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story.lead_photo.caption The movie Toy Story 4 inspires these Forky and Knifey friends, a Kidsburgh.com project with plenty of parts kids can spend time assembling. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

Cooped up children can get bored quickly. Art projects can help.

Not just any art projects will do, however. They must strike a balance between stimulatingly fun and relaxingly simple. Parents' nerves are already frayed with the stress of a pandemic, the challenges of new work-from-home arrangements and guiding children through learning processes while schools are closed.

Also, because we are all supposed to be staying in as much as possible to stem the spread of covid-19, these projects should be possible with supplies most people already have at home.

We tried out a slew of activities. Here are our favorites.

T TOTE

Make a tote from a T-shirt.

Turning a T-shirt into a tote bag requires a shirt, scissors and a plan. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)
Turning a T-shirt into a tote bag requires a shirt, scissors and a plan. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

Closet cleaning is a popular pandemic activity, so the main ingredient for this first project should be easy to grab. You'll need a T-shirt, scissors and, if you want to add some embellishments, a needle, thread and some baubles.

Cut the sleeves off your T-shirt, staying as close to the seams as possible. The neckline will be the top of your bag. (If the shirt you are using has a deep neckline and the opening at the top of your bag doesn't need to be bigger, you can skip this step.) The shoulders of the T-shirt will make the handles of your bag, so decide how wide you want the handles to be and start cutting there to widen the neckline.

Flatten the shirt, with seams aligned, and cut vertical strips along the bottom seam. Turn the shirt inside out, flatten it again and start tying half knots with each two strips all the way across from left to right. Then, going back to the left, tie the top strip from each pair to the bottom strip of the adjacent one, taking care to tighten knots and close gaps as you go.

Turn the shirt right side out again and, voila! You have a handy tote. Finish up by sewing on embellishments, if you desire.

ROCK ON

Rock on with your social distancing.

Rock on by painting smooth-sided, clean rocks with lively colors or messages; a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)
Rock on by painting smooth-sided, clean rocks with lively colors or messages; a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

Kids love rocks. Kick off this project with a scavenger hunt, leading your children on a walk or sending them to the backyard with a list of items to find, like something blue, a stick longer than your index finger, a feather — and a rock with a flat surface.

Wash and dry that rock and let your children use paint or markers to decorate it.

Crayola.com declares that "Kindness rocks!" and suggests painting rocks and writing positive messages on them.

The Dishongh kids — Bennett, 15, Julianna, 10, and Charlie, 8 — created random designs and a tribute to a favorite sports team, but rock art could include a landscape or a cat, it could incorporate googly eyes and legs to create pet rocks or it could be several rocks glued together to make more complex structures.

The rules here are not set in stone.

'STAINED GLASS'

So, it just looks like stained glass ...

Stained glass inspires chalk drawings, a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)
Stained glass inspires chalk drawings, a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

This project is trending on social media right now and with good reason. It can occupy children for at least half an hour, and when they are done you are left with a pretty design and not much cleanup.

Tape off a rectangle on a wooden privacy fence, sidewalk, driveway or porch, and then use tape to make fragmented sections within the rectangle. Have your children fill each section with a different color of sidewalk chalk. Blending colors within fragments with a towel or with bare hands creates different effects, but it also creates a bit more mess, so use your discretion here. When the rectangle is filled in, carefully pull off the tape and admire the faux stained glass art.

Gallery: Chalk the walk

These next ideas came to us from Sally Quinn at the Pittsburgh-based Kidsburgh.org, which is supported by the Grable Foundation and the Staunton Farm Foundation.

JUMP INTO RECYCLING

This jumprope is made of grocery bags and duct tape. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)
This jumprope is made of grocery bags and duct tape. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

For this project, you will need 20 or 30 plastic shopping bags. Start by cutting the tops — including the handles — and bottom seams off the bags so that each one is a loop.

Overlap two bag-loops and pull the bottom loop part of the way through the top one, tucking it through the center of itself. Press the loops gently to remove any trapped air and continue pulling the bottom loop into a small knot.

Repeat those steps two more times with the remaining four loops. You will have three extensions at the top — wrap those in duct tape to form a jump rope handle.

