Friday, September 12, 2014

Fall Fun: A Mommy & Me Craft

Here's a full disclaimer to start! I got these ideas from the blog Housing a Forest, and I followed her great tutorials, found here and here. I'm just sharing my own photos of the process and result! It was a really fun way to get excited about fall and start decorating our home, with Jacob's help :)

Okay, here are the steps:

Make paper pulp! Have your little one help rip up construction paper into tiny pieces, put them in separate containers (by color -- we combined some red paper with orange paper to make a darker orange). We used about 4-5 sheets of paper per color, but it was much more pulp than we needed! More fun for playing in, though ;) Pour boiling water on the pieces and let them sit for at least an hour (a couple would work even better) to break down the paper fibers. Then, blend the wet paper pieces (one color at a time) in the blender to create the pulp.
Find some sticks and rocks (or mulch) in the yard; this is another fun step for getting little ones involved! Arrange them in an empty, clean soup can (or a mason jar, vase, basket with floral foam, etc....up to you!). 
Our "tree" and my little helper ready to go! I knew the pulp would be messy, so I layered Jacob with a smock-style bib and his little apron. I was glad to have done so ;)
Testing out the pulp -- he wasn't sure at first! This part is why this craft is perfect for toddlers and small children. Even if they can't quite make the "leaves" on the tree, they get to tear up paper, search for sticks, and PLAY in the wet, mushy pulp! 
He quickly warmed up and got his hands dirty (SO literally)!
I didn't get pictures of the actual leaf creation, because I had to either help Jacob make his leaves or make them myself while guarding the tree from him ;) To make leaves, just squeeze little bits of pulp onto the ends of the sticks. Squeeze out enough water that the pulp stays on the sticks (this part will be messy!). Try not to be "perfect" in size or color distribution -- your tree will look more realistic if it's random.
What the finished tree looks like while wet. Ideally, place it outside in the sun for several hours to dry. If it is cloudy and/or windy, just set it somewhere out of children's reach. It will take a couple of days to dry fully. 
Once the tree is dry, you can spruce up the can by wrapping it with burlap (or fabric, ribbon washi tape, etc.!). 
The paper "leaves" look really unique and beautiful when dry. 
a close-up view
And, here's another part where I couldn't take photos because I needed to help! After making our tree, we used more of our paper pulp to make these cute leaf hangings/ornaments. All you need is the same pulp colors, a leaf-shaped cookie cutter (could also do a pumpkin, etc.), and a cookie sheet covered in waxed paper! The tutorial from Housing a Forest recommends using a squeeze of glue in with the pulp for this craft, but I decided to try it without. I pictured the messy, sticky pulp becoming even stickier and wasn't brave enough! It still worked just fine, though. Simply have your child squish the pulp into the cookie cutter (no pattern or order needed!), and help them flatten it down and squish out as much excess water as possible.  Use a skewer, lollipop stick, or something similar to make a hole in each leaf. Then, let them dry on the wax paper -- this will take a LONG time (several days to a week). You can sop up a little excess water with a paper towel to help speed up the drying. Finally, tie on a hanger (use twine, ribbon, or yarn), and display as desired!

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