“Great Work! For a Girl!” A Conversation With My Daughter On International Women’s Day


 “Great Work! For a GIRL.”


These are words that I heard from my first grade daughter’s mouth this morning about her OWN work.


There was a major learning event in our home this morning, and it is fitting that it unexpectedly happened to happen on International Women’s Day 2014.


As our daughter worked on a very intricate Rainbow Loom rubber band bracelet, I heard her utter the words with pride and seriousness,


“Great Work! FOR A GIRL!!!”


Time Stopped.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I felt like my heart stopped a little.


What did she just say with such happiness?  How?  HOW????!!!


It was clearly time for a serious talk.

I asked where she’d heard that phrase and she said she heard it on Scooby Doo.


I explained to our daughter that it was a line meant to be an insult because whoever said it didn’t think that a girl could do great work in whatever situation they were working in.

Both our 5 year old son and our 6 and a half year old girl found this very confusing.

How was that an insult?  That was not an insult.  They said, “Great Work!” and it WAS “Great Work… For A Girl!”

Oh My. Oh My.  Oh My, My, My, My, My…….

There is work to be done in this home…

in this home where we celebrate women….


In this home where we celebrate PEOPLE

who work hard and achieve,

who do good things, and who make a difference.   

There is work to be done in this family of open-minded people,

from our ancestors,

to our extended family,

to the friends we laugh with,

to the teachers we honor,

and in the way we live,

where we recognize

and exalt and read about


The first answers to the questions I asked were a bit alarming from our little Pre-Schooler and First Grader.

  ”Do you think girls can do the same great work boys can do?

‘Do you think girls can be just as strong or fast as boys?”

“Do you think girls are as smart as boys?”

“Do you think boys can be just as good as girls at art, or cooking, or fashion as girls?”


(*I used those fashion & cooking examples because they are traditionally ascribed to stereotypically “girly” pastimes and commercial toys-  like the color pink.  And, I know these are the activities my children associate with activities that GIRLS should be better at than BOYS).

And, then, I recalled a Super Hero episode I overheard recently where Batman and Superman ordered burgers and milkshakes and then cut Wonder Woman off as she ordered a salad and whole wheat toast.

“She’ll have the same! Make it 3!” Superman yelled.

“You’ll work it off later, Princess,” Batman responded.

Wonder Woman sat quietly and waited for her burger.


The Messages. Those Messages.


The Subliminal and The Overt.


They had already chipped away at the developing worldview of my perspective-vulnerable kids, and I had not seen it.


I remember watching an Independent Lens Documentary about the rise and fall of Wonder Woman.

She went from empowering icon to a female super hero who needed to be rescued herself as her own powers had devolved to be…Just….LESS THAN.

It was called “Wonder Women!  The Untold Story of American Super Heroines”

I watched that documentary because it happened to follow the other Independent Lens Documentaries I’d DVR’ed.

The Wonder Woman episode followed one about a man obsessed with Chinese Mail-Order Brides and another on the dwindling number of nomadic Mongolian tribes still bartering with precious strands of silk that had to be vigilantly protected from mold or rot to avoid complete destitution.

It was just a documentary between documentaries.

It was just a documentary because we really had moved forward and past that kind of thinking.










And, it happened, of all days, TODAY, on International Women’s Day.

By the end of our talk, I feel like both of our kids understand why saying ”Great Work! For A Girl…” is NOT a compliment.


“Great Work” Is Very Simply “GREAT WORK”.






AND “BAD WORK” is equally, and simply, “BAD WORK”….


For instance:

“BAD WORK” = Bad script writing where Wonder Woman isn’t capable of ordering her own lunch.






















"I WILL DO GREAT WORK!"  A post by Critters And Crayons On International Women's Day 2014.









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Making Molecules With Kids!

I woke up yesterday morning to quite a surprise.

Back in November, I posted THIS to The Critters And Crayons Facebook Page.

Santa was going to be bringing the kids a cool Molecule Building Kit.

He totally did.

But, the kids thought it was more like a set of tinker toys and they built car shapes, and crocodiles, flowers and other things out of the contents immediately.

BUT YESTERDAY Our daughter said,

I made the particles on the back of that box Santa brought us.



I promise I have never used the word “particle” with my child.  Where did she learn that word?

She says she learned it when Batman was talking about splitting up something called “Particles”.   Go figure.

She didn’t know what she had made, but it was a real joy to  RELEARN all of the molecules I hadn’t looked at since 11th grade Chemistry class!

Water Molecule (H20) From Critters And Crayons "Making Molecules With Kids!"

