Fall Leaf Mason Jar Lanterns

I don’t ever seem to get enough of mason jar crafts…whether it’s a fairy house, a pumpkin lantern, or this week’s project…these festive FALL MASON JAR LANTERNS! The great thing about this project is that it’s very hard to mess the jars up and there are a few variations to try. I made these this morning with a group of ladies at L’s new school…each lady’s lantern was unique and beautiful. One lady mixed gold paint with every color, some overlapped the leaf prints, while others put just a couple prints on each jar. There’s plenty of creative freedom with this project! The jars shine brilliantly as lanterns, but you could also use them as a vessel for your No-Bake Acorn Treats or even arrange an Autumn flower bouquet in one, using it as a vase.

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Materials needed:

  • jars
  • acrylic paints and brushes
  • small-med fall leaves
  • tea light
  • dried rice, beans, corn, coffee beans

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First, prep your work space with cardboard, wax paper, or old newspapers.

Next, paint the underside of a leaf with a fall color or combination of 2 or 3. (Red, orange, yellow, green, brown, gold)

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Carefully press the painted leaf onto the surface of the jar and smooth down all the edges.

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Peel the leaf off gently to reveal your painted-leaf print. If your first print doesn’t look exactly as you thought it would, no worries…as you add more prints, any blips or irregularities will be hidden.

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A variation to this, is doing quite the opposite. Hold a clean leaf on the surface of the jar and paint around the edges. You can then paint the entire jar, leaving a little leaf window for the light to shine out. I originally thought this would look great with a solid color of gold…didn’t turn out as I planned, so I ended up dabbing all the fall colors all over the jar and it turned out beautifully! A beautiful oops! If something doesn’t turn out how you imagined, try something new and you may be surprised what you come up with!

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Arranged on a tabletop with mini-pumpkins, gourds, leaves, acorns, or flower petals, you’ll have a festive centerpiece for your Thanksgiving meal! Instead of just placing a tea light in each jar, first add small layer of dried beans, rice, corn, or coffee beans. This will bring the light up to the little “window” you have created in the jar and make it look more complete. Enjoy!

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Mushroom Spore Prints

Did you ever make MUSHROOM SPORE PRINTS as a kid? They’re super-easy to make and super-beautiful! Lately the girls and I have found lots of mushrooms around the yard, at L’s school, and when out hiking in the woods! Mushroom spore prints are so mush fun to make…you’ll be out looking for mushrooms everywhere you go! When looking for mushrooms, you’ll want to find some that are fresh (just a day or two old), before they’ve dropped their spores. Mushroom spores are no bigger than a speck of dust and the wind scatters them all around. As you probably assumed, the spores are mushrooms’ “seeds.” In making spore prints on paper, you’ll be amazed at how many just one mushroom has!

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While it’s fun to poke and prod at mushrooms, investigating them and marveling at their unique beauty, be sure to remind your kids that we NEVER eat a mushroom that we find outdoors. Only experts know the difference between ones that are deadly and ones that are okay to eat.

 

Materials needed:

  • mushrooms
  • sharp knife
  • dark paper or card stock
  • a large bowl or container

 

First, find a good mushroom or two. Mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes…you’ll want a typical dome-shaped mushroom cap, though it doesn’t matter what color.

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After you’ve carefully removed the mushroom from the soil, cut off the stem close to the top of the mushroom.

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Flip the mushroom onto a dark piece of paper.

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Cover it with a large bowl or container, and let the mushroom sit for a few hours or overnight.

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Carefully remove the container and lift the mushroom off the paper without smudging the spore print.

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Fascinating and beautiful!!!

Milk Carton Fairy Houses

Who knew milk cartons had so much potential??? They are perfect for making fairy houses and gnome homes! First off, a milk carton is just the right size for fairies…all it needs is a door and a few windows to make it feel like home. Milk cartons are also water-proof, providing adequate housing for both indoor and outdoor use. WB and L like to play with their fairy houses during the day and, at night, we tuck a little tea light inside to turn them into night lights! So sweet!

 

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Materials needed:

  • milk cartons
  • white primer spray paint
  • exacto knife
  • acrylic paints
  • hot glue gun
  • sticks, bark, moss, acorns, etc.
  • battery-operated tea lights

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First, spray your milk cartons with some primer. The surface of milk cartons is usually waxy and paint will have a hard time sticking. A coat or two of primer should do the trick!

