yellow dots close to each other so that from a distance they looked green. 
Look at one of his paintings
Using q-tips or pencil erasers, create a pointilist picture. Give the student a picture to copy of something simple, such as a flower. I just googled red flower and choose a pic that was simple. This takes a while so start out doing a very small picture. Demonstrate this technique and stress taking your time. I had my students do a flower. First, they sketched the basic outline of the flower. Then they filled in the background with green and last they painted the flower. I had several shades of red and green already mixed for them and one shade of yellow. To make a darker red or green add a little black, to make a lighter shade add a little white.

Here's what the paint tray with different shades looked like.

The pointillist pieces. left is the 6 year old's and right is the 9 year old's.

After everyone was finished I let the kids share their pictures with each other and had the oldest tell us what it was like to work outdoors, so we could really think about what the Impressionists were up against (heat, cold, wind and light constantly changing, etc).

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Well, I've been MIA for a bit now and there is a reason. I'm not really sure if there is anyone who reads this blog and doesn't read my other blog, but just in case click on over to see where I've been:

I'm back in the states now for about a 3 month visit, but I've got one more art lesson plan that I've not yet shared (more will come after my return to TZ and teaching). I've also got several projects already made that I'll be sharing and a few new ideas bouncing around in my head for the coming weeks. Stay tuned!