Water Molecule (H2O). Two Hydrogen Atoms Linked To One Oxygen Atom!


Our 6-year old was fascinated to learn that the water we drink and that comes flowing from our faucets looks like the model she’d made in its tiniest, tiniest building block form!

She had also formed the molecule below  without knowing exactly what she had made while following the diagrams on the back of the kit box…..


Hydrogen Peroxide Molecule From Critters And Crayons Post "Making Molecules With Kids!"

The Hydrogen Peroxide Molecule (H2O2).


I explained that the stuff we use to clean her ears and earrings looks just like the model she made if we were able to see it in its smallest form-  Lots and lots and lots of these make up what we use in that brown bottle!


And, then we had fun looking up the rest that she had constructed so quietly in the play area….


Molecules From Critters And Crayons Post "Making Molecules With Kids!"


Can you guess what they all are?

Don’t worry.  I had to look them all up, too!

Top Left:   Diatomic Nitrogen Molecule (N2) 

Top Right:  Hydrogen Peroxide Molecule (H2O2)

Middle Left:  Diatomic Oxygen Molecule (O2)

Middle Right:  Water Molecule (H2O)

Lower Left:  Methane Molecule (CH4)


What I love about this molecule kit is that it invites kids to play and learn without even realizing it.

There is a lot to build upon from this very beginning point of building the molecules according to the diagrams and explaining what each of the molecules actually IS to a first grader.

We can keep these models up, or break them down again- but, as the years progress, we will be able to delve into more complex concepts like the differences between Diatomic Molecules, Ionic Bonds, Covalent Bonds, Organic Compounds, and other things I’m going to have to get smart on, all over again.

I found our kit at a local craft store, but you can find them online, too!

I am so glad I happened across this “Making Molecules” activity for kids.


The FloraCraft Molecule Kit


I need to remember to thank Santa next year for the awesome toy.  And, I think I may have him throw in a “Chemistry For Dummies” book for me, too.  :)

Speaking of Chemistry…..


I came across some amazing ideas centered on Chemistry and Molecules….


Hostess With The Mostess did a round-up of Clever & Creative Mad Scientist Party Ideas For Girls

Lightbulb Books Made Molecules Using Straws And Play Doh

High Hill Homeschool’s Marshmallow And Toothpick Molecules

Kids Activities Blog Atoms & Molecules:  10 Fun Ways To Learn!


So, do you remember anything from your 11th grade chemistry class?


Oh, Good.  I thought I was alone. 





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Parenting Is Like Sledding. Sled Optional.

My kids often surprise us with the unspeakably comical things that they say.

They also make us pause when their questions require an honest and thoughtful answer.

We’re coming off of a holiday trip that bore some of the typical challenges of traveling during an already busy season.

Sometimes, reality didn’t match the idyllic scenes in a Hallmark Movie for the various tugs and pulls of life, and family, and obligations.

Essentially, it was a normal holiday season- one that many might relate to, and one that might lead a child to ask a simple, but very thought-provoking question of her parents like our six-year old daughter did tonight on the way back from a drugstore where we bought vitamins for immunity support to stave off any more festive seasonal illness-on-the-go.


“Mom?  Is It Easy Having Kids?”


I could have answered her quickly with a fleeting and dishonest, “YES! It’s Super Easy!”, but I’ve got a sort of rule about not lying about that kind of stuff. 

I don’t want to be the Army Recruiter who promises someone a job in a highly marketable computer field who then lands him in a basement working with dot matrix printers circa 1985.  That’s just bad Mommy PR.  So, I told her the truth.


“No.  Having Kids Is Not Easy.”


Our First Grader looked concerned so I elaborated,


“But….It IS Awesome!”


Our daughter was confused.


“How can something be hard and awesome at the same time, Mommy?”


I didn’t have any concrete examples to give in that second.


But, I told her that most things that are completely awesome

in our lives are usually not that easy.  



I may have blanked on examples but our daughter threw one out.  She said,


“You mean like if we’re sledding

and we have to walk all the way up

to the top of the hill in the freezing cold

so that we can sled down super fast

and have all that fun

spinning all the way down?”


I didn’t think I could put it any better myself so I told her that was pretty much exactly right.

Really, that is about the best metaphor I could think of that I didn’t think of at all.

Maybe, to complete the parallel, I could have added a few crash-and-burns at the bottom of the hill, some broken sleds, or a dud slope or two to round out the analogy, but I felt pretty good she now understood that something can be TOTALLY NOT EASY while still being simultaneously TOTALLY AWESOME.