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Next, using an exacto knife, carefully cut a door and windows into the house. And do not worry…the windows don’t need to be perfect! Fairy houses’ never are!

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Now the fun part for the kids, have your little ones paint and decorate the houses. Start with a solid color or two underneath.

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Then add details like polka-dot doors and Fall pumpkins. For our pumpkins, the kids used a wine cork as a stamp!

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While the paint dries, send the kids outside to collect nature materials to use for a roof.

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Before assembling the roof, you can easily flip the screw-top opening inwards. Just push it in with your fingers…it’s easier than you think!

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Glue twigs or bark over the opening, and then add all sorts of nature findings. Each house will be unique!

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To light your fairy houses up at night, place battery-operated tea lights inside. You could also use a string of lights in and around the houses for a magical display!

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“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl

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DIY Nature Frame

Is your child a nature collector or, as Pippi Longstocking would say, a “thing finder”? If so, the DIY Nature Frame is the perfect project for them! Just about every day of the year, L fills our stroller, our wagon, or our pockets with things she finds on walks. We could be going for a walk around the block in the city and she still comes home with feathers, sticks, rocks, butterfly wings and seed pods! This past weekend we went for a walk and L brought home pinecones and pine needles that she wanted to “do a craft” with, ie. glue to paper. I knew that wouldn’t quite work, so in less than 10 minutes we put together this Nature Frame!

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The best part about having a Nature Frame, is that it’s a project that is constantly changing, evolving throughout the year. While ours has pine cones and pine needles in it now, the end of February, I’m sure within a month or two it will be filled with Spring flowers, robins eggs, and fallen bird’s nests. In the Fall, our Nature Frame will most likely be glowing orange with fallen leaves from the backyard…finally, a place for all our nature findings!!!

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Materials needed:

  • an old frame
  • string
  • scissors

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First, dismantle your frame. I bought this old and ugly print, among a collection of 5 other framed pictures, for $1.75 at an antique auction. I liked two of the pictures and that was worth the $1.75 and getting stuck with 3 I didn’t care for so much! So I stashed the ugly pictures away in a closet and I’m glad I did…the frame on this one was perfect for a Nature Frame! You can find similar frames for pennies at secondhand stores, yard sales, and antique shops.

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Next, tie your string to the edge of your frame and, with the help of your child, wrap it criss-cross around the frame. We used three different strings that were three different colors…anything works!

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Now, after you’ve been for a nature walk and your little one’s pockets are full, you can fill your frame. And then, hang it in a place for everyone to enjoy! We hung ours in our kitchen by the back door…L’s findings usually end up on the floor by the door, so now they can go up on the wall instead! I just love it!

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Enjoy!!!

 

Acorn Donut Holes

Another adorable, little treat that I like to make around Thanksgiving, along with our No-Bake Acorn Cookies, is our Acorn Donut Holes! They are perfect for breakfast snacking, leading up to the main event. I make some with toasted coconut and some without to add some variation to the plate and to please all the little picky eaters in our world.

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Ingredients:

  • plain donut holes
  • bakers chocolate or chocolate chips
  • coconut
  • pretzels

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To make the toasted coconut, spread a couple handfuls of coconut on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven on 350 degrees, for 5-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the coconut…you want it to be lightly browned, but not completely dark brown and burnt!

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While the coconut is toasting, melt your chocolate in a double-broiler on the stove top. (Or in the microwave if you have one!)

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Break up a few pretzels to use as the “stems” of your acorn tops.

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Depending on how big your donut holes are, you can choose to cut off the tops or not. Sometimes I like cutting them in half to make little acorns for little hands, other times I leave them whole and they look just as sweet!

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Next, dip the top of a donut hole into the melted chocolate.

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Have your little helpers sprinkle the toasted coconut on top of the chocolate.

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And lastly, stick a little pretzel piece into the donut to look like a stem! Too easy!

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And sooo yummy!!! Enjoy!!!

