Gifts for Kids to Make: Decorated Dish Towels

We have too much of two things around here:

  1.  Personalized Mugs.  These mugs with pictures and art on the side are super cute… but I don’t think my cabinets can handle any more.  The grandparents always say they love them, but I suspect they feel like their kitchens might also burst soon.
  2. Artwork.  I love that my kids like to draw… but the number of paper projects we have in this house is crazy.  I cannot even count the number of sketchbooks we buy in a year.

So, for this Christmas, we decided to try a personalized art project that takes very little space and can be used in the kitchen!

Supplies for Making Dish Towels
This is very easy… and we know it will fade and get messy in the kitchen… but the kids love having their work on display during our holiday meals.

To make this, you just need:

Floor Sack Towels – These are thin like a piece of cotton fabric… not like a terrycloth bath towel.
Sharpies – Use black only or lots of colors.
Cardboard – Use a square from a cereal box (or anything) so the marker does not bleed through.

Coloring Dish Towels
We folded the towel into thirds, like we hang them over the oven handle. Then we slipped the cardboard under the top layer or fabric… and the kids took over the decorating!

Making Dish Towels
Easy, fun… and won’t make the grandparent’s cringe!

Gifts for Kids to Make: Bath Fizzies with Imperial Sugar

My daughter loves crafts… and I am not so crafty.

With the holidays here, we have been looking for fun, easy and not-too-messy gifts we can make for the grandparents. We were successful with our Sugar Scrubs (which I use to spend a lot of money on at Bath and Body Works!), so we gave the bath fizzies a try.

Supplies for Imperial Sugar Bath Bombs
We found the instructions on, ordered a few supplies and got started.

Adding Color to Imperial Sugar Bath Bombs

Citric Acid
Baking Soda
Extra Fine Granulated Sugar
Food Coloring
Witch Hazel in a Squirt Bottle
Silicon Mold (or Muffin Tin like we used)
Essential Oil

Mixing Up Imperial Sugar Bath Bombs
My daughter mixed all the ingredients and it went pretty smoothly.  The only tricky part was the witch hazel in the spray bottle.

Making Imperial Sugar Bath Bombs
After all the dry ingredients, food coloring and essential oil, you are to mix it up and spray with witch hazel.  Liquid makes the mixture fizz… so you just need to add enough for it to be a little sticky.

The first time we tried, we sprayed too much witch hazel, made it too sticky… and it was puffing up like muffins when we put it in the tins.  (Now I know it should NOT stick to your hands like in the picture.)

Imperial Sugar Bath Bombs Mold
We tried again and only added about 5 sprays of witch hazel.  It was just a little sticky, like damp (not wet) sand.

We did not have a silicon mold, so we packed the fizzies into muffin tins and a funny shape cookie tray (that I bought years ago but never ever used for cookies).

Imperial Sugar Bath Bombs
After about 10 minutes we were able to slide the fizzies onto the table.  After about an hour, they were hard.

Bath Bomb Made with Imperial Sugar
The project was easy and after correcting our witch hazel mistake, we had some fun bath fizzies!  See how they fizz in the short video below!

Get specific instructions and even more project ideas on!

Gifts for Kids to Make: Sugar Scrub with Imperial Sugar

My daughter adores crafts and projects… and I do not. I’m not especially crafty and I honestly do not want glue and glitter all over the house.

That said, it’s nearly time for the holidays and I found easy to make, all natural sugar scrub recipes on the Imperial Sugar website, so we made a batch for grandma!

Imperial Sugar Sugar Scrub Nail Polish
There are many different recipes on the website and you basically need essential oil, sugar, grapeseed oil and an airtight container.

We chose the Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub!

Imperial Sugar Scrubs
Orange Essence Oil
Vanilla Extract
White Sugar
Grapeseed Oil
Airtight Container
Mixing Bowl

Pouring Sugar for Imperial Sugar Sugar Scrub
My daughter mixed it all together, scooped it into the container and we had a delicious smelling gift!