That’s Us.

We Parents.


We’re all trudging up a slope,

looking for a safe route,

eyes on the peak,

moving forward when it hurts,

striving upward when we fall,

willing onward when we’re cold,

and getting to the end

as honestly and happily as we can

so that the long and arduous trip

might all be worth it

for one magnificent launch,

followed by a brief 

and validating

soar to the bottom,

on a cheap, round sled

that spins you like a top

until you crash,

or fall,

or coast to a stop,

Hoping For The Coast,

Always Hoping For The Coast,

so that we might trudge back up

to do it all over,



That’s Us.

That’s Parenting.

It’s Not Easy Having Kids.  But, It IS Freaking Awesome.


It’s Like That.




Parenting.  We Got This. From Critters And Crayons.


Trusting Clutches, Giant Smiles, And Closed Eyes


 Astride Quiet Screams And Immense Hopes


 That You Will Coast,


Coast Without Crashing,


 Still Smiling, Still Laughing,


Without Breaking Anything,


After That Fervent And Amazing Ride


Hoping You Didn’t Lose Your Sled On The Way…


But Even If You Had,


It Would Have Been Worth








So, to wrap it all up in a nice, pithy little phrase:


Parenting Is Like Sledding.  Sled Optional.

 It’s  Easy  AWESOME!

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Teaching Kids About Culture With The Elf On A Shelf

We have a very Curious Elf On A Shelf.


Teaching Kids About Culture With The Elf On A Shelf


Time is scarce so our elf, is very thankfully, not too into mischief and messes.

He IS a very curious Elf, though.

Each morning, the kids find him on top of something that came from a different place in the world.

And, each evening, we sit down at the computer together and they excited ask questions about whatever it is that they found the Elf sitting on or in or under that morning.

We simply Google Away together.

And, each image or map or costume they see triggers another question and another search.

An example of what our curious Elf On The Shelf taught the kids this morning when they found him on the Mongolian String Instrument was that it was not simply a “HORSEY BANJO”, which is what they called it when they found Snowflower Flaky Sassypants sitting on top of the traditional horse-handle like a rocking horse.

It’s called a “MATOUQUIN“.


It is from MONGOLIA.




 The MATOUQUIN is shaped like a TRAPEZOID.



The kids now know that Snowflower The Elf is NOT simply  sitting on a Horsey Banjo.

So far, we’ve explored Mexico, Afghanistan, and Mongolia alongside our very globally curious Elf On A Shelf.

I wonder where she’ll take us tomorrow?



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A Hopping Popping Christmas Literacy Event!

I hope you’ll come out to to see me and my friends at Laredo 8 HEB Plus for a super fun literacy event on November 30th!

I’ll be reading some old Christmas favorites and the kids are going to enjoy some fantastic stomping on the Bubble Wrapped Floor and Christmas Tree Painting With…..

 Bubble-Wrap, of course!



HEB Plus Critters And Crayons Literacy Event A Hopping Popping Christmas




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Write Each Sight Word In Bleach…

Any parent of a new reader knows that sometimes it takes a little searching to find that magic “way” our children really “GET” our language’s highly illogical and very troublesome SIGHT WORDS.

A friend of mine posted something tonight on her Facebook Page that made many of us marvel at a new way to make learning Sight Words in the First Grade fun for our 6 year olds!


It was a worksheet that included an optional task to

Dip a Q-Tip into Bleach and to write the word

on construction paper (with a parent’s help.)


My friend posted it as a homework assignment slightly beyond her creative comfort zone.

It should NOT be lost on anyone reading the homework sheet that the homework specified that a parent needs to help if they do that one.

This is a good thing.

Because my bottle of bleach says to keep out of reach of children (and to read the back panel for even more precautionary statements beyond the All Caps Warnings on the front.)

But on a high note, THIS bottle of bleach DOES NOT contain any phosphorous!



funny homework-2


Interestingly, the back label describing recommended uses for this potent liquid only details the most boring applications throughout the household and kitchen.

funny homework-3
I think that label needs some expanding to include Dolch Sight Word mastery. :)

Anyway, we all had a good chuckle.

My friend’s son’s teacher does get an “I” for Initiative, a “C” for Creativity and a small”t” for Toxicity for sending home the worksheet.


I have no idea what my friend sent in or if she even initialed that little task block.

I recommended that she substitute paint or pudding or anything that does not require Poison Control’s intervention to complete the assignment, or that might require gloves to handle.


But, I made this sign for her.

Too bad she lives in Maryland.