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Thankful Trees and Variations

What a fun way to teach kids about thankfulness! All you need to do to make your own family “Thankful Tree” is to write down things you and your kids are thankful for on “leaves” and put them together in the shape of a tree! Every year now I look forward to making our “Thankful Tree” as Thanksgiving approaches, and every year we do it a little bit differently! In the past, L and I made a simple tree on a single piece of construction paper, the leaves different colors, but all the same size.

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This year we made our “Thankful Tree” when my niece and nephew came over…and we made a big, fun, mixed-media tree!

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We put the tree up on a door in our dining room and everyone had a job to do! L cut strips of brown paper for the tree’s trunk and branches; my 9-year-old niece helped cut leaves of various sizes and shapes; and my 6-year-old nephew did a little of both!

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After everything was cut, we went outside and collected sticks, twigs, and real leaves. My niece helped write all the things we were thankful for on the leaves, while we all took turns shouting out ideas! Meanwhile, I started to tape the tree trunk and branches up on the door.

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Once all the leaves were full of things we were thankful for, the kids filled the branches with the leaves! I love how it turned out!

 

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Other ideas:

  • Trace your hands and cut them out, for your tree’s leaves.
  • Add a new leaf every day of November leading up to Thanksgiving.
  • Make a “Thankful Tree” on Thanksgiving with the entire family.
  • Instead of a tree, put your leaves together in the shape of a wreath.

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The above photo was shared by one of my dear friends from childhood, Sarah. Her family is adding a hand-shaped leaf every day this November! Too cute! Comment below and share some of your “Thankful Trees” with us! I can’t wait to see all your wonderful creations!!!

Mixed-media Fall Art

We have some glorious October weather in Virginia this week…cool mornings, sunny days, and brilliant leaves falling from our trees! L’s been painting outside these days, in a world of October color! Yesterday she made a beautiful fall tree using acrylics, melted crayons, and a sprinkle of “leaf glitter” (tiny pieces of actually leaves). The outcome is beautiful!!! I made a similar piece last year that I also adore…the process is as much fun as the piece of art itself!

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Materials needed:

  • canvas (you could do this on cardboard too!)
  • acrylic paints (blues, white, brown)
  • crayons (oranges, yellows, and red)
  • knife and cutting board
  • oven

*A tip when buying crayons for this project…when you’re looking for orange crayons, buy a box of 24 crayons. The larger boxes contain more crayons, but not any more orange and yellows!!! We always seem to run out of orange crayons this time of year!

First, have your child paint their canvas blue. We like to use some darker and some lighter blues, mixing them all together.

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Next, have them paint a few white, fluffy clouds.

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As the sky is drying, sit back and look at the trees with your child. Point out how the trunk is usually straight and thick. As you move up the tree, the branches get smaller and smaller, and they get more squiggly!

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As you continue to discuss trees and their features, lay out a few various-sized paintbrushes. Have your child put them in order from biggest to smallest. Now they know which paintbrush to use for their tree’s trunk and all its branches!

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Time to paint the tree!

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The next step is a little “out of the box,” but that’s what makes it so great! Have your child pick out which crayons are the colors of the fall leaves before them. Using a sharp knife and a cutting board, remove the paper off the crayons and chop the crayons up into tiny pieces. I think we used half a lime-green crayon, one yellow, three or four oranges, and one red crayon.

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Lay the painting down on a flat surface and have your little one sprinkle the crayon shavings all over the trees branches. L also crumbled up an actual leaf from the yard and sprinkled some of it among the crayon pieces. It’s a minor detail, but it’s my favorite. I’ll always remember this day and where L made her Fall Tree.

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Once the crayon shavings are all dispersed, put your painting into the oven at 200 degrees for about 3-5 minutes. Watch the pieces as they melt. (Our painting was too big to fit in the oven this time, so I carefully held it under the broilers with the oven set on broil. I did one end, then turned it around and did the opposite.) When you remove the artwork from the oven, be careful to hold it flat and steady…until the crayon wax hardens, the wax will drip if it is tilted at all.

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Isn’t the outcome gorgeous? It’s perfectly imperfect…just like a fall leaf.

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If you think this is just a craft for kids, you’re wrong…you can totally do this as well! “Mixed-media Fall Art” is fun for anyone and everyone! Enjoy!!!