The website has a bunch of different recipes, including Lemon Rosemary, Chocolate Sugar, Coconut Lime and Cinnamon.  (We also made Lemon Rosemary and Chocolate Sugar!) The website also has labels you can print out for your jar of sugar scrub.

We wrapped our jar with ribbon and added some nail polish.  My daughter was as pleased as could be with her gift for grandma!

Imperial Sugar Sugar Scrub and Nail Polish
Check out Imperial Sugar‘s website for even more kid’s in the kitchen ideas!  Find our bath fizzies HERE!

Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments from Around the House

Reading Kitchen Science Lab
Update May 2016:  See the new video below!

I usually leave the book reviews to Felicia… but since we’re in the middle of summer break, and have some rainy days at home, I have a book to share with you!

My 7 year old has Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family Friendly Experiments from Around the House and it’s full of easy and entertaining experiments.

The best part is that no special equipment is needed… just use the pots, cups and ingredients you have around the house.

Each “Lab” is easy to follow and teaches the science behind it.  From Carbonated Chemical Reactions, to Physics in Motion, to Marvelous Microbiology and to Rocket Science (and many more units in between), there are 52 labs to try.


Joe and the Coke Experiment
Our most recent experiment was the soda geyser.  The kids giggled as they got the Coke, dropped in the Mentos and ran.  The soda shot out for all the neighbors to see.

It wasn’t as big as we had hoped, so the kids read the book more carefully, and next time we’ll use a bigger bottle, more mints and diet soda!

Joe and the Coke and Mint Experiment
Go HERE to see the book for yourself!

See the updated video here:

Attention Houston: There is a New Garbage Woman in Town

Garbage Woman Brooke
If you have been following BigKidSmallCity from the beginning, you may know about Garbage Man Joe.  When he was 4 years old, Joe asked our neighbors if he could roll out, and then back in, their garbage cans on trash day. In return, they would pay him 25¢ each week.

The business was started in lieu of an allowance, as a way to teach Joe about money but also to avoid a situation where he felt entitled to it. The work was easy enough for a 4-year-old, but just hard enough to create learning opportunities.  Read more HERE.

Over the last 3 years, Joe has learned a lot of valuable life lessons, including about responsibility, self-reliance, independence and the value of a dollar.  The best part about starting the Garbage Can Business is that the lessons have been automatic. We have not had to stage discussion; we just do the weekly work.

We’ve been doing the weekly work for years, and it has greatly benefited the entire family.  That said, it became clear that it was about time for a change.  The two main reasons were:

1.  Joe was getting really really good at the job.  No complaining, no trouble with heavy trash cans, no urge to blow his savings, no difficulty counting money, spending money or giving away money.  He needed a new challenge.
2.  Joe’s sister Brooke is now 5 years old.  There should be no “pass” for our second born child or for our only girl.

We couldn’t think of another businesses that was as appropriate for a little kid, with just enough challenges to make it rewarding, but that was also easy enough on the parents. So, with Joe’s approval, we brought in a new Houston garbage woman… Garbage Woman Brooke.

Brooke is now in charge of hauling out the trash cans and hauling them back in again the next day. She gets to collect the money (now 50¢ each), save the money, count the money, and get a visceral understanding of responsibility, self-reliance, independence and the value of a dollar.

Just like Joe, she gets to make the decisions. If she blows her money on ice cream, she finds out she can’t buy her favorite doll as quickly. If she wants an American Girl Doll, she knows she needs to work for a lot more weeks than if she wants a basic baby doll. She even gets to decide if she wants to quit the business… but knows she must do it the proper way, so no neighbors get left with stinky trash cans.

Joe has been promoted to managing the business. It’s his job to remember trash can days, to invoice the customers and to advertise to new potential customers.  This is a good new challenge for the boy that has mastered hauling out the cans.

