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Hands On As We Grow by Carolyn Of The Pleasantest Thing - 18h ago

Click here to read Make Your Own Easy Ice Cream Pops! on Hands On As We Grow®

Today's post is a fun DIY summer snack - easy ice cream pops - from Carolyn of Simple Play Ideas.

Ice pops and ice cream treats are summer staples. You can turn a frozen snack into an activity when you custom create your own ice cream pops!

And best of all, it’s so super simple!

Make Your Own Easy Ice Cream Pops!

Fair warning: this activity can end up pretty messy. So keep those clean-up supplies on hand and ready!

To make your own easy ice cream pops, you’ll need:

  • your favorite ice cream flavors, slightly softened
  • ice pop or popsicle molds
  • ice cream mix-ins: cereal, coconut flakes, cherries, chocolate chips, sprinkles, OJ concentrate, chocolate syrup
  • big mixing bowl
  • scoop
  • spatulas
  • spoons
  • freezer

We start to build our pops by picking out what flavor we want. I set a few cartons of our favorite single-flavor ice creams on-hand: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, coffee, etc.

We also have a few different mix-in options available to make things interesting. To skip some of the mess, you could use combo flavored ice creams, like rocky road or mint chip.

Our favorite ice cream combinations:

  • Creamsicle: 1 pint vanilla ice cream + 1/2 cup orange juice concentrate “mix-in”
  • Chocolate Chocolate Chip: 1 pint chocolate ice cream + 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • Fudge Swirl: 1 pint vanilla ice cream + 1/4 cup chocolate syrup “mix-in”

The major goal: make the yummiest combo of ice creams and mix-ins possible! Seriously, go nuts!

Kids Can DIY Easy Ice Cream Pops!

Let one pint of ice cream sit out until it melts enough that your kids can stir it easily, similar to soft serve texture. Scoop it into a bowl with a scoop or spatula.

Beat the heat with these 38 water and ice activities for kids!.

Then get out the mix-ins, stir them in, and spoon the mixture into an ice pop mold (affiliate link). You can mix everything in completely or leave it lightly swirled – your call.

Put the molds in the freezer until they are frozen through, about 3 1/2 hours or overnight. It might be a great idea to mix up your treat before lunch.

Keep your snacks extra chill with our yummy watermelon ice recipe!

To get the ice pops out more easily, hold the ice pop mold under running water. The easy ice cream pops slide right out!

What’s your favorite way to cool off with yummy treats! We’d love to steal your recipe!
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Click here to read Super Simple DIY Lightbox for All-Ages Learning Fun on Hands On As We Grow®

Make your own DIY lightbox, with tons of ways to play, from the Screen-Free Mom!

There is something about Christmas lights that just makes kids happy. If only they could play with them without the danger of eating them or breaking them!

Here’s a solution: Create a DIY lightbox and let them explore the lights and do a little learning while they are at it.

Super Simple DIY Lightbox for All-Ages Learning Fun

This DIY lightbox is so incredibly simple to make.

Make your own DIY lightbox:

  • clear storage bin with a lid
  • Christmas or fairy lights

You just throw the Christmas lights in there, drill a hole for your plug, a few extra holes for ventilation and you are done.

Learn more about creating your own lightbox.

Our 4-year-old and  1-year-old both love this and it is a great tool for sorting and tracing.

4 Creative Ways to Use Your DIY Lightbox DIY Lightbox Color Sorting

Mostly our 1-year- old likes to put different objects on the lightbox and watch the light shine through.

He is plenty busy just using the lightbox as one tool in free play. He silently puts all sorts of different things on it.

I am sure he’s learning without any additional input needed from me.

However, I did print out a color sorting sheet to put on top. I have started talking to him about the colors and he enjoys putting different objects into the circles, which is great fine motor practice.

My 4-year-old loves doing the color sorting as well, even though it is no challenge for her.

DIY Lightbox Letter Writing

Our DIY lightbox is an excellent tool for moving to free letter writing. It can be used as a transition between tracing and free writing.

Just take any page of letters or workbook page and put it on top of the lightbox. Add a plain piece of paper over it and the child can “trace” away.

We like to use this for card-making too. Our 4-year-old loves making cards for friends and family.