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Candy Corn Candles

I was so excited when I saw some “candy corn candles” online the other day, I couldn’t wait to make them! The candles were so cute, but when I read the tutorial, I discovered that they were just white candles painted to look like candy corn! What a disappointment! I figured, “How hard could it be to actually make CANDY CORN CANDLES?” And so I did just that! I’ve made all types of candles before and each time is an experiment. They are a lot of fun to play around with! Give yourself some time and patience when you’re making candles…they are definitely worth it! These candy corn candles may be my favorite yet! They’re seasonal and adorable! My suggestion is to make a few at a time…one for you to keep and a couple to give away as gifts!

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Materials needed:

  • large pot with 1-2 in. water inside
  • metal pouring-pot or large metal can
  • paraffin wax
  • crayons (yellow, orange and white)
  • mason jars
  • primed wicks
  • pencils
  • paper towels
  • wax paper (to protect your counter top)
  • wooden skewer or stick
  • candle thermometer

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First, place your metal pouring pot (or large can) into the large pot of water. Place 2-3 blocks of paraffin wax into the pouring pot. Turn the stove on high, bringing the water to a boil, then turn it down a bit so the water doesn’t boil over.

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As your wax melts, peel the paper off of two orange crayons. The easiest way to do this is to carefully slice the paper down the side with a sharp knife.

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If you have a candle thermometer, continue to heat the wax until it reaches 180 degrees. Usually once all the wax is melted it is at or near 180 degrees. Now, add the two orange crayons. Using a wooden skewer or a stick, mix the color and wax together.

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Carefully pour the orange wax into your three mason jars. If you have any excess wax, you can pour it into a disposable bread pan and save the wax for later. (I poured mine into a cheap coffee mug and made an additional candle in a mug!)

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The next step is a little tricky, but take your time…wax doesn’t harden immediately, so relax and stay calm! Place your candle wick into the middle of the candle and wrap the extended portion around a pencil. Lay the pencil across the jar to keep the wick in place. You may have to move the pencil around a bit to get the wick right where you want it. Sometimes the wick likes to move within the first few minutes, so keep an eye on it!

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Let the wax set for at least 30 min to an hour, but not much more. While you’re waiting, reheat the few drops of wax that remain in the pouring pot and, careful not to burn yourself, wipe the pot out with a paper towel.

After the wax has set, it’s time to do the exact same thing, but this time making yellow candle wax! Heat the paraffin wax in the pouring pot or large can. After it melts, throw in two yellow crayons. Mix the wax with the other end of your wooden skewer. Carefully pour the wax into your three jars. Let it set 30 min to an hour and wipe out your pouring pot.

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And last, but not least…time to do the same with the white wax. If your paraffin is semi-translucent before it melts, I’d add a white crayon or two. Some paraffin wax that is designed specifically for candle-making is very white to begin with…you don’t have to add any crayons to this type.

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Now, let your candles set for a few hours! Sometimes when making candles a little well develops around the wick as it sets. If this happens, melt some more white wax and carefully pour it into the well to top it off. For the first time in making candles myself, this didn’t happen with my candy corn candles! Once set, the tops were just as flat as when I poured the wax in. Trim the wicks down to about half an inch. Enjoy!!!

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Some tips I learned the hard way:

  • You definitely need at least 2 crayons to color the wax. When the wax sets, the color will appear much lighter than it looks when poured. If the orange color appears too light for your taste, you can carefully place the jar into hot or boiling water to re-melt the wax and stir in another crayon piece. Best to avoid this step altogether though, and put enough color in at the start!
  • When making these layered, candy corn candles, let the wax set for an hour in-between pouring layers, but not much more! When I made these, I poured the orange and yellow wax at night and then I waited til morning to add the final, white layer. I totally forgot that the wax can shrink a bit when it completely sets, causing it to separate from the jar a little. When I went to pour the white wax onto the top, in two of my candles the white wax seeped down the edges, covering up the yellow a little bit. Oops! So let the wax set, but not for over an hour before adding the next layer!

 

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Enjoy this adorable craft! They are just too cute!