Of course, all of this requires some work from my husband and I.   The kids are too little to go out on their own and Brooke is not quite strong enough to pull out a extra full trash can.  However, helping to haul out some trashcans on Sunday evening is a small sacrifice for the life lessons the kids learn through the garbage can business.

Boo Your Kids with a Pumpkin Egg Hunt!

Buckets of Halloween Hugs
My kids absolutely love doing egg hunts in the spring time and they are also crazy about Halloween activities. This year I decided to combine the two and they had a blast!

I have a bin full of plastic eggs that sits in the attic for most of the year. This week I got it down and pulled out all the orange eggs (other colors will work too if you don’t have enough orange). If you don’t have a stash of plastic eggs handy, don’t worry. You can get super cute, already-filled jack-o-lanterns on Amazon.

Halloween Easter Eggs
I filled the eggs and jack-o-lanterns with candy and treats like Halloween stickers, erasers, spider rings and even little glow-in-the-dark aliens then hid them around the yard. The kids grabbed their Halloween pails and they were off to see who could collect the most!

After they had found every one they settled down to go through their loot. A short time later they refilled all the eggs/pumpkins (with the exception of a few pieces of candy and favored toys) and pleaded with me to hide them all again!

Decorating Halloween Eggs
After a few times through the cycle of hide-find-open-refill-repeat, I gave them each a sharpie and told them to have fun decorating the eggs. Jack-o-lantern faces, spiders, vampires and ghosts are just a few of the things they decided to draw! For those of you with artists who insist on perfection, we found out that a little rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip works as a great eraser!

Halloween Egg Hunt Treasure
We had so much fun with this activity that we’ve decided to surprise our friends with it this weekend and after school next week! We usually Boo our friends (go here if you don’t know about this fun “reverse” trick-or-treat activity), but this year they are going to have to search their yards and porches for their treats!

Halloween Egg on Fence

Need an excuse for mischief and giggles? Surprise your friends with a flamingo flock!

Brooke and Flamingo Flock
I was scrolling through the Houston events list looking for an easy and fun outing for the kids.  We needed to get out of house but didn’t want to commit to a complicated adventure.  Glancing at the flock of tacky yard flamingos from our last party, it dawned on me that we could just make our own fun.

We grabbed our flamboyance of flamingos and sneaked over to our friend’s yard.  We did our best to be quiet as we made their lawn the tackiest on the block, but it’s hard to not giggle while installing a dozen flamingos.

Once the job was done (and I’m certain we were spotted out the window) we sprinted back to our car and laughed all the way home.  The kids talked about our shenanigans for days and we decided to do this again and again!

Do you want to help us spread the flamingo fun?  Here’s what you need:

1.  Print out THIS sheet!

2.  Find your own flamingos (or pass on the ones you found in your yard)!  You can find some HERE.

3.  Sneak over to your friends house, install flamingos, laugh and run.  For safety, only pass them to people you know well.  You can even call the parents ahead of time to approve your sneaky plan!

4.  Post your pictures to BigKidSmallCity’s Facebook page or email them to me (Jill!

If you found flamingos in your yard, you can be certain someone loves you and considers you the type of friend that won’t mind a temporarily tacky yard!  You do not have to pass on the flamingos but do it if you think it might be fun!

BigKidSmallCity Flamingo Sheet

Flamingo Themed Birthday Party, Designed by Crowning Details, Hosted at Discovery Green

Crowning Details Flamingo Party at Discovery Green
Photo: Crowning Details
We were tickled pink to have a Crowning Details Flamingo Themed Birthday Party at Discovery Green’s Celebration Tent!

This year my daughter asked to have her party at Discovery Green and for it to be Flamingo Frozen Bunny themed. Which seemed perfectly reasonable, except I wasn’t really sure where to find Flamingo Frozen Bunny party gear.

Each year we take donations rather than gifts. Mostly because I can’t stand the thought of picking up one more random toy off the floor. And also to teach the kids about giving.  After more discussion, she said her birthday money would go to help the Flamingos at the Houston Zoo.