I can write out the words (i.e. Happy Birthday Pop-Pop) on one sheet of paper and she can place her sheet over that. She feels very proud about making a card independently!

Lightbox Number Writing

If it’s numbers you are working on, use a number page over the lightbox. Your kids can trace the numbers and sort objects into numbered piles.

Try another way to trace and learn numbers.

DIY Lightbox Tracing & Coloring Pictures

This is one of our favorite uses for the lightbox. Even though your child is tracing pictures and not letters or numbers, don’t think they are not learning transferable skills.

This activity promotes fine motor practice and pencil control.

Give them any color picture plus a blank piece of paper and let them trace away.

Trace your child’s name with this fun activity!

Bonus: Pretend Play Doctor

Here’s a bonus way to use a DIY Lightbox: as a lightbox for X-Rays in pretend play.

Our 4 year old loves playing doctor and we recently got her these great X-Rays. T

They really light up nicely when laid over the lightbox. (You can get X-Rays like this on Amazon, affiliate link)

Screen-Free Mom is a psychologist who is happily raising her two kids sans screens. She runs Screen Free Parenting where she writes about the effects of screens on children and provides tons of screen-free alternative activities. She has developed a system to help organize the activities she believes young children learn and grow from: the S.P.O.I.L. system. Before you turn on the screen, she asks, “Have you SPOIL-ed your child yet today?". You can follow Screen-Free Parenting via her website newsletter or on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.
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Click here to read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Scavenger Hunt on Hands On As We Grow®

Amber uses a classic children's book as the inspiration for an adaptable bear hunt scavenger hunt!

In our house, we love using books as inspiration for play. Books can inspire art projects, make-believe play, and even book-based STEM learning!

We love the classic children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. It’s a great one for inspiring activities and hands-on play.

Everyone loves to sing the song and play along as you read it, but we decided to take it a step further and turn it into a bear hunt scavenger hunt.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Scavenger Hunt

Originally I wanted to do this activity outside, but then it was rainy. So we had a pj day and played it inside.

Keep on hunting with 32 more fun indoor/outdoor scavenger hunts!

First, we read and sang “We’re Going On a Bear Hunt.” When that was over I asked them, “Would YOU like to go on a bear hunt?”

We had previously made these “binoculars.” So we took those on our bear hunt.

Make your own Bear Hunt Binoculars with your kids!

I had set up a few stuffed animals on a path going up the stairs, down the hall, and leading to a stuffed bear. We sang the song as we walked.

“We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re gonna catch a big one, we’re not scared!”

And we walked around “discovering” the stuffed animals I’d set up.

Hunt & Discover Hands-On Fun Together

Different parts of the house we pretended were different obstacles. The tile floor was the swishy grass, the stairs were a mountain, etc.

“Oh no, a mountain! A great, tall mountain! Can’t go under it, can’t go around it, we’ll have to climb up it!”

Then after each “obstacle” was a stuffed animal, and we would declare, “That’s not a bear!” and keep on our little scavenger hunt.

The original idea was to pretend to be afraid of the bear at the end, but my 3-year-old was just delighted!

“It’s just my brown bear! I love my brown bear!”

I think even though it didn’t end as I had planned, we still had fun! And for something that took only about 1 minute to set up, I’d say it was worth it.

How have you turned a favorite book into a fun hands-on activity? Tell us your tricks and tips!
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Click here to read 30+ Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids To Do at Any Age on Hands On As We Grow®

There are so many different fun scavenger hunt ideas for kids, but these are some of our absolute favorites ways to search and learn together!

The possibilities of ideas for a scavenger hunt for kids are endless!

  • Letters
  • Numbers
  • Words
  • Colors
  • Nature
  • Rocks
  • Shapes
  • Things around town

You get the idea: endless. Basically, anything can be made into a scavenger hunt.

Yes, even chores!

Plus, you can take any of the ideas below and tweak them to make them meet your needs! Turn that ABC hunt into a numbers hunt. Make your search for flowers into a bug hunt.

Anything goes!

32 Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids To Do at Any Age

Maybe that’s why scavenger hunts are such a huge hit with my boys. The flexibility and fun are so adaptable, even as they get older.

I’ve collected 30+ of my personal favorite scavenger hunts that we’ve done over the years at Hands On As We Grow. These are ones that kids, mine and yours, have loved and asked for again and again!