I can’t even overnight it in time.


funny homework-1


If you want to read more funny stuff about the trials of early elementary homework, my friend, Bridget, who writes the hilarious blog Twinisms has started a virtual series about First Grade Homework now that her twin boys are bringing it home.

She hasn’t actually called it a series, but there’s  a lot to cover.

I kind of wish she got this assignment (times two for her twins).


My Word.


That would have been FUNNY, whether it was written in bleach, battery acid, turpentine, or Drano.


If we ever get a homework assignment like that, we’ll probably just substitute ketchup or mustard for any flesh-dissolving poisons the worksheet calls for.


And, then we’ll initial the little box.




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Good-Bye, Batman. Hello, Alligators & Crocodiles!

Good-bye Batman.

Hello, Alligators & Crocodiles.


Alligators, Crocodiles, And Gavials


I knew our son would pass through the Chronically-Caped Super Hero Pajama & Mask Phase one day.


Embracing The Cape & Cowboy Boots (Critters And Crayons)



I didn’t know that his obsession would transfer to all things Crocodilian in all their predatory, scaly, swampy, toothy glory.



That is CHUBIDO.


Our son named his new pet alligator.

You pronounce it “CHUB”  ”EE”  ”DOH”.

We’ve been doing a lot of Large Reptile learning around here lately, mostly because I don’t have any answers to our son’s constant questions.

Until Chubido joined our family after ordering him for a great price from The Jungle Store, our son could be found in random areas of the house doing this:



Yes.  He has seen audited episodes of Swamp People. The Fast Forward Button comes in very handy.


He started out in that orange sled on a hunt for alligators we bought at the Dollar Tree for $1 each.  


But, he has since changed his dramatic play scenarios.  


He is an Alligator RESCUER now.


I often walk into the play area to find that every one of our blue sheets, even those impossible-to-fold fitted sheets, are spread across the floor to form realistic blue “lakes”.

He throws every imaginable reptilian thing on top of that blue linen pond:

Turtle-shaped legos that snap together, a bubble wand shaped like an alligator, a poorly designed stegasaurus puppet, his turtle pillow pet, and those Dollar Tree Floaty Alligators.

Then, he spends hours navigating that imaginary swamp….rescuing his alligators, and feeding them, piling them on his sled-boat, and then tossing them back into the water to start all over again.

The only time I had to draw the line on this imaginary play was when he started lining that sled up to launch downstairs after an inflatable alligator had been set up by the grandfather clock.

I mean, that boat could have really messed up that grandfather clock.  :)


Oh!  And we cook alligators around here, too!


funny alligator cake


I KNOW that alligator cake looks like a deranged salamander.


Have I ever passed this off as a Food Blog?

I mean…credibly?

If you want to see how we did it, check out this post which links to the Princess And A Frog Cookbook with the cool recipe.

A couple of years ago, our alligator cake attempt came out a lot better!  :)

Louis The Alligator Critters And Crayons


We visited the Laredo Community College Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center’s Alligators, of course!

They have several.  And, we’ll be heading down to Alabama this Summer to visit Alligator Alley, where 450 Alligators live on a cool farm there!  Wahoo!

It’s totally on our Summer Travel Route!




Our son’s favorite crocodilian is actually the lesser known Gavial.


It’s a large reptile, the only one of its kind, that lives in India and has a very long snout and tiny teeth.


Our son believes a Gavial would be the perfect pet because their snouts are too long and skinny to attack humans.




And our son begged for a GAVIAL MASK.


Those aren’t everywhere.  So, we made one.


All it took was a:

  • paper towel roll,
  • some scissors,
  • some glue,
  • a green marker
  • and some twine.

He cut the roll down the center and cut out the jagged teeth.

Then, he glued the two ends together where they would sit on our son’s nose so that the jaws stayed open.

We let our son color the mask green.

Then, my husband ran twine through holes on each side and tied them off around our son’s head.

That was it!



Did our son wear that mask everywhere for two days?


Um…did our son wear a cape for 2 years straight?


Our favorite and most educational activity has been

The Crocodilian Species Geography Activity.




To learn about the different types of crocodilians and where they live, we put a map up on a magnetic dry-erase board.


We all sat around the computer and clicked through the information found on this Crocodilian Species List.


Each species is linked so the kids can see information and images of each individual species!

There really are many surprising variations!

To get the activity ready, I found images of:

  • Crocodiles (showing upper and lower teeth),
  • Caimans (I used an image of a Dwarf Caiman with large eyes to help the kids distinguish better),
  • Alligators (with teeth showing pointing downward),
  • And the Gavial (with its long, skinny snout).

