Insect – Cricket Chirping/Musical Sticks (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 31, 2008 9:08 pm

My stepmother, who always enjoys our projects, recently sent my children a subscription to Family Fun magazine because she thought they might find some fun ideas there. Well, we did find an idea that sounded pretty cool for this week’s insect Unplugged Project: Cricket Chirpers.

Supplies:  1/2″ wooden beads, wooden skewers, and glue (the article called for “tacky glue” but not being crafty enough to know what that was, I used carpenter’s wood glue):

First, as suggested by the magazine, I cut the pointy ends off the skewers to reduce the chance of injury.

Next, the children threaded 15 beads onto the skewers in any pattern they wished.

My 2 year-old had fun threading beads too.  For her, I stuck a lump of playdough onto one end of the skewer so she wouldn’t get frustrated by beads falling off:

She eventually tired of threading and unthreading beads and branched out into sticking the beads onto the lump of playdough:

This turned into an all-out playdough session (one of her favorite things):

After each child had made two sticks, I glued the two end beads with the carpenter’s glue.  It turned out to be a bit fiddly and messy, so I think it was a good thing that I decided to do this step myself.

We let the glue dry for several hours, and this was the result:

When rubbed together, the sticks are supposed to sound like crickets. Well, they didn’t sound much like crickets to me. My husband agreed. I thought maybe they sounded more like cicadas on a night full of general, random insect noises. I asked my husband…he closed his eyes, concentrated, and said…”No.”

They do however make cool instruments to add to any musical instrument collection. Sorry about the crickets though.

Why don’t you try it (very easy project) and let me know what you think!


What did you do this week for the Unplugged Project theme of insect?  If you did an insect project this week, then please put a link to your project in Mr. Linky.

A few linking pointers:

  • It is best if you link to the actual project post, not just your blog in general, that way people will always be able to find your specific project easily.
  • Also, if you did not do the project, please don’t link.  Mr. Linky is for project participants only, not for general links to blogs or stores, etc.
  • Finally, I have decided that I will leave a Mr. Linky open for only two weeks.  After two weeks I will disable it so that no new links can be added, but all the existing links can still be followed.  This will give everyone two weeks to add their link, but will guard against spam links being added to old Linkys that I no longer monitor.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Have fun!

Trees – Handprint Trees and an Unexpected Visitor (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 29, 2008 8:42 pm

Unplugged Project Special Edition

Now that my camera cable is back, here is our project for trees. Better late than never I suppose!


I was fairly uninspired for the Unplugged Project theme of trees. It needed to be simple since we were in Albuquerque for the weekend, away from any supplies beyond crayons and paper. No one had ideas, then I suggested making trees out of our hand outlines. The idea was met with very little enthusiasm, but my oldest daughter and I decided to give it a go.

First we traced our hands:

Then we cut some small branches off some trees that needed a bit of pruning anyhow. We took the leaves off the branches to stick them on our handprints:

What started off as a rather dull project quickly became exciting when one of the leaves I was stripping off a branch suddenly hopped onto the countertop and began walking around!

He was amazingly similar to the leaves I was using and none of us had seen him, even up close, until he jumped off.

We all ooed and aahed and squealed with delight as our surprise visitor crawled on our hands and showed us that he knew how to fly.

After we had all had a very gentle turn with him, we carefully returned him to his tree.

Here is a photo of him in the tree to show you how well camouflaged he was (if you are having a hard time spotting him, look for the brown spot. That is him pooping – much to the delight of the children):

After that bit of unexpected excitement, we finished our projects with new enthusiasm!


This was an Unplugged Project “special edition.” Be sure to check back on Monday morning to see what everyone comes up with for this week’s theme of insect.

You Heard it Here First

By , August 28, 2008 11:20 pm

Hopefully NOT your tax dollars at work.

+++Exercise and limited TV time may keep kids trim +++

New Study – Boys need 13,000 steps per day, girls need 11,000.

Should we issue each child a pedometer? Or simply turn off the TV and send them outside? (Journal of Pediatrics – Text of actual study: Combined Influence of Physical Activity and Screen Time Recommendations on Childhood Overweight.)

+++Just having TV on can distract kids+++

Of course it does. Do these researchers even HAVE kids? (American Behavioral Scientist – Text of actual study: Television and Very Young Children)


However, on a more serious note:

The USA Today TV distraction article says one survey found that 14% of parents say the TV is ALWAYS on in their homes. Also: “recent surveys show that as many as two-thirds of children up to 6 years old live in homes where the TV is on at least half the time, even if no one is watching.”

(Being a nerd, I really like to find the actual sources for what I quote when I put an article in my blog. Since newspapers don’t always give the source, I resort to Google. A quick Google tonight turned up no readily apparent studies for the TV always on or TV on half the time claims. If you know a link to these studies, please let me know via comment or email and I will update the post to include them.)

(Photo thanks to and photographer “cohdra” -Jane M. Sawyer.)

Potty Update: Success!!

By , August 26, 2008 9:56 pm

OK, I know that my two year-old’s potty progress is not the world’s most earth-shattering, fascinating topic. Even I, her mother, am not THAT riveted by it all. The only one who finds it endlessly entertaining is my two year-old herself.

