Keeping Clean

Some tips for keeping clean during and after a project.


After my last post, a friend commented “Just thinking of allowing paint anywhere near my house gives me palpitations. how do you do it??” My kids are a little older than hers, and she is renting a furnished apartment, but I am sure her quandary is not unique. Here are few ideas to help you keep up with the during and after-craft mess.

But first a disclaimer: I always say that mess shows that you were having fun. Let the playroom look like a disaster for a while (maybe a nice loooong while…). What good are all those toys/paints/dress up clothes if they are packed away in a bin in the closet? We only recently moved our toys down to the basement, so I am a pro at stepping around half finished Magnatile houses and Barbie shoes. When the floor was not navigable, that was too much mess, but some amount, to me, gave some room for creativity.

My #1 secret weapon to cleaning up after a messy project is baby wipes. I also use them to clean dirty counters, walls, doors – you name it. They clean everything! Paint, marker – check. Even crayon, which I find harder to remove, come off with a little pressure. My kitchen table is laminate so it wipes up fairly easily but our newly finished craft table is an old wood table that was knocking around our basement when we bought our house. We cleaned it off (there might have been some wipes involved..but paper towels too) and the kids helped me paint it with a bright yellow semi-gloss paint. I am finding my “magic” wipes to do less of a good job on that, but it’s still my favorite way to clean.

Another good way to keep clean is to buy some cheap plastic place mats and designate them as “project mats”. My sister was tired of wiping her table down and picked some up and that has been working great. You could alternately get a vinyl tablecloth to use for projects, but I find that makes the table surface softer which is less ideal for coloring.

And of course smocks! Either spend a few dollars on real ones, or use the time-honored method of Abba’s old shirt backwards. I used a short sleeve one on my younger daughter and the sleeves were the perfect length for her arms.

I would love to hear you tips for keeping clean! Share them on our facebook page or below in the comments.


Decorate a dreidel…with a dreidel

Use a paint-dipped dreidel to create a splatter effect on a paper dreidel.


The kids were digging through a box of old projects and pulled out something my older daughter brought home last year. They dipped dreidels in paint and spun them on a dreidel-shaped piece of paper, creating a great splatter effect. So we tried it out at home.

This is definitely a messy project – get out the smocks and table covers for this one.  I wouldn’t recommend this project for kids much below 5 years old. You need to know how to spin a dreidel and also how not to fling paint everywhere.


I tried using 2 sizes of plastic dreidels. I found that the bigger one worked better and got a more effective splatter than the smaller one.

You could use the same method to decorate any Chanukah shape. Try spinning on a plain sheet of paper. Then cut out latke shapes, and glue them on to a paper cut in the shape of a frying pan. We’d love to see what you come up with!


Dreidel-Decorated Dreidels

Active: 15 minutes

Age: 5-8

Construction paper
plastic dreidel
bowl to hold paint



Get ready for a messy project by putting on smocks. Cover your table surface with newspaper or a plastic disposable tablecloth. Or, be prepared for a decent amount of wiping up.

(This shows a pieces of the mess on my non-covered table).


Cut a out a dreidel shape from a piece of paper. You can print my dreidel template or draw one yourself. Check out “Spinning Paper Dreidel” for detailed directions on how to draw a perfect dreidel.

Pour a small amount of paint into a bowl. Dip your dreidel in.


Spin your paint-dipped dreidel on your paper dreidel! Repeat until the shape is as covered as you like it, or until the kids loses interest.

Did you do this project? Share your pictures on our facebook page!


“Spinning” Paper Dreidel

Create a dreidel that “spins” but won’t fall down!


My daughter came home from school excited to tell me about the dreidel she painted in school. She ran to her bag to show it to me…and of course it had not yet been sent home! This caused many tears, so we had to do a dreidel project at home to make for it.

This project requires a some adult cutting and measuring, but a whole lot of post-project playing! It also uses one my favorite supplies, paper fasteners. I always liked the idea of a paper fastener, but never had the good fortune to own my very own box. I had my husband gift me a box for this project.

The basic idea here is simple. Cut out a paper dreidel with a window, and then attach a spinning wheel to simulate the spinning of a dreidel. We used card stock rather than regular paper because I thought it would hold up better. If you don’t have that, I would suggest construction paper, but really any paper will do.