Homemade Sugar Skulls

Sugar Skulls aren’t a typical Halloween craft and that’s because they’re not one! Calaveras de azúcar,  as they are pronounced in Spanish, are a sweet decoration originating from the Latino celebration los días de los muertos or “The Days of the Dead.” Celebrated from October 31 until November 2, many Latinos remember their loved ones who have passed by setting up altars, having late-night parades through the streets and picnics in the cemetery. It is an extremely colorful and lively time of the year, sharing memories of their antepasados. A Day of the Dead altar is not complete without sugar skulls, and what better way to show your love than making your own!

 

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I first made SUGAR SKULLS years ago when I taught Spanish at a local elementary and middle school. My students couldn’t wait until they were in 6th grade and got to make them with me! The hardest thing to find for this craft will be the skull molds, but I have seen them at craft stores this time of year…both at Hobby Lobby and at Michael’s. Meringue powder is easy to find at craft stores as well!

Materials needed:

  • plastic skull molds
  • mixing bowl and spoon
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons meringue powder
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • paper plates, silicone mats, cutting board
  • gel food coloring/icing
  • toothpicks
  • sequins

 

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First, mix the dry ingredients together in the bowl. Sprinkle in the water and continue to mix until the sugar is completely moistened and becomes the consistency of wet sand.

 

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Scoop some of the mixture into the mold and pack it evenly and firmly. Scrape off any excess.

 

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Next, place a small silicon mat or paper plate over the mold. Carefully flip the mold over.

 

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If you want to keep it on a paper plate, just carefully lift the mold. Otherwise, gently remove the silicon mat and lift the mold, leaving the skulls on a cutting board until they set up! Let the skulls dry and harden for 24 hours.

 

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After the skulls have hardened completely, it’s time for the fun part…decorating! I used a plastic lid as a palate for L, and squirted a bit of every color out for her to use. Then she used toothpicks to decorate her skulls. The more colorful, the more beautiful!

 

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Flowers play a big part in the Days of the Dead celebrations, so I was sure to add some to our skulls as well!

 

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Now for the question you are all wondering: Can you eat the sugar skulls? Technically, yes. But even with my 6th graders, they realized that it’s basically a rock of sugar and nobody tried eating them. If you keep your skulls in a safe place, the same ones will last for years! My dad has some that I made at least 7 or 8 years ago…he pulls them out as decorations every Halloween! Check out your local library for some beautifully illustrated books on The Days of Dead!

 

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Pumpkin Suncatchers

How sweet are these PUMPKIN SUNCATCHERS? They brighten up our kitchen windows and, hung beside some glue ghosts, they’ve quickly become my favorite Halloween decoration in the house!

 

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This project evolved while L and I were making it. (I love when that happens!) Originally we were just going to paint some mason jar lids, tie a ribbon on and call them “pumpkins.” Once I realized they’d be hanging in the kitchen window, I had a eureka moment…I knew that turning our pumpkins into suncatchers would be too easy and too perfect! I just love the bright and sunny colors!

 

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Materials needed:

  • mason jar lids
  • orange acrylic paint
  • plastic container (berry containers work great!)
  • Sharpie markers
  • green ribbon
  • green pipe cleaners
  • scissors
  • hot glue gun

*Notice the plastic container, hot glue gun, and markers are not pictured here…they surprised us in becoming “needed materials” half-way through the project!

 

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First, have your little ones paint the mason jar lids orange.

 

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After the lids have dried, tie a ribbon in a double-knot around the lid.

 

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Next, cut a pipe cleaner in half. Wrap it around a thin marker or pen to make a curlicue.

 

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Gently wrap the pipe cleaner curlicue around the knot at the base of the ribbon.

 

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Now for the suncatcher part! Cut the lid off your plastic container and remove the label if there is one.

 

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Have your little one color the plastic lid with Sharpie markers. L did some in solely “pumpkin colors” while the others she colored freely, using every color of the rainbow. (It’s important to use permanent markers, washable will rub right off and won’t work!)

 

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Use the center part of a jar lid to trace rounds on the colored-plastic. Cut the rounds out and make sure they fit into the pumpkin lids. You may have to trim the sides a bit and cut a piece out where the ribbon will lie.

 

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Next, with just a few dabs of hot glue, glue the colored-plastic in place. All done!

 

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Hang your PUMPKIN SUNCATCHERS up in a bright and sunny window where everyone can enjoy them! Adorable!!!

 

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