Each image was cut out and glued to a round magnet.


Using the link showing all Crocodilian Species above, we cut out 14 Crocodiles, 6 Caimans, 2 Alligators and 1 Gavial.




Then, we reviewed where all of the continents were and started placing the magnets where they belonged using the Species listing as a guide.



Some of the most interesting facts we all learned in this activity?


  • Caimans are actually a type of Alligator.
  • There is only one Gavial (also pronounced Gharial) and it lives in India.
  • Gavials only eat fish, but False Gharials are actually crocodiles who eat much more than that!
  • There are more species of Crocodile than there are Alligator or Gavial.
  • The State of Florida has Alligators AND Crocodiles!
  • The only other place you find an Alligator other than North America (not including Caimans) is China!
  • Central and South America have all the Caimans.
  • Our son’s favorite crocodilians, the Gavial and the False Gharial live in India and Indonesia, respectively.



Once we were done putting all of the magnets on the board, we used the remaining crocodile images to practice coloring and cutting skills.




One of the best aspects of being a parent is that we are personally invited into a child’s world every day on their quest to discover and learn.

It’s a world where every body of water, whether it’s a puddle following the rain or a ravine under a bridge, might be home to an alligator.

AND….As our son begins his journey toward crocodilian-knowledge domination, my husband and I have become used to fielding questions like these:


“Will an alligator eat you?”

Answer:  You Bet.


“Do Crocodiles have skulls?”

Answer:   A-Yup.


 “Can I be an Alligator Hunter When I Grow Up?”

Answer:  Hell To The No.


“Can We Have  A Gavial For A Pet Because They Won’t Eat You?”

Answer:  Eh?  If we ever move to India, we’ll think about it.

Well, Batman.

I’m sorry to see you go with all your capes and masks and batarangs.

It was fun with the utility belts, and the Batmobiles….but not the Nun-Chucks.  The nun-chucks can totally go.

(Side Note, Folks:  If you hate someone, give that person’s kid a set of Batman Nun-Chucks.  I can’t think of a sweeter revenge.)

Anyway, Batman.  I’m sorry, but it appears you have been replaced.


You just can’t compete with ‘Ol Chubido.






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The One Hundred Board In Our Montessori Kitchen Corner: The Opportunity Learner’s Series

The Hundred Board In Our Montessori Kitchen Corner


Back in April, I ran the introductory post for the Critters And Crayons Opportunity Learner’s Series and I broke down how we had structured our kitchen corner to host Montessori-Style learning materials for the kids to access at any time.

It’s been a busy, busy couple of months, but here is the first part of that series featuring The Hundred Board.

We purchased our Hundred Board via The Montessori Outlet.

But here is a great post by We Can Do All Things that teaches you how to make a Hundred Board  yourself!


Montessori Hundred Board


The picture above was taken several months ago in our kitchen.  Our son had taken out The Hundred Board and tiles after lunch.

When the kids take out an activity and work for awhile, but do not complete the activity, we will generally allow the board to stay “as is” on the kitchen floor or table so the kids can come back to their work (or play) when they want to.  This differs somewhat from what you’d find in a traditional Montessori environment.  The tiles and the board would be put away at the end of the activity.

(  If the activity is in the way, or is not attempted for a period of time, the children will put the activity away once they confirm they are not interested in pursuing it further.  Unless we are working on a specific lesson for our Summer studies, I do not force them to complete the full Hundred Board activity if it’s pulled out.)

They usually do!

You can see how we were using The Montessori Hundred Board tonight with our four year old pre-school son in this YouTube Video.



When you watch the video, you’ll see that there is room for some fun and humor as your kids use the board.


“What’s That?”


“What’s That?”


Love.  That.


You might have noticed that the video shows our older daughter showing her brother how to look for number patterns.


One of the aspects I really enjoy watching in Montessori

environments is how

children assume leadership roles

when teaching the younger children

how to do tasks and use materials…  


There are many ways to use The Hundred Board in a Montessori classroom or homeschool environment, but we use it for very basic purposes right now as our son is beginning to grasp simple math concepts:

  • Number Recognition
  • Number Sequencing From 1-10 
  • Number Pattern Recognition (1, 11,21,31,41,51, etc…)
  • Counting By 10s (10,20,30,40,50, etc)

This means that we don’t fixate too much on whether or not he knows all the number names up to 100 just yet.

For instance, tonight, he emplaced all the tiles properly from 1-50 on the board before we finished up our “Summer Bridging” homework.

