“I’m Gonna Sit Right Here Until I Dye”*

Top 5 end-of-summer craft ideas.

As the summer starts to wind down, we’re all a mixture of excited and sad. But as the days grow shorter and seasons change, take some of these last moments with your kids to create a little “time capsule” of summer that they’ll be able to look back on when it’s freezing cold and getting dark at 4pm.

Another great aspect of many of these handicrafts is that they are perfect conversation starters. Tin cans and old newspapers can lead to talks about waste or about how other cultures think about the earth. Collecting sticks is a way to talk about trees—try asking if each person in the group has a favorite tree. Not type of tree, but specific tree. You’ll be surprised how quickly stories come up. Or with the flowers, talk can easily, smoothly turn to how quickly flowers fade and dry up and how summer can feel that way.

In that way, the following can be memories of more than just summer, but of family, as well.

  • Tie Dyed T-shirts: This will give you a list of great in-depth instructions about how-to, but here’s the basic premise—You take a white cotton shirt, a bunch of rubber bands, and you do the rubber-band equivalent of masking off parts of a paint canvas. In my recent experience, it works especially well to do smaller “targets” all over the shirt, rather than one big spiral or something. But the fun is in trying your own theories: fold it like an accordion, whatever. You can buy a kit at any craft store, or just go to the grocery store and buy some RIT dye (though that might get expensive to do more than one color, unless you’re doing bulk). Also think about doing sheets. Or, you know, dress-shirts for work. Or surprise Mom and dye one of her dresses (not advised).
  • Sand Candles: This will require either a beach or at least a local sandbox. But some natural sand would really be best from a memories standpoint. This sound difficult but is actually quite simple. Ideally, here is what you’d do. Go to the local beach/lake/sandy place. This ideal place allows you to have a fire. Make a nice small campfire. Using the old pot you’ve brought along, melt blocks of paraffin wax you bought at the craft store (maybe even some grocery stores). Meanwhile, have the kids shaping shallow holes in the sand, as well as gathering shells, rocks, small pine cones, whatever sentimental objects they want to have in their candle (take a nature walk before you make the fire, actually). Pour in the wax when it is melted-while you hold a piece of wick you also bought at the craft store—and have them quickly plop in their objects. Now the candle needs to harden for a good long while. Perhaps you could make dinner over that fire, or put it out and take another walk.
  • The Stick Vase: Such an incredibly simple idea—just a cup with sticks glued on, really. But what a vast array of possible interpretations, and what a perfect reminder of summer, as you put pencils and pens for school homework into your pencil cup that reminds you of last summer! Some ideas for variations: find sticks close to pencil-size, and sharpen either the tips or both ends with a pencil sharpener. Whittle the ends with a penknife. Try to find sticks all the same size, or all different sizes? How many different kinds of bark can you put on your “vase”? How about using smaller pieces and circling the cup horizontally? Alternating height, like an old fort? And of course, it’s up to you how durable you make the inner support structure. A tin can would be ideal (esp. if you’re recycling it after using the contents for a meal), but a thin plastic cup would work too. And of course, obtaining these sticks will require a good long walk in the woods.
  • Pounded Flower Printmaking: This idea is perhaps the least practical and most ethereal of today’s ideas. But it is arguably the most beautiful, and is almost certainly the simplest. The technique is obvious and simple as can be. Find wildflowers you like the colors of. Put them on paper, one at a time. Cover with a towel, and smash away. A rubber mallet would be great for this, but it might also work quite well to put a board over the towel and have the child jump on it repeatedly. Repeat as many times as you like. Now, parent, comes the (only slightly) tricky part: preservation. If you have access nearby (teacher store!) to lamination, that’s one option. You can also buy clear acrylic coating spray at a craft shop (possibly hardware stores too). Either option locks in and protects the colors they’ve created.
  • Recycled Paper: One day as we talked about soda bottles and how neat it was that they could be turned into chairs by recycling, my daughter asked how cardboard was recycled. In a fit of inspiration, I took the piece of cereal box she was asking about, some dryer lint, and put them in the blender with lots of water (and prayed it would work). We strained out as much water as we could, then put the goop on a piece of aluminum foil. We placed it in the sunniest place we could find, and flattened it as thin as we could. We flipped it over in a few hours, and later that day, we had a piece of “paper.” You shouldn’t do that. You should go here for real instructions. And maybe use newspaper rather than cardboard. But however you do it, this is a fun, advisedly outdoor, activity that can take on a crafty aspect too, as the kids decide what to mix into the paper mixture, and whether they want to put something on top as the paper dries (I used a bike sprocket to great effect once).


*If you missed the reference, be sure to watch Brother Cash playing “Big River”:



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