But we’re also always looking for our next good scavenger hunt idea for kids. And we need your help!

Comment below to share your favorite scavenger hunt for kids with our HOAWG community!

Get the Gross Motor Go-To List Printable! Learning Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids:

You can use take anything your kids are learning and turn it into a cool scavenger hunt.

Don’t believe me? Check out these neat ideas!

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids:

Don’t limit your hunting to inside. Take the fun outdoors with easy, adaptable scavenger hunts for kids of all ages!

Treasure Hunt Ideas:

If you have pirate obsessed kids, hunting for treasure is just such a natural fit. Say “A-hoy!” to these cool scavenger hunts!

Easy Peasy Takes on Classic Scavenger Hunts:

If you’re looking for a classic, with a twist, these ideas are pure gold! You’ll be able to keep your setup and supplies super simple with classic scavenger hunt ideas for kids.

I’m on a hunt to find more fun scavenger hunt ideas for kids! Share your best ideas in the comments!
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Click here to read 40+ Big Fun Art Projects for Kids on Hands On As We Grow®

Make massive, involved, creative, and fun art projects for kids! We've collected 40+ of our favorite big art ideas to make it super simple to get started

If you’ve been around for a while, you already know I’m a fan of Big Art. It seems to make art projects – even with toddlers and boys – manageable.

For those of you that are new to this term that I’ve made up:

Big Art is fun art projects for kids that invites total involvement in the process. I believe that the early years it’s all about the process, and not the product.

  • It’s usually big in size.
  • It gets you moving. Building those gross motor skills that are so important in the early years!
40+ Big Fun Art Projects for Kids

Remember, Big Art projects make movement part of the creative process. So go big, get moving, and make art together!

Check out the Big Art Pinterest board for more art project inspiration ideas!

Big art projects are some of my very favorite activities for kids. They’re super involving and kids tend to get lost in the creation process.

Plus, Big Art is really easy to adapt and create on your own. You can start with one of the 40+ ideas up top or create completely from scratch!

Top Tips to Make Big Art Fun for Kids

Since these projects are so big in scale and time commitment

  • Make art bigger
  • Create art with movement
  • Use big objects to make the art

Make your art bigger by going outside, unrolling a big roll of paper, or grabbing a giant box. You’re looking to take up space – and lots of it!

Run, jump, roll, throw – just move! Getting into the physical action make bigger sized art projects more fun and engaging.

Adding movement to art creation builds those gross motor skills and major muscle groups. Plus, your kids will burn off tons of energy!

Get creative with your art tools, too. Unexpected objects, like giant bouncy balls or toy trucks, can make really interesting art!

What are your top art tips for kids and toddlers?
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Click here to read Easy Listen, Move & Follow Directions Game for Preschoolers! on Hands On As We Grow®

Listen and move to the music with a fun follow directions game for preschoolers, from Alisha, that also works on gross motor skills!

Ever feel like your kids just don’t listen? Yeah, me too!

Toddlers and preschoolers need a lot of practice to perfect those listening skills. Making it a game is an ideal way to get them on board!

Bonus: moving around and getting really silly together is a great way to burn off lots of extra energy!

Easy Listen, Move & Follow Directions Game for Preschoolers!

What I love most about these creative games are how simple it is to set up and get started.

For your own follow direction game, you’ll need:

  • 4 or more different noisemakers or instruments
  • space to move around

That’s it!

Make your own sensory noise maker to use in this musical game!

The follow directions game could need a bit of explaining before you get to playing.

You’ll want to assign a movement to each noisemaker. For example, the drum sound means to stomp.

Here’s the movements that we assigned to each instrument:

  • drum means to stomp
  • maraca means to shake
  • whistle means to jump
  • bell means to stop.

Explain that each sound communicates a different movement. Whatever sound they hear, they make that move until there is a new sound given.

The follow directions game continues until they hear the stop sound.

I recommend trying a practice round together. Practice and repetition helps kids have more success with complicated activities and skills!

Make each sound one at a time. Say together which sound was given and then which movement to make, then make that movement for just a short time to practice.

Keep on playing with two DIY board games your kids can make!