While his sister and I worked on word endings and high frequency words, he sat quietly matching tiles to the board looking for number patterns.

To not overwhelm him,

I only issued him 10 tiles at time

to work on properly sequencing one row of 10 at a time.


After he completed one row, say 11-20, I issued him the next 10 to match up.

If you’re a trained Montessori Guide, you’ll probably notice that I haven’t done the lesson exactly as you might find it done in a formal video of instruction where the tiles are slid up the proper column slowly and methodically.  :)

I give our son ten tiles out of order and he sorts through them to find the numbers he wants to fit into the patterns on the board.

There IS one thing that has stuck in my mind since speaking with a Montessori Director  that I find fascinating and try to remember when working with my kids.

It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me.
It’s actually very hard for me to remember and implement.


A lot of the interaction between Montessori Guides

and children can seem to be…

very smooth,

very methodical,

very slow,

and at times,

even elegant. 


Our Montessori Director said that Montessori Guides move slowly so kids could see “clear snapshots”.    It makes so much sense.


If we are hurried when talking,


or teaching,


or listening….


something is going to be missed.


It’s not the easiest thing to do


or remember when doing anything “instructional”


as a parent, or otherwise.


Not at all.


The Hundred Board was one of our daughter’s favorite Montessori Materials in the home and I can see our son really enjoys it, too!

This photo was taken over a year ago in our play area….full of lots of conventional toys that she chose to by-pass to “play” with this educational material.

Isn’t Montessori cool?  :)


Montessori Hundred Board Critters and Crayons Opportunity Learners Series

For more articles about how to use the Hundred Board,

you can check out the following links!


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Lots Of Fun, Foamy, Flubbery, Sandy, Salty, Scented Doughs For Summer

Super Fun Doughs To Make At Home!  Bubble Dough, Sandy Wheat Dough, Scented No Cook Play Dough, & Foam Dough!


Critters And Crayons recently participated in the HEB & Pampers Little Texans Tour as it visited the Laredo HEBs.


Critters And Crayons Little Texans Tour


The kids and I had a great time meeting some of the fantastic families in Laredo who came out to chat and play with some of the items we brought with us!

At our booth, I set up a few items to show some of the topics you might find on The Critters And Crayons Blog.   There were some:

There are many other topics covered by Critters And Crayons, of course, and you can find those by clicking HERE.


There was a great turn-out and I am very thankful to all who took time to come and visit!


I promised to write a post about the materials we brought

with recipes, tips, and resources so everyone could do the same at home…


We made four different “Fun Doughs” for families to take home with them and they are all easy and cheap to make!


Fun Doughs Critters And Crayons-2


One of the best things about making these fun doughs at home is that it’s something that the kids can do with you!   The act of simply mixing the ingredients together is huge sensorial fun!

It CAN be messy, but there are some pretty easy ways that even the most mess-averse parents can totally beat the mess!


Kids Enjoy Making DIY Fun Doughs!


See that large floor covering underneath my kids while they play on my kitchen floor with four very different and potentially very messy Fun Doughs?


It is paper cut from a huge spool of butcher meat-packing paper I bought at a bulk warehouse a couple of years ago for around $17.   Duct tape it to the floor and let the kids have at it.  The paper is the boundary.  You’ll note that that I even lined the sidewalk with it in the photo above for the kids to play with the doughs I brought to The Little Texans Tour!


Kids Playing With Different Fun Doughs!







Foam Dough 1


I first saw this recipe for Foam Dough on Mom Trusted!    It’s super simple and uses just corn starch and shaving cream, of all things!   For the recipe, please go to the original source HERE!


Foam Dough 2


This dough is unbelievably silky and airy light!   It is even finer and lighter than the flour/baby oil cloud dough I’ve written so much about!

It was definitely our daughter’s favorite of the four different doughs we made for the HEB Little Texans Event!

Foam Dough is perfect for making little snow people…..


Foam Dough 3


And speaking of snow…. What’s incredibly awesome about foam dough is that there are recipes out there that turn this awesomeness into SNOW DOUGH.  Check out my friend over at Creative Playhouse who totally froze her recipe using the same two kitchen ingredients and it was perfect for cold sensory play!





Scented No Cook Play Dough 1


There are a ton of homemade play dough recipes out there.    I’ve modified a pretty good no-cook recipe I used in Critters And Crayons’ post The 4-Day Sitter.   THIS simple recipe for play dough is on the E-How website.   The only difference is that when I make my version of the no-cook play dough recipe, I double the amount that the E-How recipe calls for which makes a lot of play dough to save for the kids.  You’ll find that you’ll make small adjustments here and there to get the consistency you want.