Houston Zoo Flamingos

We even went to the zoo and picked out her Flamingo. The tall pretty one was adopted by Brooke. (We now have a certificate to prove it.)

So, I did my best to get Brooke excited about the Flamingo theme (only) and asked my friend at Crowning Details for some help. And it was our prettiest party yet.

Let me tell you everything you need for your own Pretty Pink Flamingo Party.  Without a doubt, Julie from Crowning Details made it perfect.  And, without a doubt, I had real concerns about how expensive her suggestions would be.

I can happily report that the Crowning Details suggestions were all budget friendly, with Dollar Store and grocery store suggestions, and all details were very well thought out.  And having it a Discovery Green was a huge success.

My favorite comment from a guest was, “You are a working mom.  How did you pull this off?”.  “Oh, this little thing?  I just threw it together.”.  (Which no one believed.  So I introduced them to Julie.)

Look below for pictures and a shopping list!

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Encourage Children to Learn Vital Life Skills through Personal Experience – Set Up Your Own Kids Marketplace!

See the ABC13 Kids Marketplace story HERE.

If you have followed BigKidSmallCity for some time, you know about Garbage Man Joe, our very own Kindergarten Kingpin.

Joe still pulls out trash cans each week and we are still passionate about teaching our kids about money, life and entrepreneurship.  My husband and I feel that it is important to not only tell our kids about these things, but to let them experience them.  We want them to know what a bad decision and good decision feels like, with the hope that they will continue to make good decisions for the rest of their lives.

For example, if the kids blow all their money on ice cream and then can’t by the the Lego set they have been begging for, they know how that feels.  Also, if they decide to not do their job and the neighbors are upset, they also know how that feels.  Of course, the opposite is also true, and in the long term, good decisions feel better.

Eda at Kids Market
In our small way, we’ve been teaching these lessons to our kids.  But what if someone turned this into an elementary school course?  This is exactly what Eda Morita did at her daughter’s school.

Bubble Jarvis Bubble at Kids Market
Eda started with a Kids Marketplace in the fall and then expanded it into a weekly after school class for elementary school students!  Her goal was to encourage children to learn vital life skills through personal experience.

Some of the weekly topics included “How to Greet Someone”, “Listening”, “Rapport” and “Money”.  Then, in May, the kids set up 40 booths at an after school marketplace.

Advice from a Kid
There were pizza, lemonade, baked goods and ice cream stands, bubbles and hula hoops, snacks, art work, bows, second hand goods and much more.  My favorite was the booth where you could get advice from a kid (with the disclaimer that it was not guaranteed to be good advice)!

ABC 13 Filming Kids Market
The kids did the selling, collected the money and decided how they would spend some of their earnings. Eda met with the group afterwards to find out what they learned.  Some comments were:

“It takes money to make money.”
“Being friendly helps with sales.”
“You have to make more money than what it cost you.”
“I should not eat my product.”

Seems to me like the kids felt what it was like to make money!

Eda did a great job with the kids at the Kids Marketplace.  The great thing is, any group could put it together with the right parent in charge.  What do you think about a Kids Marketplace at your school?

Find the ABC13 story HERE!

Two Cuties Shop

How to Make a Drawstring Bag – Great for our Polar Bear Birthday Party!

These instructions are for how to make an easy drawstring bag. I added a face to mine and used them as favors for my daughter’s 7th birthday, but they could be used for any occasion or even just around the house as a fun way to keep all those toys and games with a million little pieces organized.

Finished Draw String Bag
One of the great things about these bags is that you can make them of any size, as long as you have enough material! I chose to make mine polar bears to fit my daughter’s party theme, but you could do just about any animal by simply changing the color or pattern of the fabric. My son is already asking for a tiger bag made of out some tiger-striped material that we found!

The materials I used were: white fuzzy fabric, black yarn (with a needle big enough to thread it through) for the mouth, black buttons for the eyes, black pompoms for the nose, blue craft cord, a safety pin, black thread and white thread.

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