Move & Learn to Listen Together

Start making the different sounds as your kids make the movements. Make the sounds in the same order or mix it up – totally your call.

Pro Tip: some kids listen “better” with their eyes shut. Give it a try and see what happens!

Ready to stop playing? Make the sound to communicate to stop and transition to the next activity.

A follow-up variation could be for your kids to become the sound maker and you make the movements. Or your kids could play this game as an independent group activity as well.

Did you know there’s an extra little bit of sneaky learning in this game? Beyond just following directions, kids are actually discovering the basics of coding – where one symbol (like a sound) stands for another (like an action).

It’s the basis of Morse code, sirens, first responder alerts, and more!

Have fun and enjoy listening, moving, and making memories together.

We love to move and learn together! What are your family’s favorite active learning games?
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Click here to read Yummy Edible Frozen Excavation Sensory Play for Kids on Hands On As We Grow®

Chill out with a fun, edible frozen excavation for toddlers! It's a fun way to beat the heat together!

It’s been a hot summer! And we’ve been hunting for ways to cool off while still enjoying lots of outdoor summer fun.

In order to Beat The Heat last week, we froze some berries and dug them out!

Using tools to find hidden treasures is thrilling for a preschooler!

Yummy Edible Frozen Excavation Sensory Play for Kids!

To make your own edible frozen excavation, you’ll need:

  • berries or fruits, fresh or frozen
  • ice cube tray
  • a big freezer-safe container
  • water
  • a freezer
  • toy/child-friendly hammer, pliers, screwdriver, etc.

Henry was so excited to dig out his buried treasure. We got started by making the “buried treasures” together.

We had some leftover fruit in the fridge: blueberries, black raspberries, and grapes. Together, we added them to an ice cube tray partially filled with water and froze them.

I also used a bigger freezer-safe container to make a giant block of “treasure” for Henry to uncover later. If you don’t have an ice cube tray handy, you could just make one or more bigger frozen fruit blocks.

I think Henry snacked on as much of the fruit as he did “burying” them.

Learn more ways to sneak in a healthy snack!

When our “treasures” were mostly frozen, I added them to a cake pan to combine them all together.

I put the cake pan with water in the freezer to get chilled for a little bit before adding the fruit. This method worked really well for my bigger containers.

Digging Out Our Frozen Excavation Together

After a nap that same day, our treasure was ready to be found!
We gathered Henry’s toy tools and set ourselves up on the porch.

Henry’s tools of choice:

  •  Hammer
  • Drill (not shown)
  • Pliers

Henry found the hammer worked the best for breaking apart the edible frozen excavation. The pliers worked well for picking out the smashed pieces of fruit.

I really loved watching his experimentation for figuring out what worked best on the frozen excavation process.

As he picked out each piece of fruit, it went directly into this mouth.

Sometimes a nice chunk of ice slipped in, too. It was a great way to cool off!

Try These Frozen Excavation Twists:


How do you add ice to your play on hot summer days? We’d love to check out your ideas!
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Click here to read Classic 4th of July Spin Art Streamers Craft for Kids on Hands On As We Grow®

Make spin art streamers for 4th of July! It's a timeless craft that kids love to create!

I was in the mood for a 4th of July craft – something classic and timeless. Immediately, I thought about streamers.

I loved making and decorating with streamers for holidays and special occasions as a kid!

Classic 4th of July Spin Art Streamers Craft for Kids

But creating streamers as a 4th of July craft was the last thing on Henry’s mind. I tried for many days and many approaches to create these. 

Sometimes I just don’t win.

Okay, a lot of times.

Then, I saw a neat idea from the Come Together Kids. Leveled up streamers that added a dash of spin art to the mix.


We’ve never done spin art before and my salad spinner was just begging to be put to good, crafty use! I seized the opportunity to make a cool craft with Henry.

Find 30 more classic summer crafts for kids to make!

To make your own streamers, you’ll need:

  • Salad spinner
  • Red and blue paint
  • Coffee filers
  • Sticks – craft sticks or natural sticks
  • Yarn (optional)
Sharing Classic Spin Art with My Kids

I brought the salad spinner outside. Beside it, I set out some watered down red and blue paint, spoons and coffee filters.

I enticed Henry to come check it out. Mostly, I just shared that I was going to do a messy painting project and did he want to help.