  • 3 Cups of Flour,

  • 1/3 Cup of Salt,

  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil,

  • 1 TBSP of Cream of Tartar,

  • and 5-7 Packets of Crystal Light (* Always use sugar-free flavor packets to avoid stickiness.)

I’ve done it by hand, but I totally use my mixer now!


 It’s much easier to start it all by hand in a large mixing bowl so that the flour and salt are moistened before putting it all into a mixer.  

*You can tell if the dough is too moist if it sticks to the dough hook.  If this happens, I make a small well in the center of the dough ball, add a tablespoon or two to the center, cover it over with the dough to prevent flour splatter, and then mix.   I adjust with a little more water, a touch of oil, or more flour until the dough reaches the right consistency.

*You can also tell if the dough is too dry if it separates too easily or is crumbly.  In this case, use the same process I describe above, only add a tbsp or two of water into a well in the center of the ball and cover it back over with some dough before starting the mixing process again.   Adjust as needed until the dough is a smooth consistency.  You may find that coarse salts will not dissolve well.  (Once I had to substitute Irish Grey Salt because that’s all I had left, and it didn’t dissolve as well as table salt- but it DID give a glittery sheen to the dough).


Scented No-Cook Play Dough 3

Scented no cook play dough 4

Scented No-Cook Play Dough 2





Bubble Dough


We can also thank Creative Playhouse for this awesome recipe for Bubble Dough!!!

When I was looking for ideas to do with my kids, Kat suggested we try her Bubble Dough recipe, and THIS is our Son’s Fave of the Four Fun Doughs!

It uses just two kitchen ingredients:  Dish Soap and Corn Starch.   I had a bottle of Babyganics Dish Soap we weren’t using so in it went!


Bubble Dough 2


The amazing thing about Bubble Dough is that it really reminds me quite a bit of Oobleck.    It’s not quite as solid as oobleck can get, but Bubble Dough definitely shows properties of being both liquid and solid.   When you first mix it, it’s a gooey, rubbery ooze.   But, as it settles in the bin, it has a smooth, solid surface that you nearly break open in order to play with it.


Bubble Dough 3


Our daughter pretended her bubble dough was ice cream.  She smoothed this ice cream out, and then watched as it actually seemed to melt down like an actual ice cream.

That’s Bubble Dough.  It’s completely cool.

You  need to check out Kat’s new and improved Bubble Dough Recipe on her blog at Creative Playhouse.  I hear she’s getting ready to make something like this with Strawberry Hair Conditioner and Corn Starch Soon….





Wheat Coconut Oil Moon Dough


After I wrote about the things every parent needs to watch out for when it comes to Cloud Dough, I came up with a new recipe that I and my kids actually prefer over the baby oil and refined white flour version!

Instead of white flour, we use wheat flour.  And, instead of baby oil, we use coconut oil.


For every 5 lbs of wheat flour, add 2 cups of coconut oil.  

Rub out all the clumps between your palms and work the oil into the flour.  The kids love to help with this part!

When you make a fist with the dough in your hand, it should form the shape of your fist without falling apart.  If it does fall apart, add a little more coconut oil.

And, if it’s too greasy, add more flour.  If you run out of wheat flour, you can always add a little white flour.

The coconut oil smells great!


Wheat Coconut Oil Moon Dough 2




I recommend keeping any homemade fun doughs in air-tight bins.

I highly recommend using hobby scrapbook boxes since they are low and shallow, and also small enough to not contain an overwhelming amount of dough.


Scrapbook Box being used to hold colored sand to practice pre-writing skills. This is one of the materials found in The Critters And Crayons Montessori-Inspired Kitchen Corner. The Scrapbook Boxes are fantastic for storing all kinds of sensory doughs.


If you have more than one child, you could always give one square scrapbook bin to each child.

You can rotate different doughs through the scrapbook bins, especially if you are short on space.

They pack away neatly underneath shelves or beds for easy storage.  They stack neatly and look tidy.

Although cloud dough and homemade moon doughs where oil is used to moisten the dry ingredients do not have to be covered to be stored, I recommend it to keep dust, pests or other allergens out of the dough.




I am a huge fan of buying butcher paper in bulk!

You can use it to cover tables at parties and it always comes in handy for play dates and parties!

If you have a tarp, an inexpensive sheet or tablecloth that you have reserved for arts & crafts work, then I recommend laying that underneath your Fun Dough Play Area!

Or, you an always do what I do, and duct tape a few rows of butcher paper underneath your kids!