You can draw your own dreidel and wheel, or for your convenience, you can download the  dreidel template and just print it out. I give detailed directions about how to measure yours below. As you can see in the picture, ours ended up with a small amount of space in the window because were doing this on the fly. For the template, I enlarged the wheel so it should cover the full window.

“Spinning” Paper Dreidel

Active: 15 minutes

Age: 2-7

Paper (card stock or construction paper ideal, but really anything will do)
Paper fastener
Crayons, markers, or decorating tools of your choice


Cut a out a dreidel shape from a piece of paper. You can print my dreidel template or draw one yourself. This part sounds complicated, but it’s really fairly simple. If you don’t care too much about having it perfectly even, feel free to just eyeball the measurements.

Here is how I did it.
1. Find the center of your page and mark it.
2. Make a diagonal line from that mark to a point on the side of the page.
3. Using a ruler, measure straight across from the top point where the line hit the side of the page and mark it.
4. Make a second diagonal line from the center mark to your new mark. This ensures the 2 bottom lines are even.
5. For the dreidel handle, put your ruler across the width of the whole page, positioning it at the top of the page. Mark at 3″ and 5.5″. Draw a 2″ line down from each of those marks.
6. Cut out the squares on the top of the page, and the triangles on the bottom.
Perfect dreidel!

Cut out a window from your dreidel. Decide where you want your spinner to be and make a pie-shaped wedge cut out, approximately a quarter of your circle but with a slightly smaller diameter. I made my pie shape by tracing the circle on the back of the dreidel, and then making an “x” through the circle. The top quarter became the pie shape I cut out. and  I made the template 3″, the picture shown has a 2.25″ width but I think the slightly bigger size would be better.

Have your kids decorate the dreidel. We kept it simple with just markers.

Make the wheel. Cut out a circle .5″ bigger than the diameter of your window. The template is 3.5″. Add a Nun, Gimel, Hey and Shin, rotating the circle so each letter is upright in it’s quadrant. I didn’t have the kids color the wheel because I thought it would be hard to read if it was scribbled on.

Attached the wheel at the base of the window with a paper fastener. I used a push pin to start the hole and poked myself in the finger, so be careful when poking, especially if you are using heavier paper!

Did you do this project? Share your pictures on our facebook page!


Nature Menorah

Combine Chanukah with the end of fall for a nature walk and project in one!


Once Rosh Chodesh Kislev arrives, Chanukah is in the air! We did our first Chanukah project today. It combined Chanukah and fall. We went out on a walk to collect leaves and sticks. We snagged a beautiful red one right outside of the shul on our way home from a morning program there to get us started. Once we got home, we combed our yard and block. Our neighbor had a tree with perfect, small red leaves but other than that, it was slim pickings. We did out best to find a variety of shapes and colors that were not crumbled or wet and found some thin sticks as well. It was freezing so we worked quickly. We did manage to collect more than enough for each girl in a variety of shapes and colors.


After a lunch break, the kids broke the sticks into small pieces and arranged them on the paper.


We then painted the sticks. While the sticks were drying, the kids kept painting – both on paper and paper towels!



This passed the time until the sticks were dry enough to glue down. We used the leaves to act as the flames of our menorah.


The kids were proud of their projects! They really enjoyed combining fall with Chanukah.

Nature Menorah

Nature walk: 10 minutes, because it was freezing. If it’s warmer where you are, take your time and have fun with it!
Active: 20 minutes
Drying: 15 minutes+

Age: 2-7

Sticks and leaves


Collect sticks and leaves. Try to find straight sticks that will adhere to the paper without popping up in the middle. Moister leaves work better than brittle ones.  A variety of shapes and colors will really make the menorah come alive!

Break the sticks into smaller pieces and arranged them on your page. Then painted the sticks. I put a piece of scrap paper underneath the sticks to protect the table while the kids painted. The kids then painted each stick.

Let sticks dry.  Glue down the sticks onto a clean sheet of paper in the shape of a menorah. Put the shamash wherever you want – center or end is traditional but anything goes.

Have each kid pick out 9 leaves from the collection we had amassed and arrange them on their menorah to represent the flames. Use a variety of sizes to get them all the fit. Once you have then arranged to your satisfaction, glue them down. It probably would be nice to put some heavy books on top of them as they dry to help the leaves stick better, but it’s not necessary.

Alternately, press the leaves by putting the between wax paper until Chanukah. Glue on one leaf each night!

Did you do this project? Share your pictures on our facebook page!