First, place a flattened out coffee filter into the bottom of the salad spinner. Drip a little of each color paint onto the coffee filter.

We used a spoon, but you use use a medicine dropper or a syringe. Or fingers.

Then the fun part!


You can also drip one color, spin, and then drip the other color and spin.

Check out those creations!

Henry was in complete awe of them.

Sometimes it takes a couple of times to get enough coverage. If that happens, add a little bit more paint and spin again until you get the result you’re looking for.

Turning Spin Art Into Streamers

I could have left them alone. Just by themselves, they were very beautiful and fun spin art!

However, I was looking for a 4th of July craft to do. So, we made them into spin art streamers!

After letting the coffee filters dry for a little bit, I cut them in swirls.

This could have been a great fine motor skill and cutting activity if Henry was to that stage in cutting. But he’s still getting the hang of cutting a straight line, let alone in circles close together.

So I cut it this time! You could freehand the swirl cut or follow a lightly drawn pencil line if you’d like it to be more perfect.

I asked Henry to grab me four sticks that were still floating around in his sandbox after we created the Tin Can Forest. 

He grabbed me exactly four. 

No questions asked, no other help needed. I’m a very proud mom.

I tied the cut coffee filters onto each stick. Looking back, I should have used yarn to tie them on.

Hand them over to your preschooler, and you have super safe “sparklers” for the 4th of July!

My boys ran, jumped, and played with their spin art streamers all day long!

What are your favorite 4th of July crafts for kids to make? We’d love to see your creative ideas!


More 4th of July crafts made with coffee filters:

  1. Super simple coffee filter fireworks found at No Time For Flash Cards.
  2. red, white & blue coffee filter bunting for your porch, the tutorial is at Sunshine and Hurricanes.
  3. Crafts by Amanda makes patriotic coffee filter flowers.
  4. Little Wonders Days’ made a pop rocket with a coffee filter and toilet paper tube!
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Click here to read Simple Fine Motor Activity with Paper Clips on Hands On As We Grow®

Need a break from high prep activities? Try this simple fine motor activity from Brigitte - all you need is paper clips!

Sure, it’s fun painting and making messes with the kiddos, but isn’t it nice to have a simple activity that doesn’t require too much work on your part?

This fine motor activity may be perfect for those days.

Simple Fine Motor Activity with Paper Clips

No paint, no preplanning. And all with supplies you probably already have on hand.

To DIY your own simple paper clip fine motor activity, you’ll need:

  • paper clips
  • construction paper
  • a magnet.

Gather those items, set them on the counter, and have the kids fit as many paperclips as possible around the edges of the construction paper.

So simple and yet great fine motor practice!

It’s even more fun to make it a race. How many paperclips can they get around the edges in one minute?

My daughter remarked the paper looked like a picture frame when she had all of the paperclips around her paper.

I figured my daughter would remove the paper clips by hand, but she had another idea. She grabbed a magnet to remove them.

The magnet removal was a little tricky, but it worked.

It’s neat how a simple activity can morph into something more with a little creativity.

Play with 30+ easy fine motor activities and supplies you already have at home!

My other daughter soon joined in and had the paperclips “dancing” on the construction paper using a magnet underneath.

Then, she grabbed a marker and drew a line on her paper.

The paper clip began traveling across the line thanks to the magnet she was moving underneath the paper.

Did you know the longest paperclip chain contained 66,000 metal paperclips, was 1997.9 meters long and was created by a nine-year-old kid? I didn’t until one of my daughters asked, and we did some research.

Of course, my daughters weren’t going to beat that record, but they still had fun making their own paperclip chains. More fine motor practice!

Even clean up was fun using a magnet!

Make your own magnet table for even more simple fun!

What are your favorite easy-to-do activities? Share your creative or off-the-cuff ideas for incredibly easy play with us!
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Click here to read DIY a Festive Kid-Sized American Flag for Fourth of July! on Hands On As We Grow®

Celebrate the USA with a fun DIY kid-sized American Flag for the Fourth of July!

The American flag is awesome for learning!

Just in this one activity we covered:

In one fireworks fueled moment, I even contemplated adding measuring to this activity. But I decided not to push it too much.