Butcher Paper to Protect Surfaces


All that Salty, Scenty, Sandy, Foamy, Bubbly Dough Crazy Fun-Having Left Me With This Awful, Horribly, Messy……..Mess?  :)


Butcher Paper Easy Clean-Up


Just a quick paper roll-up (which you can recycle once you remove the duct tape, by the way) and a sweep….the Kitchen Floor is fine, again.

To clean off doughed-up, powdered up feet-sies, I definitely recommend that you use a clean paintbrush or something bristly to work any clumps off little soles and toes!

The children should wipe their feet (if they can) with a wet wipe or wet cloth before running around on your carpets.

Again, I’ll refer to  my cautionary post about what can happen if you aren’t careful with the baby oil/flour cloud dough.


Fun Doughs To Make With Kids!


For More Creative & Fun Doughs,

Check Out These Awesome Ideas & Sites!




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A School Supply Cake For Teacher Appreciation Week!

A School Supply Cake From Critters And Crayons

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 6th through May 10th this year!

I’m happy that we’ll be on time for it.

Last year, for some odd reason, I thought it was the week following the actual celebration period.

Thankfully, the teachers were gracious and happy nontheless.  :)

This year, I asked for some ideas on The Critters And Crayons Facebook Page and received some really great responses from moms and teachers!

Someecard Teacher Appreciation Meme

Click Image To Go To someecards To See The Original Image!

Many of the comments on the Critters And Crayons Facebook Page from teachers who liked receiving supplies they could use throughout the year reminded me of the School Supply Cake made by The Outlaw Mom a couple of years ago.

Since, I saw that someecard about teachers not wanting crayon wreaths, I figured we’d try the School Supply Cake, instead.  :)

Here’s how we did it together with the kids!

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.56.23 AM

To make this School Supply Cake, we used the following:

  • 1 Paper Plate Holder (4 for $1 at the Dollar Store)
  • 1 Paper Plate
  • 1 Container of Disinfecting Wipes
  • 24 Mechanical Pencils
  • 26 Pens
  • 12 Highlighter Markers
  • 2 Large Rubber Bands
  • 1 Large Roll of Colored Duck Tape
  • 1 Smaller Roll of Colored Duck Tape
  • 1 Small Stackable Container of Thumbtacks, Clamps and Paper Clips
  • Ribbon
  • Small Chocolates

(*Note:  There were a few leftover pens and markers which went into our office supply/craft drawer….)

Teacher Appreciation Supply Cake 10

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.56.28 AM

The kids enjoyed separating out the supplies!

They sorted them by supply type (pencils, pens, markers) and then by color.

This made keeping a color pattern much quicker to do and it also gave opportunities for the kids to practice pattern-making themselves.

Teacher Appreciation School Supply Cake 9

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.56.46 AM

Just place one of the large rubber bands around the Disinfecting Wipes Container.

Teacher Appreciation School Supply Cake 8

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.56.52 AM

Insert the school supplies into the rubber band until you have them arranged in the way you want them!

Teacher Appreciation School Supply Cake 7

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.56.56 AM

The kids both enjoyed this part of the activity!

Teacher Appreciation School Supply Cake 6

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.57.00 AM

To make the Supply Cake larger, simply put another rubber band on top of a completed layer!

We only did two outward layers, but you could continue to build to make a thicker “cake”.

Teacher Appreciation School Supply Cake 5

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.57.04 AM

To build up, we simply added the two rolls of Duck Tape!

Teacher Appreciation School Supply Cake 4

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.57.09 AM

Our daughter wanted to add a surprise to her teacher’s gift!

Teacher Appreciation School Supply Cake 3

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.57.16 AM

Teacher Appreciation School Supply Cake 2

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 12.57.12 AM

And add the cake topper of stacked paper clips, thumbtacks and clamps!

The Supply Cake for Teacher Appreciation Week is finished!

School Supply Cake Teacher Appreciation Week

Some people bring something small each day of Teacher Appreciation Week, but we are opting to give just one gift this year to our daughter’s primary teacher.

For the other teachers and staff who help our children, we plan to send in some share-able treats to go around on one of the days!

I’m glad there is a week set aside to recognize schools, teachers, staff and administrators for what they do for our children.

It is such important work.

We should be thankful every day for what they do, but it’s nice that for one week of the year, we all get to make crayon wreaths, beaded bracelets, school supply cakes and handmade cards with phonetically incorrect messages from our new readers to thank them, isn’t it?

And there’s always Happy Hour.

And Chocolate.

Or Both At The Same Time.



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