You will have six loops. Combine them into three sections (two to a section) and braid them tightly, squeezing out air as you go. When you reach the end of the loops, add a new loop to each of the six strands. Combine the six strands into three and continue braiding.

Repeat these steps until the rope is long enough for your child to jump with. Finish by wrapping the ends of the loops in duct tape to form the other handle.

Now, go ahead and jump!

FORKY AND KNIFEY

Toy Story 4's Forky and Knifey and friends are a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)a project to kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)
Toy Story 4's Forky and Knifey and friends are a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)a project to kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

Like many others, we were Forky fans after seeing Toy Story 4. Your children can make their own Forky friends, and they can give their Forkys Knifey friends, too.

To make Forky and his friend Knifey, rummage through your craft baskets and junk drawers for some plastic sporks and knives, construction paper or fabric, clay, googly eyes, glue, popsicle sticks and yarn. (We know Knifey is a blonde but we didn't have yellow yarn. Orange yarn worked nicely in its place.)

To make the arms, twist a pipe cleaner around a popsicle stick and form hands at each end. Shape clay into something that looks a little like a diaper. Break a popsicle stick in half and stick the two pieces into the clay to make feet.

When our little plastic family was complete, we pulled out the iPad and used the app iMotion to make them stars in their own stop-motion animation presentations.

TUBE-ULAR HOUSING

Tubular houses made of paper tubes give little fingers a workout, a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)
Tubular houses made of paper tubes give little fingers a workout, a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

They won't be card-bored.

Gather the tubes of paper towel and toilet paper rolls — unless you were lucky enough to have stocked up on these paper products before the coronavirus-related shortages hit, this step might take some time. (What about all those almost used-up tubes of Christmas wrapping paper? Could they be cut into shorter tubes? Don't decide until you read about the Olympics project below.) Also gather tape, glue, scissors, markers or crayons and construction paper.

Encourage your child to get creative in using those supplies to decorate different kinds of cardboard tube houses.

You can nurture the children's measurement skills by asking them to use a ruler to see how long a piece of paper would need to be to cover the length of the cardboard tube they chose.

A cupcake paper to serve as the roof is optional.

MAD ABOUT COLOR

Twisted paper towels linking cups of water stained in primary colors change to complementary as water diffusing through the paper mingles in the mad scientists color wheel. This is a project to kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)
Twisted paper towels linking cups of water stained in primary colors change to complementary as water diffusing through the paper mingles in the mad scientists color wheel. This is a project to kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

The mad scientist color wheel project requires six clear-glass glasses or jars; some red, blue and yellow food coloring; six sheets of paper towels (half sheets of premium paper towels will do; no need to use up all of your hard-to-come-by paper products at once); and water.

Fill three of the glasses with water and add about six drops of food coloring to each — one red, one yellow and one blue.

Arrange the glasses in a circle, alternating the ones filled with colored water with the empty ones.

Twist the paper towels into wicks; put one end of each towel into a glass of colored water and the other end into an empty glass beside it. Each glass will have two ends of twisted paper towel in it when the process is complete.

Now watch as the empty glasses slowly fill with a mixture of the two colors adjacent to them — red and blue make purple, red and yellow make orange and yellow and blue make green.

THE GAMES MUST GO ON

Luge racers are lined up and ready to start the Olympics, a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)
Luge racers are lined up and ready to start the Olympics, a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

The Summer Olympics were canceled. But this project is cool!

When your kids are tired of sitting still to work on their art projects, they can draw luge racers, with exhilarated facial expressions, of course — and tape or glue them to the top of a Hot Wheels car.

Make a track out of a cardboard tube — we used a wrapping paper roll cut in half, but cardboard with the edges folded to keep the racers from flying off the sides would work well, too — and a finish line.

We put our track on the stairs, but if you don't have stairs, your children can design an elevated track using a stack of books.

When your track is set and your luge racers are ready, send them down and see who reaches the finish line first.

This activity spurred some trash talking between the Dishongh siblings, but it was all in good fun.

Bennett Dishongh, 15, and 8-year-old Charlie Dishongh stage their own luge races using paper tubes as a track; a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)
Bennett Dishongh, 15, and 8-year-old Charlie Dishongh stage their own luge races using paper tubes as a track; a project kids can make for entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Kimberly Dishongh)

Style on 04/06/2020

Print Headline: Cooped-up crafts

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