So, WARNING – If you are not interested in the finer points of potty training a 2 year-old, please stop reading here and maybe go read about some crafts instead. For those who are still with me, please read on:

Before I left on our big summer adventure, I wrote about our successful Potty Fiesta, but asked for advice on getting my little one to give up her little potty and begin using the “big girl potty.”

Since so many of you commented and offered your tips, this must be a subject that really is of more interest than it might seem! Thank you all for your helpful input! I really appreciated it and thought I should let you know how we finally solved the issue.

We spent the month of July in Upstate New York at my Dad’s house and I was worried that a vacation was not really the best time to finish tackling the potty issue, but my stepmother had no little potty, only the seat that fits on the “big potty.”

Despite my misgivings about potty learning while on vacation, I boldly decided not to go out and buy a little potty. Instead, I told my daughter that there was no little potty at Pop Pop’s house and she would simply have to use the big one (several of you reported success with some variation of this method).

Well, my little one is PRETTY STUBBORN (where does she get that I wonder?), and absolutely refused to go near the potty for several days. We were back to diapers. It was quite discouraging.

Then my stepmother had the idea of making a doll “go to the big potty.” My stepmom gave a brilliant performance and made quite a show of it. Of course we all acted really excited for Dolly and gave her lots of praise and some Skittles (bribery has its uses).

I was skeptical that my little one would buy into this trickery, but wouldn’t you know, within 5 minutes she was on the potty!! She was nervous and was clearly afraid of falling in, even on the little seat, so I had to hug her tightly while she went. She did it and got lots of praise and Skittles too, just like Dolly.

After one or two more potty trips she lost her fear of falling in and no longer wanted to be held (“ME do it!”). What a breakthrough!! She was fine from then on, and even manages public toilets without using a little seat (but while being held).

When we returned home after our month away I ran inside and whisked away the little potty before she had a chance to see it. I thought she might want to use it if she saw it, but so far she has never asked where her beloved little “poTEEE” went.

My fears of having to pack the little potty everyday in her high school backpack are gone now, thanks to my brilliant stepmom as well as your advice and encouragement. Thank you!!

(Cute photo thanks to photographer ZeroSilence3 (Jason Lemay) and

Cylinder – Surprise Cylinders! (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 24, 2008 9:51 pm


My camera cable is back so I can join in again, hooray!!!

When I picked the theme of cylinder for this week’s Unplugged Project, I was thinking of all the toilet paper we usually seem to go through so quickly. Guess what: this week, not one empty roll of toilet paper. How did that happen? And I was counting on it!!

I did finish a roll of wrapping paper though, so we used that for our cylinder. Have you noticed that they don’t make those wrapping paper rolls like they used to? Instead of being like long paper towel rolls, they are now simply curled up, thin cardboard.

Anyhow, we made it work for the Surprise Packages that I had in mind. My 8 year-old daughter’s best friend is moving far away to Washington State next week, so she wanted to make something special to give to her. It turned out that this project was perfect.

For this, you’ll need a cardboard cylinder (toilet or paper towel tubes would work best, but as you can see here, wrapping paper inserts can work too). Also, wrapping paper, or plain paper decorated by your children with markers, stickers, etc. Plus scissors, a hole punch (fancy or plain), and either ribbon or yarn.

Since we used the flimsy wrapping paper cardboard, we had to tape it into a cylinder:

Next, if your cylinder is long (ie. paper towel or wrapping paper length), cut it to the desired length. Be sure to consider that you will be making 1″- 2″ closing flaps at both ends, so please take that into account when calculating your desired length (add about 2″- 4″ to the overall length for the closing flaps).

Wrap the cylinder in wrapping paper (or paper decorated by the kids, or newspaper, magazine pictures, anything!!). Cut four slits on each end, all opposite one another:

You will end up with four tabs on each end, like this:

Punch one hole in each tab (large enough to put the string or ribbon through). I would recommend a normal single hole punch, that way you can make the tabs shorter so they will close better. I couldn’t find mine, so I used a fancy punch which made nice heart shapes, but required a longer tab to work:

Once the holes are punched in each tab, thread the ribbon/yarn through the holes on one side to tie the flaps up. First pass the yarn through two opposite holes from the inside out, like this:

Do the start of a bow to tie up the first two flaps (an extra set of fingers to hold everything down while you tie is recommended!):

Thread the ribbon/yarn through the remaining two opposing holes in a similar fashion. Pull tight, then tie a full bow:

Fill the surprise package with whatever you like. My daughter used leftover candy from a friend’s birthday party (that hadn’t yet made it to the Candy Bank), the punched-out hearts, some “special rocks,” and a note that she wrote:

Actually, one advantage of a fancy hole punch is the punched-out confetti that you can make to put inside your surprise tube. My daughter had fun making lots of hearts from the extra wrapping paper scraps:

Once filled, tie the other end the same way as the first end.  And…the final product:

I think that these could be fun to make for any holiday, or birthdays. They are also wonderful everyday storage containers for special treasures.


What did you create for the Unplugged Project theme of cylinder? I’d love to see, and so would many other people. So if you did a cylinder project this week, please put the link to your project in Mr. Linky below. If you are merely stopping by to check it all out, please do not link, but read about the Unplugged Project here to see if it is something you might want to do.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project is:




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