DIY a Festive Kid-Sized American Flag for Fourth of July!

This activity is super simple and uses really basic supplies. I bet you already have a bunch in your supply closet!

To DIY your own American flag, you’ll need:

  • a sample – either a real US flag or a printed picture
  • yarn or heavy string
  • clothespins
  • red and white crepe paper
  • blue scrapbook or construction paper
  • white scrapbook or construction paper
Count & Pattern with the Flag

Take a peek at your sample US flag. Either a real flag or a printed/digital picture will work.

I had grabbed our flag from the porch to save it from getting ripped to pieces. For this activity, I pulled it out and put it on display at kid-height.

First, I tied a piece of yarn up as tight as I could across an open doorway. If I did this again, I’d probably use a heavier piece of string or twine because our flag is quite heavy.

Then, I hung the flag with clothespins. If you have a clothesline, it would be awesome to do this outside to have it blow in the wind!

I pulled out the step stool for Henry to get a closer look.

I just left it like that for a bit as Henry observed it. Counting the stars as best he could and mostly just being excited about seeing it in the house.

Once we had talked through all the elements of the flag – stars and stripes – we got to work creating our own version!

Easy DIY Fourth of July Activity for Kids

We kept our real flag on display so we could peek at it for ideas and inspiration.

Remember: You don’t actually need a real American flag for this activity. Print off a picture of one or show one on your tablet device.

Note: Absolutely no damage was done to the American flag in this activity!

I didn’t have crepe paper on hand and I really (really) didn’t want to go buy some just for this simple activity.

Since we were missing crepe paper, I was tempted to make a small flag craft on construction paper. But I really wanted to make something big with the kids so they’d get more into it and not think of it as a craft.

So, I gave in and ran to the dollar store and bought crepe paper rolls, for $1 each. Not the end of the world, I guess.

Make sure your hands-on supply closet is fully stocked – steal my activity resources!

With newly-purchased crepe paper on hand, Henry got to work making his very own American flag. We left our flag up to serve as the backdrop to the kid-made version, but you could certainly separate the two for an extra challenge!

First, he clothespinned one end of the crepe paper at the top to the flag and string, matching colors as he went along. He let the crepe paper hang loosely to the floor where he cut it at the bottom.

This is where I thought measuring could have come into play by pre-measuring his strip of crepe paper. Henry outsmarted me with his way of dangling the crepe paper to the floor, so I let that go.

He worked his way across the flag, one stripe at a time. We talked constantly about the pattern and what color stripe was coming next.

Patterning Your American Flag Stripes

Henry was doing awesome. Once we got to the block of blue, we started getting into some confusion.

Henry still got the red and white stripe pattern right, but his spacing of the stripes got way off. He was ready to put the last stripe space-wise, but based on our actual flag there were still three left to place!

We went back and counted all the crepe paper stripes again, just to make sure we had it right. And we discovered that some of our stripes had gotten mixed up.

Turns out, having the actual flag behind where we were pinning the crepe paper wasn’t such a perfect plan.

After a minor meltdown, we started up again. First I separated the real American Flag with our kid-made one, hanging them side by side.

I had Henry count the stripes again to find that the real American Flag had thirteen stripes. We had made twelve already, so we only had one left!

Phew. That drama was over.

But what color came next? Could he figure it out without the crepe paper on top of the flag?

No problem! Of course, red came after white!

Getting the pattern right was the hardest part. We checked a few times to make sure we had it just right.

Adding Stars to Your Stripes

At last, it was time to add the blue square with a piece of paper. We pinned it up with more clothespins so the crepe paper wouldn’t fall down.

I drew a few stars on a piece of paper for Henry to cut out. I told him he could cut as many as he liked for his flag.

He decided one was all he wanted. I don’t blame him, cutting stars is a pain!

Since I already had the blue paper hung up, we just used a glue stick quick to slap the star on it. You could also pre-stick the stars before you pin up the paper.

If your child isn’t into cutting or is not quite ready for scissors, use star-shaped stickers instead! Going with stickers over hand-cut means that you can totally increase the counting and patterning practice.

That’s it! Your own American Flag that you and your child just made together!

Now run and play in it until the 4th of July!

Do you have any cool Fourth of July crafts or activities? Post a picture or share your idea with us!

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